Woodstock footage carefully restored
Posted By BRUCE KIRKLAND, SUN MEDIA
The restoration of 40-year-old film footage is an extremely delicate
matter, especially when the Woodstock Music and Art Fair is involved.
Like the near-tornados that turned
Max Yasgur's dairy farm into a quagmire in 1969, a storm is brewing
today about the new Woodstock DVDs. Purist fans object to changes in
picture and sound.
But it should be all peace and love, brother. The changes are subtle,
necessary and rare, according to restoration expert Kurt Galvao and
sound engineer Eddie Kramer, famed for his Jimi Hendrix albums.
Galvao produced Untold Stories, the remarkable collection of 148
minutes of extra concert footage featured on both the new DVD and
Blu-ray sets,Woodstock: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's
Edition.They greatly enhance the effect of re-visiting the film
itself, offered here in the 224-minute director's cut of 1994. That
cut allowed director Michael Wadleigh to restore footage Warner Bros.
forced him to cut before the film was released in 1970.
Kramer, meanwhile, was in charge of recording songs at Woodstock and
he mixed the restoration of the film and masterminded the music in
Galvao tells Sun Media that their focus was simple: "Keeping the
integrity of the picture and put out a quality product."
On the picture side, the controversy is digital noise reduction. Some
restorations are so extreme that images, stripped of dirt and other
imperfections, look too perfect, too fake.
"Sometimes you get too clean, where you start losing grain, so it
doesn't look like it was meant to be back there," says Galvao. "So
you actually add grain back in." Faded colour is another problem. "We
had to pump colour back in, as much colour as we could without making
it look cartoonish. It was a balance, it was a dance, so it all plays."
Kramer says of the music restoration: "That's exactly the same
process that we would go through."
He captured seven tracks of audio at Woodstock while holed up in his
production truck, where he also slept. The eighth track was reserved
for synching with film footage.
Some songs had no bass lines recorded. "I managed to find the bass
line looking at every single channel and finding that each channel
had a little bit of leakage of the bass," Kramer says.
"I had to find ways to combine some of those leakages to make a bass
track that didn't exist (on its own)."
He calls that "an archeological dig" in a sound studio.
"The imperial mission" was to maintain integrity of the original
music, he says. "We never wanted to take away from it. It is classic
material. It is an historical piece. We never wanted to make it
something other than what it really was. Even with all the cleaning,
even with all the mixing, we never tried to make it look and sound
like it wasn't. I could have 'fixed' every drum beat but that would
be counter-intuitive and it would be phony."
With a rare exception. With Santana's Evil Ways, the original track
was unusable because Carlos Santana's guitar was horribly out of tune
for half the song.
Kramer re-recorded Santana, on his original guitar and with the
original amp. That was layered in the track for Untold Stories.
"You make the decision: How do you save this? Well, you get Carlos
and you save a track that would never have seen the light of day.
" I think it is legitimate to go in and fix something with the
original artists, when you have them."
But "very little" of that fixing was done, Galvao and Kramer both
say. Woodstock is still pure.
Music, mud and mayhem
22nd June 2009
Film-maker Michael Wadleigh talks to Steve Pratt about his
experiences 40 years after he recorded the Woodstock festival FORTY
years ago this summer, a music festival held on a dairy farm in a
tiny rural community exploded into one of the defining moments of the
''flower power'' generation.
The three-day concert in Bethel, New York State, was expected to
attract around 50,000 people, but almost half a million were there to
see some of the key acts of the Sixties.
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who were among more than 30
artists who performed at the Woodstock Festival, named after the
nearby village which had become a magnet for musicians of the hippy era.
Billed as ''three days of peace and music'', Woodstock played out
against a backdrop of the Vietnam war. It hit newspaper headlines
around the world and captured the mood of the post-war generation,
who longed to break free from the past.
Michael Wadleigh was only 26 when he filmed the festival's music, mud
and mayhem. His movie, which won an Oscar for best documentary in
1970, has been remastered and rereleased on DVD with hours of extra
performances to mark the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.
Now 66, American-born director Wadleigh is a grandfather and lives on
a farm in Wales. His film of Woodstock happened during a year he took
off from medical school to make films about topical issues.
His first film was on the American communist party, which was founded
in 1911 in Woodstock, New York, a village about 100 miles from New
York City. "Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and many, many people had moved up
there, because it was a beautiful village and kind of a summer
retreat for radicals," he recalls.
''The producers of the Woodstock concert had also been drawn to
Woodstock. They expected maybe 50,000 people and they were off by one
zero. Ten times as many people came.
''The idea caught fire with America.
As the kids say in the movie, it wasn't really the music, it was a
whole combination of things. It was people trying to find their
identity, what the Woodstock generation called the 'counter-culture'
and that was the gathering point.
"It was largely young, white people, who wanted to be leaders and to
find a new direction for America and the world.'' He feels Woodstock
and the film have endured because Sixties music is unequalled.
''You're looking at phenomenally interesting music that has stood the
test of time and, in my opinion, the reason is that in the Sixties,
the musicians were competing to be original.
"Everybody wants to be famous, but the idea then was to create an
unusual sound and have other musicians envy you because you had
musically or lyrically done something unique.
"Today if it's a hit, then 18 people will try to imitate it and earn
more money than you did. Money becomes the standard, not originality."
Film-makers shot hundreds of hours of footage, filming every one of
the 40 groups appearing. ''We couldn't communicate well. We didn't
have cellphones then and the walkie-talkies we had were very poor, so
to make up for the lack of communication, we shot more footage. Then
we took nine months to cut it," says Wadleigh.
For him, the standout moment was provided by the intensity of Janis
Joplin's singing. ''It's almost scary the amount of emotion and
energy and passion she puts into her performance," he says.
"I was with Tina Turner when she first saw Janis Joplin, and she said
to Janis 'honey, you can't continue to sing like that or you'll have
no voice', and Janis's response was just to laugh and take a swig on
her Southern Comfort.
''It's a terrible thing, but on the credits at the end of the film,
the number of people who died young is astounding. They lived life at
''Everybody says, 'It's substance abuse', but it's also given to us
incredible music. In a sense they paid with their lives and we're the
You just can't expect that they can rigorously separate harmful
abusiveness from passion and conviction."
The 40th anniversary edition is the four-hour long director's cut,
plus two hours of separate footage of some great performances.
A lot of footage was destroyed in a flood at the Warner Brothers'
vaults a few years ago, an accident caused by an earthquake in California.
''So what you see there is the extra footage of the best performances
that survived. As a music lover, I want to see them. You know,
Creedence Clearwater, Johnny Winter, Grateful Dead are in there,"
Woodstock 40th Anniversary edition: Warner Home Video DVD, £19.99