500 films Andy Warhol made will be scanned, digitized

Andy Warhol made more than 500 films between 1963 and 1972. After he was shot in June 1968, the Pittsburgh native withdrew most of his early art films from circulation. After his death in 1987, a handful of those films returned to circulation through the Museum of Modern Art’s film library.

Now The Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City will partner with a Technicolor company to make all of these films available in digital format.

Work begins this month in New York City on nearly 1,000 rolls of original 16mm film, which will be digitally scanned, frame by frame. Each frame will be converted into a high-resolution image that is 2K, or two times the resolution quality of typical high-definition television.

The project, which covers more than 1 million feet of film, will last several years because the process takes time and requires careful handling of the 16mm films. Not all of the films, which have been housed at MoMA since the 1990s, are ready to be scanned because they must first undergo conservation, said Rick Armstrong, a spokesman for The Andy Warhol Museum. The films are among the most frequently requested works in MoMA’s circulating library.

The digitization project is a joint effort by MPC, an Oscar-winning creative studio that crafts spectacular visual experiences, and Adstream, an Australian company that provides digital asset management. MPC has produced visual effects for such films as “Godzilla,” “Maleficent,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Life of Pi,” “World War Z” and “The Lone Ranger.”

Patrick Moore, deputy director of The Andy Warhol Museum and adjunct curator for this project, said the project is critical to understanding Warhol’s development as a filmmaker.

“Imagine if you found out that there were 100 unknown Warhol masterpieces sitting in a warehouse. That’s how we view this unseen material,” he said.

Once the films are digital, they can be shown in their finest form, he added.

Mr. Moore could not quantify the cost of the project because MPC is doing it for free. 

“MPC is doing this as a gift. They are a part of Technicolor. They have the capacity to do this in a way that a normal lab would not. They scan it at such a high level that it becomes the new master for the film.”

Some of the fruits of this project will be shown later this year when 15 Warhol films that have never been seen by the public will premiere Oct. 17 at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. The event, “Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films,” will feature live musical performances by Tom Verlaine, Martin Rev, Dean Wareham, Eleanor Friedberger and Bradford Cox. 

 Marylynne Pitz: 412-263-1648 or mpitz@post-gazette.com. 


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