When I hear the word Technicolor, I think of The Wizard Of Oz.
Dorothy’s reaction as she first lands in Oz and steps into a world of color pretty much echoes how most people react when being exposed to the visual treat of Technicolor.
Technicolor is a color process that was invented in 1916 to create full spectrum color photography for motion picture screens. The cameras shoot 3 strips of film simultaneously—to record red, blue, and green. For more on these much physically larger cameras, click here.
Martin Scorsese: “My first memories of movies are in Technicolor. Duel in the Sun was the first picture I ever saw, and it’s never left me—reds, blues, greens, yellows, deep blacks, lustrous golds. There doesn’t appear to be any blending of color in that picture—everything is primary, and everything is alive. It may be garish, it’s certainly unreal, and it’s far from subtle, but it’s alive. Alive… To me, that’s Technicolor.”
Check out the dye transfer process in this video below made by George Eastman House—it is really informative and rather incredible:
To celebrate the 100th year anniversary of Technicolor, The Museum of Modern Art in New York is screening a wonderful selection of American Technicolor films from 1922-1955. In 1955 in the U.S., they stopped making films using Technicolor.
Technicolor is amazing in many ways—one being that the film does not fade, and it holds its vibrancy, unlike other films that are known over time to fade to magenta.
This makes Technicolor films a huge source of reference for people who work in film restoration.
They are able to restore older films to how an audience once viewed them in the past because Technicolor color holds so well.
Sadly, all the machinery used for the dye transfer is no longer in use, and it’s too huge an investment to get working again. So technicolor prints are irreplaceable, with no way to re-create them. An absolute treasure from the past, in my opinion.
For those of you who want to explore this a step further, there is a gorgeous 1934 Technicolor advert, Mrs. Mortimer Jones Prepares Dinner for Eight” preserved by the National Film Preservation Foundation. Click here to watch and support the work involved in preserving and restoring such films.