Jump to content


Photo

Three Strip Technicolor.


  • Please log in to reply
23 replies to this topic

#1 Matthew Buick

Matthew Buick
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2345 posts
  • Student
  • Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Posted 01 June 2007 - 03:57 PM

Hello.

Here's a little fun thread (no spamming, you don't need to worry about that ;) ) to find the best pieces of three strip technicolor cinematography.

Normally I associate three strip film with garish lighting and an extremely "staged" feel. But the Limehouse Blues' Ballet from Ziegfeld Follies of 1946 really does impress me, there is a fantastic blue light filtering through the darkness. Later in song the light are suddenly thrown on and the camera cranes down to this spectacular lime green set.

Magic.
  • 0

#2 Jon Kukla

Jon Kukla
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 399 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 June 2007 - 11:44 PM

Garish is a strong word. You have to remember that they were dealing with single-digit ASAs.
  • 0

#3 Matthew Buick

Matthew Buick
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2345 posts
  • Student
  • Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Posted 02 June 2007 - 10:11 AM

HEHE! I suppose you're right. Still, John Alton, ASC seemed to avoid garishness in that fantastic dance sequence from An American In Paris (1951).
  • 0

#4 Nate Downes

Nate Downes
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1638 posts
  • Florida, USA

Posted 02 June 2007 - 10:47 AM

I still wonder what a modern 3-strip system would look like....
  • 0

#5 Matthew Buick

Matthew Buick
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2345 posts
  • Student
  • Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Posted 02 June 2007 - 10:57 AM

Same here. I guess we'll be finding out in a wee bit -- hint hint, Brian Rose. :)
  • 0

#6 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19768 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 02 June 2007 - 11:28 AM

It's hard to find many non-musicals or comedies shot in 3-strip, but when you do, you see that many of them are fairly subtle in terms of color -- "Drums Along the Mohawk" for example, or "The Caine Mutiny".
  • 0

#7 Matthew Buick

Matthew Buick
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2345 posts
  • Student
  • Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Posted 02 June 2007 - 11:44 AM

I think I'll have to take a peek at those two. Most Technicolor films I've seen have their talent so brightly lit that they're glaring the camera.
  • 0

#8 Jon Kukla

Jon Kukla
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 399 posts
  • Other

Posted 02 June 2007 - 12:40 PM

Here's a great excerpt from David Watkin's autobiography which mentions 3-strip:

One of my first jobs, as a third camera assistant, was to be my only experience of the original three-strip Technicolor. This was a process as interesting as it was cumbersome, involving three separate rolls of film passing through the camera together. Personally I have found threesomes to be unsatisfactory affairs - one member, in my limited experience, tending to get left rather out of things. However the photographic variety seemed to manage well enough; two of the emulsions being run face to face in what may be described as missionary fashion, and the right at right angles through a prism. Here analogy breaks down.

Each strip of film was sensitised to a different colour and the three resulting black and white records were then used to make prints in exactly the same way as is used to reproduce coloured illustrations in books. There is a gentle irony attached to all this because a print could be made today of a three-strip picture in the 1930s which would be as pristine as the original, whereas one taken from the more modern process dating from the mid-fifties, where the dyes are incorporated in the emulsion, would be faded and dull. It is often the case that people who initiate a thing care enough about it to get it right, and it is those who come along afterwards and "improve" (which usually means making it more convenient for somebody, often an accountant) who manage to get it wrong. Place a page from a Gutenberg Bible beside one from any 19th century book and the browned and crumbling relic will not be the one made in 1455.

To return to my part in the proceedings, this consisted solely in filling forms, one oblong folio for each shot, detailing the colour of everything in sight from the sky and the grass to the leading actor's face after lunch. Three-strip afforded an uncanny degree of colour control and my job is supposed to have originated because of a picture shot on location in southern Ireland, where the letter and phone boxes are painted green. After a titanic struggle the exhausted laboratory sent back the first batch of rushes with them red as ever, only to get a rough bollocking by way of thanks.

Technicolor three-strip was developed and patented by a scientist, unable to spell correctly and of a retiring disposition who, perhaps due to an attraction of opposites, had married a strong-minded wife with a liking for brash colours. The name of this Pre-Raphaelite lady was Natalie Kalmus and it appears on every three-strip picture as colour consultant, consultant in this context being a euphemism for dictator. It might be interesting to print a few of these movies with a somewhat calmer palette but it probably would not suit them.


Martin Hart at the Widescreen Museum webpage is somewhat more curt:

If you think Charles and Diana had problems.... No piece written about Natalie Kalmus has ever been found that didn't include the word "bitch". The Curator sees no need for name calling, especially when others have done it so eloquently.
  • 0

#9 Leo Anthony Vale

Leo Anthony Vale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2010 posts
  • Other
  • Pittsburgh PA

Posted 02 June 2007 - 01:04 PM

It's hard to find many non-musicals or comedies shot in 3-strip, but when you do, you see that many of them are fairly subtle in terms of color -- "Drums Along the Mohawk" for example, or "The Caine Mutiny".


Sandy Mackendrik's 'The Lady Killers' was the last British 3-strip movie, if not the last one period.
That had quite a subdued pallette.

Sandy said working with the huge blimp was awkward.

Movies like 'Northwest Passage' and 'Flying Leathernecks' had naturalistic pallattes.
  • 0

#10 Brian Rose

Brian Rose
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 896 posts
  • Student
  • Kansas City area

Posted 02 June 2007 - 02:00 PM

Foxfire was the last American film to use Three strip, and it came out the same year as the Ladykillers. Come to think of it, I'm not sure which was filmed later...Foxfire, or the Ladykillers, so it's hard to say which one gets the sad honor of being the last. It is definitely one of the two. Interesting fact: several of the three strip cameras were converted to shoot VistaVision, hence the confusion when production photos on post 1955 films show what appears to be a three strip camera being used!
  • 0

#11 Nate Downes

Nate Downes
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1638 posts
  • Florida, USA

Posted 02 June 2007 - 02:28 PM

A thought occured to me, rather than trying to duplicate the original technicolor mechanism, could one make a new one utilizing modern 3-CCD trichromatic prisms?
  • 0

#12 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19768 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 02 June 2007 - 04:23 PM

A thought occured to me, rather than trying to duplicate the original technicolor mechanism, could one make a new one utilizing modern 3-CCD trichromatic prisms?


Well, since the CCD's are more less right up against the filters/prism, youd have to get the film plane close to that, and probably it would have to be Super-16, not 35mm, since the prism-blocks are all for 2/3" cameras (or smaller). And then you'd have three Super-16 movements jutting out, one center, one on each side at an angle, making a rather wide camera body. But I suppose one could experiment with a prism block and see if there's room.

Remember that you'd still also need to make room for the shutter in front of the prism block, probably limiting you to longer lenses just to have all the back-focus room.
  • 0

#13 Matthew Buick

Matthew Buick
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2345 posts
  • Student
  • Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Posted 02 June 2007 - 04:27 PM

Super 8 would be perfect! Are these Prisms readily available?

BTW, Foxfire was photographed in 1954. :)
  • 0

#14 Brian Rose

Brian Rose
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 896 posts
  • Student
  • Kansas City area

Posted 02 June 2007 - 06:52 PM

BTW, Foxfire was photographed in 1954. :)


I must have been thinking of the release date, 1955. My mistake! That would mean that the Ladykiller's was the last three strip film, since I'm fairly certain that was shot in early 55, and released late that year.
Brian Rose
  • 0

#15 Nate Downes

Nate Downes
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1638 posts
  • Florida, USA

Posted 02 June 2007 - 09:48 PM

Well, since the CCD's are more less right up against the filters/prism, youd have to get the film plane close to that, and probably it would have to be Super-16, not 35mm, since the prism-blocks are all for 2/3" cameras (or smaller). And then you'd have three Super-16 movements jutting out, one center, one on each side at an angle, making a rather wide camera body. But I suppose one could experiment with a prism block and see if there's room.

Remember that you'd still also need to make room for the shutter in front of the prism block, probably limiting you to longer lenses just to have all the back-focus room.


I've found a supplier making them for much larger setups, up to and including 4/3, which would cover 35mm.

And yes, they are readily available. I've located a few suppliers for them over the years.
  • 0

#16 Matthew Buick

Matthew Buick
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2345 posts
  • Student
  • Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Posted 03 June 2007 - 03:04 PM

What price would we talking about?
  • 0

#17 Leo Anthony Vale

Leo Anthony Vale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2010 posts
  • Other
  • Pittsburgh PA

Posted 04 June 2007 - 01:09 PM

Interesting fact: several of the three strip cameras were converted to shoot VistaVision, hence the confusion when production photos on post 1955 films show what appears to be a three strip camera being used!


Here are a couple:

Posted Image

'The Trouble with Harry'.
The blimp is larger than normal 3-strip blimp to accomadate the coaxial 2000' magazine.
The at the top front is the give away.

Posted Image

'The Man who Knew Too Much'
  • 0

#18 Nate Downes

Nate Downes
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1638 posts
  • Florida, USA

Posted 04 June 2007 - 02:03 PM

What price would we talking about?


We'd be looking at several hundred dollars easily.
  • 0

#19 Tim Partridge

Tim Partridge
  • Guests

Posted 04 June 2007 - 03:32 PM

Sandy Mackendrik's 'The Lady Killers' was the last British 3-strip movie, if not the last one period.
That had quite a subdued pallette.

Sandy said working with the huge blimp was awkward.

Movies like 'Northwest Passage' and 'Flying Leathernecks' had naturalistic pallattes.


THE FEMININE TOUCH I think was three strip too and that was 1956 (Paul Beeson BSC)- please correct me if I am wrong!

I think it is three strip- 1955's A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS directed by Carol Reed is like a social realist fantasy of sorts, set in the East End market area of London but from a naive child's fairytale point of view. The colours are HIGHLY saturated (Diana Dors at times looks neon), but it cuts from availably lit location shots of East London to a Shepperton backlot, often hard lit with pounding old arc lamps. Intriguingly, the result is often seamless AND naturalistic. It is mainly the characteristic portrait work (for the most part Ms. Dors) that calls attention to the stylised lighting. Edward Scaife was the DOP. You would never know it was not shot entirely on location.

Not sure if you've seen GENEVIEVE from 1953, British classic lit by Christopher Challis. Very beautifully subdued on the locations. I'm pretty sure it's three strip. I remember reading in Challis' autobiography that he was really unhappy with the film as they were making it and watching back the footage. Challis had wanted the film, a road movie, to be shot at Pinewood's North tunnel (a big special effects stage with a rear projection set up by the Rank group with the idea of shooting whole movies in front of a process screen and such- George Lucas mentality). There was a maintenance problem of sorts (or something like that) forcing them to shoot GENEVIEVE's car shots on locations. Challis felt the shots were way too inconsistent, often he couldn't get an exposure on many dull overcast days that had to cut with stuff shot on days with bright blue skies and hard shadows.

GENEVIEVE has really stood the test of time, and there's not one process shot in the whole movie, and it's all the better for it. Not one cringeworthy process shot in sight!

Here's the famous scene in which Kay Kendall plays a trumpet (which is lit more typically high key given the glammed location):


  • 0

#20 Nick Mulder

Nick Mulder
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1023 posts
  • Other
  • Auckland, New Zealand

Posted 05 June 2007 - 04:01 PM

LINK
;)
  • 0


CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Wooden Camera

FJS International, LLC

Visual Products

Technodolly

Ritter Battery

Glidecam

The Slider

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Rig Wheels Passport

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Aerial Filmworks

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Metropolis Post

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Opal

Abel Cine

Willys Widgets

Tai Audio

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

CineLab

Aerial Filmworks

Paralinx LLC

CineTape

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

FJS International, LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

Wooden Camera

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport