IN and OUT and All ABOUT

By Josh Eliot

 

The year was 1991. Catalina Video’s GM, Chris Mann, had left the company and started running things over at Video Team. As soon as Chris was OUT, The new GM, Mike, was IN. He was handpicked for the position by David Weiss, William Higgins' right hand man. Weiss and Higgins had an investment business called Drake’s Bookstore on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Mike had proven himself to be a great manager when they put him in charge of the high end bookstore and he kept the business in the black when tough times called for radical changes. The first was when MOM (the “Merchants on Melrose”), a group representing about 3000 residents, complained to city officials. All the peep show booths needed to be removed because the city investigators found Drake's and another shop named Taboo in violation of the zoning code intended to keep adult entertainment stores away from schools and residential areas. The battles lasted many years, before and after Mike came to manage Catalina Video’s operations. The city also demanded that they reduce the percentage of sex-related adult products in each store, replacing content with products unrelated to sexuality. Drake's eventually closed.

I’m sure it was a real pain in the ass for him dealing with this stuff over and over again. Catalina must have felt like an escape to him. We were a pretty well-oiled machine when he came aboard. Scott Masters was producer, I managed the video crew and John Travis was one of the top rated directors of the time, bringing success and big bucks in sales from movies like Powertool and Undercover. Chi Chi LaRue and his best friend, Kevin, worked in sales and promotion. TJ worked in the art department and designed all the boxes and one sheets. Costello Presley was composing and providing all the music for the movies, and Chet Thomas was the full time editor. As soon as Mike came into power, he started shopping for a new location in Reseda. Our palatial North Hollywood headquarters was too big and expensive to suit Mike’s taste and he had one thing in mind: stop the bleeding of money. In the early 90s, the sales started to decline on new releases as the market was suddenly overblown with competition. We were all kinds of shocked when we saw the size of the new place. The warehouse was a decent size, and Mike’s office could have easily been split into three, but the rest was divided into small offices just big enough for a desk and a path to walk around it. Chet had a nice space for editing, though it was also supposed to be where Costello stayed, but shortly after moving to the new location Costello Presley left the company.

 

Vintage Catalina promotional ad
Vintage Catalina promotional ad designed by TJ
 
Josh Eliot and TJ

Josh Eliot and TJ

 

From the very start, we were shown that Mike and Chris Mann were very different in their management style. There was tension between Scott Masters and Mike regarding how things were handled in the production department. The good ole days of blowing money on non-essential things was definitely gone for good. It wasn’t so drastic that our company cars were taken away or anything like that, but we would be tightening our belts on everything that had to do with production expenses. Things started to boil over when Scott Masters and John Travis were told that royalties were a thing of the past and the company would no longer compensate them monthly on their previous movies' sales. They settled on a flat fee. All future movies would be on a flat fee basis as well.

My contract with Catalina never included royalties from the get go, so there weren’t any financial changes for me. The whole thing between Masters, Travis and Mike came to a head behind closed doors and, like a flick of the switch, Masters and Travis were OUT. Masters called to tell me they were parting ways, but assured me that they would be starting their own production company (later to be called Studio 2000). He wanted me to leave Catalina with them and join them on their venture, but could offer no financial detail on how and when I would be compensated. It was in limbo. Deep down, I really did not want to leave Catalina, because I had a great rapport with Mike and all the other associates. Luckily for me, before Masters could come back with a concrete offer, Mike pulled me aside at my 30th birthday party at the Gold Coast Bar in West Hollywood and offered me the job of Catalina’s producer, which I instantly accepted. The whirlwind began, and for the next 15 years we pumped out two to three movies a month until our very last production: Hot Buttered Cop Porn in 2006. Sometime over the next number of years, once David Weiss passed away in Amsterdam, Mike quietly purchased the company from William Higgins.

 

Hot Buttered Cop Porn box covers

Hot Buttered Cop Porn original and re-release box covers

 

After wrapping Cop Porn, we spent the next three years remastering and re-releasing all of our VHS movies onto DVD. It was kind of a relief to have the pressure of producing lifted from my shoulders and I could focus strictly on video editing, something I thoroughly enjoy. Going back to my early teens when I would sit on the living room floor with my 8mm editing unit, complete with splicing tapes, editing my home movies like Avalanche, Bionic Boy vs Big Foot, Crash, Earth Quake, and The Last Voyage. You can see trailers of those movies on my YouTube channel if you like disaster movies or if you just want to torture yourself! Here’s the link to: Josh Eliot, What A Disaster.

 

Josh Eliot's What a Disaster 8mm movie images

 

OUT of the blue one day in 2009, Mike came to visit me in Palm Desert, where I had moved to while continuing to edit and remaster for the company. I was shocked and surprised to hear that he was selling the business known as Catalina Video to Channel 1 Releasing. C1R had several partners including Chi Chi LaRue, so it seemed like it was a great choice for the library to go to them. He explained that part of the negotiation of the sale included keeping me and a couple Catalina employees on payroll for two years from the sale date. Though I was asked to produce new content for them, the thought of producing again was a real turn off to me, so I ultimately decided to only work as an editor for them, which they agreed to.

Two years to the very date of the company’s purchase of Catalina Video, I got my walking papers, and just like that, I was OUT.

 

 

Bio of Josh Eliot:

At the age of 25 in 1987, Josh Eliot was hired by Catalina Video by John Travis (Brentwood Video) and Scott Masters (Nova Video). Travis trained Eliot on his style of videography and mentored him on the art of directing. Josh directed his first movie, Runaways, in 1987. By 2009 when Josh parted ways with Catalina Video, he'd produced and directed hundreds of features and won numerous awards for Best Screenplay, Videography, Editing, and Directing. He was entered into the GayVN Hall of fame in 2002. 

 

You can read Josh Eliot's previous blogs for Bijou here:

Coming out of my WET SHORTS
FRANK ROSS, The Boss
Our CALIGULA Moment
That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!
DREAMLAND: The Other Place
A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck
Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!
The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor
(Un)Easy Riders
7 Years with Colt Model MARK RUTTER
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR
Diving into SoMa/Folsom: A TALE OF TWO STUDS
BALL BROTH
My 1992 “Porn Set” Diary
Out of Print
There’s a Gloryhole WHERE??!
LUNCH HOUR: When the Big Boys Eat

 
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Out of Print

By Josh Eliot

 

As I grow older, I get more nostalgic about experiences from my past. It’s natural to feel this way when we see things that bring back great memories and helped form who we are. Sometimes it’s seeing a movie. When I was 15 years old, in 1977, I talked my parents into taking me to see Diane Keaton in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. A decision I’m sure my parents regretted once the subject of the movie became crystal clear. I’m sure they thought that since Tuesday Weld was also in the movie, it would be pretty tame. Not! The film started with a haunting song montage including “Don’t Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow” by Marlena Shaw and it really set the tone. The movie was a tough and gritty expose on the bar fly, one night stand dating scene in New York. I’m sure mostly anyone who is reading this blog has seen this movie at some point in their life and came away from it moved or shaken. For decades, I and hundreds of others, tried to access this movie on DVD. It was originally released on VHS and LaserDisc, but evidently by the time negotiations came around for a DVD release it was dead in the water. Various chat rooms over the last decades point to the legal issues and costly fees involving the music rights. It seems to have simply vanished. It went “out of print.”

When I saw this movie at 15, I was thrilled to see the male hustler character played perfectly by Richard Gere. The moment he danced around in his jockstrap while holding a glow in the dark knife both tantalized and terrified me. I think this might have been the first “male nudity” I ever saw in a film, unfortunately for my mother sitting right next to me. The movie’s soundtrack was filled with great tunes like “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston, “Prelude To Love,” “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” and “Could It Be Magic” by Donna Summer and “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross. The music worked so brilliantly with the raw, realistic story, making the whole experience feel 100% real. Diane Keaton, famously known to be shy about her body and always dressing in long sleeves and a buttoned collar, had several nude scenes in the movie. She won the Academy Award the very same year for Annie Hall and you can bet your ass this role in Goodbar helped seal that win. What a film, but yeah, unfortunately I could not watch it and relive all those great memories and feelings because it was simply out of print.

 

Looking for Mr. Goodbar lobby cards

Looking for Mr. Goodbar lobby cards

 

The feeling of never seeing a movie again that you loved watching or loved working on must have been how the cast and crew felt back in the early days of porn. Before VHS, DVD and Blu-ray, the movies would show in an adult cinema then pretty much disappear. Maybe they would come back again to play as a second feature for a new release. But with the explosion of VHS on the X-rated market, suddenly all the new adult productions had a life beyond the new release stage. They would be widely available for purchase and viewings forever. That was exactly what we assumed when we were making the gay and bi porn movies back in the 1980s. There are a lot of collectors who have vast libraries both VHS and DVD. I have those collector tendencies too. I just added a new “instant favorite” autographed photo of Will Seagers to my collection. He signed a black-and-white shot from LA Tool & Die. I gave it a place of honor on my office wall just under the signed photo of Bette Davis.

 

Some of Josh's signed photos: Will Seagers, Bette Davis, Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla), Rob Cryston

Some of Josh's signed photos: Will Seagers, Bette Davis, Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla), Rob Cryston

 

I like to post trailers, clips and teasers from my library of movies for Catalina Video on YouTube and Instagram. It’s like a virtual collection, and I like the idea of letting them have some sort of permanent place in history on those channels. It seems that a new generation of worldwide gay and straight viewers really responds positively and has an appreciation for nostalgic porn clips. I thought it might be cool to post a newly cut trailer of the first movie I ever made, called Runaways, back in 1989. I used to have the VHS, which showed a young, sad-eyed twink looking through a dusty, cracked nine pane window on the box cover. Then on the DVD cover, they swapped the twink for a much hotter shot of Jake Corbin. Somewhere along the way, I loaned out that DVD and never got it back so I started searching for it online. I found the movie available on several websites with a fabulous new cover but, much to my dismay, the DVD version said “out of print” - leaving only the digital version available for download or single scene viewing. I thought, this must be a one-off. Maybe the owners of the Catalina Library sold out and will re-release it down the line? I purchased the download, cut my trailer and posted it on my Instagram and YouTube. Then it happened again with another title I was looking for and I started wondering what was going on. Why aren’t these titles available? Suddenly, I received a mailing for a major sale on most if not all of the William Higgins classics like Pizza Boy, Hot Rods, The Young and the Hung, Preppy Summer to name a few, with the title of the sale saying: “Get Them Now Before They Are OUT OF PRINT Forever.” There were also Dirk Yates and Catalina Video sections as well.

 

Runaways box covers over the years

Runaways box covers over the years

 

A little piece of my heart broke at that moment. What we always thought would be around and available on some sort of tape or disc or “newly invented format” was not to be. It became very clear to me that there would be no future restoration of these movies, there would be no re-release of these movies, there would be no “tangible,” hold-it-in-your-hand version of these movies any longer. I would have been content leaving this earth thinking that some “physical form” - complete with original movie artwork of the Catalina Library featuring John Travis, Scott Masters, Chet Thomas, Chi Chi LaRue, myself and others - would always be available. But evidently that is not to be. I get the digital thing, but it doesn’t mean I have to embrace it. I already had huge respect for the way BijouWorld treasures their films, directors and customers. The restoration costs they absorb to make their library of films the best they can be for future generations to enjoy and collect in a physical and digital form speaks volumes about their integrity. Even though the Catalina library of movies we made will not get the same “white glove” polished treatment Bijou offers to its library, I am more than content to know that the movies I looked up to and shaped me as an adult video director are being preserved.

I feel the need to have a “Happy Ending.” Everyone loves a happy ending don’t they? On October 23, 2020, the DVD version of Looking For Mr. Goodbar was finally released through LA Entertainment, an Australia-based company. Something nobody saw coming, and which a lot of collectors are anxious to own.

 

 

Bio of Josh Eliot:

At the age of 25 in 1987, Josh Eliot was hired by Catalina Video by John Travis (Brentwood Video) and Scott Masters (Nova Video). Travis trained Eliot on his style of videography and mentored him on the art of directing. Josh directed his first movie, Runaways, in 1987. By 2009 when Josh parted ways with Catalina Video, he'd produced and directed hundreds of features and won numerous awards for Best Screenplay, Videography, Editing, and Directing. He was entered into the GayVN Hall of fame in 2002. 

 

You can read Josh Eliot's previous blogs for Bijou here:

Coming out of my WET SHORTS
FRANK ROSS, The Boss
Our CALIGULA Moment
That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!
DREAMLAND: The Other Place
A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck
Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!
The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor
(Un)Easy Riders
7 Years with Colt Model MARK RUTTER
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR
Diving into SoMa/Folsom: A TALE OF TWO STUDS
BALL BROTH
My 1992 “Porn Set” Diary

 
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What Was Your First Gay Movie? Please Share!

posted by Madam Bubby

 

A friend of mine told me he used to sneak into gay porn movie theaters in the seventies and eighties. At that time in New York City, where he lived, such establishments were plentiful. Specifically, he remembers first seeing Fred Halsted in leather in the movie L.A. Plays Itself (newly restored by MoMA and re-released on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming and never forgot the experience, both watching the movie and the “extracurricular experience” that occurred in the seat next to him. Minus the hanky-panky in the seats, the grandparents and even great-grandparents of the current generation can tell a similar story, going to the movies to see a particular movie star they idolized, even seeing a movie that changed their lives and made them decide to go into show business. 

 

Fred Halsted
Fred Halsted

  

Now that most guys can get their porn over the internet, in fact, any movie via streaming and youtube, the “big event,” almost like a coming out to oneself (or in some cases, others as well) of going to see a gay movie may have lost its social and psychological importance. By gay movie, now, I don't just mean a gay porn movie. It could mean any movie with an overtly gay character or a gay theme. More of these movies were appearing in the seventies and eighties, following the wake of the groundbreaking Boys in the Band. Check out Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet (the book and the documentary film) to find out more about some of these movies, such as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Making Love.

 

The Celluloid Closet book cover

 

One of these movies was my first gay movie: Victor, Victoria. I saw it when it first came out, in 1982. I didn't know at the time about the movie's gender-bending and gay content, nor did I know that the person who asked me to go (who was ostensibly dating a female friend of mine) was gay. I got more of the humor about opera and singing and cockroaches in restaurants than its complex, contradictory messages about who is really a man or a woman in this movie about a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.

 

Victor Victoria poster and image
Victor/Victoria

 

Overall, the movie seemed more escapist for me at that time, an escape into a fictitious Paris of the 1930s where you could be gay (even though that term was not used at that point, and I still tended to see that word as meaning happy) and go to fancy nightclubs and live in art deco hotels. Maybe all the singing and costumes appealed to a stereotypical “gay” sensibility in me, but I'm not sure. Other than the initial poverty of Julie Andrews and Robert Preston before they concocted their brilliant scheme, the movie was nothing like my current reality of being a college student in a sheltered Chicago suburb that seemed leagues away from what was happening on Wells Street, the center of gay nightlife in Chicago at that point and where the Bijou Theater was showing gay porn films starring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler. Looking in hindsight, I see a profound disconnect between what I thought I knew and what I really didn't know about sexual identity, not unlike the appearance versus reality conflicts the characters in the movie experience.


What was your first gay film? Reply to this blog and share with us! 

 

 
 
 
 
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Carlos
Hi, about the subject, the first gay movie I saw, there were two actually, I don't recall which one was first but I saw them about... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 19:12
DAVID MCKELLAR
The first gay film I saw was 7 In A Barn by J Brian, around 1972. I screwed up my courage to go in and see it. What an experience... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 20:40
Lawrence King
My first gay movie was actually an ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK. "That Certain Summer" with Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen. Funny how pla... Read More
Sunday, 30 January 2022 07:18
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Porn Remastering Pt. 3: Young Gladiators & New Technology

Posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

 

I wrote a couple of blogs last spring (Part 1 and Part 2 can be read here) about my work process at Bijou on remastering vintage porn movies for re-release on DVD and streaming. We had a slower period during the first year of covid, when we weren't able to put out as many new releases as usual, though we still managed to do a handful of movies during that time. In the past several months, however, during which we've picked back up to our normal pace at the office, we've made some technology updates that should allow for us to put out many higher quality digitally remastered versions of movies. I'm excited about these upgrades, so I wanted to write a new blog on the subject.

Our most recent release, the first to fully make use of the tech updates, is the glossy John Summers-directed J/O video, Young Gladiators (1988), starring Steve Hammond, Tim Lowe, Matt Ramsey (aka straight porn megastar Peter North), and three other guys showing off and jacking off for the camera. This movie turned out to be an ideal candidate for high quality remastering, because it was well-lit and well-shot to begin with and our VHS copy held up well, so we got great results from the new program we have been using for upscaling video sources, Topaz Enhance AI.

 

Matt Ramsey on the cover of Young Gladiators

 

I've spent a million hours tinkering with this program recently, but it has so far provided very promising results (after a substantial amount of troubleshooting). I used to think there wasn't much hope for actually increasing quality when upscaling VHS or Beta sources; I thought it would mostly just be making the same low quality larger, but not better, and this seemed to prove true from older programs and plug-ins we tried out for upscaling. But Enhance AI has done amazing work on several of the movies we have processed through it, and seems to greatly increase the clarity and fine detail in many videos. It not only upscales them, but it helps to remove noise and other artifacts from low resolution video sources and adds crispness to the image.

This program seems to have amazing potential, though it is not without quirks, as it still seems to be in the process of being fine-tuned by its makers, and also because it was not designed specifically to work with and improve the quality of VHS, so the output from it sometimes is full of odd glitches, artifacts, or distortions. Restoring movies at Bijou, we often work with older video sources, and outmoded sources are increasingly unfamiliar to software designers, so determining if and how new pieces of software can actually function well with these older formats requires a lot of hands-on tests. The most persistent initial problem we had with it (an issue with jittery-looking playback from repeated frames) required a lot of testing and consulting forums and software support staff to work through. Processing a full movie in Enhance AI takes around 20 hours on our computer, typically, so the testing process was not a quick one.

In the midst of all this, we had to build a new computer for me to work on at the office, but my new one is very powerful and even better able to handle the heavy-duty processing required by this program. This computer upgrade seemed to eliminate the jittery playback issue, but the resulting files had a new problem; they were not correctly functioning in the program where we do the remainder of our remastering work (Adobe Premiere). After even more research and testing, I discovered that there was an issue with the frame rates of the video files created in Enhance, and I figured out a roundabout, multi-step process to correct for this, which finally produced a high quality file that could be successfully used for color and audio corrections, glitch/tracking/splice removal, and any other steps in my standard remastering process. So that's my new routine until we inevitably figure out new and better ways to continue to improve our procedure in the future, as always!

Even with the additional steps required to produce something usable, it is exciting to come into Premiere to color correct these files that are noticeably larger, crisper, and more clear than what we previously had to work with from video transfers. I've included several comparison images below that show the difference between the initial VHS version of Young Gladiators (left) and the remastered version (right). You can see how the initial VHS version was fuzzy and noisy, compared to the images on the right, which have more smoothness, crispness, and depth of detail. This video further illustrates the before/after results on this movie.

Before and after restoration images from Young Gladiators
Before and after restoration images from Young Gladiators
Before and after restoration images from Young Gladiators

Before (left) and after (right) restoration images from Young Gladiators

 

Prior to the new computer, but as our very first test subject for Enhance AI, I worked on the 1982 Mark Reynolds movie, Summer Fantasy. It was another movie that got a major quality increase from that program, which you can see in the before/after image examples below. This quality increase really benefited the film, as it is very visually lush and seductive.

Before and after restoration images from Summer Fantasy
Before and after restoration images from Summer Fantasy
Before and after restoration images from Summer Fantasy

Before (left) and after (right) restoration images from Summer Fantasy

 

A couple of the releases that we did put out during the fog of 2020/early 2021 were Steve Scott's Gold Rush Boys (1983) and Joe Gage's super-popular Heatstroke (1982). These were done before either of our tech upgrades, but both movies were able to be significantly improved through our old process of noise reduction, color and audio correction, and more.

Gold Rush Boys seemed to take very well to adjustments, and we were able to get richer color, cleaner image, more detail, and crisper quality out of it, as you can see in the images below and in this video comparing the pre- and post-restoration stages.

 

Before and after restoration images from Gold Rush Boys

Before (left) and after (right) restoration images from Gold Rush Boys

 

Heatstroke is an absolute classic that has been begging for a higher quality release for decades (existing ones were in poor shape), and it was a thrill to tackle it. Though hopefully some day there is a new transfer from the film print for the optimal quality release, in the meantime, we were able, with our new version, to put out one of the best copies of this movie yet to be made available on VHS, DVD, or VOD. Of the many video sources for it we looked at, we found one that had thankfully retained its quality fairly well, and we were able to reduce its noise and get good clarity and color from it. We've been happy to hear positive comments about this release from a few of those who have been eagerly awaiting a better version of this important porn film.

 

Images from Bijou's release of Heatstroke

Images from Bijou's release of Heatstroke, featuring Clay Russell, Richard Locke, and Roy Garrett

 

I realize much of this may sound very boring and technical, zoomed in on the minutia, but in the zoomed out perspective that veers into the comical, I'm spending the majority of my time at work very, very slowly going through footage of dicks and asses, squinting and examining them to see if they look slightly better with this effect or that, with a little less orange or more shadow, etc., like some kind of sexually explicit vision test. I've easily eaten the majority of the meals I've consumed during the past 13 years of my life while at this task. (Perhaps why I was inspired to put together our Food Sex compilation several years ago.)

It's always a pleasure to get to make long-unseen porn movies once again available, or available in better quality, and we always aim to continue that process, adding to and improving upon our existing catalog of classics and making use of technological advancements whenever possible. It's particularly satisfying on the occasions, like with the movies mentioned here, that we have a source that held up well to begin with and also proves to clean up so substantially that it comes out looking great. (And all these titles can be found through Bijou on DVD and VOD.)

Anyhow, all this is to say: we're looking forward to remastering many new releases at a higher quality level in 2022!

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Porn Remastering Pt. 2: Challenging Restorations

Posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

 

This is a follow up on last Sunday’s blog on some of the simpler remastering processes we go through when preparing classic gay porn films for DVD and streaming release. Many of the movies that wind up more straight-forward to work on turn out beautifully (best illustrated in last week’s example, Hot Truckin’), especially when they meet all or most of the best case scenario criteria: originally being well-shot, us having a well-preserved and fully intact film or video source available, and having a high quality transfer of that source.

When these best case scenarios are not met, the remastering work can sometimes be challenging. I may spend a great deal of time working on a movie and improving upon its image quality and color, but we can’t create new image or color information that is not present in the source. We also sometimes encounter troubleshooting issues, in working with the combination of older formats and newer technology, where the software companies we work with don’t even know how to help us because they aren’t familiar with older formats (like VHS) and their needs and what is feasible to do with them, resulting in us doing a lot of detective work and tests.

Since I’m currently working from home because of the coronavirus, I don’t have access to all of our files, but I would love to provide before and after images from the movies I’m discussing in this blog. I plan on sending out a future blog with a number of before/after examples, as I think they are interesting illustrations of what our remastering work actually has actually done to improve upon the quality of our releases.

The movies we carry that took the most time and were the most complex to work on might be surprising. For example, our recent release, Steve Scott’s excellent 1984 film, Doing It, was one of the most time-consuming projects I’ve undertaken in all my years working for Bijou Video. For this movie, we digitized, in house, several different VHS sources. These appeared to have used the same original transfer, which was lacking in image clarity, and these all had different degrees of aging and of video noise present. I was able to run the best-preserved option through a plug-in that decreases video noise with a lot of success, so I was optimistic about its restoration.

 

Doing It DVD box cover
Box cover for Doing It

 

However, when I cut the shots apart and got into the color correction process, I noticed that, throughout the entire movie, the color within shots wildly fluctuated back and forth between different color schemes. (The same was true of each of these VHS versions.) This meant that I was not able to apply a color correction to a full shot. Instead, I had to make dozens of cuts within each shot to attempt to stabilize the color as much as possible. This was a far more complicated version of what I have to do with some other movies - particularly many Nova films, which often fluctuate in color - but those generally have slow shifts between color schemes and are relatively manageable to balance, whereas this movie had many constant, quick, sharp changes between different adjustment needs. Balancing all of these was a nearly insurmountable time commitment, but I was able to tackle evening out most of them. This source, even as the best option, also had some tracking issues in a few scenes. I was able to eliminate the briefer moments of tracking, but not the more extensive ones.

After this was complete, we happened to track down yet another source for Doing It, and it luckily was in far better shape, without the color fluctuation and with clearer image quality throughout. However, the audio was in worse shape, some shots had extremely dull color, and there were a few short sections that had been eliminated entirely from this VHS release. I synced the previous restoration with this new source. I was able to use almost all of the new source, thankfully, which eliminated most of the remaining color fluctuation issues and all of the tracking problems. I used the previous restoration’s audio and, in the sections with too little color information and for the missing chunks, I used the previous restoration’s image. I color corrected this new source. Then, I eliminated splice lines. None of the audio sources from any tape we checked out were perfect (all sounded slightly blown out during some of the dialogue), but I was able to make the audio less muddy and better sounding.

I’m grateful we found this additional source, because the final version of Doing It feels like a dramatic improvement. It is a good, watchable presentation of an excitingly well-made, very hot movie by one of the major classic porn directors and is one of Bijou’s final additions to the Steve Scott collection in our aim to preserve his work and make it available. You can stream this movie or watch it on DVD - or check out other Steve Scott titles!

 

Stills from Doing It
Stills from our final restoration of Doing It

 

Another great classic that we worked hard to preserve from available materials was the 1979 French porn film, Le Beau Mec (also known as Dude), directed by Wallace Potts (ballet star Rudolf Nureyev’s lover) and co-written by him and its muscular star, Karl Forest. This was another movie where I had to sync multiple VHS sources and pick and choose the best shots from each. Each source had moments of better color or worse tracking issues, but overall, I was able to cut together the best possible version. From there, I worked on matching the color between the shots from the various sources. The color in every source was faded (they also seem to have all originated from the same initial transfer), but I was able to reduce the VHS noise and add some enhancement to the color and clarity. Find this movie streaming and on DVD.

 

Stills from Le Beau Mec
Stills from Le Beau Mec (Dude)

 

We have plans to spend more time with an additional classic French porn film, From Paris to New York (1977), in the near future. Several years ago, we released a version from a Beta source. This source was all we had available at the time and it had limited color information, but we worked with it to try to bring some back in. One unique and exciting thing about Bijou's release of this movie, however, is that it is the only English subtitled version that exists (it contains dialogue in French and English). We had someone translate the French sections and we added in subtitles to our release. Another issue with the Beta source we used was that some scenes were missing. The company that put out that version unfortunately eliminated many of the lengthy and fascinating non-sex scenes from the movie to make for a more purely sex-focused release. We recently found a different source that contains the missing scenes (they’re great) and we are going to add this to our version, also with subtitles. Keep an eye out for that, coming soon!

 

Our goal at Bijou Video is always to release the best possible version of a movie, given the sources, resources, and technology we have available. We are often redoing restorations of movies already in our catalog, and will continue to do so, whenever better options become available to us. One aim is to do more future re-restorations of some of the best classics that we have film prints and negatives of, so also keep an eye out for those down the line, in addition to the pile of entirely new releases - many never before made available on DVD or streaming - that I’m ready to tackle when I get back into the office!

Read Part 3!

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