Universal Pictures - The Man Who Laughs

Restoring Our Past

Universal Pictures’ Commitment to Film Preservation for All.

As part of Universal Pictures’ 2012 Centennial celebration, the studio made a public commitment to restore classic films from our library and preserve them for the ages. That commitment continues to grow as the number of completed restorations is now more than 90 films.

Recently, Universal restorationists finished restoring the 1928 silent film, The Man Who Laughs, starring Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin, who also played Christine Daae alongside legend Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera. The Man Who Laughs is a romantic drama adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name.

The primary source for
 this restoration was 35mm composite fine grain from the Universal Studios Vault, created in 1954 from the nitrate original camera negative.

The restoration was a painstaking procedure in which the restoration team was able to stabilize and deflicker the film as well as repair scratches, warps and dirt. The 4K digital restoration was completed by NBCUniversal internal StudioPost facility.

How Did They Fix That?

Restoration Before and After

The older the film, the more we see serious deterioration, including the deterioration you see in the before film frame from a recently restored Universal classic, The Man Who Laughs.  Yet, after Universal’s restoration team worked its magic, the final image looks brand new.  But how?  How do restorationists make these types of repairs? Peter Schade, vice president of content management, NBCUniversal explains:

“As you know, when you’re looking at a motion picture, you’re just looking at a series of film pictures that are projected very quickly so that your brain, through persistence of vision, puts them together and you get the illusion of motion.  That particular bit of damage is actually a chemical stain, which can be something as simple as a drop of water falling on the film. 

But that stain only affects one of the 24 frames that go by in one second of a movie.  So, what we are able to do is take elements of the picture before, and elements of the picture after, and blend them together to make up the difference of what came in between. And, that’s exactly what we did in this case.”