Restored Color Image ® Process
Since 1950, color negative film has become the standard on which millions of
motion picture and television shows have been photographed. Since the early 1970s,
it has become apparent that the color negative film stock on which these images
were recorded was not entirely stable and was fading with time.
In the early 1980s, Martin Scorsese spearheaded a campaign addressing the problem
of color fading in motion picture films. The campaign stimulated public support
for film preservation.The end of the '80s saw a new awareness about reassessing
the conditions of our film heritage. For years, many film restorationists have
tried to produce a photo chemical solution to restoring the color from old color
motion picture negatives without success, until now.
In 1994, while producing the documentary "Trinity and Beyond," Peter Kuran
developed a straight forward and very effective method of restoring the color
to faded motion picture color negatives he called "RCI" for Restored Color Image
® process. This patented process produces a new intermediate film element
with restored color, fine grain and excellent retention of shadow detail. This
process not only surpasses other photo chemical attempts to fix this challenging
problem, it also rivals new digital technologies in image quality as well as
The RCI® process was awarded an Academy Award for 2002 by the Scientific and
Technical Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its
revolutionary approach to this problem.
Faded color negative is characterized by yellow highlights and blue shadows. That
is, the lightest areas of the frame such as the whites, appear yellow. The darkest
areas of the frame, such as the blacks, appear to have a bluish cast. This is
known as "crossover" and cannot be corrected with standard laboratory methods of
RCI® Process licensed by VCE to Cinetech
In the summer of 2001, Cinetech, one of the world's premiere film restoration
facilities licensed the RCI® process and adapted it for use on their facilities
equipment. "Ride Lonesome" a 1959 Cinemascope classic western by director Bud
Boetticher and featuring Randolph Scott premiered on November 9 as the first film
to be restored using the RCI process at the Regus London Film Festival.
Comparisons to Digital Restoration:
(Flying in the face of conventional wisdom)
Since 2002, Digital technology has made leaps and bounds in cost and quality and
has become the primary method of film restoration. RCI can no longer claim
superiority over digital technology for color restoration of faded color negative.
However, certain features of RCI can rival digital restoration:
The retention of photographic image quality.
Current digital scanning technology was developed for modern motion picture
color negative film. The optimum range captured digitally using current
scanner methodology does not represent the best range for faded color
negatives. When faded color negative is optimally captured digitally, the red
and green channels contain only 65-75% of possible data while the blue channel
contains less than 25% of possible data. In other words, you don't have much
data to work with. When this digital data is stretched to fill the proper
color space, digital artifacting occurs. This artifacting is called "spectral
sampling error" and creates anomalies such as posterization, banding or
contouring creating discreet steps in a continuous tone.
RCI® has superior grain structure
and image detail to digital scanning and record out at 10-bit 4K. Digital
scanning and restoration looses data and lack of data means lack of image
RCI® has superior shadow detail.
Although great attention and skill has been afforded to maintaining detail in
the shadows digitally, the lack of a solid, meaty negative looses this detail,
often blocking up in the digital environment.