Godzilla stomps back in ultra HD, wires intact

August 27, 2014 by Yuri Kageyama
In this April 28, 2014 file photo, a large size figure of Godzilla in a diorama is on display at Cheepa's gallery in Tokyo. At a humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa, File)

At a humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition.

The effort with "4K" technology is carefully removing scratches and discoloration from the films and also unearthing hidden information on the reel-to-reel.

Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates.

If all the hidden information of a reel-to-reel is ever brought out, quality would approximate 8K, they say.

Only one minute from the original film and from each of the sequels has been turned into 4K so far but the results are stunning enough.

Faded, blurry, yellowing footage of the radiation-breathing creature that emerged from the Pacific after atomic-bomb testing turns sharp, clear and vivid. It almost looks like state-of-the-art animation.

It's better than the original, said Toshifumi Shimizu of Tokyo Laboratory Co., the studio that undertook the painstaking effort.

"You can feel the impact of the bodies banging into each other under the suits," he said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.

Shoko Ideriha, a film process technician in charge of archive, checks the negative of a movie prior to scanning for digitization at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd. in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. At the humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

He said many scenes are more real and emotionally moving than what is achieved by today's computer-graphics manipulation, widespread in Hollywood blockbusters.

The details of the cityscape models, the bumpy skin of Godzilla and the metallic shine of the robots are revealed as they once were.

The craftsmen at the lab made a point to keep visible the wires from which the flying monsters hung. The goal was to stay true to the intention of the original.

A film technician checks the digitalized film of a Godzilla movie at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd. in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. At the humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

In turning Godzilla films into 4K, each frame of the reel-to-reel is scanned by a special machine. Each frame is then examined for blotches and other damage that has crept in over the last 60 years. Any problems with a frame are fixed on a computer, one by one, by a film-processing specialist.

Shoko Ideriha, one of the specialists, said the team pieced together the best segments, working with the only three copies left of the 1954 Godzilla. She compared fixing film to being a doctor treating a patient.

A film process technician checks the digitalized film of a Godzilla movie at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd. in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. At the humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The big catch is that 4K, also known as ultra-high definition, or Ultra HD, can't be seen in most homes or theaters yet.

For one, you would need a 4K TV, which is not cheap. Sony's 85-inch model sells for $25,000, although prices are gradually coming down overall.

Shoko Ideriha, a film process technician in charge of archive, checks the negative of a movie prior to scanning for digitization at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd. in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. At the humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

More crucial still, 4K broadcasting is virtually non-existent. In Japan, it's available only in limited test programming.

But believers swear that it will become the standard of the not-so-distant future. Other movie classics, such as "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Gone With the Wind," have turned 4K.

A computer monitor shows the digitalized film of a Godzilla movie at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd. in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. At the humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

What 4K promises for movie classics is astounding, said Takashi Sawa, of Nihon Eiga Satellite Broadcasting Corp., which aired all 28 Toho Godzilla classics for the 60th anniversary of Godzilla's birth, which fell this year and marked the debut of Gareth Edwards' Hollywood Godzilla.

Nihon Eiga also aired a special program on the 4K Godzilla project on its cable network, which broadcasts to 7.5 million households in Japan.

Shoko Ideriha, a film process technician in charge of archive, checks the negative of a movie prior to scanning for digitization at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd. in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. At the humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Restoring movie classics into 4K might do wonders for the chicken-and-egg dilemma for new technology, which generally won't take off until there is content people want to watch.

Shoko Ideriha, a film process technician in charge of archive, checks the negative of a movie prior to scanning for digitization at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd. in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. At the humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition. Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
"TV drama shows shot in digital cannot be restored as 4K," he said. "But Godzilla can become 4K."

Explore further: Japan test-broadcasts super HD television technology

Related Stories

Japan test-broadcasts super HD television technology

June 2, 2014

Japan on Monday began test broadcasts of satellite television programmes in 4K, as major firms including Sony and Sharp bet on the super high-definition technology to rescue their embattled TV units.

Razor-sharp TV pictures

August 21, 2014

The future of movie, sports and concert broadcasting lies in 4K definition, which will bring cinema quality TV viewing into people's homes. 4K Ultra HD has four times as many pixels as today's Full HD. And thanks to the new ...

Sony develops 4K ultra short throw projector

January 8, 2014

Sony today announced the development of a state-of-the-art 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector featuring a stylish, furniture-like design. Utilizing space itself, it can be placed near most walls and has the ability to cast a ...

Latest in TVs: Much higher definition, and prices

September 3, 2012

Get ready for a whole new case of TV envy. In stores later this year will be new big-screens, known as 4K TVs, that up the ante on HDTV with four times the resolution of sets now.

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.