Documentaries / Biopic / Social Commentary


Ken Burns Civil War Series, Beyond the Documentary

The Project

Ken Burns’ production company, Florentine Films, had a special project in mind for us. They had taken the 16mm film from his Civil War Series and converted it to 4K high definition. Would we create a “behind the scenes” video on the story of just how they did it?.

The Challenge

Would the original 16mm film still be in good condition? Would the thin layer of gelatin emulsion on the film have decayed? Splices have separated? What would be revealed in 4K? Ken Burns and his team of filmmakers tell the story of the film remastering. Very carefully the original Kodak film, in storage at the George Eastman House, was removed from vault and inspected. The edited splices that had popped open were repaired and 50,000 feet of 16mm film negative was ultra-sonically cleaned and all 11 hours was scanned digitally and converted to 4K high definition. What was revealed was breathtaking.

The Theme

After meeting with Florentine Films, 850 GB of footage was delivered to Cocklins Digital. The drives contained footage of present day interviews with Ken Burns and his team, b-roll of the conversion process and before/after shots from the original film. Steve Cocklin selected the soundbites, b-roll and added graphics using Avid, DaVinci Resolve and After Effects. His knowledge of the conversion process from 16mm to 4K HD proved invaluable in setting up the story line to explain the process and illustrate the results.

The Results

The before/after shots of the film were stunning. Amazing details, unseen in the original footage were revealed: the haunting eyes Lincoln and Grant, the buttons on soldiers’ uniforms, guns on the battlefield. The colorization process revealed the rich colors of the sky and immense beauty of the landscape. The remastered film remains a visual history of the Civil War, a war that reminds us who we are as a people and nation. The video was broadcast on PBS in September 2015 and is part of the 25th Anniversary Civil War DVD Collection.


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