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JCA completes HD restoration of Trainspotting

JCA co-founder and commercial director Matt Bowman talks to ScreenTech about the restoration.

Digital services specialist JCA has completed the HD restoration of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting [pictured].

The junkie cult classic is just one title in the Film4 library that JCA has brought back to life. Three years ago, JCA became Film4’s preferred restoration provider and has restored several key films from its archives, including Ken Loach’s Riff-Raff, Mike Leigh’s Career Girls and Peter Greenaway’s Drowning By Numbers.

On Trainspotting, JCA, based in Acton in West London, worked with the original camera negatives, scanning the film at 2K. Trainspotting is a film heavy with optical effects and so required intensive hands-on attention.

“We actually had to reject the second generation 35mm IP as the grain was too poor,” explains Matt Bowman, JCA co-founder and commercial director, “Working from the original negatives was certainly a challenge, but we were able to turn it around in two weeks to produce a true HD master.”

JCA has done a number of major restorations this year. ITV Studios Global Entertainment asked JCA for a HD remaster of A Queen Is Crowned, the Technicolor documentary of the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, narrated by Laurence Olivier. JCA had previously restored ITV’s Sharpe’s Rifles and the Poirot series. The company had access to the documentary’s three-strip Technicolor film elements and scanned them to super 2K resolution. The restoration and grading included proper digital registration of the three Technicolor elements to eliminate the “ghosting” that can happen with the original Technicolor film printing.

The company also remastered Peter Gabriel’s 1994 Grammy-award winning Secret World Live. The film had been captured on Super 16 by 12 cameras over two nights in Modena, Italy. “The number of digital restoration commissions we are seeing is increasing sharply,” notes Bowman. “With content owners keen to bring their libraries digitally up to date, maximising the assets they already possess.”

Helping companies leverage their existing libraries has become an important service for JCA. The company is also a preferred provider for iTunes, provides digital masters for Netflix and delivers a variety of encoding/transcoding and asset management services.

In March, JCA announced a two-year partnership with Australia-based Shine International. Shine International also needed a partnership with a US provider, so JCA began to partner with Los Angeles-based Santa Monica Video. To cope with increasing demand, JCA announced a £600k investment plan in June, which included an increase in storage, extra transcoding farms, and new staff.

A combination of long experience and an ability to move quickly have proved successful for JCA. JCA had looked into acquiring other companies but has found, with international partners like Santa Monica Video, that it is able to provide expanded services but stay light on its feet. The company is having conversations with other facilities in Australia and China, but the determination to stay adaptable seems to be a priority. “We’re beginning to outmaneuver the bigger players,” says Bowman. “As the digital infrastructure improves, you don’t need big facilities anymore.”

Matt Bowman started JCA in 1989, after being Managing Director at Todd AO in London. When starting the company, he and his partner decided they wanted to do something different with their company. “I said ‘write down a list of all the things that annoy you about labs’.”

The worst and most pervasive one on the list was dishonesty – a lab telling a client their print was stuck in traffic when the negative hadn’t even been taken out of the can yet. They decided that trust was the one quality they wanted to cultivate most of all.  “And it worked,” says Bowman, “I think it was a breath of fresh air. People knew if we promised something, they could take it to the bank and if there was a problem, we told them everything. That trust ended up producing some extraordinary situations. One time, something did go wrong with an order and when we called the production, they actually ended up trying to console us.”

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