Jaws is finally coming to Blu-ray on 3 September this year (14 August in the US) and Universal Pictures promises that this edition will be the best looking yet. The film was chosen to be one of the 13 back catalogue movies to be completely restored in order to celebrate the studio's 100th anniversary, and as such was treated to a lengthy process to create a new 4K digital master.
To find out more about the iconic 1975 film's new transfer, Pocket-lint spoke to Michael Daruty, senior vice president of Technical Operations at Universal, who told us that this version of Jaws offers more detail and definition than ever before.
"We were excited about restoring it," he said. "It gave us the opportunity to work in a much higher resolution than we had worked with in the past. Our past transfers were high definition. This forced us to work in a much higher 4K resolution.
"One of the things that you get with these higher resolution transfers, especially when we’re dealing with 4K, is you get so much more detail. You can see so much more.
"One example is when Chrissie’s in the water. In older transfers, it’s a little darker, it’s less detailed, with less contrast. With the elements we were working with, being the original negative and a higher 4K scan - a higher resolution - we’re able to get more detail and see more detail. I think that will come through on the Blu-ray."
Universal decided to pick Jaws for restoration because it, like the other 12 movies chosen, was a "really impactful film on culture and, at the time, was highly advanced". And Steven Spielberg himself took a keen interest in the restoration process.
"The one thing about Steven is that he’s very supportive and made himself available to be involved in our process," said Daruty. "We brought him in at certain points of the process to get his feedback, to make sure that we were going in the right direction. Then we got him in at the end for a final review and approval."
Before that point, however, plenty of work was to be done. To begin with, the source element hadn't stood up to the test of time as was hoped.
"We began the process by researching and evaluating our existing film elements, which include the original negatives, the positives and other pre-print materials that would’ve been suitable," Daruty explained to us. "We conducted 4K scans of those materials and then we ended up selecting the original camera negative as it would give us the highest quality.
"That original camera negative did have some camera wear on it, as most negatives do. It was in fair to poor condition. It had running scratches throughout, moderate to heavy dirt in places, film damage, and even an overall grainy appearance. So when we tested, we tested doing high-resolution scans on a wet gate scanner – also referred to as a liquid gate scanner – which helped remove those scratches during the scanning process. Which we were very successful in doing, so we were able to eliminate a lot of the scratches during the scanning process.
"Then, using our digital tools and the skilled technicians that we currently have at our disposal, we were able to work on balancing the colour, removing dirt and the remaining scratches, and repairing any film damage on a shot-by-shot, frame-by-frame basis. While always keeping the original intent on the way the film looked."
Remarkably, this didn't take as long as you'd expect.
"It took about four to five months on this title," said Daruty.
"We had an expedited window on this. We could’ve used more time and not had to rush through some things, but we had a lot of titles that we’re doing at one time for our 100th [anniversary] and we didn’t have the luxury of taking too long on them. We had to push them through pretty quickly."
The process is definitely worth it, as not only does the Blu-ray transfer benefit, Universal now has a 4K digital master to exploit if new higher resolution media formats take off, or the studio wants to re-release the film in cinemas.
"We’ll record a new digital negative," Daruty explained. "We’ll also output the 4K files. And then we’ll back up those 4K files outside of California, so that we have geographical separation.
"We’ll also create a 2K DCP (Digital Cinema Package). We’ll use the DCP and make prints, but whether there will actually be a theatrical release is really up to our marketing group."
For now though, Daruty believes that the Blu-ray will be enough for movie fans young and old to appreciate a true classic.
"Unless there’s a re-release, most people won’t see this in the theatre, and the younger generation didn’t have the opportunity to [first time around]. So, by providing high-quality Blu-rays for the home theatre environment, they’ll still be able to enjoy it," he said.
Jaws is one of 13 films to be restored for Blu-ray release to mark Universal Pictures 100th anniversary. The others include All Quiet on the Western Front, The Birds, Dracula (1931), the Spanish-language version of Dracula filmed on the same set at night, Frankenstein, Schindler's List, Pillow Talk, Bride of Frankenstein, The Sting and To Kill a Mockingbird. Abbott and Costello's Buck Privates and Out of Africa have also been restored, but only for US release.
The Blu-ray + Ultraviolet + Digital Copy edition will cost £24.99. A Limited Steelbook Edition will be £29.99.
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