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The ten commandments


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#1 Filip Plesha

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 05:40 PM

Hi

I've seen this film in more than one transfer, from a regular DVD transfer to some old crappy TV transfers made from "preprint" material (with projector que circles visible), and in all its incarnations this film
has glowing comic book colors.

It was shot like any other eastmancolor film from that era, but this one has unusually strong colors.

For example, the blue eyes in some actors really stick out like two little blue planets, the flowers, the dresses, all are so pure in color. It gives a pleasant cartoon feel to the film.

But what's the sicret?
Is it the transfer? Is this film for some unknown reason intentionally retransfered every time with the same hypersaturated timing, or what?

Last wishes of a dying director perhapse?
Or perhapse the reference material used on every transfer has been some hypersaturated dye transfer print?

Or is it simply a different production design that gives these strong colors?


well anyway, here are a few examples of what I mean:


take a look at the blue eyes, you can see their clear color even at such a small picture:



If I didn't know better, I'd say this was Technicolor, but it isn't , which makes me officially
blind to recognizing difference between early eastmancolor and technicolor
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 06:56 PM

Your photo links didn't work.

I believe it's mainly because of shooting the movie in VistaVision combined with colorful production design and a lot of strong lighting that the colors are so rich even though it is an Eastmancolor movie, and modern transfers take advantage of that. The large format productions of the 1950's, though Eastmancolor, seem more vibrant than their standard 35mm counterparts. Somehow the clarity allows the colors to shine through better.

"The Ten Commandments" is particularly well-photographed from a technical standpoint. I saw a reel projected at the Academy a few years ago as part of a special effects history lecture and the image looked very modern and clean compared to some of the other clips.

The other day, the first VistaVision movie made was on TV, "White Christmas", and the transfer was very soft & grainy though. Probably an old print being used.

Edited by David Mullen, 29 December 2005 - 06:57 PM.

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#3 Filip Plesha

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 07:14 PM

EDITED: here, all fixed now, I've transfered the files to my little webspace, so it works now, I hope so..


well anyway, here are a few examples of what I mean:

Posted Image

Posted Image


take a look at the blue eyes, you can see their clear color even at such a small picture:

Posted Image

Posted Image


If I didn't know better, I'd say this was Technicolor, but it isn't , which makes me officially
blind to recognizing difference between early eastmancolor and technicolor

And If I didn't like the colors so much, I'd say it's a bit over the top too..

Edited by Filip Plesha, 29 December 2005 - 07:20 PM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 07:26 PM

Maybe her eyes really are that blue. It's Eastmancolor, well-exposed, lit in an older 3-strip Technicolor style, with a saturated production design. It looks similar to DeMille's 3-strip movies like "Samson and Delilah" (1949) but sharper.
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#5 Filip Plesha

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 07:33 PM

Your photo links didn't work.

I believe it's mainly because of shooting the movie in VistaVision combined with colorful production design and a lot of strong lighting that the colors are so rich even though it is an Eastmancolor movie, and modern transfers take advantage of that. The large format productions of the 1950's, though Eastmancolor, seem more vibrant than their standard 35mm counterparts. Somehow the clarity allows the colors to shine through better.


I've heard this to be true for projection (70mm prints shine more light and have better saturation and contrast), but I haven't heard that capture format size can affect things such as saturation.

Otherwise, a large format photograph would be more saturated than a 35mm or medium format photograph, which I haven't noticed really.
The color apperance does change depending on the size of the film (different factors of enlargement give different grain densities which produce different looking tones, which results in larger formats having colors look smoother and sophisticated) but I don't think it affects actual saturation.
It could only be that the smoother look of colors from the larger negative combined with lighting and colorful set design gave the impression that you are actually looking at a system with highly saturated color reproduction.

I'd bet that If you walked onto that set, and took a few slides with modern film, it would look just as colorfull

But then again, when I look at those pictures again, I can't imagine a piece of film looking as sweet as that laying on the bottom of my drawer
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 09:28 PM

Yes, I know that saturation shouldn't be affected by the size of the negative, and probably isn't. However, I do feel that the larger the negative, the more subtlety in color shades that can be resolved, whereas a small negative tends to simplify things into basic colors. I notice in 65mm movies all sorts of pale shades of rose, lavender, burgundy, purple, etc. that don't seem to show up as well in 35mm photography.

Edited by David Mullen, 30 December 2005 - 12:15 PM.

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#7 Hal Smith

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 12:56 AM

David,

There's another movie with an incredible color palette - "How to Succeed in Business Without Trying". Mary Blair, Walt Disney's favorite Color Designer and Stylist for years was Color Designer on that project, coming out of retirement to do it. She worked on a bunch of the Disney classics in the 40's and 50's like "Alice", "Peter Pan", "Cinderella", etc. I grew up thinking that's how animation was supposed to look, I found out early this year that I had been admiring just one, very talented, woman's sense of taste all the time! There should to be a Mary Blair Institute of Designer somewhere - but instead just a few film nuts figure out that such an Artist worked in our world and admire her work. "Succeed" just glows with pastel colors. I wonder what stock it was shot with - and also the format. Anyone know?
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 01:03 AM

Since it was probably shot in 1966, released in 1967, it would have been shot on Eastmancolor 5251 (50 ASA), using 35mm Panavision anamorphic lenses (according to the imdb, probably based on a credit for Panavision on the film.)

It's not listed in Richard Haine's book on Technicolor dye transfer releases, so it was probably released in regular Eastmancolor prints.
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#9 John Holland

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 04:42 AM

Yes the prints were Eastman , Color by De Luxe . john holland , london.
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#10 Filip Plesha

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 05:56 AM

Yes, I know that saturation shouldn't be affected by the size of the negative, and probably isn't. However, I do feel that the larger the negative, the more subtlety in color shades that can be resolved, whereas a small negative tends to simply things into basic colors. I notice in 65mm movies all sorts of pale shades of rose, lavender, burgundy, purple, etc. that don't seem to show up as well in 35mm photography.



yes, I find that to be true from experience with different still photography formats. Sadly I've never seen a cinema format larger than 35mm

Edited by Filip Plesha, 30 December 2005 - 05:58 AM.

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#11 Sam Wells

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 10:50 AM

[quote
If I didn't know better, I'd say this was Technicolor, but it isn't , which makes me officially
blind to recognizing difference between early eastmancolor and technicolor
[/quote]

Eastmancolor negative, Technicolor print.

I saw the trailer for The Ten Commandments a few years ago in a Technicolor IB print.

I don't know what elements used to make the transfer were. What you've got here on those frame grabs is pretty cartoony looking compared to what a Tech IB print looks like, although the flavor of it is there.


There seems to be a bit of the "Color by Jellybean" mentality in this transfer (but bearing in mind it's a frame grab on the net.. so better not to make too many statements.

-Sam
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#12 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 01:08 PM

Your photo links didn't work.

I believe it's mainly because of shooting the movie in VistaVision combined with colorful production design and a lot of strong lighting that the colors are so rich even though it is an Eastmancolor movie, and modern transfers take advantage of that. The large format productions of the 1950's, though Eastmancolor, seem more vibrant than their standard 35mm counterparts. Somehow the clarity allows the colors to shine through better.

"The Ten Commandments" is particularly well-photographed from a technical standpoint. I saw a reel projected at the Academy a few years ago as part of a special effects history lecture and the image looked very modern and clean compared to some of the other clips.

The other day, the first VistaVision movie made was on TV, "White Christmas", and the transfer was very soft & grainy though. Probably an old print being used.


I think the early Eastman color stocks had very rich colors, Kodak was possibly trying to emulate the Technicolor look. Some modern prints of them do have indifferent color. Some are quite vibrant with golden technicolor-like skin tones.
And there are some prints of Three-strip movies with very indifferent color, probably derived from a series of old eastman color intermediates.

Vistavision initially used Leica lenses for at least the shorter and normal focal length. Often VistaVision movies have a velvety quality which make you swoon.


I have the 'restored' version DVD of 'The Ten Commandments', I amunhappy with the color, it seems to be the version that ABC has been running for ages. Both versions are lacking good greens. I've seen theatrical prints and the sea is green. A vibrant lime green. In these versions it's a dull shade of blue.
It was so disappointing that the restored version didn't restore the green.

---LV
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 02:55 PM

Our perceptions of past films are not always accurate. The last major restoration of "Gone With the Wind" in the mid 1980's produced a somewhat more muted look than some people expected. This was a movie that was re-released many times since its first release, and the original dye transfer prints were a little less saturated than the ones made in the re-releases. Technicolor didn't always produce eye-popping colors -- some Technicolor films were shot and printed for a more muted color pallete. In fact, even in "Gone With the Wind", Lee Garmes started the movie shooting with that look and was replaced by Ernest Haller because Selznick and designer Menzies wanted a more bold, saturated look -- but even Selznick thought that Menzies went too far in that red sunset scene between Scarlett and Rhett and considered reshooting it. Luckily, the most of the softer Garmes look is more in the early part of the film before the war.

I've gone to see festivals of original dye transfer prints of old 3-strip movies, and the intensity of colors were quite varied, by design. Some just floored you with their intense saturation and others were mainly pastel.

Edited by David Mullen, 30 December 2005 - 02:57 PM.

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#14 Filip Plesha

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 03:51 PM

Our perceptions of past films are not always accurate. The last major restoration of "Gone With the Wind" in the mid 1980's produced a somewhat more muted look than some people expected. This was a movie that was re-released many times since its first release, and the original dye transfer prints were a little less saturated than the ones made in the re-releases. Technicolor didn't always produce eye-popping colors -- some Technicolor films were shot and printed for a more muted color pallete. In fact, even in "Gone With the Wind", Lee Garmes started the movie shooting with that look and was replaced by Ernest Haller because Selznick and designer Menzies wanted a more bold, saturated look -- but even Selznick thought that Menzies went too far in that red sunset scene between Scarlett and Rhett and considered reshooting it. Luckily, the most of the softer Garmes look is more in the early part of the film before the war.

I've gone to see festivals of original dye transfer prints of old 3-strip movies, and the intensity of colors were quite varied, by design. Some just floored you with their intense saturation and others were mainly pastel.



David,

how do those more muted IB prints compare to regular Eastman prints ? In other words, does technicolor process have any advantages over Eastmancolor process when it is used in a more desaturated fashion?
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 05:15 PM

David,

how do those more muted IB prints compare to regular Eastman prints ? In other words, does technicolor process have any advantages over Eastmancolor process when it is used in a more desaturated fashion?


Well, entirely different type of dyes are used for dye transfer, so the color range is different all-around. The colors seem "thicker" even when pastel, if that's a good word. There can be sharpness problems since the success of dye transfer is dependent on incredibly high standards for registration of the three color passes. I saw one dye transfer print of the live-action "Jungle Book" (1942) where the registration was so bad that it seemed blurry with a lot of color fringing.

The archival quality of dye transfer is unsurpassed, except by Kodachrome (and that's only for dark storage -- Kodachrome has the worst color stability when projected and fades more quickly than other processes.) And the original negatives, if stored properly, tend to be in good shape because all the wear & tear of printing happens to the matrices, not the original negative(s). This is true even for Eastmancolor movies that only had dye transfer prints made, at least in terms of the amount of wear on the negative (color dye fading of the original Eastmancolor negative is a major problem for pre-1980 titles.)

The most extreme example of desaturated dye transfer prints was "Moby Dick" (shot in Eastmancolor though.) Ozzie Morris noticed Technicolor screening some incredibly pastel, low-contrast, washed-out prints at the lab and asked what they were, and the lab said they were prints made for TV transfer (this is the late 1950's, mind you.) What they did was make the three b&w matrices off of the original Eastmancolor negative using broadband instead of narrow-cut color filters to separate red, green, and blue information. What this means is that by not using very narrow-cut filters with a limited spectral transmission, each b&w separation was "diluted" with some of the other two colors' information. So when recombined, you got a gray image with pastel colors. It was also very washed-out looking, so Ozzie Morris had them run the prints using a forth "silver key" printer that added black silver to the print image on top of the three color dye passes, improving the contrast.

Years later, John Huston wanted to use this trick again at Technicolor for "Reflections in a Golden Eye" but by then, Technicolor had gotten rid of the forth silver key printer in their line (also, the work was being done at Technicolor Rome, which may have never had the original forth printer.) This time he had to use an optical printer to overlay a b&w dupe over the color image on each matrix to desaturate the matrices and thus end up with a desaturated print.

In terms of normal dye transfer printing, color intensity was controlled in more limited ways, probably by adjusting the actual dyes plus in terms of how much they flashed the matrices (back then, the matrices were always flashed slightly to reduce contrast, so by flashing more, one could make the color more pastel.)
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#16 Filip Plesha

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 06:36 PM

thanks

And is it true that IB prints are less grainy (if they even show grain)?

I'd assume that was so because the process itself should introduce less grain than conventional printing (and the last stage does not even involve any grain), and I've heard somewhere that the dye "spills around" smoothing out the grain pattern but also reducing overall sharpness of the image.

One more thing. How would you describe the difference between watching a good IB print and a modern Eastman print (regular vision premiere print stock for example)? I'm just currious as to how drastic the difference is.
To use video world as a measure..
Is it as drastic as watching some old 80's video transfer for TV, then switching to a latest state of the art digital transfer, or maybe more subtle like watching a transfer from a duplicate negative vs. watching a transfer from an IP. Or is it neither of the two, but simply different (not better or worse), like two flavours of ice cream?
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#17 Sam Wells

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 09:06 PM

But a good IB print from when, 40's 50's 70's --or 80's China ?

The last contemporary film I saw in Tech IB (probably the last one many of us saw) was "Apocalypse Now Redux" - but even there, there was a noticable difference between "new" and "old" elements - with some of the newer (previously unseen) looking better... Anyway, BLACK blacks (altho given the Dmax of Premiere I suppose you could do the same; reds were intense, very much like - well Kodachrome 7387 prints of mine actually. The jungle was "edgy" -- how's that for technical description B) Having said that, I think one _might_ argue that the Tech print 'editorialised' ?

The opening of "The Godfather" was almost an atmosphere you could feel...... the Tech IB of "The Conformist" was like that...

I mentioned on another thread here a Chinese doc from late 70's -- about a steam train; black locomotive with red wheels; you might say it had a kind of laquer quality...

But 50's stuff is different again.

Wow it's hard to put in to words. As a comparison maybe it's more like the difference between Kodachrome & an Ektachrome ?

-Sam
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 12:03 AM

Trouble is that you'd have to compare the same negative printed both on regular Kodak (Vision Premier 2393 being the closest to the dye transfer look) and printed using dye transfer.

You can't compare an old dye transfer print to a new Kodak print made of an old movie, because then you'd be comparing an old print of a new (then) negative to a new print of a (now) old negative.

After Technicolor revived the process for a few years, I saw dye transfer prints of "Batman & Robin", "Godzilla", "Bulworth", "Apocalypse Now Redux", "The Thin Red Line" (only one print was made as a test; it was screened later at the American Cinemateque), "The Wedding Planner", "Wizard of Oz", "Gone with the Wind", "Pearl Harbor", maybe a few more.

I also saw "Batman & Robin" and "The Thin Red Line" in normal prints.

Basically the look of the dye transfer prints were that they were a little less grainy, they had deep blacks, and they had reds that were so strong that they almost popped off the screen. Other than that, it was similar to the look of a Premier print.

The print of "The Thin Red Line" was interesting because texturally, the dye transfer look made the image seem slightly more like a 35mm WW2 Kodachrome movie of the 1940's -- it added a subtle period feeling to the colors.

In terms of "Godzilla", since that was a Super-35 film, the blow-up to anamorphic was a little less grainy it seemed than a conventional blow-up. Otherwise, it wasn't particularly distinctive since the movie is mainly shot in rainy overcast gray weather. This was before digital conversions from Super-35 to anamorphic were common.

Dye transfer helped counteract some of the fading in the original negative of "Apocalypse Now" when doing the "Redux" version. The colored smoke popped more and so did the green of the jungle. But in some ways, I prefer the look of the 70mm blow-ups that were made originally.
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#19 Filip Plesha

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 06:31 AM

thanks for both your responses


I'd also like to ask this:
Besides using different filters for separation to reduce saturation, and besides flashing the black and white intermediate stock, what else could be done to manipulate the end results?
Did they ever change dyes to get different results, or were the dyes always pure magenta,cyan and yellow?
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 11:53 AM

I heard rumors that dyes could be adjusted, but obviously that would have to be for very big print orders that would monopolize a whole vat... Certainly the dyes were adjusted over the years for various reasons, mainly to improve accuracy of color reproduction. Since a neutral gray and correct skin tones have always been the two main criteria when creating any print stock or color system, there are limits to how much you can monkey with the dyes and still achieve this.

Technicolor had to play around a lot with the two dyes used for 2-color Technicolor since they had to compensate for missing true blue information in the original scene. So the two color dyes were sort of a brick orange-red-magenta and a blue-green.

So I don't really know for sure that some big production could go in and ask for adjustments in the individual dyes used in the 3-color dye transfer system. Perhaps some DP's THOUGHT that they were getting special treatment in that area but weren't really.
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