A title card for a Walt Disney Donald Duck cartoon with an "in Technicolor" credit. Many 1930s and 1940s American cartoon shorts were produced in Technicolor.

Technicolor is a color motion picture process invented in 1916 and improved over several decades.[1] It was the second major process, after Britain's Kinemacolor, and the most widely used color process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952. Technicolor became known and celebrated for its saturated levels of color, and was used most commonly for filming musicals (such as The Wizard of Oz and Singin' in the Rain), costume pictures (such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Joan of Arc), and animated films (such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia), but even a film noir (such as Leave Her to Heaven or Niagara) could be filmed in Technicolor.

"Technicolor" is the trademark for a series of color motion picture processes pioneered by Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation (a subsidiary of Technicolor, Inc.), now a division of Technicolor SA. The Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation was founded in Boston in 1914 (incorporated in Maine in 1915) by Herbert Kalmus, Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott.[2] The "Tech" in the company's name was inspired by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Kalmus received his undergraduate degree and was later an instructor.[3] Technicolor, Inc. was chartered in Delaware in 1921.[4][5]


Name usage

The term "Technicolor" historically has been used to describe four concepts:

  • Technicolor process/format: the several image origination systems used in film production, which culminated in the "three-strip" process. (1917–1954)
  • Technicolor dye imbibition printing (or "dye transfer"): a process for making color motion picture prints that allows the use of dyes which are more stable and permanent than those created in chromogenic printing processes. Originally used for printing from color separation negatives photographed on black-and-white film in a Technicolor camera, it was later applied to making prints from negatives photographed on standard color film in an ordinary camera. (1928–2002, with differing gaps of availability post-1974 depending on lab)
  • Technicolor labs: a collection of film laboratories across the world owned and run by Technicolor for post-production services including developing, printing, and transferring films in all major developing processes, as well as Technicolor's proprietary ones. Films using these labs thus retain a "Color by Technicolor" credit even though no Technicolor format or printing have been offered recently. (1922–present)
  • Technicolor: an umbrella company encompassing all the above as well as other ancillary services. (1914–present)


Two-color Technicolor

Process 1

Technicolor originally existed in a two-color (red and green) system. In Process 1 (1916), a prism beam-splitter behind the camera lens exposed two consecutive frames of a single strip of black-and-white negative film simultaneously, one behind a red filter, the other behind a green filter. Because two frames were being exposed at the same time, the film had to be photographed and projected at twice the normal speed. Exhibition required a special projector with two apertures (one with a red filter and the other with a green filter), two lenses, and an adjustable prism that aligned the two images on the screen.[6] The results were first demonstrated to members of the American Institute of Mining Engineers in New York on February 21, 1917.[7] Technicolor itself produced the only movie made in Process 1, The Gulf Between, which had a limited tour of Eastern cities, beginning with Boston and New York in September 1917, primarily to interest motion picture producers and exhibitors in color. The near-constant need for a technician to adjust the projection alignment doomed this additive color process. Only a few frames of The Gulf Between, showing star Grace Darmond, are known to exist today.

Frame from the Technicolor picture The Toll of the Sea (1922)

Process 2

Convinced that there was no future in additive color processes, Kalmus focused his attention on subtractive color processes. This culminated in what would eventually be known as Process 2 (1922). Originally cited by academics as "two-strip" Technicolor, the application of that term to Technicolor's two-component processes is now increasingly disparaged, since the well-established term "three-strip", widely used to describe Process 4, refers to the number of separate strips of film used in the camera, not to the printing process or the structure of the final print. As before, the special Technicolor camera used a beam-splitter that simultaneously exposed two frames of a single strip of black-and-white film, one behind a green filter and one behind a red filter.[8]

The difference was that the two-component negative was now used to produce a subtractive color print. Because the colors were physically present in the print, no special projection equipment was required and the correct registration of the two images did not depend on the skill of the projectionist.

The frames exposed behind the green filter were printed on one strip of black-and-white film, and the frames exposed behind the red filter were printed on another strip. After development, each strip was toned to a color complementary to that of the filter—red for the green-filtered images, green for the red-filtered. Unlike tinting, which adds a uniform veil of color to the entire image, toning chemically replaces the black-and-white silver image with transparent coloring matter, so that the highlights remain clear (or nearly so), dark areas are strongly colored, and intermediate tones are colored proportionally. The two strips, made of film stocks thinner than regular film, were then cemented together base to base to create a projection print. The Toll of the Sea debuted on November 26, 1922 as the first general release film to use Technicolor.

Frame enlargement of a Technicolor segment from The Phantom of the Opera (1925). The film was one of the earliest uses of the process on interior sets, and demonstrated its versatility.

The second all-color feature in this process, Wanderer of the Wasteland, was released in 1924. Process 2 was also used for color sequences in such major motion pictures as The Ten Commandments (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and Ben-Hur (1925). Douglas Fairbanks' The Black Pirate (1926), became the fourth feature to be filmed entirely in Technicolor.

Although successful commercially, Process 2 was plagued with technical problems. Because the images on the two sides of the print were not in the same plane, both could not be perfectly focused at the same time. The significance of this problem depended on the depth of field of the projection optics. Much more serious was a problem with cupping. Films in general tended to become somewhat cupped after repeated use. Every time a film was projected, each frame in turn was heated by the intense light in the projection gate, causing it to bulge slightly. After it had passed through the gate, it cooled and the bulge subsided, but not quite completely. It was found that the cemented prints were not only very prone to cupping, but that the direction of cupping would suddenly and randomly change from back to front or vice versa, so that even the most attentive projectionist could not prevent the image from temporarily popping out of focus whenever the direction changed. Technicolor had to supply new prints so the cupped ones could be shipped to their Boston laboratory for flattening, after which they could be put back into service, at least for a while. The unusual thickness of the film and the presence of image layers on both surfaces made the prints especially vulnerable to scratching, and because the scratches were vividly colored they were very obtrusive. Splicing a Process 2 print without special attention to its unusual laminated construction was apt to result in a bad splice that would fail as it passed through the projector. Even before these problems became apparent, Technicolor regarded this cemented print approach as a stopgap and was already at work developing an improved process.[9]

Process 3

Based on the same dye-transfer technique first applied to motion pictures in 1916 by Max Handschiegl, Technicolor Process 3 (1928) was developed to eliminate the projection print made of double-cemented prints in favor of a print created by dye imbibition. The Technicolor camera for Process 3 was identical to that for Process 2, simultaneously photographing two consecutive frames of a black-and-white film behind red and green filters.

In the lab, every other frame of the camera negative was printed onto one strip of specially prepared gelatin film (or "matrix") to create a red record, and the remaining frames were printed onto a second strip of blank film to create a green record. On exposure to UV light, the gelatin hardened. Areas not exposed to light were washed away by the developer leaving a relief image created by the hardened gelatin. The two matrix films were then soaked in dye baths of their complementary colors. The strip containing the red record was dyed green and the green record strip was dyed red. The thicker the gelatin on each frame, the more dye it absorbed.

During the final printing, the matrices were placed in contact with a blank, emulsified strip of film (known as the "blank") and the dye was transferred from the matrices to the new print. A mordant made from deacetylated Chitin was applied to the blank before printing, which kept the dye from migrating.

As this dye-transfer process was introduced around the same time as sound-on-film, the emulsion on the blank was adapted to a black-and-white film stock where the soundtrack and frame line were printed in black and white first, and then the dye-layer was added.

A frame of On With the Show (1929), found in 2005. No complete color copies of the film have survived.

The first feature made entirely in the Technicolor Process 3 was The Viking (1928), which had a synchronized score and sound effects. Redskin (1929), with a synchronized score, and The Mysterious Island (1929), a part-talkie, were photographed almost entirely in this process also but included some sequences in black and white. The following talkies were made entirely – or almost entirely – in Technicolor Process 3: On with the Show! (1929) (the first all-talking color feature), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), The Show of Shows (1929), Sally (1929), The Vagabond King (1930), Follow Thru (1930), Golden Dawn (1930), Hold Everything (1930), The Rogue Song (1930), Song of the Flame (1930), Song of the West (1930), The Life of the Party (1930), Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930), Bride of the Regiment (1930), Mamba (1930), Whoopee! (1930), King of Jazz (1930), Under a Texas Moon (1930), Bright Lights (1930), Viennese Nights (1930), Woman Hungry (1931), Kiss Me Again (1931) and Fifty Million Frenchmen (1931). In addition, scores of features were released with Technicolor sequences. Numerous short subjects were also photographed in Technicolor Process 3, including the first color sound cartoons by producers such as Ub Iwerks and Walter Lantz. Song of the Flame became the first color movie to use a widescreen process (using a system known as Vitascope, which used 65mm film).

In 1931, an improvement of Technicolor Process 3 was developed which removed grain from the Technicolor film, resulting in more vivid and vibrant colors.[10] This process was first used on a Radio Picture entitled: The Runaround (1931). The new process not only improved the color but also removed specks (that looked like bugs) from the screen, which had previously blurred outlines and lowered visibility. This new improvement along with a reduction in cost (from 8.85 cents to 7 cents per foot) led to a new color revival.[11] Warner Brothers took the lead once again by producing three features (out of an announced plan for six features): Manhattan Parade (1932), Doctor X (1932) and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). Radio Pictures followed by announcing plans to make four more features in the new process.[12] Only one of these, Fanny Foley Herself (1931), was actually produced. Although Paramount Pictures announced plans to make eight features and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer promised two color features, these never materialized.[13] This may have been the result of the lukewarm reception to these new color pictures by the public. Two independently produced features were also made with this improved Technicolor process: Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1934) and Kliou the Tiger (1935).

Very few of the original camera negatives of movies made in Technicolor Process 2 or 3 survive. In the late 1940s, most were discarded from storage at Technicolor in a space-clearing move, after the studios declined to reclaim the materials. Original Technicolor prints that survived into the 1950s were often used to make black-and-white prints for television and simply discarded thereafter. This explains why so many early color films exist today solely in black and white.

Warner Bros., which had vaulted from a minor exhibitor to a major studio by its introduction of the talkies, incorporated Technicolor's printing to enhance their films. Other producers followed Warner Bros.' example by making features in color, with either Technicolor or one of its competitors, such as Brewster Color and Multicolor (later Cinecolor).

Consequently, the introduction of color did not increase the number of audiences to the point where it was economical. This, and the Great Depression severely strained movie studios' finances, and spelled the end of Technicolor's first financial success.

Three-strip Technicolor

Process 4: Development and introduction

As early as 1924, Technicolor envisioned a full-color process, and by 1929, the company was actively developing such a process. Hollywood made so much use of Technicolor in 1929 and 1930, that many believed the feature film industry would soon be turning out color films exclusively. By 1931, the Great Depression took its toll on the movie industry, and they began to cut back on expenses. The production of color films had decreased dramatically by 1932, when Burton Wescott and Joseph A. Ball completed work on a new three-color movie camera. Technicolor could now promise studios a full range of colors, as opposed to the limited red-green spectrum of previous films. The light passing through the camera lens was split into two beam paths by a prism block. Green light was recorded through a green filter on panchromatic film, while the other half of the light passed through a magenta filter and was recorded on bipack film stock with two strips running base to base. On this stock, the front film was sensitized to blue light only, backed by a red gelatin layer which acted as a light filter to the panchromatic film behind it. This process accurately reproduced the full color spectrum when optically printed using a dye-transfer process in cyan, magenta and yellow.

Kalmus convinced Walt Disney to shoot one of his Silly Symphony cartoons Flowers and Trees (1932) in Process 4, the new "three-strip" process. Seeing the potential in full-color Technicolor, Walt Disney negotiated an exclusive contract for the use of the process, continuing to September 1935 (when other studios could start producing cartoons in the process, but were barred from releasing them until 1936).[14][15][16] Competitors such as the Fleischer Studios and the Ub Iwerks studio were shut out – they had to settle for either the two-color Technicolor systems or use a competing process such as Cinecolor.

Flowers and Trees was a success with audiences and critics alike, and won the first Academy Award for Animated Short Film. All subsequent Silly Symphonies from 1933 on were shot with the three-strip process. One 1933 Silly Symphony, Three Little Pigs, engendered such a positive audience response that it overshadowed the feature films with which it was shown. Hollywood was buzzing about color film again. According to Fortune magazine, "Merian C. Cooper, producer for RKO Radio Pictures and director of King Kong (1933), saw one of the Silly Symphonies and said he never wanted to make a black-and-white picture again."

Although Disney's first 60 or so Technicolor cartoons utilized the Three-Strip camera, an improved "successive exposure" process was adopted circa 1937 mainly for cartoon work: the camera would contain one strip of black-and-white negative film, and each animation cel would be photographed three times, on three sequential frames, behind alternating red, green, and blue filters (the so-called "Technicolor Color Wheel", then an option of the Acme, Producers Service and Photo-Sonics animation cameras).[17] Three separate dye transfer printing matrices would be created from the red, green, and blue records in their respective complementary colors, cyan, magenta and yellow.

Successive Exposure was also employed in Disney's "True Life Adventure" live-action series, wherein the 16mm Kodachrome Commercial principal photography element was first duplicated onto a 35mm fine-grain SE negative element in one pass of the 16mm element, thereby reducing wear on the relatively small 16mm element and also eliminating registration errors between colors. The live-action SE negative thereafter entered other Technicolor processes and were incorporated with SE animation and Three-Strip studio live-action, as required, thereby producing the combined result.

Shooting Technicolor footage, 1932–1955

Three-strip Technicolor camera from the 1930s

Technicolor's advantage over most early natural-color processes was that it was a subtractive synthesis rather than an additive one. Technicolor prints could run on any projector; unlike other additive processes, it could represent colors clearly without any special projection equipment or techniques. More importantly, Technicolor held the best balance between a quality image and speed of printing, compared to other subtractive systems of the time.

The Technicolor Process 4 used colored filters, a beam splitter made from a thinly coated mirror inside a split-cube prism, and three strips of black-and-white film (hence the "three-strip" designation). The beam splitter allowed ⅓ of the light to shine through a green filter onto one strip of film, capturing the green part of the image. The other ⅔ was reflected sideways by the mirror and passed through a magenta filter, to remove any green (which would have been redundant). The diverted non-green light exposed a pair of film strips spooled together; one which captured only blues, itself a filter, and another which picked up whatever was left (the red part of the image). The "blue" strip could act as a filter because it was a special type of film known as orthochromatic, which is designed to absorb some light frequencies and not others. The "green" and "red" strips were both of the broad-spectrum, panchromatic type.

To print the film, each colored strip had a print struck from it onto a light sensitive piece of gelatin film. When processed, "dark" portions of the film hardened, and light areas were washed away. The gelatin film strip was then soaked with a dye complementary to the color recorded by the film: cyan for red, magenta for green, and yellow for blue (see also: CMYK color model for a technical discussion of color printing).

A single clear strip of black-and-white film with the soundtrack and frame lines printed in advance was first treated with a mordant solution and then brought into contact with each of the three dye-loaded printing strips in turn, building up the complete color image. Each dye was absorbed, or imbibed, by the gelatin coating on the receiving strip rather than simply deposited onto its surface, hence the term "dye imbibition". Strictly speaking, this is a mechanical printing process, very loosely comparable to offset printing or lithography, and not a photographic one, as the actual printing does not involve a chemical change caused by exposure to light.

In the early days of the process, the un-exposed blank receiver film would be pre-exposed with a 50% black-and-white image derived from the green strip, the so-called Key, or K, record. This process was used largely to cover up fine edges in the picture where colors would mix unrealistically (also known as fringing). This additional black increased the contrast of the final print and concealed any fringing. However, overall colorfulness was compromised as a result. In 1944, Technicolor had improved the process to make up for these shortcomings and the K record was, therefore, eliminated.

Convincing Hollywood

The studios were willing to adopt three-color Technicolor for live-action feature production, if it could be proved viable. Shooting three-strip Technicolor required very bright lighting, as the film had an extremely slow speed of ASA 5. That, and the bulk of the cameras and a lack of experience with three-color cinematography made for skepticism in the studio board rooms.

Fortune magazine's October 1934 article stressed that Technicolor, as a corporation, was rather remarkable in that it kept its investors quite happy despite the fact that it had only been in profit twice in all of the years of its existence, during the early boom at the turn of the decade. A well-managed company, half of whose stock was controlled by a clique loyal to Kalmus, Technicolor never had to cede any control to its bankers or unfriendly stockholders. In the mid-'30s, all the major studios except MGM were in the financial doldrums, and a color process that truly reproduced the visual spectrum was seen as a possible shot-in-the-arm for the ailing industry.

In November 1933, Technicolor's Herbert Kalmus and RKO announced plans to produce three-strip Technicolor films in 1934, beginning with Ann Harding starring in a projected film The World Outside.[18]

Live-action use of three-strip Technicolor was first seen in a musical number of the MGM feature The Cat and the Fiddle, released February 16, 1934. On July 28 of that year, Warner Brothers released Service With a Smile, followed by Good Morning, Eve! on August 5, both being comedy short films starring Leon Errol and filmed in three-strip Technicolor. Pioneer Pictures, a movie company formed by Technicolor investors, produced the film usually credited as the first live-action short film shot in the three-strip process, La Cucaracha released August 31, 1934. La Cucaracha is a two-reel musical comedy that cost $65,000, approximately four times what an equivalent black-and-white two-reeler would cost. Released by RKO, the short was a success in introducing the new Technicolor as a viable medium for live-action films. The three-strip process also was used in some short sequences filmed for several movies made during 1934, including the final sequences of The House of Rothschild (20th Century Pictures/United Artists) with George Arliss and Kid Millions (Samuel Goldwyn Studios) with Eddie Cantor.

Pioneer/RKO's Becky Sharp (1935) became the first feature film photographed entirely in three-strip Technicolor. Initially, three-strip Technicolor was only used indoors. In 1936, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine became the first production to have outdoor sequences, with impressive results. The spectacular success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was released in December 1937 and became the top-grossing film of 1938, attracted the attention of the studios.

Limitations and difficulties

One major drawback of Technicolor's three-strip process was that it required a special, bulky, and very heavy Technicolor camera. Film studios could not purchase Technicolor cameras, only rent them for their productions, complete with camera technicians and a "color supervisor" to ensure sets, costumes and makeup didn't push beyond the limitations of the system. Often on many early productions, the supervisor was Natalie Kalmus, ex-wife of Herbert Kalmus and part owner of the company. Directors had great difficulty with her; Vincente Minnelli said, "I couldn't do anything right in Mrs. Kalmus's eyes."[19]

The process of splitting the image reduced the amount of light reaching the film stock. Since the film speed of the stocks used were fairly slow, early Technicolor productions required a greater amount of lighting than a black-and-white production. It is reported that temperatures on the film set of The Wizard of Oz from the hot studio lights frequently exceeded 100 °F (38 °C), and some of the more heavily costumed characters required a large water intake. Some actors and actresses claimed to have suffered permanent eye damage from the high levels of illumination.[20]

Because of the added lighting and triple amount of film necessary, Technicolor demanded high film budgets.

The introduction of Eastmancolor and decline

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, an example of Technicolor filming in 1950s Hollywood.

Color films that recorded the three primary colors in three emulsion layers on one strip of film had been introduced in the mid-1930s by Eastman Kodak in the United States (Kodachrome for 16mm home movies in 1935, then for 8mm home movies and 35mm slides in 1936) and Agfa in Germany (Agfacolor Neu for both home movies and slides later in 1936). Technicolor introduced Monopack, a single-strip color reversal film (a 35 mm version of Kodachrome Commercial) in 1941 for use on location where the bulky three-strip camera was impractical, but the higher grain of the image made it unsuitable for studio work.

Eastman Kodak introduced its first 35 mm color motion picture negative film in 1950. The first commercial feature film to use Eastmancolor was the National Film Board of Canada documentary Royal Journey, released in December 1951.[21][22] In 1952, an improved version suitable for Hollywood production was introduced.[23] This allowed Technicolor prints to be struck from a single camera negative exposed in a standard camera. Foxfire (1955), filmed in 1954 by Universal, starring Jane Russell and Jeff Chandler, was the last American-made feature photographed with a Technicolor three-strip camera.

In 1952, Eastman Kodak introduced a high-quality color print film, allowing studios to produce prints through standard photographic processes as opposed to having to send them to Technicolor for the expensive dye imbibition process. That same year, the Technicolor lab adapted its dye transfer process to derive matrices and imbibition prints directly from Eastmancolor negatives, as well as other stocks such as Ansco and DuPont color stocks.

Technicolor unveiled their stereoscopic camera for 3-D films in March 1953. The rig utilized two three-strip cameras, running a total of six strips of film at once (three for the left eye and three for the right).[24] Only two films were shot with this camera set-up: Flight to Tangier (1953) and the Martin and Lewis comedy Money From Home (1954). A similar, but different system had been used by a different company, utilizing two three-strip cameras side-by-side for a British short called Royal River.

In 1954, Technicolor made reduction dye transfer prints of the large format VistaVision negative. Their process was also adapted for use with Todd-AO, Ultra Panavision 70 and Technirama formats. All of them were an improvement over the three-strip negatives since the negative print-downs generated sharper and finer grain dye transfer copies.

By the late 1960s, the dye-transfer process eventually fell out of favor in the United States as being too expensive and too slow in turning out prints. With the growing number of screens in the US, the standard run of 200-250 prints increased. And while dye-transfer printing yielded superior color printing, the number of high speed prints that could be struck in labs all over the country outweighed the fewer, slower number of prints that could only be had in Technicolor's labs. The last American film released before Technicolor closed their dye plant was The Godfather, Part II (1974).

In 1975, the US dye transfer plant was closed and Technicolor became an Eastman-only processor. In 1977, the final dye-transfer printer left in Rome was used by Dario Argento to make prints for his horror film Suspiria.[25] In 1980, the Italian Technicolor plant ceased printing dye transfer.

The British line was shut down in 1978 and sold to Beijing Film and Video Lab in China. A great many films from China and Hong Kong were made in the Technicolor dye transfer process, including Zhang Yimou's Ju Dou and even one American film, Space Avenger (1989, director: Richard W. Haines). The Beijing line was shut down in 1993 for a number of reasons, including inferior processing.

Reintroduction of the dye transfer process

In 1997, Technicolor reintroduced the dye transfer process to general film production. A refined version of the printing process of the 1960s and 1970s, it was used on a limited basis in the restorations of films such as The Wizard of Oz, Rear Window, Funny Girl, and Apocalypse Now Redux.

After its reintroduction, the dye transfer process was used in several big-budget, modern Hollywood productions. These included Bulworth, Pearl Harbor, and Toy Story. The distinct "look" this process achieves, often sought after by filmmakers looking to re-create the period of time at which Technicolor was at its most prominent, is difficult to obtain through conventional, high-speed printing methods and is one explanation for the enduring demand and credibility of the process.[citation needed]

The dye-transfer process was discontinued by Technicolor in 2002 after the purchase of the company by Thomson which in 2010 changed its name to Technicolor SA.

Dye transfer Technicolor in archival work

By the late 1990s the dye transfer process still had its advantages in the film archival community. Because the dye transfer process used stable acid dyes, Technicolor prints are considered of archival quality. A Technicolor print from the dye transfer era will retain its original colors virtually unchanged for decades with proper storage, whereas prints printed on Eastmancolor stocks produced prior to 1983 may suffer color fading after exposure to ultraviolet light and hot, humid conditions as a result of less stable photochemical dyes. Fading on some prints is so rapid that in many cases, after as little as five to ten years, only the magenta record is perceivable on the film.

An article[26] on the restoration of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope claimed that a rare dye-transfer print of the movie, made for director George Lucas at the British Technicolor lab during its initial run, had been used as a color reference for the restoration. The article claimed that conventional color prints of the movie had all degraded over the years to the extent that no two had the same color balance. However, because of the variation in color balance per print, dye-transfer prints are used in the professional restoration world as only a rough guideline.

Furthermore, three-strip camera negatives are all on silver-based black-and-white stock, which have stayed unaltered over the course of time with proper handling. This has become of importance in recent years with the large market for films transferred to video formats for home viewing. The best color quality control for video transfer by far is achieved by optically printing from Technicolor negatives, or by recombining the negative through digital means and printing, onto low-contrast stock.

One problem that has resulted from Technicolor negatives is the rate of shrinkage from one strip to another. Because Three-Strip negatives are shot on three rolls, they are subject to different rates of shrinkage depending on storage conditions. Today, digital technology allows for a precise re-alignment of the negatives by resizing shrunken negatives digitally to correspond with the other negatives. The G, or Green, record is usually taken as the reference as it is the record with the highest resolution. It is also a record with the correct "wind" (emulsion position with respect to the camera's lens). Shrinkage and re-alignment (resizing) are non-issues with Successive Exposure (single-roll RGB) Technicolor camera negatives. This issue could have been eliminated, for Three-Strip titles, had the preservation elements (fine-grain positives) been Successive Exposure, but this would have required the preservation elements to be 3,000 feet or 6,000 feet whereas Three-strip composited camera and preservation elements are 1,000 feet or 2,000 feet.

Technicolor today

The Technicolor company remained a highly successful film processing firm and later became involved in video and audio duplication (CD, VHS and DVD manufacturing) and digital video processes. MacAndrews & Forbes acquired Technicolor, Inc. in 1982 for $100 million,[27] then sold it in 1988 to the British firm Carlton Communications PLC for $780 million.[28] Technicolor, Inc. acquired the film processing company Consolidated Film Industries in 2000.[29] Since 2001, Technicolor has been part of the French-headquartered electronics and media conglomerate Thomson.[30] The name of Thomson group was changed to “Technicolor” as of February 1, 2010, re-branding the entire company after its American film technology subsidiary.[31]

The visual aesthetic of dye transfer Technicolor continues to be used in Hollywood, usually in films set in the mid-20th century. Parts of The Aviator, the 2004 biopic of Howard Hughes, were digitally manipulated to imitate color processes that were available during the periods each scene takes place. The two-color look of the film is incorrectly cited[citation needed] as looking like Technicolor's two-color systems, and is in fact a facsimile of Hughes' own color system, Multicolor. The "three-strip" Technicolor look begins after the newsreel footage of Hughes making the first flight around the world.

See also


  1. ^ US patent 1208490, issued 1916-12-12 
  2. ^ "What? Color in the Movies Again?" Fortune, October 1934.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "$1,000,000 Company Will Color Movies", The New York Times, September 21, 1922, p. 1.
  5. ^ "Technicol.-Prizma Controversy", The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 7, 1922, p. 12.
  6. ^ Cinematographic Multiplex Projection, &c. U.S. Patent No. 1,391,029, filed Feb. 20, 1917.
  7. ^ "Moving Pictures in Color", The New York Times, February 22, 1917, p. 9.
  8. ^ "The First Successful Color Movie", Popular Science, Feb. 1923, p. 59.
  9. ^ "Kalmus, Herbert. "Technicolor Adventures in Cinemaland", Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, December 1938"
  10. ^ Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1931, Page C9.
  11. ^ Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1931, Page C9; The Washington Post, September 11, 1931, Page 12; Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1931, Page A9.
  12. ^ Radio Pictures announced plans to make four color features under the titles of "The Runaround" (produced), "Babes in Toyland" (never produced), "Macheta" (never produced) and "Bird of Paradise" (changed to black and white).
  13. ^ MGM announced plans to make The Merry Widow in color and also to rework a revue called The March of Time with a storyline for release. The only Paramount feature that seems to have been announced was a picture called Rose of the Rancho which was to have starred Richard Arlen and Dolores Del Rio.
  14. ^ "Technicolor Signs With Disney", The Wall Street Journal, April 17, 1934, p. 10.
  15. ^ "Mickey Mouse Falls Under Technicolor's Sway", The New York Times, February 3, 1935, p. X5.
  16. ^ Nelson B. Bell, "The New Trichrome Process Is About to Meet Test on Screen", The Washington Post, June 2, 1935, p. SO1. Douglas W. Churchill, "Advices From the Film Citadel", The New York Times, June 9, 1935, p. X3.
  17. ^ "Two key advantages to SE as opposed to three-strip photography is that the optical path is far simpler resulting in a single focal plane for each frame, and the alignment of frames from a single strip of film as opposed to three separate records is far easier. This is clearly evident when we are working with our nitrate negatives." Interview with Theo Gluck, Director of Library Restoration and Preservation for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, by Robert A. Harris, 2008.
  18. ^ "Activities on the Western Front" (PDF). The New York Times. November 5, 1933. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  19. ^ Vincente Minnelli, I Remember It Well, New York: Doubleday, 1974.
  20. ^ Richard B. Jewell. The golden age of cinema: Hollywood, 1929–1945. Blackwell Pub. 2007 p 103
  21. ^ Chronology of Motion Picture Films: 1940–1959, Kodak.
  22. ^ Crowther, Bosley (February 29, 1952). "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; Documentary of 'Royal Journey' to Canada and United States Last Fall at the Embassy Guild". New York Times. Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  23. ^ Kodak: Chronology of Motion Picture Films – 1940 to 1959.
  24. ^ March 14, 1953 "New Technicolor 3-D Camera" BoxOffice Magazine. Page 10.
  25. ^ "Dario Argento’s Suspiria: A Visual and Aural Masterwork". Indiana Public Media. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Saving Star Wars: The Special Edition Restoration Process and its Changing Physicality" Secret History of Star Wars, March 2009.
  27. ^ MACANDREWS & FORBES GROUP INC reports earnings for Qtr to Sept 30
  28. ^ Carlton Communications PLC
  29. ^ Technicolor Develops the Even Bigger Picture
  30. ^ Definitive agreement reached with Carlton Communications for the acquisition of Technicolor by Thomson Multimedia
  31. ^ Cohen, David S. (January 26, 2010). "Technicolor reinventing itself". Variety. 

Further reading

  • Fred E. Basten, Glorious Technicolor: The Movies' Magic Rainbow. Easton Studio Press, 2005. ISBN 0-9647065-0-4
  • Adrian Cornwell-Clyne, Colour Cinematography. London Champman & Hall, 1951.
  • Richard W. Haines, Technicolor Movies: The History of Dye Transfer Printing. McFarland & Company, 2003. ISBN 0-7864-1809-5
  • John Waner, Hollywood's Conversion of All Production to Color, Tobey Publishing, 2000.
  • Herbert T. Kalmus with Elenaore King Kalmus, Mr. Technicolor: The Fascinating Story of the Genius Who Invented Technicolor and Forever Changed the History of Cinema", MagicImage Filmbooks, 1993. ISBN 1882127315

External links

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