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From black and white to color … a photographic technique that changes the history of cinema

Technicolor transferred Hollywood films from black and white to the world of color, and for decades dominated the American film industry, before disappearing in the 1970s.

In a report published by the American site “MyModernMet”, writer Madeleine Mozdakis shed light on the stages that this technology has gone through since its emergence in the early 20th century, and the most prominent films in which it was filmed and achieved great public success.

Beginnings of color imaging technology

The author says that with the advent of films and their introduction to the public, people are accustomed to seeing everything in black and white, before things changed in the early twentieth century when “Technicolor” appeared in color photography.

Initially the use of this technique was very limited, and the strips were either carefully dyed or stained by hand.

In 1908, a new technology appeared in one of the films, known as “Kinémacolor”, which was based on displaying images on a cinematic screen through red and green “filters”. Projection equipment was also very expensive.

1920s Hollywood

The author explains that the films of the 1920s changed the course of the cinema industry by adding two new features, namely sound and color. The introduction of simultaneous dialogue technology during that period led to the disappearance of silent films and the emergence of the first feature films in color.

According to the writer, the new technologies did not receive much admiration upon their appearance, as a number of filmmakers and actors expressed their fear that the introduction of color and sound would distract viewers’ minds.

In 1922, the color age in cinema entered a new phase, as films were filmed using the technology of two separate tapes, which relies on dividing red and green light into two tapes, then merging them into one tape at the end.

The writer explains that the process of photographing in color was at that very expensive stage, so most films of the twenties of the last century were limited to the use of color in a few scenes, and were often used in weddings or dances.

By the 1930s, “Technicolor” technology gained a wider spread, after the company invested time in researching the effect of color on feelings and developed a new technology that uses 3 colors to provide more enjoyment for viewers.

The new cameras the company created were bulky and had 3 separate rollers, each of which was used to create a positive version called the matrix, then transfer the dye and blend the primary colors to get the final image.

Clark Gable: Gone With the Wind (Getty Images)

A new world of colors

Dye-transfer technology has dominated color filmmaking for more than two decades, and has been used in several films, the most famous of which are Gone with the Wind (1939), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Disney Snow White (1937).

And the technology of color photography was thanks to the great success of the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, which was directed by Victor Fleming in 1939, according to the author.

The sapphire shoe worn by the movie heroine was originally silver, but the producers felt the bright red would be a better fit.

According to the writer, “The Wizard of Oz” represented an important turning point in the relationship of filmmakers and the public with color.

At first, Kansas City was painted a dark reddish brown, indicating that the city had just emerged from the Great Depression and a period of severe drought that struck the central region of the United States of America, and the entire decor and costumes of Dorothy (the main character) were dyed in this color.

After Dorothy moved to “Oz”, the clothes became colorful and bright, and the filmmakers initially feared that the impact of this would be negative and distract the audience from the story, but the exact opposite happened, as this transition became an integral part of the plot of the film and an important narrative tool.

Competition and extinction

The writer says that “Technicolor” technology remained dominant in the film industry until the 1950s, during which time color films became more popular and became less expensive.

But Eastmancolor by Kodak and Anscocolor by Ansco represented two less expensive alternatives. Instead of using 3 tapes, the two new technologies required only one roller.

To stay in the lead, “Technicolor” focused on demonstrating its superiority in color and clarity of the picture, and began converting films made with other technologies into films produced with its technology, and redesigned its huge cameras to fit wide screens.

After 50 years of its existence, “Technicolor” disappeared in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the company devised a chemical process known as “treatment without bleaching”. Many directors have used this technology, including Steven Spielberg in the movie “Rescue of Private Ryan.”

With the transformation of modern studios towards digital imaging technology, the company has re-produced in the current century a number of old films and entered various fields in the world of digital media.

The author concludes that the “Technicolor” technology has left a great legacy in the world of cinematic films and affected 3 generations of moviemakers, and is still a symbol of all things colorful and vibrant.




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