Jump to content


Photo

What technically is different about Technicolor blues?


  • Please log in to reply
15 replies to this topic

#1 Alain Lumina

Alain Lumina
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 115 posts
  • Director

Posted 06 July 2010 - 09:23 PM

I've been watching a few Technicolor films, and I'm aware that, mechanically speaking, they used a three-strip system.

But what I've noticed color-wise is something really -- well, I don't know what it is, but the blues look really different
from other films I've seen.

Could anyone explain what is different about technicolor blues, besides the fact that it was three strip? Are they more saturated? Are they really Blue-Green instead of a different blue. It's really haunting, I'm not trained enough to understand what's different.

Here's a screen cap of Gene Tierney in Leave Her To Heaven, the upper left of the frame has a lot of those blues.

http://www.magicalre...ilms.com/tc.jpg

Thanks a lot for any ideas, especially how to try to fake the look, as I don't think I'll be shooting any three-strip soon!

A.L.
  • 0

#2 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19765 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 06 July 2010 - 09:38 PM

Often people mention the look of yellows or reds in dye transfer prints but this is more due to the printing process than the 3-strip shooting process. Blues have never struck me as unusual -- you may be responding more to the use of carbon arc lamps to get blue lighting effects, they had a particularly nice shade of blue.

Also, since pure blue was one of the colors that the 3-strip process could do compared to 2-color Technicolor, Technicolor was prone to show off the fact by using blue objects and clothing in their movies. So some of this is just a design issue, the purity of the color plus the use of frontal spots to highlight that color. Modern cinematography is more about soft edge and backlighting, texture over color.
  • 0

#3 Alain Lumina

Alain Lumina
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 115 posts
  • Director

Posted 06 July 2010 - 10:30 PM

Thanks David, it is really educational for me to have someone separate out the factors that comprise the final image.

If I understand correctly then, would one way to "fake" this marked separation of colors be to use coltored lights as mentioned
elsewhere on this board in connection with technicolor/DPs of this era? ( Leave her to Heaven was about 1946)

In other words, lighting a blue suit with some blue-gelled lights?

What would be the closest way to fake/imitate the color of the arc lights you mentioned? Could I gel [tungsten/HMI/something]?


You mentioned modern cinematography-- I'm not trying to be contrary, but whatever everyone else is doing, my tendency would be to
do the opposite, and try to get candy colors!
  • 0

#4 Frank Glencairn

Frank Glencairn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 138 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Germany

Posted 07 July 2010 - 01:20 AM

ItĀ“s not the real McCoy, but I got some nice results with the 3-strip function of Magic Bullet.

Frank
  • 0

#5 Brian Rose

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

Posted 07 July 2010 - 10:29 AM

Alain,

I think the difference in blue you're seeing is less about the workings of the camera itself, and more an artistic response to the technology. In the quest for a practical system of capturing and reproducing natural colour, through the 1900s, 1910s, 20s and 30s, blue was the Mount Everest. Due to technical limitations, early processes, Technicolor included, were limited to capturing two of the three primaries. And because red and green were the most important colors for rendering reasonably realistic flesh tones, which is crucial for color cinematography, blue was frequently the color that was sacrificed. Not to mention blue filters eat up far more light than red or green (as we all have discovered when we put blue gels on a light, and find our output decreased markedly). But by sacrificing blue, you sacrifice skies and bodies of water, not to mention drive the costume and set designers nuts. Early two color examples from Technicolor, when set outdoors, avoided prolonged shots of the sky for this reason...they were rendered a strange green. In "the King of Jazz," they went to great lengths to create a faux blue palette for the Rhapsody in Blue sequence. Still, it was only partially successful.

So when Technicolor debuted it's three color process, and true blues became possible, I think it was a natural response to have LOTSA blue. And because Technicolor's camera and dye transfer process was so damn good, the blues they produced were quite rich and vivid, so much so that skies might sometimes be called "Technicolor Blue."

Then, with the advent of Eastman color neg, there was a reversal of this trend. It enabled studios to shoot their own color, and not have to rent Technicolor's cameras and meddlesome "Colour Consultants." Eastman neg allowed them to cut out the middleman. Unfortunately, the color neg was poop. Very poor color reproduction. My favorite anecdote involves a tech who shot a camera test with a dozen shades of red lipstick. Technicolor's camera captured each shade perfectly and vividely. Eastman color negative rendered them all a uniform shade of brown.

Color cinematography was arguably set back by this new negative, and until Eastman Kodak caught up and developed better stocks, Technicolor was often called upon to use their dye transfer process to salvage the prints. They had a big hand in saving a lot of films. Hence why many films of the 1950s and 1960s, while not shot in three strip technicolor, still give Technicolor credit for the prints, because they played a big part in the final color correction. But ultimately, there was only so much they could do.

So you're not mistaken when you say blues look somehow different with Technicolor. They are, because color films before were unable to render blue at all, and the color negative films that overtook three strip Technicolor in the 1950s were quite poor in color reproduction.

Hope this helps!

Best,

BR
  • 0

#6 Frank Glencairn

Frank Glencairn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 138 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Germany

Posted 07 July 2010 - 12:21 PM

Some great information here Brian, thanks for sharing.

Frank
  • 0

#7 Dominic Case

Dominic Case
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1357 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 08 July 2010 - 06:34 AM

Color cinematography was arguably set back by this new negative, and until Eastman Kodak caught up and developed better stocks, Technicolor was often called upon to use their dye transfer process to salvage the prints. They had a big hand in saving a lot of films. Hence why many films of the 1950s and 1960s, while not shot in three strip technicolor, still give Technicolor credit for the prints, because they played a big part in the final color correction. But ultimately, there was only so much they could do.

I wouldn't have used the term "salvage the prints". It's true that Eastman negative improved from an indifferent start, although it gained widespread use quite quickly simply because of the convenience of a single strip negative. But I think that Technicolor labs were chosen for the print runs (and therefore the "Color by Technicolor" credit) often not for any reasons of superior colour but because the imbibition process was quite simply cheaper for large print orders(despite a higher set-up cost). One of the reasons for Technicolor's demise (the print process, not the lab) in the 70s was the shrinking print runs as cinemas closed in the spread of colour television, making Eastmancolor more price-competitive.
Ironically, print orders in recent times would astonish the labs of the pre TV era, as we now have so much global day-and-date release.
  • 0

#8 Leo Anthony Vale

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

Posted 12 July 2010 - 05:19 PM


Color cinematography was arguably set back by this new negative, and until Eastman Kodak caught up and developed better stocks, Technicolor was often called upon to use their dye transfer process to salvage the prints. They had a big hand in saving a lot of films. Hence why many films of the 1950s and 1960s, while not shot in three strip technicolor, still give Technicolor credit for the prints, because they played a big part in the final color correction. But ultimately, there was only so much they could do.


The last three-strip movies were made in 1955. 'Firefox' was the last US one and 'The Lady Killers was the last British one & the last one period. Though Disney used consecutive frame Technicolor for animation for quite some time afterwards.

Many of the three-strip cameras were converted to 8 perf horizontal single strip.
  • 0

#9 Stu McOmie

Stu McOmie
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Other

Posted 13 July 2010 - 12:23 PM

The still you show is from '54, so I'm guessing would be Process 4? The blue strip was different to the Red and Green, it used an orthochromatic process. This meant is was only sensitive to certain wavelengths, whereas the other two strips relied on filters. I'm assuming that the panchromatic film reacted differently to the wavelength peaks of the lighting? Can anyone who knows confirm/deny this?
  • 0

#10 John Sprung

John Sprung
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4635 posts
  • Other

Posted 14 July 2010 - 08:54 PM

Many of the three-strip cameras were converted to 8 perf horizontal single strip.


It was the older two color over/under cameras that were converted to 8 perf horizontal (VistaVision). They already had an 8 perf movement, they just needed the bar between the apertures removed.

The three strip cameras didn't get much use after that, though they were good for bi-pack applications. Conversion to 8 perf would have required scrapping the whole movement and starting over.




-- J.S.
  • 0

#11 Leo Anthony Vale

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

Posted 15 July 2010 - 05:30 PM

It was the older two color over/under cameras that were converted to 8 perf horizontal (VistaVision). They already had an 8 perf movement, they just needed the bar between the apertures removed.


Au contraire! pardon my french.

Here's a 2 color T'color camera:

Posted Image

A three strip camera:

Posted Image

An 8-perf technirama camera with 2000' co-axial mag:

Posted Image

The 2 color seems to be a B&H 2709 on steroids.
While the 8-perf body llooks alot like the 3-strip body.
Is there room inside it to stuff in a 2-color on its side?

Some where in a Yahoo group is a post from Peter Haas who was an engineer at Fox in the 50s,
in which he explains how Technicolor was able to convert the 3-strips to horizontal 8-perf.
The drive shaft connecting the motor to the twin movments was horizontal, thus making it relatively easy to connect it to a horizontal movement.

I've been unable to find that letter. I only have limited time on line and can't afford the time to hunt it down. Perhaps these will be of help:

**********************************************************************************************


Djsherlock View profile
More options Jan 29 1996, 4:00 am

Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.tech
From: djsherl...@aol.com (Djsherlock)
Date: 1996/01/29
Subject: Re: What is VistaVision? And Technirama
Reply to author | Forward | Print | Individual message | Show original | Report this message | Find messages by this author
tra...@ix.netcom.com (Trawby) previously said:


>>>I agree that after you converted a Technicolor 3 strip to horizontal 8


perf you wouldn't have much left of the original. They may have used a
prism to rotate the image so that the film actually ran vertically.<<<

Ah, that one I can answer definitively. I went to my files and I quote
here an article from the June 1957 issue of INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER:


"The three-strip Technicolor camera has been converted to Technirama by
replacing the double gate and beam-splitter with an eight perforation
movement. The horizontal double-frame movement racks up and down for
focusing through the taking lens. ...Film travels vertically in a
straight line from the magazines to the feed and take-up sprockets and is
given a right-angle twist before entering and after leaving the film
gate."



-Dan



**********************************************************************************************


**********************************************************************************************
Martin Hart View profile
More options Jun 21 2005, 7:28 am

Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.tech
From: Martin Hart <see-addr...@website.listed.below.org>
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2005 11:28:13 GMT
Local: Tues, Jun 21 2005 7:28 am
Subject: Re: Technicolor VistaVsion cameras?
Reply to author | Forward | Print | Individual message | Show original | Report this message | Find messages by this author
In article <1119349967.590681.207...@o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com>,
cine...@hotmail.com says...


> I notice in the "making of 'TO Catch a Thief' in the current DVD, there
> are numerous photos showing unblimped TECHNICOLOR cameras supposedly on
> location for TCAT which is in VistaVision. I know that TECHNIRAMA used
> converted Technicolor 3-strip cameras but wasn't aware that they were
> used for the VistaVision Process in 1954. Can anybody shed any light on
> this?

> Regards,
> Peter Mason



Peter,
Technicolor, realizing that three-strip was dead, converted at least
half a dozen of the old cameras to eight perf for Paramount to use for
VistaVision while waiting for the Mitchell Elephant Ear cameras to start
being delivered. Most of the 8-perf conversions saw double duty shooting
both VistaVision and Technirama. In the early 1960s, the Mitchell
Elephant Ear VistaVision cameras started seeing duty shooting
Technirama. The Mitchell VV Butterfly camera also was used for
Technirama, but no way could it be hand held with that additional 40
pounds of lens on the front end.

Hitchcock used the Technicolor VV conversions for "The Trouble With
Harry", "The Man Who Knew Too Much", and "To Catch A Thief". Warners
shot "The Searchers" in VV with Technicolor conversions. Supposedly, and
I'm a little skeptical about this, the first Mitchell Elephant Ear
cameras went to DeMille for "The Ten Commandments".


I have never seen a photo of a Technicolor VV camera using the 2,000
foot coaxial magazine that was very commonly seen in Technirama shoots.


Marty
--
http://www.widescreenmuseum.com
The American WideScreen Museum

**********************************************************************************************


<SNIP>


> I had always heard that the Technicolor cameras had been converted to
> Technirama, but now I think that it was the 2-color Technicolor cameras that
> had been converted, not the 3-strip.


<SNIP>

It was definitely the 3-strip cameras that were converted to VistaVision, and
later to Technirama. VistaVision films made in Europe almost always were
3-strip converted cameras. As Paramount acquired more and more new Mitchell
elephant ear cameras the 3-strip conversions were freed up and saw service with
the Dutch Delrama anamorphic attachments beginning in 1956 as Technirama. If I
ever get this damned web thing done, I'll have lots of photos of the equipment.
I've discussed the Technirama conversions at some length with Technicolor old
timers. The main reason for the extensive conversion to 8 perf may have simply
been the fact that Eastmancolor negative made them pretty useless for anything
other than effects work and there was certainly plenty of room in the body to
install just about any kind of movement and a two car garage.


I don't have any nearby references on the older two color Technicolor, but I'm
not sure that the Technicolor units photographed double frame. Their prints,
unlike other early color processes did not use multiple frames and filters to
provide their color spectrum. Somewhere along the line I had the impression
that Technicolor was using two negatives in the two color cameras.


Marty
--
Tra...@ix.netcom.com
TECLOC - Preserving "The Window of the World"
Coming Soon! - The American WideScreen Museum ONLINE


**********************************************************************************************

<<<EUREKA!!!>>>

Here it is:


Peter View profile
More options Jun 27 2009, 10:39 am

Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.tech
From: Peter <peterh5...@rattlebrain.com>
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2009 07:39:15 -0700
Local: Sat, Jun 27 2009 10:39 am
Subject: Re: Eastman, DuPont, and Ansco Film Specs - 1952
Reply to author | Forward | Print | Individual message | Show original | Report this message | Find messages by this author
On 2009-06-27 01:12:28 -0700, Neil Midkiff <nmidk...@earthlink.net> said:


> As usual, I may have gotten my stories confused, but I always had heard
> that it was the 2-color Technicolor cameras which got converted to
> VistaVision use. After all, they had the eight-perf sprocket advance
> mechanism already: 2-color Tech put two adjacent frames simultaneously
> on the same negative, one using a red filter and the other using a
> green filter to record some of the color information in the image
> coming through one lens, a beamsplitter, and prisms. So it advanced
> the film by eight perfs at a time (and used up a 1000' reel in about
> five minutes, just as VistaVision would later do).


It was the Stein two-color cameras which were initially converted to
VistaVision, as the "Lazy-8" cameras.


> From the limited knowledge I have from seeing a three-strip camera in
> a museum and reading everything in the library and on the Internet I
> could find on the subject, it would seem to me that it would be easier
> to convert an ordinary 35mm camera to VistaVision use than it would be
> to start with a three-strip camera, which would have far more parts in
> it than you'd need (multiple film paths, each with four-perf advance
> mechanisms) in a bigger chassis, and nothing I can think of that would
> be of specific help to a horizontal 8-perf application.



Just as the Technicolor Three-Strip was a from-the-ground-up all-new
camera (with NC/BNC-type movements from Mitchell Camera Corp, one in
the normal position and one in the reverse position, both movements
being driven from the same worm shaft), the Technicolor VistaVision was
nearly an all-new camera, salvaging very little from the Three-Strip
donor cameras.

Perhaps the conversion seemed more obvious to Technicolor's engineers
when they realized that the vertically-running shaft which drove the
twin Mitchell NC/BNC movements for Three-Strip was in an almost perfect
position to drive a single Mitchell Camera Corp VistaVision movement,
driving that movement from its back side, as is customary for Mitchell
movements, rather than through right-angles, as was true in the
Three-Strip.


The remainder of the 96 volt dc/230 volt three-phase ac motor system
could be reused, as could the viewing system, with some obvious
modifications to accommodate the larger aperture size.


Initially, conventional 1000' mags were used, but later 2000'
side-by-side mags were used.



The Technirama production camera was a straightforward adaptation of
the Technicolor VistaVision camera, just as the Technirama MOS camera
was a straightforward adaptation of the Paramount "Butterfly"
VistaVision MOS camera (normally used in the field for shooting process
plates).


Of all the 8-perf cameras of that era, the piece-de-resistance is the
Mitchell VistaVision camera, and the motor drives the movement through
a set of right-angle gears, so the motor may be accessible from the
rear of the camera, and not from the bottom (which would only add to
the camera's already top-heavy design.


Mitchell also designed a new, narrow geared head for the VistaVision
camera, thereby placing the weight of the camera in a more desirable
position, but that head was so good it soon became a standard offering,
and was also found on BNCs, BFCs and others.


--
CinemaScopeĀ®: The Modern Miracle You See without Special Glasses!
  • 0

#12 Alain Lumina

Alain Lumina
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 115 posts
  • Director

Posted 24 July 2010 - 08:13 PM

Wow--stunning in-depth information on camera tech development--thanks. I'll have to put in some study time to even grasp
what you're describing.

I found another movie with Gene Tierney in it ( One of the most beautiful actresses ever ), Black Widow from 1954.
She's not in the below shot, though ;)

In the intro titles say color by Deluxe.

Here's a screenshot, I tried to find a frame where there are a variety of blues to compare to the Technicolor blues:

Used without permission under fair use doctrine for historical and learning purposes.
Use of this image is unlikely to affect the value of any copyrighted material.


http://www.magicalre...chnitierney.jpg

One cinematic factor that also may be affecting movies of this era was that I think the films were much slower than current films, yes?

If so that has implications for contrast, as I'm guessing they would have huge lights blasting the set for the bright parts of the frame. This would tend to create more contrast unless they had them coming from everywhere--dark areas would be _really_ dark.

In the above frame, although this may be pretty distant from original quality, this may be presesnt in the dark suit of the man in the central foreground. This may make colors "pop" more.

I really like the richness of this type of look.

Does anyone know what would be ballpark figures for film speed used in a studio film such as this, shot in 1954?
And arc lighting was mentioned, I guess isn't used now, but I assume they'd be using big Tungsten lights?

Thanks again for all the expertise offered.
  • 0

#13 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19765 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 July 2010 - 11:31 PM

http://motion.kodak....ilm/chrono2.htm

Kodak first motion picture color negative was 5247, 16 ASA Daylight Balance (not to be confused with the 5247 100 ASA Tungsten stock that came out in the mid 1970's). 5247 came out in 1950 and was replaced two years later by 5248 (not to be confused with the EXR100T stock of the same number), which was 25 ASA and tungsten balance. The bulk of famous 1950's color movies were shot on this stock, other than the last 3-strip Technicolor movies made until 1955.

The speed of Technicolor has always been a bit of an educated guess based on light levels and shooting stops typically used, but when Kodak went to work on a color negative stock in the 1940's, their goal was to get something close to the speed of Technicolor ("similar to existing color camera processes currently used" was something close to what was written at the time.) Though by the time Eastmancolor 5247 was introduced in 1950, the 3-strip process had been converted to a tungsten balance.

The push to convert from the 3-strip process was less about quality and more about being able to control the process with in-house labs (Deluxe belonged to Fox, Metrocolor to MGM, etc.) using in-house cameras -- this was the day and age where studios controlled costs by owning all their own equipment and labs, so color was the one thing, before color negative, that they had to collaborate with an outside company to get.

Also many of the widescreen processes that came out starting with Cinerama and CinemaScope needed a single color film in the camera, though I think there was a test putting a CinemaScope lens on a 3-strip camera.

Besides Eastmancolor, some productions were shot on Ansco Color (basically the German Agfa technology) -- some of MGM's films of the era used that stock, such as "Lust for Life" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".

Spend some time here:
http://www.widescree...echnicolor1.htm
http://en.wikipedia....iki/Anscochrome
  • 0

#14 John Sprung

John Sprung
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4635 posts
  • Other

Posted 25 July 2010 - 04:28 AM

The push to convert from the 3-strip process was less about quality and more about being able to control the process with in-house labs (Deluxe belonged to Fox, Metrocolor to MGM, etc.) using in-house cameras -- this was the day and age where studios controlled costs by owning all their own equipment and labs, so color was the one thing, before color negative, that they had to collaborate with an outside company to get.


The other thing that really killed three strip was a lawsuit. Technicolor was accused of freezing out independents and serving only the big customers. Rather than build a bunch more of those very expensive cameras, they caved. Technicolor started with a unique technology, and declined into an ordinary lab. Sort of like Volkswagen, which still exists, but no longer makes its signature product.



-- J.S.
  • 0

#15 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11941 posts
  • Other

Posted 25 July 2010 - 06:53 AM

Of course, nobody was ever going to deliberately overdo production design to emphasise colour:


funnygirl_purple.jpg



Look, we have purple! See the purple! Hear it roar! And this was 1968!


Of course, the other problem with most forms of colour until comparatively recently was the effective ISO of around, ooh, three, resulting in:


funnygirl_soft.jpg



Sorry, Harry Stradling and the camera department on Funny Girl, the AC on which was - gulp - Roy Wagner? That Roy Wagner?


I'll get my coat...


P
  • 0

#16 Leo Anthony Vale

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

Posted 26 July 2010 - 05:04 PM

http://motion.kodak.com/US/en/motion/Products/Chronology_Of_Film/chrono2.htm

Also many of the widescreen processes that came out starting with Cinerama and CinemaScope needed a single color film in the camera, though I think there was a test putting a CinemaScope lens on a 3-strip camera.


It flunked the test. I think the Technicolor prism behaves similarly to the Bolex prism.
& since an anamorphic lens system has two different focal lengths, horizontal & vertical, the focal planes are shifted by differnt amounts.

LBAbbott, in his FX book/memoir, states that a 75mm anamorphic is the shortest focal length that can be used with a 3-strip camera.

As to Anscocolor, after WWII the Agfa patents were declared war booty, so anyone could use them without paying royalties to IG Farben. Thus Gevacolor, Ferraniacolor and Fujicolor. Probably a few others that aren't still around.

John Baxter's 'Trading with the Enemy' has an amazing story about the german spy ring at the Agfa-Ansco plant in New York state.

& Anscocolor was a reversal process until it was replaced by the negative/positive process.

& 'Lust for Life' was the last Anscocolor movie, printed on Eastmancolor. Also the first movie to use the name Metrocolor.
  • 0


Abel Cine

Willys Widgets

Glidecam

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

The Slider

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Visual Products

Aerial Filmworks

FJS International, LLC

Technodolly

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

Tai Audio

CineLab

Wooden Camera

Opal

Metropolis Post

Paralinx LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineTape

Opal

Rig Wheels Passport

Wooden Camera

FJS International, LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

The Slider

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Aerial Filmworks

CineLab

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

Visual Products

Ritter Battery

Willys Widgets

Glidecam

Technodolly

Paralinx LLC

Metropolis Post

rebotnix Technologies

CineTape