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class="Paragraph" 3 Strip Technicolor

Published : 2nd March 2004


Did I read it or dream it, but is there a new stock that is suppose to allow the creation of the feel and saturation of 3 Strip Technicolor?

David Macklin

ACTING In The Motion Picture BUSINESS
http://www.davidmacklin.com



From : David Macklin

>Did I read it or dream it, but is there a new stock that is suppose to allow >the creation of the feel and saturation of 3 Strip Technicolor?

Kodachrome

Steven Gladstone



>Did I read it or dream it, but is there a new stock that is suppose to allow >the creation of the feel and saturation of 3 Strip Technicolor?

Well, the "Technicolor" look was a combination of the 3-strip camera process and the dye transfer printing process -- and it wasn't across the board more saturated unless you wanted that look. It was pretty malleable in terms of color saturation and some people went for fairly muted shades, particularly in the 1930's.

Kodak has the Vision Premier print stock in 35mm (2393) which has a dye-transfer level of color saturation and deepness to the blacks, although being a photo-chemical process, it would never exactly watch the types of dyes used in the dye transfer process.

I suspect one could get a Technicolor-like look using a D.I., perhaps starting with normally-processed E6 color reversal photography (Fuji Velvia or Kodak Ektachrome 5285), and printing the recorded output negative to Vision Premier.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.



David Mullen wrote:

>Well, the "Technicolor" look was a combination of the 3-strip camera >process and the dye transfer printing process -- and it wasn't across the >board more saturated unless you wanted that look.

The 1956 production of MOBY DICK was shot in Technicolor and so muted that when the film started you wondered if it was color or just a tinted stock. They were trying for a cold, New England whaling town look and succeeded.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>The 1956 production of MOBY DICK was shot in Technicolor and so >muted that when the film started you wondered if it was color or just a >tinted stock.

Actually it was shot on Eastmancolor 5248 (25 ASA tungsten) and printed using Technicolor's dye transfer process. What gave the prints that unique look (and the studio only allowed half the prints to be made this way) was that the three B&W positive separations made from the monopack Eastmancolor negative used "broad" or "wide cut" filters instead of the correct "narrow" or "clean cut" filters.

This means that the separate red, green, and blue records on the B&W positive "matrices" still contained information from the other two colors. When recombined using the dye transfer method onto the blank receiver, a very desaturated and somewhat low-contrast image resulted.

Technicolor Labs had developed this technique to make prints for film-chain transfers to TV. Ozzie Morris saw one of these prints being screened at Technicolor and decided to use that approach for "Moby Dick". The only problem was the low-contrast look, which they didn't want. Luckily, Technicolor still had set-up in their dye transfer printing line a fourth pass for adding a silver "key" image, used in the 1930's to improve the blacks in the print but discontinued when the process was improved and didn't need the silver key image, allowing the stronger color saturation of late 1930's dye transfer prints.

John Huston and Ozzie Morris did shoot "Moulin Rouge" using the 3-strip Technicolor camera process but it was discontinued by the time of "Moby Dick."

John Huston wanted to use the same printing technique on "Reflections In a Golden Eye" as he did on "Moby Dick" but by then, Technicolor had removed the fourth silver key printer from the dye transfer line-up (or perhaps Technicolor Italia, who did the printing, never had the fourth printer installed). Instead, a more elaborate method of printing a B&W dupe image over the color image was used. I don't recall the exact method but I do have the old "American Cinematographer" article on it somewhere in a box.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.



Wade K Ramsey

>The 1956 production of MOBY DICK was shot in Technicolor and so >muted that when the film started you wondered if it was color or just a >tinted stock.

John Huston wanted an almost B & W film, so Oswald Morris experimented and created a very desaturated print by printing with what they called "wide-cut" filter bands and not the clean cut filter bands (I'm sure a 3 strip Technicolor expert could explain the process in better detail). They then overlay a B & W print to give a richer black.

If I remember correctly they used a similar effect on "Deliverance"

Brian Drysdale
DP & Steadicam
Belfast



David Mullen wrote :

>Actually it was shot on Eastmancolor 5248 (25 ASA tungsten) and >printed using Technicolor's dye transfer process...

Thanks, David, for your usual clear, explicit and interesting explanation of the process!

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



David Mullen writes :

>Actually it was shot on Eastmancolor 5248 (25 ASA tungsten) and >printed using Technicolor's dye transfer process.

David :

Thanks for the details on how that rather special Moby Dick look was achieved.

We had the pleasure of restoring it for DVD some months ago.

John Lowry
Lowry Digital Images


class="Paragraph"
David Mullen wrote:

>Luckily, Technicolor still had set-up in their dye transfer printing line a >fourth pass for adding a silver "key" image, used in the 1930's to >improve the blacks in the print but discontinued when the process was >improved…

The image that was transferred by the matrices to the "blank" was actually transferred to black-and-white print film, the equivalent to today's 5302 positive stock. The first operation was to print the optical sound track, the frame lines (remember, this is during the days of the Academy aperture), and the edge print info--which was footage numbers starting at 00000 at the "Picture Start" frame on the Academy leader and proceeding through the entire reel--with one number increases each foot. These numbers were used to order replacement footage for damaged reels, and to check to see if any scenes had been "lifted" from any given reel. The sound track had to be silver since the photo electric cells for sound pick-up in those days were infrared sensitive only, and dye tracks were nearly transparent to the cell.

So, adding any image area (picture) density was easy--just make a black-and-white dupe negative of the desired density from any or all of the picture material, then print it on a standard contact printer along with the other black-and-white material. Normal processing was done to the exposed positive stock, then the processed "blank" (it wasn't blank any longer) received the Y-C-M dye transfer as needed for the picture. This was a whole lot simpler than trying to put silver onto a finished dye image. I have film samples in my collection that show this silver image by reflected light.

Very fascinating.

>David Macklin wrote :

>When did 3 strip come in? Weren't some early 1930's films done in >2strip?

As others have mentioned, Technicolor started out with a two-color system. However, as a historical note, there was another two-color process which existed into the early 1950's, which had the trademark name of "Cinecolor", if I remember correctly. I have film clips of this, also. The camera shot a bi-pack film load. The two films went thru a standard camera, but used a bi-pack magazine. The top magazine, which had the blue sensitive film in it was threaded thru the camera with the base facing the camera lens, and the emulsion was coated with an orange coloured dye. Since the film was blue sensitive, it only recorded the blue light coming from the scene. The orange filter on the emulsion surface passed the orange light (but stopped the blue) onto the panchromatic film. The pan film was loaded in the normal fashion with the emulsion facing the lens and in contact with the blue-sensitive film. Both negative records received standard negative processing in any lab.

Cinecolor Corporation then made the final release prints. A double coated black-and-white print film was used--that is, emulsion was on both sides of the base. One side of the print stock was printed with the blue negative. The other side was printed with the orange negative. The print stock emulsion layers were both dyed yellow, and the light from the printer was filtered through a blue filter. This confined the image being printed on one side from passing through the print film base to the other side. After the second image was printed on the opposite side, the print film then received standard black-and-white developing--today it would be a modified D-16 developer. After development, the end product was a dense black-and-white print.

Now, comes the magic!

class="Paragraph" The blue image side of the print was floated (yes, floated, not submerged) across a toner solution--uranium toner, I believe. After rinsing, the film could then be submerged in a selenium toner (Wade K, please correct my toners if I'm incorrect) to give the orange tone on the other side. The end result was a fairly cheap color print--much cheaper than Technicolor, and capable of being done in any B & W motion picture lab with little new investment in specialized equipment. Also, the silver image was now toned--a very permanent method to prevent silver image fading due to sulphur compounds in the air--not a big problem with motion pictures, but we've all seen faded black-and-white photos which have turned yellow. The biggest problem was focus. The projected image is always shown through lenses which are "wide open"--never stopped down, so the depth of field (and likewise the depth of image) were always too shallow for the double coated print stock. Best focus was in the middle of the base. The color was fair--definitely not anywhere as good as a three color system. The film samples I have are from a B grade science fiction film titled (I think) "Mission to Mars".

Regarding Technicolor dye transfer printing, it is not dead. Technicolor sold their print making facilities lock-stock-and barrel to China in the early '70's. China did not have a cost of labor problem, so the labor intensive three strip imbibition printing was great for them. They could make color prints from blank 35mm stock (assuming no optical sound). In fact, they invented their own distribution format to maximize the 35mm width of the film especially for the Technicolor equipment---8.75 mm! This was the days before cheap video tape formats were as wide spread and 8mm formats were the "in" thing.

Three years ago, the big Christmas release was "The Family Man" with Nicholas Cage. The neat thing about this film was that 200 prints were made in China on the old Technicolor equipment--with the silver track and silver edge-print--which is now occupied on both edges with the Sony SDDS digital tracks. One of the theatres where I engineer received one Eastman color print, and one dye-imbibition print. Wow, what a chance for comparison.

I spent two weeks moving from one auditorium to the other checking out the image quality. The biggest difference? ...good solid colors. Highlights in the IB print were sometimes blown out, whereas they were ok on the EC print--forehead highlights, for example. Blacks were more solid on the IB print--less shadow detail. Reds popped on the IB print. There did not appear to be any silver in the image--I closely examined the film to see. It was fun to get the young staff and take them into the auditorium running the EC print, then take them into the auditorium running the IB print and point out the differences. They were amazed!

"So, that's what Technicolor was like!" was their response!

Hope this helps.

Wade I. Ramsey (the other Wade Ramsey)
Dailies Projectionist, Projection Engineer
(formerly camera assistant and film editor)
Fort Mill, SC (near Charlotte, NC)



Yes, you're correct that the "blank" with dye mordant was essentially a B&W emulsion which allowed the soundtrack & framelines to be printed onto the print, so sometimes a halftone silver "key" image derived from the green record (in three-strip photography) could be printed as well.

I don't know with "Moby Dick", since it was shot in color negative, but I suppose the original color negative could have been used to print the silver key image onto the blank without having to make a B&W dupe of it first, since it would become B&W by virtue of going from color negative to the B&W positive.

I'd have to dig up my old article on "Reflections in a Golden Eye" to figure out why Technicolor Italia couldn't also just print a silver halftone image over the dye image, since they went through a more elaborate system of combining B&W dupes with the color image to create desaturated matrices
before the dye transfer step.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.



>sometimes a halftone silver "key" image

Lawrence Olivier has an anecdote in his autobiography. He went to see a print of Henry V some years after the original release, and was dismayed to find, when the English archers sent off a volley of arrows at Agincourt – in the mist at dawn - he heard the "whoosh" of the arrows but saw nothing of the arrows. He left the theatre and called Technicolor (so he says) and it transpired that the new prints had been made without the fourth colour or silver image being exposed - as Tech had recently discontinued this. Since the effect of this key image was to enrich the blacks (almost a proto-beach bypass effect), the arrows in the mist simply disappeared from view without it.

At least this is his explanation of it. I'm sure David Macklin won't mind if I say that actors don't always give thoroughly accurate technical accounts of things - but this seems to be at least plausible.

Maybe David Mullen's library can verify this??

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia



>Maybe David Mullen's library can verify this??


It's not in any of my books... but I'm sure that Olivier was not making it up.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.



And, of course, thank you David and others for this great information ON list.

>Well, the "Technicolor" look was a combination of the 3-strip camera >process and the dye transfer printing process -- and it wasn't across the >board more saturated unless you wanted that look.

Thanks for the other very interesting information. In, at least one sense, the Kodachrome would be an improvement as dyes fade.

David Macklin



> In, at least one sense, the Kodachrome would be an improvement as >dyes fade

I don't think the pigments in Technicolor prints fade much.

Then too, I have prints made on the old Kodachrome 7387 print stock which look identical to the way they looked fresh out of the lab....

Sam Wells



>### If one wanted to do a period piece with the "Captain Blood" look >and in 3D would the Kodachrome discussed work?

I don't think the pigments in Technicolor prints fade much.

David Macklin



> ### If one wanted to do a period piece with the "Captain Blood" look >and in 3D would the Kodachrome discussed work?

No they haven't made that print stock in many years.

Sam Wells



David Macklin wrote:

>### If one wanted to do a period piece with the "Captain Blood" look >and in 3D would the Kodachrome discussed work?

Kodachrome is not available as a 35mm motion picture stock.

Jeff Kreines



Sam Wells wrote:

>### If one wanted to do a period piece with the "Captain Blood" look >and in 3D would the Kodachrome discussed work?

No they haven't made that print stock in many years.

### I was asking about the new Kodachrome... surely they still make it. What kind of stock was used for "Spy Kids 3D" (blue-red glasses) or Cameron's Imax Titanic 3D or "The House of Wax" for that matter.(Polaroid)

David Macklin



David Macklin wrote:

>What kind of stock was used for "Spy Kids 3D" (blue-red glasses) or >Cameron's Imax Titanic 3D or "The House of Wax" for that >matter.(Polaroid)

Huh?

Both were shot on HD video.

Jeff Kreines


class="Paragraph"
David Macklin wrote :

> ### I was asking about the new Kodachrome... surely they still make it. >What kind of stock was used for "Spy Kids 3D" (blue-red glasses) or >Cameron's Imax Titanic 3D or "The House of Wax" for that >matter.(Polaroid)

Spy Kids and Titanic 3D were shot in dual HD, printed out to standard print stocks.

House of wax was shot on color negative film (not Technicolor 3 strip) then printed to standard print stocks. The polarizing was introduced at the projector lens, whether it was dual projector or single projector with the left right images stacked on the negative.

There was an experimental process that Polaroid came up with that combined left and right on one strip, overlaid, with the polarizing built into the print, no special lens needed. I saw a strip of it, pretty cool. Disney experimented with it on an animated short (Whistle Plink toot Boom??). But I don't think it was ever released or used.

Films shot IN Technicolor 3 strip can look like anything you want pretty much, pastel or saturated. The longevity comes from the fact that there is no actual color dye used in the process, it's just three strips of black and white film shot in registration through color filters. You could even print them to black and white negative stock and project through three registered filters if you wanted. But it means they have the archival performance of black and white film.

You could print them to Technicolor prints or to Eastman color prints. Technicolor prints weren’t' really a photographic process, it was more of a lithography process, and the color dyes or inks were much much more stable. You could make Technicolor prints from Eastman color negatives, and that was done until the seventies. The last film printed that way was Godfather II I believe.

It's the Technicolor prints that have a specific look, or can. They made really saturated colors and deep blacks possible.

Steven Bradford,
Seattle


David Macklin wrote :

>When did 3 strip come in? Weren't some early 1930's films done in 2 >strip?

As best as my records indicate, which have been handed down through a number of engineers and sales folks within Kodak in Rochester, Kodak first introduced Eastman Cine-Positive tinted stocks in 1921, Kalmus Yellow Positive Matrix stocks (2 of them)for Technicolor 2-color in 1923-1928.

>We also manufactured two Eastman films that I only have as Eastman Zelcras (Bi-Pack) Film (nitrate base), code 1208, from 1930-1938, and Eastman Sincras (Bi-Pack) Film (nitrate base, code 1209, from 1934-1939. There may have been other stocks but my records do not indicate their names or manufacturing dates.

I hope this information aids those historians of motion images.

Frederick Knauf,
Sr. Product Engineer
Kodak Park, Rochester
Eastman Kodak Company


style="margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0">>When did 3 strip come in? Weren't some early 1930's films done in 2 >strip?

2-colour Technicolor goes back to 1917, when it was an additive process using red & green filtered projectors in tandem. In 1921 they introduced the two-colour subtractive system, with a beam-splitting prism in the camera producing red and green(ish) separations on successive frames (a bit like the sequential tri-seps used far more recently for Kubrick's films among others). Prints from this type of negative used a frame-skipping optical printer to make separation prints which were then bleached and colour-dyed, then cemented together back-to-back. Toll of the Sea (1922) and The Black Pirate( 1926) were examples.

Dye matrix printing came in later in the 1920s, resulting in a single-layer dye print . When the three-colour system finally got going in 1932, it was used on Disney cartoons for three years before the first feature (Becky Sharp) was produced.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia