Universal’s Peter Schade talks about restoring “JAWS” for Blu-ray

“Jaws” fans can now breathe a sigh of relief because after years of begging and pleading Universal Studios is about to release Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster in an all new Blu-ray DVD package. But how do you take a film almost four decades old and make it look like better then brand new? That job fell to Peter Schade, Vice President of Content Management and Technical Services for Universal.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunication and Film from California State University, Schade began his career as a scheduler for Turner Entertainment in 1989. He later worked in the technical services departments of both Turner and Worldvision. In 1999 he joined Universal as Director of Worldwide Home Video and Television Servicing, playing a key role in the relocation of International Home Video Servicing. He was promoted to his current position in August 2002. While finalizing his work on “Jaws” Mr. Schade found the time to sit down with Media Mikes.

Mike Smith: You have a Bachelor’s Degree in Telecommunication and Film. What were your goals when you left college? Did you intend on working in the technical side as you are now or were you looking to be more hands on as a filmmaker?
Peter Schade: When I was in school I always gravitated more towards being an editor. On student projects I was always the guy putting them together. But when I got my first “real” job after school I did intend to grativate more towards the technical side but circumstances pulled me more towards a management role. But I am managing a technical department so I’m very happy where I am.

MS: Can you describe a normal work day?
PS: Wow. My job has many facets so there are really no two days that are alike. My department sits right between production and distribution, so upstream of me you’ve got production both in the feature and television side creating content and delivering it to the studio. Then my team creates all of the archived assets that are made in support of distribution and then downstream of me are divisions like Home Video and Television…International…Domestic…Non-theatrical. So we’re delivering content every day to any number of those groups. The rest of the library has us dealing with contents that are decades old to contents that are brand new so there are lots of challenges. There’s never a dull moment!

MS: Were there any special processes that you needed to employ to transfer “Jaws?”
PS: The special processes begin in the way we care for the elements, from the original negative on down through any of the distribution masters that we make. We have our own vaults – buildings that are specifically designed to store material – that are kept at the proper temperature and humidity. In terms of taking the original negative and transferring it…digitizing it…we specifically used a film scanner that employed wet gate technology. This means the film is passed through a chamber before the gate which is filled with a liquid that is the same as the film base. Therefore any surface damage on the film is filled in and we don’t see the things that have gotten on the film as a result of its age. It’s scanned at 6K resolution, which is probably eight to ten times more then you’d see on High Def. Once that image information is digitized off the filmwe use any number of tools to work on color correction and dirt fixes and stabilization. There are manyparallel processes that go on at the same time that take weeks and sometimes months until we have a product that we think is of the quality needed to put out on Blu-ray.

MS: In the featurette describing the processes currently on line, it looks like you’re actually inspecting , cleaning and digitalizing the film frame by frame. Is that correct?
PS: There is an inspection that goes on. Before you put the film on a mechanical device you want to make sure there’s no broken sprocket holes or loose splices. You have to make sure the film is in good shape before you even begin to scan it. That is what they are referring to in the documentary as far as studying the film frame by frame. It’s literally a negative expert who is used to handling film. They go through every reel and hand inspect every foot…every frame…of that film.

MS: Do you also spend any extra time working on the supplemental aspects of the disc? I know the fan documentary “The Shark is Still Working” is included. Did your team work on that film as well?
PS: My team only focuses on the actual feature itself. There are other groups that focus on the supplemental material.

MS: I think I can speak, not only for “Jaws” fans, but for film fans when I say that the release of “Jaws” on Blu-ray is probably one of the most anticipated releases in the history of the format.
PS: It’s a great film. It’s one of my favorites as well. It stands the test of time. And coming out on Blu-ray, we’re very proud and honored to get it out there and have fans see it better than it’s ever been

 

Related Content

President of Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc, James J. Sullos Jr. & Archivist Cathy Wilbanks talk about the film “John Carter”

James J. Sullos Jr. is the President of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Cathy Wilbanks is the Archivist of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. They took out some time to chat with Media Mikes to discuss Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic novel “A Princess of Mars” – the first novel in Burroughs’ Barsoom series and Disney’s film “John Carter”. Both James & Cathy also helped create the bonus feature on the “John Carter” Blu-ray called “100 Years In The Making.”

Mike Gencarelli: What`s the best part of working on Mr. Burroughs’s Legacy?
Jim Sullos: Mr. Burroughs wrote over 70 novels and 40 short stories. There is no end to the literary content that he created. I continually read material that has not been published for quite a few years and yet the storyline are still exciting. That why his legacy is never ending.
Cathy Wilbanks: I really enjoy working with the archives because every day is an opportunity to find treasures. The archives are filled with amazing artifacts from the past and I have the pleasure of discovering each and every one.

MG: What do you think Burroughs would have thought of this adaptation of “John Carter”?
JS: Burroughs would have been pleased that the movie accurately portrayed much of what was in his first novel “A Princess of Mars”. And he would have been amazed that current technology could finally do justice to his vivid imagination which was not possible until CGI was developed.

MG: What scene did you most enjoy in “John Carter”?
JS: It is very difficult to select just one scene that I most enjoyed because the whole movie was an incredible joy to see. Andrew Stanton was a genius in bringing visualization to the entire storyline that had never been seen before. As I watched the movie I could feel the passion he devoted to each segment of the film. Picking one scene would not be fair to so many successful portrayals of this timeless story.
CW: My favorite scene in the movie would have to be when John Carter saves Dejah during the marriage ceremony. My favorite character would have to be John Carter, but Woola is a close second!

MG: This big adaption of “John Carter” was 100 Years In The Making, what was the biggest challenge to get it right?
CW: The biggest challenge was finding an actor to portray Edgar Rice Burroughs. We were able to talk John Burroughs, ERB’s grandson, into taking on the part. When I saw the film for the first time, I was amazed to watch John interact in the background because he resembles ERB so much. It was like ERB was back with us again.

MG: How do you feel that the film “John Carter” interpreted the novel “A Princess of Mars?
JS: I think Andrew Stanton, the fabulous Director, who read all of the 11 Mars books as a youngster gave Dejah Thoris an added dimension as both a scientist and an accomplished fighter, greatly expanding her role with positive effects.

MG: What do you think makes the book “A Princess of Mars” so unique?
JS: At the time this book was written in 1911-1912, the scientific knowledge of planet Mars was limited and scientists had to guess as to the makeup of the surface of the planet. Mr. Burroughs novel gave a vivid description in detail of Mars that persisted for decades as the imaginary life that might exist on any planet in the universe.

MG: What were Burroughs’ sentiments toward filming his works in general?
CW: Edgar Rice Burroughs moved from Chicago to the San Fernando Valley in 1919 so he could be closer to the Hollywood scene. He was very excited and realized that he wanted to move in that direction. However, once filming started, he realized that he had to give up some of the control of how his characters were portrayed. Burroughs was mostly frustrated with the portrayal of Tarzan. He wanted his TARZAN to be portrayed as an intelligent, insightful heroand did not like the line “Me Tarzan, You Jane.”

MG: Can you give us some examples of the artifacts you worked with in the treasure trove of ERB material?
CW: The archives at Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. are filled with historical treasures. I have had the pleasure of holding in my hands many first edition books, a huge variety of comic books, toys, merchandise from around the world, movie props like a pterodactyl, and of course, original art. But some of the most meaningful artifacts include the handwritten TARZAN Of THE APES manuscript as well as the A PRINCESS OF MARS manuscript and personal letters signed by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself.

MG: Despite being a hundred years old, the characters of ‘John Carter’ and the Barsoom series are still relevant and don’t feel the least bit dated. Why do you think that is?
CW: Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the story focusing on human conditions such as love and conflict. He understood that to have a successful story, he must include factors that would have a wide appeal. The ‘John Carter’ character was developed with characteristics like humor, intelligence, emotion and strength. John Carter (Taylor Kitch) is very ‘relate-able’ which makes the story current in today’s world.

MG: We wouldn’t have Star Wars if it wasn’t for Princess of Mars, do you think pop culture gives Burroughs the credit he deserves for being such an influence?
CW: No, I don’t believe pop culture gives Edgar Rice Burroughs enough credit. He was a gifted, prolific writer and unfortunately has not been recognized for his contributions.

MG: Do you think there should be a sequel to John Carter movie? If you had to choose another adaption of Burroughs to be made into a feature, which would it be?
JS: I definitely think a sequel should follow. First, I would hope that the planned sequels will be produced because they will show the path that John Carter took to become the “Warlord of Mars”. There are 11 ‘Mars’ books that can be drawn on to create several more exciting movies. But in addition Mr. Burroughs wrote many other science fiction novels and particularly intriguing is the Venus series which portrays the hero Carson Napier who planned to fly his spaceship to Mars but miscalibrated and ended up on Venus to discover an unknown world.

MG: Will there other movies on the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs?
JS: At the present time Warner Bros. has in development a Tarzan live-action. And Constantin films will release its first Tarzan 3D animated film in 2013. We are currently in discussion with several producers who are looking at other Burroughs novels for potential new films.