is a series of color motion picture processes, the first
version dating from 1916, and followed by improved versions over
It was the second major color process, after Britain's Kinemacolor,
and the most widely used color process in
from 1922 to 1952.
became known and celebrated for its highly saturated
color, and was initially most commonly used for filming musicals such
as The Wizard of Oz (1939) and
Down Argentine Way
Down Argentine Way
pictures such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Gone with the
Wind (1939), and animated films such as Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs (1937) and Fantasia (1940). As the technology matured it was
also used for less spectacular dramas and comedies. Occasionally, even
a film noir—such as
Leave Her to Heaven
Leave Her to Heaven
(1945) or Niagara
(1953)—was filmed in Technicolor.
"Technicolor" is the trademark for a series of color motion picture
processes pioneered by
Motion Picture Corporation (a
subsidiary of Technicolor, Inc.), now a division of the French company
Motion Picture Corporation was founded
in Boston in 1914 (incorporated in Maine in 1915) by Herbert Kalmus,
Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott. The "Tech" in the
company's name was inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, where both Kalmus and Comstock received their
undergraduate degrees and were later instructors. Technicolor, Inc.
was chartered in Delaware in 1921. Most of Technicolor's early
patents were taken out by Comstock and Wescott, while Kalmus served
primarily as the company's president and chief executive officer.
1 Name usage
2.1 Two-color Technicolor
2.1.1 Process 1
2.1.2 Process 2
2.1.3 Process 3
2.2 Three-strip Technicolor
2.2.1 Process 4: Development and introduction
2.2.2 Early adoption by Disney
2.2.3 Convincing Hollywood
2.2.4 Limitations and difficulties
2.2.5 The introduction of
Eastmancolor and decline
3 Post-1995 usage
3.1 Reintroduction of the dye transfer process
3.2 Dye transfer
Technicolor in archival work
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
The term "Technicolor" historically has been used to describe at least
Technicolor: an umbrella company encompassing all of the below as well
as other ancillary services. (1914–present)
Technicolor labs: a collection of film laboratories across the world
owned and run by
Technicolor for post-production services including
developing, printing, and transferring films in all major color film
processes, as well as Technicolor's proprietary ones. (1922–present)
Technicolor process or format: several custom image origination
systems used in film production, culminating in the "three-strip"
process in 1932. (1917–1955)
Technicolor IB printing ("IB" abbreviates "imbibition", a dye-transfer
operation): a process for making color motion picture prints that
allows the use of dyes which are more stable and permanent than those
formed in ordinary chromogenic color printing. Originally used for
printing from color separation negatives photographed on
black-and-white film in a special
Technicolor camera. (1928–2002,
with differing gaps of availability after 1974 depending on the lab)
Prints or Color by Technicolor: used from 1954 on, when Eastmancolor
(and other single-strip color film stocks) supplanted the
three-film-strip camera negative method, while the
printing process continued to be used as one method of making the
prints. This meaning of the name applies to nearly all
articles about films made from 1954 onward (see The introduction of
Eastmancolor and decline below) in which
Technicolor is named in the
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Frame from a surviving fragment of The Gulf Between (1917), the first
Technicolor originally existed in a two-color (red and green) system.
In Process 1 (1916), a prism beam-splitter behind the camera lens
exposed two consecutive frames of a single strip of black-and-white
negative film simultaneously, one behind a red filter, the other
behind a green filter. Because two frames were being exposed at the
same time, the film had to be photographed and projected at twice the
normal speed. Exhibition required a special projector with two
apertures (one with a red filter and the other with a green filter),
two lenses, and an adjustable prism that aligned the two images on the
screen. The results were first demonstrated to members of the
American Institute of Mining Engineers in New York on February 21,
Technicolor itself produced the only movie made in Process 1,
The Gulf Between, which had a limited tour of Eastern cities,
beginning with Boston and New York in September 1917, primarily to
interest motion picture producers and exhibitors in color. The
near-constant need for a technician to adjust the projection alignment
doomed this additive color process. Only a few frames of The Gulf
Between, showing star Grace Darmond, are known to exist today.
Frame from the
The Toll of the Sea
The Toll of the Sea (1922)
Convinced that there was no future in additive color processes,
Comstock, Wescott, and Kalmus focused their attention on subtractive
color processes. This culminated in what would eventually be known as
Process 2 (1922) (in the later 1900s commonly called by the misnomer,
"two-strip Technicolor"). As before, the special
used a beam-splitter that simultaneously exposed two consecutive
frames of a single strip of black-and-white film, one behind a green
filter and one behind a red filter.
The difference was that the two-component negative was now used to
produce a subtractive color print. Because the colors were physically
present in the print, no special projection equipment was required and
the correct registration of the two images did not depend on the skill
of the projectionist.
The frames exposed behind the green filter were printed on one strip
of black-and-white film, and the frames exposed behind the red filter
were printed on another strip. After development, each print was toned
to a color nearly complementary to that of the filter: orange-red for
the green-filtered images, cyan-green for the red-filtered ones.
Unlike tinting, which adds a uniform veil of color to the entire
image, toning chemically replaces the black-and-white silver image
with transparent coloring matter, so that the highlights remain clear
(or nearly so), dark areas are strongly colored, and intermediate
tones are colored proportionally. The two prints, made on film stock
half the thickness of regular film, were then cemented together back
to back to create a projection print. The Toll of the Sea, which
debuted on November 26, 1922, used Process 2 and was the first
general-release film in Technicolor.
Frame enlargement of a
Technicolor segment from The Phantom of the
Opera (1925). The film was one of the earliest uses of the process on
interior sets, and demonstrated its versatility.
The second all-color feature in Process 2 Technicolor, Wanderer of the
Wasteland, was released in 1924. Process 2 was also used for color
sequences in such major motion pictures as The Ten Commandments
(1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and Ben-Hur (1925). Douglas
The Black Pirate
The Black Pirate (1926) was the third all-color Process 2
Although successful commercially, Process 2 was plagued with technical
problems. Because the images on the two sides of the print were not in
the same plane, both could not be perfectly in focus at the same time.
The significance of this depended on the depth of field of the
projection optics. Much more serious was a problem with cupping. Films
in general tended to become somewhat cupped after repeated use: every
time a film was projected, each frame in turn was heated by the
intense light in the projection gate, causing it to bulge slightly;
after it had passed through the gate, it cooled and the bulge
subsided, but not quite completely. It was found that the cemented
prints were not only very prone to cupping, but that the direction of
cupping would suddenly and randomly change from back to front or vice
versa, so that even the most attentive projectionist could not prevent
the image from temporarily popping out of focus whenever the cupping
Technicolor had to supply new prints so the cupped
ones could be shipped to their Boston laboratory for flattening, after
which they could be put back into service, at least for a while. The
presence of image layers on both surfaces made the prints especially
vulnerable to scratching, and because the scratches were vividly
colored they were very noticeable. Splicing a Process 2 print without
special attention to its unusual laminated construction was apt to
result in a weak splice that would fail as it passed through the
projector. Even before these problems became apparent, Technicolor
regarded this cemented print approach as a stopgap and was already at
work developing an improved process.
Based on the same dye-transfer technique first applied to motion
pictures in 1916 by Max Handschiegl,
Technicolor Process 3 (1928) was
developed to eliminate the projection print made of double-cemented
prints in favor of a print created by dye imbibition. The Technicolor
camera for Process 3 was identical to that for Process 2,
simultaneously photographing two consecutive frames of a
black-and-white film behind red and green filters.
In the lab, skip-frame printing was used to sort the alternating
color-record frames on the camera negative into two series of
contiguous frames, the red-filtered frames being printed onto one
strip of specially prepared "matrix" film and the green-filtered
frames onto another. After processing, the gelatin of the matrix
film's emulsion was left proportionally hardened, being hardest and
least soluble where it had been most strongly exposed to light. The
unhardened fraction was then washed away. The result was two strips of
relief images consisting of hardened gelatin, thickest in the areas
corresponding to the clearest, least-exposed areas of the negative.
To make each final color print, the matrix films were soaked in dye
baths of colors nominally complementary to those of the camera
filters: the strip made from red-filtered frames was dyed cyan-green
and the strip made from green-filtered frames was dyed orange-red. The
thicker the gelatin in each area of a frame, the more dye it absorbed.
Each matrix in turn was pressed into contact with a plain
gelatin-coated strip of film known as the "blank" and the gelatin
"imbibed" the dye from the matrix. A mordant made from deacetylated
chitin was applied to the blank before printing, to prevent the dyes
from migrating or "bleeding" after they were absorbed.
Dye imbibition was not suitable for printing optical soundtracks,
which required very high resolution, so when making prints for
sound-on-film systems the "blank" film was a conventional
black-and-white film stock on which the soundtrack, as well as frame
lines, had been printed in the ordinary way prior to the dye transfer
A frame of On With the Show! (1929), found in 2005.
The first feature made entirely in the
Technicolor Process 3 was The
Viking (1928), which had a synchronized score and sound effects.
Redskin (1929), with a synchronized score, and The Mysterious Island
(1929), a part-talkie, were photographed almost entirely in this
process also but included some sequences in black and white. The
following talkies were made entirely – or almost entirely – in
Technicolor Process 3: On with the Show! (1929) (the first all-talking
color feature), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), The Show of Shows
(1929), Sally (1929), The Vagabond King (1930), Follow Thru (1930),
Golden Dawn (1930), Hold Everything (1930), The Rogue Song (1930),
Song of the Flame
Song of the Flame (1930), Song of the West (1930), The Life of the
Party (1930), Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930), Bride of the Regiment
(1930), Mamba (1930), Whoopee! (1930), King of Jazz (1930), Under a
Texas Moon (1930), Bright Lights (1930), Viennese Nights (1930), Woman
Hungry (1931), Kiss Me Again (1931) and Fifty Million Frenchmen
(1931). In addition, scores of features were released with Technicolor
sequences. Numerous short subjects were also photographed in
Technicolor Process 3, including the first color sound cartoons by
producers such as
Ub Iwerks and Walter Lantz.
Song of the Flame
Song of the Flame became
the first color movie to use a widescreen process (using a system
known as Vitascope, which used 65mm film).
In 1931, an improvement of
Technicolor Process 3 was developed which
removed grain from the
Technicolor film, resulting in more vivid and
vibrant colors. This process was first used on a Radio Picture
entitled The Runaround (1931). The new process not only improved the
color but also removed specks (that looked like bugs) from the screen,
which had previously blurred outlines and lowered visibility. This new
improvement along with a reduction in cost (from 8.85 cents to 7 cents
per foot) led to a new color revival.
Warner Brothers took the
lead once again by producing three features (out of an announced plan
for six features): Manhattan Parade (1932), Doctor X (1932) and
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). Radio Pictures followed by
announcing plans to make four more features in the new process.
Only one of these, Fanny Foley Herself (1931), was actually produced.
Paramount Pictures announced plans to make eight features and
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer promised two color features, these never
materialized. This may have been the result of the lukewarm
reception to these new color pictures by the public. Two independently
produced features were also made with this improved Technicolor
process: Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1934) and Kliou the Tiger
Very few of the original camera negatives of movies made in
Technicolor Process 2 or 3 survive. In the late 1940s, most were
discarded from storage at
Technicolor in a space-clearing move, after
the studios declined to reclaim the materials. Original Technicolor
prints that survived into the 1950s were often used to make
black-and-white prints for television and simply discarded thereafter.
This explains why so many early color films exist today solely in
black and white.
Warner Bros., which had vaulted from a minor exhibitor to a major
studio with its introduction of the talkies, incorporated
Technicolor's printing to enhance its films. Other producers followed
Warner Bros.' example by making features in color, with either
Technicolor, or one of its competitors, such as
Brewster Color and
Multicolor (later Cinecolor).
Consequently, the introduction of color did not increase the number of
moviegoers to the point where it was economical. This and the Great
Depression severely strained the finances of the movie studios and
spelled the end of Technicolor's first financial successes.
Process 4: Development and introduction
Technicolor envisioned a full-color process as early as 1924 and was
actively developing such a process by 1929.
Hollywood made so much use
Technicolor in 1929 and 1930 that many believed the feature film
industry would soon be turning out color films exclusively. By 1931,
Great Depression took its toll on the movie industry,
which began to cut back on expenses. The production of color films had
decreased dramatically by 1932, when Burton Wescott and Joseph A. Ball
completed work on a new three-color movie camera.
now promise studios a full range of colors, as opposed to the limited
red-green spectrum of previous films. The new camera simultaneously
exposed three strips of black-and-white film, each of which recorded a
different color of the spectrum. The new process would last until the
Technicolor feature film was produced in 1955.
Technicolor camera from the 1930s
Technicolor's advantage over most early natural-color processes was
that it was a subtractive synthesis rather than an additive one:
unlike the additive
Kinemacolor and Chronochrome processes,
Technicolor prints did not require any special projection equipment.
Unlike the additive
Dufaycolor process, the projected image was not
dimmed by a light-absorbing and obtrusive mosaic color filter layer.
Very importantly, compared to competing subtractive systems,
Technicolor offered the best balance between high image quality and
speed of printing.
Technicolor Process 4 camera, manufactured to Technicolor's
detailed specifications by
Mitchell Camera Corporation, contained
color filters, a beam splitter consisting of a partially reflecting
surface inside a split-cube prism, and three separate rolls of
black-and-white film (hence the "three-strip" designation). The beam
splitter allowed ⅓ of the light coming through the camera lens to
pass through the reflector and a green filter and form an image on one
of the strips, which therefore recorded only the green-dominated third
of the spectrum. The other ⅔ was reflected sideways by the mirror
and passed through a magenta filter, which absorbed green light and
allowed only the red and blue thirds of the spectrum to pass. Behind
this filter were the other two strips of film, their emulsions pressed
into contact face to face. The front film was a red-blind
orthochromatic type that recorded only the blue light. On the surface
of its emulsion was a red-orange coating that prevented blue light
from continuing on to the red-sensitive panchromatic emulsion of the
film behind it, which therefore recorded only the red-dominated third
of the spectrum.
Each of the three resulting negatives was printed onto a special
matrix film. After processing, each matrix was a nearly invisible
representation of the series of film frames as gelatin reliefs,
thickest (and most absorbent) where each image was darkest and
thinnest where it was lightest. Each matrix was soaked in a dye
complementary to the color of light recorded by the negative printed
on it: cyan for red, magenta for green, and yellow for blue (see also:
CMYK color model
CMYK color model for a technical discussion of color printing).
A single clear strip of black-and-white film with the soundtrack and
frame lines printed in advance was first treated with a mordant
solution and then brought into contact with each of the three
dye-loaded matrix films in turn, building up the complete color image.
Each dye was absorbed, or imbibed, by the gelatin coating on the
receiving strip rather than simply deposited onto its surface, hence
the term "dye imbibition". Strictly speaking, this is a mechanical
printing process, very loosely comparable to offset printing or
lithography, and not a photographic one, as the actual printing
does not involve a chemical change caused by exposure to light.
During the early years of the process, the receiver film was
preprinted with a 50% black-and-white image derived from the green
strip, the so-called Key, or K, record. This procedure was used
largely to cover up fine edges in the picture where colors would mix
unrealistically (also known as fringing). This additional black
increased the contrast of the final print and concealed any fringing.
However, overall colorfulness was compromised as a result. In 1944,
Technicolor had improved the process to make up for these shortcomings
and the K record was, thence, eliminated.
Early adoption by Disney
Walt Disney to shoot one of his Silly Symphony
Flowers and Trees
Flowers and Trees (1932), in Process 4, the new
"three-strip" process. Seeing the potential in full-color Technicolor,
Disney negotiated an exclusive contract for the use of the process
that extended to September 1935. Other animation producers, such
Fleischer Studios and the
Ub Iwerks studio, were shut out –
they had to settle for either the two-color
Technicolor systems or use
a competing process such as Cinecolor.
Flowers and Trees
Flowers and Trees was a success with audiences and critics alike, and
won the first Academy Award for Animated Short Film. All subsequent
Silly Symphonies from 1933 on were shot with the three-strip process.
One Silly Symphony, Three Little Pigs (1933), engendered such a
positive audience response that it overshadowed the feature films with
which it was shown.
Hollywood was buzzing about color film again.
According to Fortune magazine, "Merian C. Cooper, producer for RKO
Radio Pictures and director of King Kong (1933), saw one of the Silly
Symphonies and said he never wanted to make a black-and-white picture
Although Disney's first 60 or so
Technicolor cartoons used the
three-strip camera, an improved "successive exposure" process was
adopted circa 1937. This variation of the three-strip process was
designed primarily for cartoon work: the camera would contain one
strip of black-and-white negative film, and each animation cel would
be photographed three times, on three sequential frames, behind
alternating red, green, and blue filters (the so-called "Technicolor
Color Wheel", then an option of the Acme, Producers Service and
Photo-Sonics animation cameras). Three separate dye transfer
printing matrices would be created from the red, green, and blue
records in their respective complementary colors, cyan, magenta and
Successive exposure was also employed in Disney's "True Life
Adventure" live-action series, wherein the 16mm
principal photography element was first duplicated onto a 35mm
fine-grain SE negative element in one pass of the 16mm element,
thereby reducing wear on the relatively small 16mm element and also
eliminating registration errors between colors. The live-action SE
negative thereafter entered other
Technicolor processes and were
incorporated with SE animation and three-strip studio live-action, as
required, thereby producing the combined result.
The studios were willing to adopt three-color
live-action feature production, if it could be proved viable. Shooting
Technicolor required very bright lighting, as the film had
an extremely slow speed of ASA 5. That, and the bulk of the cameras
and a lack of experience with three-color cinematography made for
skepticism in the studio boardrooms.
An October 1934 article in Fortune magazine stressed that Technicolor,
as a corporation, was rather remarkable in that it kept its investors
quite happy despite the fact that it had only been in profit twice in
all of the years of its existence, during the early boom at the turn
of the decade. A well-managed company, half of whose stock was
controlled by a clique loyal to Kalmus,
Technicolor never had to cede
any control to its bankers or unfriendly stockholders. In the
mid-'30s, all the major studios except MGM were in the financial
doldrums, and a color process that truly reproduced the visual
spectrum was seen as a possible shot-in-the-arm for the ailing
In November 1933, Technicolor's
Herbert Kalmus and
RKO announced plans
to produce three-strip
Technicolor films in 1934, beginning with Ann
Harding starring in a projected film The World Outside.
Live-action use of three-strip
Technicolor was first seen in a musical
number of the MGM feature The Cat and the Fiddle, released February
16, 1934. On July 1, MGM released
Hollywood Party with a Technicolor
cartoon sequence "Hot Choc-late Soldiers" produced by Walt Disney. On
July 28 of that year,
Warner Brothers released Service with a Smile,
followed by Good Morning, Eve! on September 22, both being comedy
short films starring
Leon Errol and filmed in three-strip Technicolor.
Pioneer Pictures, a movie company formed by
produced the film usually credited as the first live-action short film
shot in the three-strip process, La Cucaracha released August 31,
1934. La Cucaracha is a two-reel musical comedy that cost $65,000,
approximately four times what an equivalent black-and-white two-reeler
would cost. Released by RKO, the short was a success in introducing
Technicolor as a viable medium for live-action films. The
three-strip process also was used in some short sequences filmed for
several movies made during 1934, including the final sequences of The
House of Rothschild (Twentieth Century Pictures/United Artists) with
George Arliss and
Kid Millions (
Samuel Goldwyn Studios) with Eddie
Becky Sharp (1935) became the first feature film
photographed entirely in three-strip Technicolor. Initially,
Technicolor was only used indoors. In 1936, The Trail of
the Lonesome Pine became the first production to have outdoor
sequences, with impressive results. The spectacular success of Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was released in December 1937
and became the top-grossing film of 1938, attracted the attention of
Limitations and difficulties
One major drawback of Technicolor's three-strip process was that the
cameras required a special, bulky, large volume sound blimp. Film
studios could not purchase
Technicolor cameras, only rent them for
their productions, complete with camera technicians and a "color
supervisor" to ensure sets, costumes and makeup didn't push beyond the
limitations of the system. Often on many early productions, the
supervisor was Natalie Kalmus, ex-wife of
Herbert Kalmus and part
owner of the company. Directors had great difficulty with her;
Vincente Minnelli said, "I couldn't do anything right in Mrs. Kalmus's
eyes." The ex-Mrs. Kalmus preferred the title "Technicolor
Director", although British licensees generally insisted on "Colour
Control" so as not to "dilute" the film director's title. She worked
with quite a number of "associates", many of whom went uncredited, and
after her retirement, these associates were transferred to the
licensees, with, for example, Leonard Doss going to Fox where he
performed the same function for Fox's DeLuxe Color.
The process of splitting the image reduced the amount of light
reaching the film stock. Since the film speed of the stocks used were
fairly slow, early
Technicolor productions required a greater amount
of lighting than a black-and-white production. It is reported that
temperatures on the film set of The Wizard of Oz from the hot studio
lights frequently exceeded 100 °F (38 °C), and some of the
more heavily costumed characters required a large water intake. Some
actors and actresses claimed to have suffered permanent eye damage
from the high levels of illumination.
Because of the added lighting, triple amount of film, and the expense
of producing dye transfer projection prints,
Technicolor demanded high
The introduction of
Eastmancolor and decline
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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, an example of
Technicolor filming in 1950s
Color films that recorded the three primary colors in three emulsion
layers on one strip of film had been introduced in the mid-1930s by
Eastman Kodak in the United States (
Kodachrome for 16mm home movies in
1935, then for 8mm home movies and 35mm slides in 1936) and
Agfacolor Neu for both home movies and slides later in 1936).
Technicolor introduced Monopack, a single-strip color reversal film (a
35 mm lower-contrast version of Kodachrome) in 1941 for use on
location where the bulky three-strip camera was impractical, but the
higher grain of the image made it unsuitable for studio work.
Eastman Kodak introduced its first 35 mm color motion picture
negative film in 1950. The first commercial feature film to use
Eastmancolor was the
National Film Board of Canada
National Film Board of Canada documentary Royal
Journey, released in December 1951. In 1952, Eastman Kodak
introduced a high-quality color print film, allowing studios to
produce prints through standard photographic processes as opposed to
having to send them to
Technicolor for the expensive dye imbibition
process. That same year, the
Technicolor lab adapted its dye
transfer process to derive matrices and imbibition prints directly
Eastmancolor negatives, as well as other stocks such as Ansco and
DuPont color stocks. Foxfire (1955), filmed in 1954 by Universal,
Jane Russell and Jeff Chandler, was the last American-made
feature photographed with a
Technicolor three-strip camera.
In an attempt to capitalize on the
Hollywood 3-D craze, Technicolor
unveiled its stereoscopic camera for
3-D films in March 1953. The rig
used two three-strip cameras, running a total of six strips of film at
once (three for the left eye and three for the right). Only two
films were shot with this camera set-up: Flight to Tangier (1953) and
Martin and Lewis
Martin and Lewis comedy
Money From Home
Money From Home (1954). A similar, but
different system had been used by a different company, using two
three-strip cameras side-by-side for a British short called Royal
As the end of the
Technicolor process became apparent, the company
repurposed its three-color cameras for wide-screen photography, and
Technirama process in 1957. Other formats the
company ventured into included VistaVision, Todd-AO, and Ultra
Panavision 70. All of them were an improvement over the three-strip
negatives, since the negative print-downs generated sharper and finer
grain dye transfer copies.
By the mid-1960s, the dye-transfer process eventually fell out of
favor in the United States as being too expensive and too slow in
turning out prints. With the growing number of screens in the US, the
standard run of 200–250 prints increased. And while dye-transfer
printing yielded superior color printing, the number of high speed
prints that could be struck in labs all over the country outweighed
the fewer, slower number of prints that could only be had in
Technicolor's labs. One of the last American films printed by
The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part II (1974).
In 1975, the US dye transfer plant was closed and
an Eastman-only processor. In 1977, the final dye-transfer printer
left in Rome was used by
Dario Argento to make prints for his horror
film Suspiria. In 1980, the Italian
Technicolor plant ceased
printing dye transfer.
The British line was shut down in 1978 and sold to Beijing Film and
Video Lab which shipped the equipment to China. A great many films
from China and Hong Kong were made in the
Technicolor dye transfer
process, including Zhang Yimou's
Ju Dou (1990) and even one
American film, Space Avenger (1989), directed by Richard W. Haines.
The Beijing line was shut down in 1993 for a number of reasons,
including inferior processing.
Reintroduction of the dye transfer process
Technicolor reintroduced the dye transfer process to general
film printing. A refined version of the printing process of the 1960s
and 1970s, it was used on a limited basis in the restorations of films
such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Rear Window, Funny Girl,
and Apocalypse Now Redux.
After its reintroduction, the dye transfer process was used in several
Hollywood productions. These included Bulworth, The
Thin Red Line, Godzilla, Toy Story 2, and Pearl Harbor.
The dye-transfer process was discontinued by
Technicolor in 2002 after
the company was purchased by Thomson.
Technicolor in archival work
By the late 1990s, the dye transfer process still had its advantages
in the film archival community. Because the dye transfer process used
stable acid dyes,
Technicolor prints are considered of archival
Technicolor print from the dye transfer era will retain its
original colors virtually unchanged for decades with proper storage,
whereas prints printed on
Eastmancolor stocks produced prior to 1983
may suffer color fading after exposure to ultraviolet light and hot,
humid conditions as a result of less stable photochemical dyes. Fading
on some prints is so rapid that in some cases, after as little as five
to ten years, the colors of the print have faded to a brownish red.
Furthermore, three-strip camera negatives are all on silver-based
black-and-white stock, which have stayed unaltered over the course of
time with proper handling. This has become of importance in recent
years with the large market for films transferred to video formats for
home viewing. The best color quality control for video transfer by far
is achieved by optically printing from
Technicolor negatives, or by
recombining the three-strip black and white negatives through digital
means and printing, onto low-contrast stock. Director
George Lucas had
a three-strip archival negative, and one or more imbibition prints
made of Star Wars; this "protection" copy was consulted for color
values in putting together the 1997
Special Edition of Star Wars.
One problem that has resulted from
Technicolor negatives is the rate
of shrinkage from one strip to another. Because three-Strip negatives
are shot on three rolls, they are subject to different rates of
shrinkage depending on storage conditions. Today, digital technology
allows for a precise re-alignment of the negatives by resizing
shrunken negatives digitally to correspond with the other negatives.
The G, or Green, record is usually taken as the reference as it is the
record with the highest resolution. It is also a record with the
correct "wind" (emulsion position with respect to the camera's lens).
Shrinkage and re-alignment (resizing) are non-issues with Successive
Exposure (single-roll RGB)
Technicolor camera negatives. This issue
could have been eliminated, for three-strip titles, had the
preservation elements (fine-grain positives) been Successive Exposure,
but this would have required the preservation elements to be 3,000
feet or 6,000 feet whereas three-strip composited camera and
preservation elements are 1,000 feet or 2,000 feet (however, three
records of that length are needed).
One issue that modern reproduction has had to contend with is that the
contrast of the three film strips is not the same. This gives the
Technicolor prints that (for example) fades cause the color
balance of the image to change as the image is faded. Transfer to
digital media has attempted to correct the differing color balances
and is largely successful. However, a few odd artifacts remain such
that saturated parts of the image may show a false color. Where the
image of a flame is included in shot, it will rarely be of the
expected orange/yellow color, often being depicted as green.[citation
Technicolor company remained a highly successful film processing
firm and later became involved in video and audio duplication (CD, VHS
and DVD manufacturing) and digital video processes. MacAndrews &
Forbes acquired Technicolor, Inc. in 1982 for $100 million, then
sold it in 1988 to the British firm
Carlton Communications PLC for
$780 million. Technicolor, Inc. acquired the film processing
Consolidated Film Industries in 2000. Since 2001,
Technicolor has been part of the French-headquartered electronics and
media conglomerate Thomson. The name of Thomson group was changed
Technicolor SA” as of February 1, 2010, re-branding the entire
company after its American film technology subsidiary.
The visual aesthetic of dye transfer
Technicolor continues to be used
in Hollywood, usually in films set in the mid-20th century.[citation
needed] Parts of The Aviator (2004), the biopic of Howard Hughes, were
digitally manipulated to imitate color processes that were available
during the periods each scene takes place. The look of the film is
initially a facsimile of Hughes' own color system, Multicolor. The
Technicolor look begins after the newsreel footage of
Hughes making the first flight around the world.
1930 advertisement featuring
Maurice Chevalier in Paramount on Parade
List of film formats
List of color film systems
List of early color feature films
List of three-strip
^ US patent 1208490, issued December 12, 1916
^ "What? Color in the Movies Again?" Fortune, October 1934.
^ "How MIT And
Technicolor Helped Create Hollywood". 31 July
^ "$1,000,000 Company Will Color Movies", The New York Times,
September 21, 1922, p. 1.
^ "Technicol.-Prizma Controversy", The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 7,
1922, p. 12.
^ a b "1955-1975". Technicolor100, Eastman Museum. Archived from the
original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
^ Cinematographic Multiplex Projection, &c. U.S. Patent No.
1,391,029, filed Feb. 20, 1917.
^ "Moving Pictures in Color", The New York Times, February 22, 1917,
^ "The First Successful Color Movie", Popular Science, Feb. 1923, p.
^ "Kalmus, Herbert. "
Technicolor Adventures in Cinemaland", Journal of
the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, December 1938"
^ Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1931, Page C9.
^ Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1931, Page C9; The Washington Post,
September 11, 1931, Page 12; Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1931, Page A9.
^ Radio Pictures announced plans to make four color features under the
titles of "The Runaround" (produced), "Babes in Toyland" (never
produced), "Macheta" (never produced) and "Bird of Paradise" (changed
to black and white).
^ MGM announced plans to make The Merry Widow in color and also to
rework a revue called The March of Time with a storyline for release.
The only Paramount feature that seems to have been announced was a
picture called Rose of the Rancho which was to have starred Richard
Arlen and Dolores Del Rio.
^ a b "Dye-Transfer Process". Technicolor100, Eastman Museum. Archived
from the original on 8 July 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
^ Other studios could then start producing cartoons with the
three-strip process, but were still barred from releasing them until
Technicolor Signs With Disney", The Wall Street Journal, April
17, 1934, p. 10; "Mickey Mouse Falls Under Technicolor's Sway", The
New York Times, February 3, 1935, p. X5; Nelson B. Bell, "The New
Trichrome Process Is About to Meet Test on Screen", The Washington
Post, June 2, 1935, p. SO1. Douglas W. Churchill, "Advices From the
Film Citadel", The New York Times, June 9, 1935, p. X3.
^ "Two key advantages to SE as opposed to three-strip photography is
that the optical path is far simpler resulting in a single focal plane
for each frame, and the alignment of frames from a single strip of
film as opposed to three separate records is far easier. This is
clearly evident when we are working with our nitrate negatives."
Interview with Theo Gluck, Director of Library Restoration and
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, by Robert A.
^ "Activities on the Western Front" (PDF). The New York Times.
November 5, 1933. Retrieved December 6, 2008.
^ Vincente Minnelli, I Remember It Well, New York: Doubleday, 1974.
^ Richard B. Jewell. The golden age of cinema: Hollywood, 1929–1945.
Blackwell Pub. 2007 p 103
^ a b "Chronology of Motion Picture Films: 1940–1959". Kodak.
Archived from the original on 13 January 2010.
^ March 14, 1953 "New
Technicolor 3-D Camera" BoxOffice Magazine. Page
^ "Dario Argento's Suspiria: A Visual and Aural Masterwork". Indiana
Public Media. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
^ a b "1975-2015". Technicolor100, Eastman Museum. Archived from the
original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
^ a b c Flueckiger, Barbara. "
Technicolor No. VI: Dye-transfer prints
from enhanced process". Timeline of Historical Film Colors. Archived
from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 4 February
^ "Untouched is impossible: the story of Star Wars in film".
^ "MACANDREWS & FORBES GROUP INC reports earnings for Qtr to Sept
30". 12 November 1983 – via NYTimes.com.
^ "History of
Carlton Communications PLC – FundingUniverse".
Technicolor - Technology-driven company for Media &
Technicolor - Technology-driven company for Media &
^ Cohen, David S. (January 26, 2010). "
Fred E. Basten, Glorious Technicolor: The Movies' Magic Rainbow.
Easton Studio Press, 2005. ISBN 0-9647065-0-4
Adrian Cornwell-Clyne, Colour Cinematography. London Champman &
Layton, James – Pierce, David: The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915–1935.
George Eastman House, Rochester (N.Y.), 2015.
Richard W. Haines,
Technicolor Movies: The History of Dye Transfer
Printing. McFarland & Company, 2003. ISBN 0-7864-1809-5
John Waner, Hollywood's Conversion of All Production to Color. Tobey
Herbert T. Kalmus with Elenaore King Kalmus, Mr. Technicolor: The
Fascinating Story of the Genius Who Invented
Technicolor and Forever
Changed the History of Cinema. MagicImage Filmbooks, 1993.
Look up technicolor in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Technicolor SA corporate website
Technicolor on Timeline of Historical Film Colors with many written
resources and many photographs of
Technicolor History at the American WideScreen Museum
Database of 3-strip
Technicolor100: Explore Technicol