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How does film restoration work in the Philippines?

A look-back to the ABS-CBN’s Sagip Pelikula initiative and the art and science of film restoration

Film Restoration in the Philippines: A science and an art

A couple of years ago, I checked in with Leo Katigbak and Davide Pozzi.

Both guys are passionate about films of yesteryear, as they should. ‘Sir Leo is the head of the ABS-CBN Film Restoration Project, by far the best accomplishment of the media giant in my book. Davide works with an incredible institute called L’immagine Ritrovata as director. To give you context, Ritrovata is the same institute that’s currently working on restoring Mike De Leon’s “Kisapmata”.

Along with Tristan (with whom I was building Film Police Reviews at the time) and Armani (who worked the camera), I visited the confines of the Project’s lab. And there, we were treated to a very intimate encounter with the art of resurging films from cinematic purgatory.

“Ever since we started restoration in 2011,” opens ‘sir Leo. “What we wanted was to get the audience to become more familiar with the classics.”

Seven years later, the Project has been churning out great films—including Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Karnal” and more recently Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara’s “Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo”—in such modern packages.

When asked about his process of restoring films, Davide explains: “The basic workflow of a restoration is to the film. We have to physically repair [the reels] with our hands. Then, we’re able to scan the film—usually in 4K. After the scanning, the digital restoration starts. We have to fix all the scratches, [add] stabilization, [fix] the flicker, and so on. And this is the longest step.

“As soon as the picture is completely clean,” he adds. “We start the color correction—in order to respect the original look of the film. [At] the same time [that] we’re restoring the picture, we [also] restore the sound. We have to physically repair the optical soundtrack and digitize and clean the sound. At the end of the workflow, the restored picture and the restored sound are married.”

We produced this video years ago, and it’s good to look back to where the Sagip Pelikula project had been and where it is now. As of press time, the Project has just released Joel Lamangan’s “Mila”, starring Maricel Soriano and Piolo Pascual.

Learn more about the ABS-CBN Film Restoration Project on Facebook.

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