Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Wed 12th February 2003. 6:20pm
NFT programme notes.
Previews, Interviews & Special Events/A History of Colour
The History and Development of
Colour - An Illustrated Lecture
Another fascinating evening at the NFT.
David Pierce of the NFTVA gave a nice friendly talk about the history of colour film. A bit chaotic at the start but he fumbled his way through it and got more organised as we went along. Neal Lofthouse from Banbury, Oxfordshire was there as well. Always nice to see you Neal. Mark Fuller from Bristol arrived just as we were settling into our seats and we had a few quick words then settled down for the lecture.
David explained the techniques and methods involved in some of the early processes such as:
- Tinting and Toning
Tinting replaces the white/clear parts of the film with colour
Toning replaces the dark areas with colour (c.f. Sepia)
Toning was done with cyanide compounds
Tinting can be stripped & restarted - toning can't
- Hand colouring
Artificial colouring. Each print coloured by hand
6 hours work for 1 minute of screen time
- Automated - Stencil cutting
3 feet of stencil per hour (for each or 6 colours)
Stencils then used to apply colours
2 colour - Red/Green
Film run at double speed, 32 fps. Led to mechanical breakdowns
- William & Claude Friese Green
Tinted alternate frames
Colour fringing when object moved quickly relative to the camera but very good on fairly static or slow moving scenes.
Could have become the success that Technicolor was
Additive, alternate frame, 4 colour RGBY
- Technicolor Process #1
Single strip, double speed RG
Operator controls the speed of each wheel
Dyed film RGB
Needs a lot of light to project
Subtractive, different colour emulsion on each side of the film
After the lecture there was time for a quick break then we went back in to see Black Narcissus on a wonderful dye transfer Technicolor print that Michael Pogorzelski had brought over for his lecture a few days before. Slightly scratched in places but it really reminded us why it was called Glorious Technicolor. And of course, it had the correct "black out" as Sister Ruth faints, not the "blue out" mistake that some recent prints have.
Afterwards we all retired to the bar and chatted long into the night (until they threw us out when they closed up). Had the pleasure of meeting Bryony Dixon of the BFI / NFTVA. She had been on the New Directors Award Jury at the 2002 Donostia - San Sebastián Film Festival and had helped enormously by organizing a lot of the prints of the Powell (& Pressburger) films shown there. Thanks again Bryony.