Step 2 - Print research

Finding materials is a time consuming business. There are no centralised listings of the film elements held by the world's archives. Many archives don't know enough about the material they hold. Listing and cataloguing large collections takes decades and although things are improving with electronic technologies this part of the work has to be done the old fashioned way, by asking everyone you can think of and then going to the archives and looking at the material.

Davide Pozzi, of the Cineteca di Bologna, conducted the research into the availability of material for the Chaplin Keystone project. He contacted the major European and American collections and asked private collectors for information on their holdings. A request on behalf of the project was sent to all members of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) by its Secretariat. As partners in the project, the National Archive and Lobster Films fully examined their own collections.

Chaplin's Keystone films exist in many copies and film formats. For this project, we took the decision to base the restorations on 35mm full frame copies only. These are copies in which the image has the original silent aperture and ratio, because it occupies entirely the width between the perforations on either side of the film stock. In contrast, there are many sound reissues of the films in which the track comprises music and maybe sound effects. If sections were copied from such a print for inclusion in the new work the soundtrack would have to be masked, otherwise it would appear on the screen and compensation would have to be made for the cropping of the image on the left hand side. This would result in a print with mismatched framing or quality of picture.

Similarly, some copies on small gauge film stock (16mm, 9.5mm, 8mm) were issued for home viewing and would be difficult to match to the full frame 35mm material, but they can be very valuable for reference because they derive from 35mm Keystone prints or early reissues. Where appropriate, small gauge materials have been examined for indications of the original editing and intertitles.

For A Film Johnnie, the research identified several copies from the National Archive, Lobster Films and the Library of Congress as potential sources for the new restoration. These were collected together at the National Archive's Conservation Centre and examined in detail by Claire West, the Technical Archivist who edited the restored negative of A Film Johnnie.