Athena Studios Completes Black Angel Restoration
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.