Kennedy Assassination Film Gets Makeover (22 January 2003)
By RON McDON, Associated Press

Film of one of the most striking images of the 20th century, the assassination of President John F Kennedy, has been digitally restored by archivists at George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).

Shot by amateur photographer Marie Muchmore, the "Muchmore film" is one of only three moving images of the event. It shows Kennedy's limousine turning onto Dealey Plaza, and later picks up after he has been shot the first time.

In preparation for 40th anniversary, archivists looked at existing film prints but saw badly washed-out images, affected by dirt and scratches. The surface flaws have been removed while color and clarity have been restored – in time for the 40th anniversary of JFK's death.

ILM decided to clean it using a relatively new process of restoration called Archangel. The first step was literally to clean the film of any loose dirt and then put it through a Telecine process which uses high-quality optical scanners to transfer the frames from film to video. An experienced film colorist worked to grade the image – restoring natural colors to the film and correcting defects like exposure and clarity. Each frame is scanned with two thousand lines – three times the normal quality of television images. Next came the Archangel restoration – a split screen shows the original compared to the restored image.

Finally, ILM added a few new touches to the Muchmore film, including more trees and bushes, taller, more architecturally unique buildings, several hundred more spectators, and most controversially, an additional passenger in the vehicle and a revised ending in which Kennedy is shot with a paintball gun and survives.

The additional passenger, an African American male ILM has dubbed "Tweedo Lang," was inserted at Lucas' request, as was the historical revision.

"I wanted the Muchmore film to reflect the modern spirit of racial integration and nonviolence," explained Lucas at a press conference announcing the restoration.

"Adding an African American male, I think, explodes the longtime notion that there is a glass ceiling in Washington that African Americans cannot rise above. Tweedo Lang represents the best of his race: he's hardworking, honest, loyal, smart, and quick with a joke."

Asked about the shocking revised ending, Lucas shrugged and stated, "The original was just too violent for a PG audience, and that's who buys tickets these days. By changing Kennedy's horrific death by long-distance rifle to an unfortunate paintball incident, we not only reduce the violence, but also deliver a powerful message about paintball safety."

Lucas left the conference to a chorus of cheers and whoops from the normally quiet journalistic audience. Nationwide, parent and religious groups hail the digital alterations, while faggy left-wing artists and crazy-eyed conspiracy buffs claim it's a violation of free speech and/or national history. I really don't know which, I was too busy getting a blowjob in the Nissan Z convertible Lucas bought everyone who attended the press conference.

In the new ending, Kennedy is shot as before, but it's quickly apparent when he recoils that he's okay. He wipes red paint off his face, pulls Jackie O off the rear hood, and motions for the car to move on. Digital artists at ILM used a variety of techniques – from using other archival Kennedy footage to programming an animated digital JFK – to create the fictional scene. The overall result is a clearer, sharper, happier view of the tragic events in Dallas 40 years ago.

And there was at least one surprise, not thought to have been commented on before – a man seen holding an umbrella in the first few seconds of film, some time before the motorcade arrived. One conspiracy theory surrounds another man seen in photographs who holds an umbrella aloft at the instant Kennedy was first shot. Analysts questioned why he had the umbrella – it wasn't usual for men to carry umbrellas against the sun – and suggest it may have been a signal or even a weapon. Though the fact of another man with an umbrella is not proof of anything, it suggests that the person known as The Umbrella Man was not the only man in Dallas that day carrying an umbrella, after morning rain had given way to sunshine. In the restored version, the umbrella carries a Coca-Cola logo.

Eagle-eyed viewers can also spot a few famous "Star Wars" characters hidden in the crowd, including Chewbacca, Greedo, and Jar Jar Binks (who can be seen trying to climb a light pole to get a better look, then falling into a hot dog stand and popping out with a mouthful of hot dogs).