HD Remaster for Blu-Ray and Syndication - Re-Edit & VFX Cleanup
In 2011 Derek joined Warner Bros. to work on remastering one of the studio's biggest television properties - "Friends". In all, 10 seasons, 236 episodes had to be cleaned up in 24-frame progressive HD for a 2012 Blu-Ray release, and simultaneously cut down to shorter versions and varisped in 1080i to match existing NTSC syndicated versions from years ago.
"This was a huge project, much bigger than any of us thought, and it seemed to expand every week as we discovered more and more work that would need to be done to complete the shows in time to meet our deadline in early 2012."
Industry veteran Jill Mittan brought in editors Chris Currall and Heydar Adel to help with the syndicated cutdowns.
"We were lucky to get Chris and Heydar, and between the three of us we managed to reconstruct all 236 syndicated episodes. But as we worked, we found more and more shots in the HD sources we were working with were simply upconverts of the old NTSC material - and the syndication deal required all HD."
The sheer volume of film that would need to be tracked down and scanned required an additional group of Avid assistants to go through mountains of original camera reports, EDLS and scripts to identify footage.
"Unfortunately, the syndicated cutdown versions often contained material that was not part of the original show - the original syndicated editors had gone back to dailies frequently to make their shortened scene work better - so we couldn't just cut down the original episodes. In the end, we were able to track what footage was needed for which versions, and which visual effects shots had to be made in 1080/23.98p and which had to be made for 1080/59.94i, and which were needed for both, and it all came together."
In addition to getting rid of cameras and production equipment that was visible in the wider HD frame, Derek had some tougher challenges.
"At the end of season 4, Ross's wedding to his British girlfriend Emily was shot in a chapel set filled with candles. In all of the shots from a particular camera, the candle flames reflected multiple times all over the frame, even over the actors faces. In the middle of doing the paint work for those 40 shots, I discovered that there were another 25 more shots that had the same problem in the recap at the beginning of the first show of season 5! Our deadlines were extremely tight and we ended up farming out a handful of shots to a VFX studio - I think we made our delivery of that episode with only a few hours to spare."
In some instances the required film negative was not available, and alternate takes or alternate camera angles were used to re-create the scene. Occasionally, even those options were unavailable.
"In one instance, I built a brand new shot containing Matthew Perry's closeup facial performance from a different shot and camera angle, and combined it into an existing wider shot where he was seated with another actor. The result looked just like the wider shot we needed, but the film for that had been lost. It was the only way to preserve the original version of the episode in HD, and it turned out very nicely."