‘Sheffey’ Rides Again: Film Restored in HD

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Sheffey riding a horse through fog

Only eternity will reveal the spiritual impact the film Sheffey has had for the Lord. Directed by Katherine Stenholm, one of the pioneers of Christian filmmaking, Sheffey is based on the true-life story of a circuit-riding preacher, Robert Sheffey, who was born July 4, 1820. The film has now been fully restored and will be rereleased in HD and Blu-Ray during Summer 2020.

Why restore Sheffey?

Sheffey was first released in 1978. In addition to the 200th anniversary of Robert Sheffey’s birth, there are several reasons to rerelease the film in a higher quality format now.

Extended ministry

There are many stories about how the film has been used by God to reach hearts since it was first released. Restoring and rereleasing Sheffey in HD will revitalize and expand the ministry of the film, allowing its gospel message to reach a new audience and extending the ministries of those who worked on the film, many of whom are now in Heaven.

Audience appeal

The popularity of Sheffey has continued since its initial release, and it has been viewed by people who would never think of picking up a Bible or going to church. It remains one of Unusual Films’ bestsellers, so it is a logical starting place for restoration efforts.

Condition of original film

Even though motion picture film is considered a more stable archival medium than tape and is less subject to formats becoming obsolete than digital, it can still deteriorate even when stored in optimal conditions.

In the case of Sheffey, the original film has been protected in a climate-controlled vault, but slight random color fluctuations are already beginning to affect it. Fortunately, the deterioration has not progressed very far, so by scanning the film now, it can be preserved digitally as well as on the original film. (Digital can be considered a preservation medium if the material is consistently migrated to new formats.)

What is involved in film restoration?

Picture

The film was initially shot on EASTMAN EKTACHROME Commercial film 7252, a fine-grain 16mm reversal film. In order to capture the exceptional detail of that film stock, the film’s original A/B rolls (the film that actually went through the camera) were taken from the climate-controlled storage vault at BJU and hand-carried to Gamma Ray Digital in Boston to be scanned. Having the original film available was a great advantage. Some restorations must be done from second- or third-generation prints, which results in loss of visual detail.

The scanner’s 6.5K image sensor scanned both the shadows and the highlights, capturing a High Definition image with high dynamic range. In addition, the scanned version was color corrected to match the original version of Sheffey, along with dust cleanup and extensive restoration work down to the frame level.

Comparison of Sheffey before and after restoration

“The quality of the digitized image is striking when you realize that it was enlarged from a frame of film smaller than a micro SD card,” said Dave Eoute, who is overseeing the rerelease project.

Sound

The original soundtrack of Sheffey was a mono track, as was the case with most 16mm films. When the first DVD version was produced in 2003, the audio tracks were digitized and remixed in stereo to give the viewer a better sound experience.

For this HD rerelease, further sound restoration and sound design work have been done by Red Sky Film Studios. Both stereo and 5.1 surround sound options will be available on the Blu-ray version.

When will the HD release of Sheffey be available?

Sheffey BluRay cover image

According to Eoute, the HD rerelease is planned for July 2020, Robert Sheffey’s 200th birthday. Copies will be available through the Bruins Shop at BJU and the BJU Press. Eoute is working with Vision Video to expand the rerelease domestically as well as internationally, and BJU is including Public Showing Rights with the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Combo. This new HD version will eventually be available through most of the digital distribution venues such as Amazon and iTunes.

For the latest Sheffey HD rerelease information, visit sheffey.org

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