5 facts about They Shall Not Grow Old

25 Feb 2019

On the centenary of the end of the First World War, Peter Jackson released They Shall Not Grow Old, showing the Great War as you've never seen it before.

Using state of the art technology to restore original archival footage more than 100 years old, Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) brought to life the people who can best tell this story: the men who were there.
Focusing on the human face of the First World War, Jackson shows the day-to-day experience of its soldiers. Using cutting edge techniques to make the images of a hundred years ago appear as if they were shot yesterday, Jackson reaches into the mists of time, aiming to give these men voices, investigating the hopes and fears of the veterans, the humility and humanity that represented a generation changed forever by a global war.

5 facts behind the making of They Shall Not Grow Old:

The original brief was to make a documentary to mark the centenary of the war’s ending
The request came from the Imperial War Museum, who didn’t have a concept but according to Jackson, wanted him to “use their archive in a different way”. Jackson’s role involved taking hundreds of hours of footage and turning it into a 21st Century documentary. He set his sights on his special effects company in New Zealand, saying, "I thought how well can we restore it with the computer power we use for film visual effects today? We experimented and the results were far beyond anything I'd imagined."
Jackson’s experience in film and editing sharpened the images and made them look crystal clear
They shall Not Grow Old Warner Bros 2018
A key area Jackson worked on and saw a dramatic difference was, as he called it, the "Charlie Chaplin effect". At the time the footage would have been shot on hand-cranked cameras, at speeds between 13 and 15 frames a second, but Jackson’s team used computers to create artificial frames between the existing footage, making it 24 frames a second. This resulted in more natural movement and a realistic representation of the camera footage we are used to seeing today.
The original film footage contained no sound
Jackson and his team had to use special techniques to bring the film’s audio to life. They used background sound effects such as tiles falling and the tremble of shell fire in the distance. They used lip readers to work out what the soldiers were saying and got actors to represent the voice of those within the film. To further help tell the story, 120 surviving veterans recorded audio of their experiences which Jackson used as an overlay in the style of narrators. This made for an interesting, lifelike and insightful commentary which brought the compelling footage to life.
It was originally meant to be 30 minutes long
After looking at the vast amount of footage Jackson knew he would need more time to tell the incredible story of the Great War. Working closely with producer Clare Olssen, they were able to use the same budget for the 30-minute brief and turn it into a film over an hour and a half long. Most of the budget went into the colourisation of the film but they saved money by introducing a black and white scene at both the start and the end of the film.
Peter Jackson was inspired by his Grandfather's war effort
William Jackson signed up for the war in 1910 and won a Distinguished Conduct Medal at Gallipoli. He was wounded on the first day of the Somme but recovered in time to fight at Passchendaele. Although he survived the war, he passed at the age of 50, broken by his wartime injuries. Peter Jackson never met his grandfather, but his plight went on to inspire the making of They Shall Not Grow Old.
Own the BAFTA nominated documentary on Blu-ray and DVD now.

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