Technicolor tech...all lost?

Technically-oriented discussion of classic films on everything from 35mm to Blu-Ray
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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:29 am

If they wanted to do a film in Technicolor, could they recreate the process from its heyday? Or has the tech been all lost?

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Richard P. May » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:48 am

Not lost, but completely impractical. It would require obtaining and learning to use the 3-strip camera. After processing the three reels of black and white film, making the printing matrices (film for which would have to be manufactured), building the transfer machines to put the three dye images on a final receiving film (not manufactured). Several years ago Technicolor underwent a major project to revive dye-transfer printing. I won't go into the problems, but needless to say it didn't work out.
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:44 am

Well, sounds like it is 'kinda lost' then. We may know the tech...but doing it is something else.

I think it is the same with the early color autochromes. I don't think anyone reproduces the technique.

Isn't it something how they banged out Technicolor films left and right. Nowadays they can't even do one.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Phototone » Wed Sep 26, 2018 3:36 pm

As soon as Eastman Kodak came out with a reliable color negative film, technicolor productions started being filmed with this, rather than the tri-pak camera, because of ease and convenience, so that left the unique Technicolor print production process. This was in use up thru the 1970's. Kodak has continually improved the positive release stocks during the years. At some point Technicolor weighed the cost of continuing with the old dye-matrix Technicolor print process and decided to convert their lab to use Eastman materials. I think all the machinery for the old process has been scrapped.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by boblipton » Wed Sep 26, 2018 3:54 pm

Phototone wrote:
Wed Sep 26, 2018 3:36 pm
As soon as Eastman Kodak came out with a reliable color negative film, technicolor productions started being filmed with this, rather than the tri-pak camera, because of ease and convenience, so that left the unique Technicolor print production process. This was in use up thru the 1970's. Kodak has continually improved the positive release stocks during the years. At some point Technicolor weighed the cost of continuing with the old dye-matrix Technicolor print process and decided to convert their lab to use Eastman materials. I think all the machinery for the old process has been scrapped.
It's my understanding they were sold to China. Which means I think I read it somewhere, but I'm too lazy to google "Technicolor Equipment Sold to China."

Okay, as soon as I typed the words above, I shrugged and did so. According to:

https://www.cinematography.net/edited-p ... icolor.htm
Technicolor sold their dye transfer printing equipment to China in the 1970's. The Chinese were interested for a number of reasons -- for one, once you create the matrices, the system become cost-effective with large print orders, which the Chinese needed. The basic materials are cheaper than the Kodak monopack printing technology. What the Chinese did not count on is that dye transfer printing is really ALL about registration -- i.e. incredible quality control. China has since discontinued the dye transfer process apparently.

Technicolor, under new management since the death of Herbert Kalmus, decided at the end of the 1960's that the future was in processing for TV and opened their Universal City lab and closed the dye transfer facility on Cole Ave. Print orders for features had been in decline through the 1970's. If only they had predicted the 4000 print orders of modern times... By the mid 1970's, they had also discontinued dye transfer printing in their London and their Italy lab ("Star Wars" had a few rare dye transfer prints made for its release in the U.K. in 1977 and Lucas owned one copy, which was used as a guide during the late 1990's restoration since it hadn't faded, unlike all the Eastmancolor prints.)

The 3-strip Technicolor cameras were not sold to China because those were discontinued in 1955, not the mid 1970's. Most of the 3-strip Technicolor cameras were gutted by Technicolor for their new 8-perf Technirama process of the late 1950's. Petro Vlahos converted a few for his sodium matte process, whereby a beauty pass and a matte pass were recorded simultaneously with the subject against a sodium-lit screen (last used for one shot in "Dick Tracy".) I'm not saying that no 3-strip cameras ever surfaced in China but at the time of the sale of Technicolor's equipment to China in the 1970's, 3-strip photography had been dead for nearly twenty years.
Which has an authoritative tone, does it not? I leave the local experts, whom I trust, to offer contrary opinions or fuller statements.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by milefilms » Wed Sep 26, 2018 5:38 pm

The George Eastman Museum inherited a warehouse of equipment and papers from Technicolor including a lot of cameras. I don't know if they got anything of the processing equipment.
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by All Darc » Sat Sep 29, 2018 12:34 pm

The shooting could be made with modern cameras and modern color film emulsion. The technicolor look could be simulated digitally by filters, if someone had patience to create really accurate filter and not just a second class improvisation like they did in The Aviator.

Technicolor also involved, in many cases, a artistic change, on set, clothes, make-up, to get more colorfull elements.

But the projection it's the problem. Digital projection don't have the dynamic range (unless it ogt better and I'm not aware) and color purity to render a technicolor look.

Film projection, even the most modern chemical film, can't render very pure colors like technicolor, especially today where what we see in theaters, the few with chemical film projectors, are copies made from a copy, made from a copy made from the camera negative.
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:31 pm

All Darc wrote:
Sat Sep 29, 2018 12:34 pm
The shooting could be made with modern cameras and modern color film emulsion. The technicolor look could be simulated digitally by filters, if someone had patience to create really accurate filter and not just a second class improvisation like they did in The Aviator.

Technicolor also involved, in many cases, a artistic change, on set, clothes, make-up, to get more colorfull elements.

But the projection it's the problem. Digital projection don't have the dynamic range (unless it ogt better and I'm not aware) and color purity to render a technicolor look.

Film projection, even the most modern chemical film, can't render very pure colors like technicolor, especially today where what we see in theaters, the few with chemical film projectors, are copies made from a copy, made from a copy made from the camera negative.
I thought last year’s The Phantom Thread got that post-war British Technicolor look just right.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by All Darc » Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:04 pm

Bob, do you refer about the colorization short clip ?
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:26 pm

All Darc wrote:
Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:04 pm
Bob, do you refer about the colorization short clip ?
No, I mean the entire movie, which looks like late '40s British Techniolor.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Daniel Eagan » Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:49 pm

boblipton wrote:
Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:26 pm
All Darc wrote:
Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:04 pm
Bob, do you refer about the colorization short clip ?
No, I mean the entire movie, which looks like late '40s British Techniolor.

Bob
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by All Darc » Sat Sep 29, 2018 6:07 pm

Entire movie ?
But most it's just tinted, with just the Masked Ball in technicolor, and a portion of it was computer colorized (final portion).

And it's a video release.

I think the topic was reffering to a theater presentation with film print projection to look like technicolor.
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Sep 29, 2018 7:49 pm

The point I am trying to make is that the effects of Technicolor, the ability to control saturation and so forth is now available through computerized camerawork.

I'm aware that's not satisfactory to you, Ali. However, it's late at night, I need to get some sleep, and since it seems that nothing ever is, this is my last reply to you on this thread.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by s.w.a.c. » Sun Sep 30, 2018 9:50 am

It sounds like All Darc is thinking of The Phantom of the Opera, not The Phantom Thread, which was definitely trying to tap into some of The Archers' mojo.
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by All Darc » Sun Sep 30, 2018 3:21 pm

Sorry... I had figured like : "The forum thread about The Phantom of The Opera."

Judging by the trailler the movie didn't look like a technicolor film to me.
s.w.a.c. wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 9:50 am
It sounds like All Darc is thinking of The Phantom of the Opera, not The Phantom Thread, which was definitely trying to tap into some of The Archers' mojo.
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Donald Binks » Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:08 pm

If indeed it is possible to emulate Technicolor by messing about on a computer; I lament the fact that it ain't been done. All we seem to get in the way of colour on modern productions is film that has a lot of blue in it or alternatively goes towards yellow?
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by boblipton » Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:37 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:08 pm
If indeed it is possible to emulate Technicolor by messing about on a computer; I lament the fact that it ain't been done. All we seem to get in the way of colour on modern productions is film that has a lot of blue in it or alternatively goes towards yellow?
There's a lot to dislike about The Phantom Thread, just like any Paul Anderson movie. However, if you have a chance to look at it for it camerawork and lighting, I think you'll be impressed.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Donald Binks » Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:57 pm

I have "The Phantom Thread" in my pile to be watched - I might bring its ranking up a couple of notches...
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Histogram » Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:25 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:08 pm
If indeed it is possible to emulate Technicolor by messing about on a computer; I lament the fact that it ain't been done.
"The Aviator" emulates a series of color processes that are roughly contemporary with time in the narrative.

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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Donald Binks » Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:59 am

Histogram wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:25 pm
Donald Binks wrote:
Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:08 pm
If indeed it is possible to emulate Technicolor by messing about on a computer; I lament the fact that it ain't been done.
"The Aviator" emulates a series of color processes that are roughly contemporary with time in the narrative.
I remember saying to my son at the time - "This looks as if it was photographed in the old two-colour Technicolor". It wasn't until some time afterwards that I was informed it was meant to look like that. :D
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by Histogram » Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:16 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:59 am
I remember saying to my son at the time - "This looks as if it was photographed in the old two-colour Technicolor". It wasn't until some time afterwards that I was informed it was meant to look like that. :D
The really interesting thing in the color-design is that it starts with two-strip, then shifts to three-strip, then some other variations and improvements that I'm not familiar with.

Martin Scorsese gave an excellent lecture a few years ago that included some demonstrations of restoration of Technicolor prints.
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Re: Technicolor tech...all lost?

Unread post by syd » Thu Oct 04, 2018 2:47 pm

There is some effort to use the concept of Technicolor (three primary
colors merging to provide greater color accuracy) in 3 sensor digital video
cameras. They are (were) manufactured by Panasonic and JVC and other
companies. They are also used in video projectors.

If someone wanted to build a Technicolor film camera from scratch it could be
done with a more lightweight construction much like the 70MM camera.

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