Athena Studios Completes 'Black Angel' Restoration

Athena Studios and the Bay Area chapter of the Visual Effects Society restore Black Angel, legendary Star Wars-era short film believed missing for over 30 years.

Emeryville, CA -- Production and animation company Athena Studios and the Bay Area chapter of the Visual Effects Society recently partnered to restore a legendary, Star Wars-era short film entitled Black Angel. Thought to be missing for more than 30 years, Black Angel was last seen in theaters across Europe and Australia in 1980 as a lead in to The Empire Strikes Back. The fully-restored short film made its North American premiere this past week before a sold-out audience during the 36th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival.

After reading a 2012 WIRED Magazine article about how Black Angel, believed to be missing, had been located by an archivist at Universal Studios, Athena Studios Producer Brice Parker joined with VES/Bay Area Chair David Tanaka and contacted the film’s director, Roger Christian, with an offer to supervise the film’s restoration at Athena Studios.

Shot in Scotland in 1979, the 25-minute Black Angel was the directorial debut of Star Wars art director/Academy Award winner Roger Christian. Made with financial aid from George Lucas, Black Angel centers on a knight returning from the Crusades, who is transported to a mystical realm where he must rescue a princess from a black knight. Black Angel was originally shown in theaters in Europe and Australia in 1980 as a short film which was presented just before showings of The Empire Strikes Back. Black Angel was never released on VHS or DVD, and Christian himself was unable to track down the original negative. The director believed it was lost—until he got a call from an archivist at Universal Studios in December 2011, who had located that negative.

After Parker arranged for the negative of Black Angel to be transported to EFilm Digital Laboratories in Hollywood for careful cleaning and 4K scanning, Athena Studios received a hard drive containing frames scanned from the timed inter-positive to be digitally restored. Athena's restoration team, which included restoration artists Jorge Martinez and Mitchell Tanaka, spent a combined twelve weeks painstakingly removing splice marks and unwanted artifacts which had been introduced by the film mastering process more than 30 years earlier. Cleanup was achieved using Pixel Farm’s PFClean software. The restored frames were then rendered and exported for a new Digital Intermediate color correction at Colorflow in Berkeley, Calif.

It's been my great pleasure to work with Brice Parker, David Tanaka, and the talented restoration team at Athena Studios on the revival of Black Angel,” says director Roger Christian. “I've waited three decades to be able to show this film to audiences once again, and without Athena's diligence, it might have been another three decades before that happened. They've made it possible to bring Black Angel into the modern era with their delicate handling of the material and with their deep understanding of how the film was shot in wide screen Cinemascope, presently truly breathtaking images for its time. The film has remained in peoples’ memories since it was shown in conjunction with theatrical presentations of The Empire Strikes Back all over the world, so it was important to me that it retained its integrity. Brice, David, and the restoration team at Athena Studios really understood that. Today, ‘Black Angel’ looks better than ever. And it’s all thanks to this wonderful team who incorporated such enthusiasm and care for the project.”

“It was truly an honor to help bring this historical work back to life so that it may be enjoyed again after having been considered ‘lost’ for over 30 years,” adds Jon V. Peters, CEO/Founder, Athena Studios. “Black Angel has tremendous historical significance for fans of both the Star Wars franchise and sword and sorcery tales alike. With terrific imagery shot in the Scotland countryside, this film has a very rich look. While it was a challenging restoration project at times, we think the re-release of this legendary short film was well worth the effort.”

“We knew restoring ‘Black Angel’ would be a challenging undertaking from the outset, but we also knew the rewards would be huge,” said Athena Studios Producer Brice Parker. “This was one of those legendary projects that we just couldn't pass up. I was thrilled that Athena Studios offered its in-house expertise to tackle this project and help restore the film to its former glory. I'm happy that our efforts will enable audiences to see this film once again, after an interim period of more than 33 years.”

Source: Athena Studios

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