Jump to content


Photo

The great switch from BW to Color for 60's television shows.


  • Please log in to reply
23 replies to this topic

#1 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 09 June 2013 - 03:10 AM

I've recently had a chance to get acquainted with shows from the late 50's and 60's by watching Antenna TV and MeTV.

 

The show "Combat" is like watching extremely talented student filmmakers with the energy to shoot over vast distances when necessary. Unlike more recent fair that is high energy, high action, fast movement, Combat seemed to strike a chord of low speed and longer distances, resulting in a sort of slow motion drama that I like as much if not more than the high speed stuff we see so much of nowadays.

 

One day, Combat, (and eventually other shows such as Twelve O'Clock High), were suddenly being broadcast in color. What a time the 60's must have been, first cutting costs by shooting in BW because television was BW, then suddenly realizing that color television was here to stay, and switching in mid series to color!

 

Every now and then, I'll see a show that started in BW and later went to color, but I swear, sometimes some of the BW shows look like they may have been shot in color negative but perhaps BW prints were made from the color negatives?

 

Just now I saw the tail end of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" in BW. I presume that most of this shows seasons were shot in color, but this black and white image seemed to have no bite to it. Most of the 60's shows that were shot in BW, have a definite clarity to them. 

 

Is it possible that 60's television shows were actually shooting in color but making black and white prints, and nobody has bothered to go back "into the vault" and see if the original cut film negative might actually be in color? 

 

Any opinions?  

 

Might be fun for someone with access to make a discovery that some classic shows of the 60's had cut color negatives of their shows but never bothered to make color prints and instead keep reusing BW ones whenever a new film transfer is needed.

 

As much as I like BW, when a show that started in BW then switched to color, I found myself liking the color version more. Maybe specifically because it was the same characters suddenly had color?


  • 0

#2 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 09 June 2013 - 07:35 AM

Most of those shows that started out in b&w and then switched to color has used b&w stocks before the switch... TV budgets were always tight and b&w was cheaper to shoot and cheaper to light sets for being faster.

Occasionally you do see a b&w "lost" episode show up which was shot in color but only a b&w print exists for various reasons, like "The Cage" pilot of "Star Trek".
  • 0

#3 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 09 June 2013 - 02:33 PM

Thanks David.  There must have been some heavy debates going on back then as the first color tv's showed up but shows kept being shot in BW. Was syndication being considered back in the early 60's? I ask this because some shows like the Rifleman were only on the air 5 years but they shot 168 episodes, an average of around 33 episodes a year. Does that mean that some shows were not rerun at all back then?

 

Combat was on 5 seasons and averaged around 30 episodes a year.

 

Was there one specific year when all shows just went color and is it correct to presume it was based on color television technology, or was it based on the ability to transfer color film to video at a high enough quality?


  • 0

#4 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 09 June 2013 - 06:54 PM

http://answers.yahoo...03202533AA83J7x

The link above has some info about the switch from b&w to color.
  • 0

#5 Simon Wyss

Simon Wyss
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1415 posts
  • Other
  • Basel, Switzerland

Posted 10 June 2013 - 12:47 AM

I like the passage 

 

but other series that had started in 1965 in lack-and-white transitioned to color.


  • 1

#6 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 10 June 2013 - 03:19 AM

http://answers.yahoo...03202533AA83J7x

The link above has some info about the switch from b&w to color.

 

One of the unchosen answers had some good info as well. According to a linked article it was the transmission that was the issue. Only NBC was transmitting in color and had been for quite some time, but ABC and CBS held out.  I wonder if a BW television set still looked better than the color sets in the early 60's.  Apparently the earlier color sets were dimmer and much more expensive.

 

I just find it strange that people were primarily watching color movies in the theatre but the studios were still accepting black and white for their broadcast programming. 


  • 0

#7 Richard Hadfield

Richard Hadfield
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 31 posts
  • Other

Posted 10 June 2013 - 09:23 PM

Of course most people here know that the lengendary Conrad Hall was the director of photography on episodes of the TV Classic The Outer Limits but I didn't know that the same person that shot the groundbreaking movie Metropolis,Karl Freund, also shot I Love Lucy.

 

I think that the first TV show shot in Color was  The Cisco Kidwhich began production in 1949.  The pilot episode of Sea Hunt, was also filmed in color;  I'd like to see that episode.

 

 

Kenneth Peach, ASC, a veteran cinematographer, explored a new frontier when he shot The Cisco Kid on 16 mm Kodachrome film for ZIV, which specialized in television production. In contrast, The Highway Patrol, which starred Broderick Crawford, was produced in 35 mm black-and-white film. The cinematographer was Richard Rawlings Sr., ASC.

 

Rawlings began his career as a messenger at Warner Bros. Studio during the late 1930s. He was subsequently an assistant cameraman on crews with such legendary cinematographers as James Wong Howe, ASC, Sol Polito, ASC, Ted McCord, ASC and Tony Gaudio, ASC. During the war, Rawlings served in a U.S. Navy Photo Science Lab.

 

The Highway Patrol was his first job as a cinematographer. He subsequently shot other TV series for ZIV, including Bat Masterson, Tombstone Territory and Sea Hunt. In a reflective interview years later, Rawlings recalled, "I read the scripts and tried to visualize how every scene should look. ′ They were all different. Then, I tried to paint with light and shadows until the pictures on film matched those in my head."

 

When Ampex introduced a 2-inch videotape system in 1954, a front-page banner headline in Daily Variety proclaimed, "Film is Dead!" Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez didn't agree. They wanted a "movie-look" for the now classic I Love Lucy television series. Desilu Productions hired Karl Freund, ASC to design and execute a cinematographic style and film look for the television series.

 

Freund initially made his mark as a cinematographer in Germany during the 1920s, where he shot such classic films as Metropolis.

 


Read more: http://motion.kodak....m#ixzz2VryFszua


Edited by Richard Hadfield, 10 June 2013 - 09:26 PM.

  • 0

#8 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 10 June 2013 - 09:42 PM

I'm seeing BW Sea Hunt episodes. Interesting that they shot the pilot in color but not for the first season or two or three.


  • 0

#9 Jock Blakley

Jock Blakley
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 73 posts
  • Other
  • Melbourne, VIC

Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:33 AM

In a lot of cases, as David hints at, the archival status of the production can skew its appearance in the present day.

 

Forgive me for a British example, but the original series of DOCTOR WHO illustrates this very well.

Colour transmission in the UK started in 1967, with most productions having transitioned quite cleanly by 1970 - 1971. Some transitioned earlier - ITC's STINGRAY and THUNDERBIRDS are notable - were photographed on colour film as early as 1964 in order to be sold in US markets while still being shown in monochrome in the UK, and it's those colour masters that support showings of those programmes today.

 

Most programmes at the time though were photographed on various mixes of B&W film and tape format, or quite commonly presented live to air with the occasional telerecording (I believe kinescope is the American term) being made for reference.

 

DOCTOR WHO switched to colour production in late 1969, with the four-part serial SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE first in line for broadcast in early 1970. At the time certain parts of the BBC's studio staff were on strike, so the serial ended up being photographed entirely on location on 16mm colour. After studio production resumed, 2" quad tape was used in the studio and location inserts were shot on 16mm.

 

Due, however, to the enormous expense of colour videotape (more expensive than film at the time), it was common practice for 16mm telerecordings to be made instead, sometimes in colour and sometimes in B&W depending on archival merit or potential for overseas sale - particularly given that there existed no PAL vs NTSC format incompatibility for film!

 

Unfortunately now, because of the BBC's very poor archive practices before 1978, there are many episodes for which 16mm B&W overseas sale telerecordings are the only extant versions. The same issue also affects many other BBC and ITV serials from the same time, including DAD'S ARMY.

 

I'm interested to see how American studios' comparatively-later decision to switch to tape-based origination influenced colour production and also archiving.


  • 0

#10 Leo Anthony Vale

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

Posted 11 June 2013 - 02:39 PM

I'm seeing BW Sea Hunt episodes. Interesting that they shot the pilot in color but not for the first season or two or three.

The pilot/ first episode of 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' was shot in color.  But broadcast in "re-edited" version.

The season one boxed set has both versions.   The re-editing was mostly changing the main/titles a bit.

 

The first season of 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' was in B/W.  But some episodes were shot in color with additional footage, so they could be made into features for foreign release.  Though they were shown in the US.

 

The networks went "all color" in Sept 1965.  But broadcast the B/W pilots.  I recall the 1st episodes  'Hogan's Heroes' and 'Get Smart' announcing at the end of the show that starting next week they series would be in color.

 

there was ONE color episode of 'Perry Mason'  in 1966. 


  • 0

#11 Alan Duckworth

Alan Duckworth
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 84 posts
  • Producer
  • Kelowna, B.C. Canada

Posted 11 June 2013 - 06:50 PM

I grew up in Britain, and faithfully watched all of the original Star Trek series in black & white. It may well have been broadcast in colour, but at that time nobody that I knew owned a colour TV set. I was amazed to watch it in syndication in the Seventies - in glorious NTSC! I had no idea that it had been originated in colour.


  • 0

#12 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 11 June 2013 - 07:05 PM

I grew up in Britain, and faithfully watched all of the original Star Trek series in black & white. It may well have been broadcast in colour, but at that time nobody that I knew owned a colour TV set. I was amazed to watch it in syndication in the Seventies - in glorious NTSC! I had no idea that it had been originated in colour.

 

That's the kicker. watching a show in BW, liking the show, and then later on, rediscovering it in color. It's really quite an experience. I had that happen with both Combat and Twelve O'Clock high.  Another thing that possibly doomed color from an earlier debut was that a BW NTSC signal has 50 lines more resolution than the same signal in color.  Factor in that color television technology was still being improved and the irony becomes surreal.  

 

BW was more vivid and sharp, yet color was the obvious choice over the long haul. I'm still curious when syndication began in earnest. I wonder how many executives and producers freaked out when they realized they could make money in perpetuity, and more easily if they had shot in color instead of BW.


  • 0

#13 Alan Duckworth

Alan Duckworth
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 84 posts
  • Producer
  • Kelowna, B.C. Canada

Posted 11 June 2013 - 07:38 PM

The first colour TV demo that I saw looked awful - the resolution was visibly less, and the colours had significant bleeding. But it was in colour. And, IIRC, when they would show US-produced colour content it had to be letterboxed, because the British TV sets could handle up to 625 lines, but the US content was mostly only 405 lines, or was the colour stuff 525 lines by the late 60's? I recall the image area being much smaller than the screen.  

 

Not only were the new colour TVs more expensive to buy, I believe that you also had to pay a higher licence fee to watch colour broadcasts - the Brits on this Forum know what I am talking about! The concept of paying premium fees to watch "premium" programming goes back further than the cable companies.


  • 0

#14 Keith Walters

Keith Walters
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2219 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:40 AM

'When Ampex introduced a 2-inch videotape system in 1954, a front-page banner headline in Daily Variety proclaimed, "Film is Dead!"'

Does anybody have a link to the actual article?

​I've never been able to find it, but what I have found are a lot of broadly similar stories in other media published around the same time. Intriguingly, none of the others said anything about the end of movie film as an acquisition medium,  what they were actually proclaiming was: "Kinescoping was dead", Kinescoping meaning shooting off a monitor screen with a film camera, (because at the time, that was the only practical means of recording images from a television camera). They all said much the same thing; that the difference between videotape and a Kinescope was like night and day. The vastly better image quality combined with instantaneous playback would have made Kinescoping look positively 19th century!

 

 I could find no mention of video editing; the articles gave the impression that all  the videotape machines were intended to be used for was simple "Time Shifting" of microwave networked across the three US time zones.

 

I strongly suspect that the Variety reporter may have well and truly gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick, and as with so many good quotes, the rest was history, and history is mostly bunk  :rolleyes:


  • 1

#15 Keith Walters

Keith Walters
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2219 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:53 AM

The first colour TV demo that I saw looked awful - the resolution was visibly less, and the colours had significant bleeding. But it was in colour. And, IIRC, when they would show US-produced colour content it had to be letterboxed, because the British TV sets could handle up to 625 lines, but the US content was mostly only 405 lines, or was the colour stuff 525 lines by the late 60's? I recall the image area being much smaller than the screen.  

 

 

 

I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Since its introduction in 1941, NTSC has always had 525 lines. What most people refer to as "NTSC" is more correctly "The NTSC Colour System", introduced in 1954. However, it also uses 525 lines, 

 

The original UK TV system used 405 lines, and after some experimental transmissions in 1936 the system was used full-time from 1937 to 1986. In 1963, the UK started a program to replace 405 line transmissions with 625 lines, to align itself with the rest of Europe. When the last 405 line transmitters were finally duplicated on 625 lines in 1986, the last 405 line transmitters were shut down.

And, IIRC, when they would show US-produced colour content it had to be letterboxed

 

Some very early analog standards converters did that, but only monochrome ones as far as I know. Colour conversion was originally done  with a multicamera/display tube setup, in effect, pointing a PAL colour camera at an NTSC monitor screen. However the first digital standards converters (DICE etc) in 1972 made all that obsolete overnight. All digital converters have always produced full-screen PAL from NTSC and vice-versa.


  • 0

#16 Mark Dunn

Mark Dunn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2430 posts
  • Other
  • London

Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:00 AM

Most US shows came here as they were made, as 35mm. prints for transmission. In fact I believe that until the 80s features, at least, were transmitted live from telecine and not even transferred to tape.

We rarely got standards-converted NTSC here. When we did it was very soft and corresponded to its nickname.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 12 June 2013 - 06:03 AM.

  • 0

#17 Alan Duckworth

Alan Duckworth
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 84 posts
  • Producer
  • Kelowna, B.C. Canada

Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:29 PM

First off, I was sloppy when I referred to "glorious NTSC" - I was trying to make a slur against "Never Twice the Same Color", forgetting that it was also a b&w standard, oops. But I have strong memories of watching TV in Britain in the late 60's early 70's [pre-1972] and some of the content - of US origin - was not filling the screen, but the other shows were. And I clearly recall the transition from 405 lines to 625 - my Dad was not pleased at having to spend money to upgrade!

 

And, I learned something today - I had always assumed that the US broadcast system was originally 405 lines also, and transitioned to 525 sometime in the 60's.


  • 0

#18 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:58 PM

'When Ampex introduced a 2-inch videotape system in 1954, a front-page banner headline in Daily Variety proclaimed, "Film is Dead!"'

Does anybody have a link to the actual article?

   :rolleyes:

I think Broadcasting Magazine had an HD will replace film article back in either 1984 or 1994. The irony is all the formats that have come after film relied on film to make themselves look better until they could improve their own technology enough.


  • 0

#19 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 12 June 2013 - 07:00 PM

The story I heard was that just before the first television was introduced to reporters, the president of the company said make the image sharper, so the company think tank people moved the television farther away from where the reporters would be viewing it.

 

Problem solved!


  • 0

#20 Keith Walters

Keith Walters
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2219 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 13 June 2013 - 05:08 AM

 

And, I learned something today - I had always assumed that the US broadcast system was originally 405 lines also, and transitioned to 525 sometime in the 60's.

The original RMA (Radio Manufacturers of America) standard was 441 lines, with a 2.5MHz video bandwidth. That is what was shown at the Worlds Fair in 1939, and is routinely quoted by American writers as the "Introduction of Television". Actually a very similar 405 line  system had already been in full broadcast operation in London for over 2 years!

However the late 1930s and early 1940s saw some tremendous improvements in Transmitter technology, which allowed an upgrade to 525 lines and 4,2MHz video bandwidth (360 lines horizontal resolution), while still allowing the same number of channels in the spectrum space available.

Apart from a few modifications to allow them to shoehorn in the colour signals in 1954, the 1941 NTSC system is identical to the one that was finally switched off a couple of years back, but is still widely used by low-end cable suppliers. Any modern US TV transported to back to 1941 would pick up the broadcasts without modifications (unless it was one without an analog tuner, but as far as I know, just about all TVs still have analog capability, because NTSC distribution is still widely used in closed-circuit environments)

People with a technical bent might want to get hold of a 1940s edition of Donald Fink's "Television Engineering Handbook" (there are plenty available on eBay). What is staggering is the amount they actually knew in those days, and what they were able to achieve with vacuum tubes.


  • 0


The Slider

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Tai Audio

Opal

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Willys Widgets

CineTape

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

CineLab

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Abel Cine

Aerial Filmworks

Visual Products

Technodolly

Paralinx LLC

Wooden Camera

rebotnix Technologies

FJS International, LLC

Willys Widgets

Opal

Tai Audio

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

CineTape

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

Visual Products

Ritter Battery

The Slider

Paralinx LLC

rebotnix Technologies

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

Rig Wheels Passport