By Benjamin G
Previous to this undertaking, the entire run of The Late Show existed only on analog tapes. As the ABC has, according to Tony Martin, lost some of the 3¼ master tapes to the original episodes, coupled with the enormous issues associated with music and commercials present, it is impossible that an official release of The Late Show, in its entirety, will ever be released. The Late Show, as we remember it, could quite possibly have been lost forever.
But early in 2004, 36 VHS episodes came into my possession from a friend, which would begin an extensive search for not only the missing 4 episodes, but superior quality versions—and hopefully, other materials—with the intention of restoring all the episodes to DVD.
What I was hoping would take a few weeks to transfer onto DVD became a mammoth 15-month saga. Fans from as far away as London and the United States, and all over Australia offered their support and their materials. After these extensive searches, every episode, along with interviews and TV appearances became found.
Now the race would begin to save the 13 year old tapes before they degraded, a very real scenario.
15 months later, the legacy of The Late Show is now safe. However, in spots, time has already taken its toll on a number of tapes, and no amount of computing power from a desktop system could ever hope to restore them. On the other hand, an especially thankful find was 13 episodes recorded to superior Betamax tapes.
The computer has helped repair damaged materials through frame by frame enhancements and replacements.
The original VHS tape was physically damaged, resulting in a line running across the middle of the image. As the start of each episode was unique, it was not possible to simply replace it with another. However, by replacing certain sections that were identical, it was possible to successfully edit the unique and non-unique elements together.
A recent viewing of some of the original VHS tapes that were used to make this set, have confirmed that over the span of just 12 months, the quality has further deteriorated. As these tapes are now 13 years old, the decline of these materials will only speedily increase. It is a realistic scenario that within 4 or 5 years (2009/2010), these tapes will be unwatchable and will have literally rotted away.
But now, The Late Show exists forever on DVD. The quality will never degrade over successive copies, and will always be instantly available. In addition, new masters will be permanently kept on Digital Video tape.
This has been a not-for-profit work, and all the time and cost of materials has been paid for by myself. I will stress that this is in no way a replacement for the official “Late Show: Champagne Edition” DVD, and I would require that if you keep these discs, that you MUST be in the possession of the official DVD. The artists responsible are not making any money from these discs, and they should not be losing their income because of this work.
But most of all, I hope that the fans enjoy these discs and continue to relive the comedy. Although its been 13 years, Champagne Comedy never dies.