Last master of filmstrip post-production shifts focus to digital

Last master of filmstrip post-production shifts focus to digital
Last master of filmstrip post-production shifts focus to digital
For decades, Sun Ruoyi has worked in the Chinese film industry. The 54-year-old has mostly worked behind the scenes in the films’ post-production department, which is responsible for tape washing, light adjustment and filmstrip replication.

But with the changing times and digitization of the film industry, the old-school methods are slowing disappearing. And along with that, people like Sun, once an integral member of the industry, are also fading from the limelight.
As filmstrips have become obsolete, manual post-production-related jobs have also been obliterated. At the Western Movie Group, one of China’s largest movie production houses, where Sun has worked for several years, the number of staffers has declined from dozens to only seven in 2016.
“In the 1980s, we kept these machines working day and night. The room was packed as we had over 80 staffers in the department,” Sun remembered his hey days.
Sun, who has worked with acclaimed directors like Zhang Yimou in the post-production of movies like Red Sorghum (红高粱), and also Farewell My Concubine(霸王别姬), said he is discontent and feels disconnected from the movie industry in the digital era.
“The happiest time in my life is when I worked as a part of film production in the golden era of Chinese movie,” Sun said.
And though film strips are now discontinued, people like Sun, who is only six years shy from retirement, are trying to keep their skills intact – they’ve shifted their focus from movie post-production to restoration of damaged filmstrips.
“Currently we are working on A Chinese Odyssey(大话西游), a Hong Kong comedy film directed by Jeffery Law, starring Stephen Chow in 1995,” said Sun, who now works as the director of Western Movie Group’s filmstrip post-production department.
The department now receives increasing requests from universities and research centers, as they still possess old archives recorded in filmstrips; a handful of staffers meticulously repair and clean old filmstrips before they are digitalized.
Sun said many of the filmstrips are the only existing copies, and they have to be extremely careful while working – if any document is damaged, the content will be lost forever.
But with skilled professionals like Sun still working relentlessly, it can only be said that the filmstrips are in good hands.


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