Souped-Up Superman Page 2
Our story begins in Hollywood, where the picture side of Superman was restored. Normally, Ned Price and his technical-opera tions team at Warner Bros. would have created a new, color-corrected interpositive print from the negative of the film's final cut to use for the video transfer. But that negative had become torn and scratched, and the optical effects, such as fades and dissolves, had become stained. To restore the film, the team would also need the original camera negative.
That negative was sitting in a vault in England, mixed in with all of the other film and sound elements used during shooting and postproduction. It was Thau's job to go through the contents -an incredible 6 tons of stuff - and find everything needed for the restoration.
All of the print damage was fixed digitally - the only digital alterations to the images apart from correcting the color in some of the flying sequences, which had been shot against a large blue screen. But Reeve's Superman suit was also blue, so it was impossible to create a matte - a process where the blue area of the image is isolated so another image can be substituted for it - without obliterating the costume. To avoid this, the suit for these shots was made more green.
But the technicians never had enough time during the film's frenzied postproduction to correct the color, so about ten shots show Superman flying around in a fairly green outfit. It always bugged director Donner that this is how people have seen the film. But through the marvel of super-digitation, the costume is now indubitably blue, allowing Donner to finally not be.
When I asked Thau if there were any cables showing that had to be fixed, he re plied, "No. There are now a lot of blind old men in England who painstakingly painted those cables out, frame by frame by frame. Their work would be projected big for Dick [Donner], and he'd say, 'Yeah, I can still see the cable.' So they'd go back and do it over, and Dick would look at it again and say, 'It's okay.'"