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 straightforward 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 photochemical attempts to fix this challenging problem, it also rivals new digital technologies in image quality as well as price.

The RCI® process was presented with 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.

Restored Color Image Before
Restored Color Image After
Yellow highlights and blue shadows characterize faded color negatives. 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 timing. rci before and afters

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:

  • 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 lose data, and lack of data means lack of image quality.
  • RCI® has superior shadow detail.
    Although great attention and skill have been afforded the retention of detail in the shadows digitally, the lack of a solid, meaty negative loses this detail, often blocking up in the digital environment.