Behind the High-Frame-Rate Oklahoma! Restoration

Given Peter Jackson and James Cameron’s current embrace of high-frame-rate, there’s an added importance to Fox’s restoration of the roadshow Oklahoma!, which opened the TCM Classic Film Fest Thursday at the TCL Chinese IMAX Theater. In addition to being shot in Todd-AO large format, the beloved 1955 musical from Rodgers & Hammerstein also experimented with 30 frames to solve the flickering problem and to better stave off competition from TV. The result is almost holographic.

Fox’s Schawn Belston (together with Foto-Kem and Chace Audio) have done a glorious job of adding the luster and grandeur back to Oklahoma! Granted, because of Fred Zinnemann’s overly theatrical and sometimes static direction, it’s not up there with The King and I, Carousel, or The Sound of Music. But Robert Surtees’ cinematography is stunning, thanks to both the larger format and the higher frame rate. And Agnes de Mille’s revolutionary “Dream Ballet” sequence looks better than ever on the big screen.

“It’s fascinating because it makes camera movements way smoother (just like high- frame-rate today), which is a weird persistence of vision, but there’s also additional level of detail and depth,” Belston suggests. “I’m interested to know what people think of it, only because it’s part of its benefit, but it’s pretty challenging.”

While the Fox restoration guru is concerned about the resistance in general to HFR and its unnatural, digital look, again, it didn’t bother me. The grain structure’s intact, the flicker has been removed, and it enhances the experience, which is very colorful.

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Blu-ray, Cinematography, Clips, Festivals, Home Entertainment, Movies, Music, Tech

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