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  • You know this scene from The Wizard of Oz.

  • It happens just after Dorothy croons in sepia-toned Kansas,

  • Toto wags his tail, and the house gets caught in a tornado.

  • She travels from a faded film strip to a Technicolor world.

  • But there are three things about this scene you might get wrong.

  • And each one helps show the real history of Technicolor.

  • These misconceptions explain what theTechnicolor triumphreally was, from

  • the technical aspects that made it work, to exactly why it took over the movies, to the

  • way in which the technology shaped the look of the 20th century.

  • Lie #1 - Wizard of Oz is not the first Technicolor movie.

  • Not even close.

  • You might know that, but a lot of people don't.

  • Come on Maryland Science Center, you're better than this.

  • Historian Barbara Flueckiger has an exhaustive timeline of color in film, from

  • hand-painted film to the first movie filmed inkinemacolor,”

  • A Visit to the Seaside.

  • But Technicolor stood out, and even it has a history that long predates The Wizard of

  • Oz.

  • Herbert Kalmus, Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott founded the company in 1914,

  • with theTechreferring to MIT, where Kalmus and Comstock met.

  • It started by merging red and green - into a new image that roughly looked like this.

  • You can see the look in this range of movies from the late 1920s and early 30s.

  • It could do passably well with skin tones, but

  • there's no blue in these dresses for a reason.

  • Blue came into the mix in 1932, when Technicolor added the key third strip.

  • They showed off the process in Walt Disney's Flowers and Trees, a gorgeous animated feature

  • that was a botanist's nightmare.

  • You know, there are evil trees in Wizard of Oz, too.

  • What do you think you're doing?”

  • Anyway, in order to get Technicolor to work, it was an insanely difficult process.

  • Technicolor distributed guides like these

  • and we can make a reasonable simulation digitally, with a scene like this.

  • So here's a scene of some Lego people who are apparently worshipping Lawrence of Arabia?

  • Not sure what's going on here, but it's our starting image.

  • A technicolor camera would typically take that picture and shoot it through a prism

  • that split the light into red, blue, and green negatives for the picture.

  • Those negatives were then flipped into positivematrices,”

  • which eventually got soaked with dyes of the complementary colors.

  • So the red matrix turned cyan, the green one magenta, and the blue one yellow.

  • Then the dye was transferredthis was called a “dye transfer processto create

  • a final gorgeous Technicolor image.

  • So if you're anything like me, that explanation might make you feel like the scarecrow.

  • Oh I'm a failure because I haven't got a brain.”

  • So let's try it again, but only look at that red channel.

  • So keep your eye on the View-Master, the red in the Rubik's cube, or maybe the Lego guy's

  • hat.

  • It is all kind of dark now, because that's just the red color in the negative.

  • Now flipped in the matrix, that red is really bright, which means that when it's dyed,

  • it won't get a lot of cyan.

  • And that makes sense.

  • Cyan is the complementary colorit's the anti-red.

  • So where you want a lot of red, you do not want a lot of cyan.

  • That way, when it comes together, you get a ton of magenta and some yellow.

  • You don't have a lot of cyan, because the cyan cancels out the red.

  • In the earlier days of Technicolor, they also had to amp up the contrast.

  • The company would add a black and white layer underneath the matrices to serve as something

  • called "the key."

  • You can see the results early, in films like 1934's La Cucaracha,

  • The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, and Robin Hood, all of which came out well

  • before the Wizard of Oz.

  • It's easy enough to roughly copy the technology thatTechnicoloredthe Wizard of Oz.

  • RGB split, color bath, mesh, repeat.

  • But the film strip processes are just part of the story.

  • Lie #2: this scene?

  • It's not going from a black and white world to a color one.

  • The set was actually painted sepia-tone so the same Technicolor process could be used

  • for the bright Oz reveal.

  • Today, it's much easier.

  • I can draw a box with my hand and with a click, black and white and color play together.

  • They even had techniques to do stuff like this in the Oz days.

  • But the fact that they built a sepia house shows how Technicolor's technical limitations

  • shaped all color movies.

  • This is one of the cameras that was used to film

  • The Wizard of Oz.”

  • It weighs 4 to 500 pounds, and these cameras were bigger than ordinary motion picture cameras

  • because they had to run three strips of film through them at any given time.”

  • So rememberthis scene?

  • That had to be done with this beast of a camera.

  • Those three strips didn't just require more space, they needed tons of light.

  • That set had to be blazingly overlit to get enough light through to these three strips

  • of film.

  • The set was reportedly 100 degrees Fahrenheit at times.

  • Sound was an issue, too.

  • It's so loud when you're running three strips of film through a camera, so they had

  • to build this blimp around it.

  • It's filled with soundproofing material so when you're making a sound film you don't

  • get all the sound from the camera throughout the studio there.”

  • Technicolor's advantages outweighed its limitations.

  • It's main advantage was the way in which it could capture the tone of a scene.

  • Two movies made in the same year could have a different look, not just because of the

  • choices made in front of the camera.

  • Technicolor consultants and directors tweaked the palette of the film by adjusting the cyan,

  • magenta and yellow dyes.

  • The complicated dye transfer process gave Singin' in the Rain some of its magenta-hued

  • skin and deep saturated colors.

  • The film and technology weren't the only things that gave Technicolor movies their

  • distinctive look.

  • It also shaped the world that they chose to film.

  • Lie #3: This isn't the real Dorothy.

  • It's Judy Garland's body double.

  • She wore specially designed clothes and makeup to match the sepia world, so Judy Garland

  • could swoop in, in the same shot and a blue dress, to join Technicolor Oz.

  • These movies, and Oz, were shaped around Technicolor's abilities, from head to toe.

  • The second page that you see here is the part of the script that shows the ruby slippers

  • being unveiled, but what it shows is that they were still silver shoes at this point,

  • but the producers of the film really wanted to show off that Technicolor that they were

  • paying for, so they wanted them to be sparkly ruby slippers that would look good against

  • the yellow brick road.

  • So they changed it at the middle of production to ruby slippers.”

  • Today, the shoes are kept under low light to preserve them, but during the shoot they

  • were blasted with light to accommodate the camera and make those sequins sparkle.

  • These weren't just on-set decisionsTechnicolor was always pulling strings behind the curtains.

  • Look at the credits for Wizard of Oz,

  • and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, and A Star is Born, and so on and so on.

  • You'll see one name over and over.

  • Natalie Kalmus.

  • Once married to Technicolor cofounder Herb Kalmus, she ruled with an iron fist over

  • Technicolor productions for many of the early years.

  • Kalmus had over 300 film credits where she gave Technicolor adviceand sometimes

  • told directors what to do.

  • This is the IMDB page for a woman born in 1882.

  • In documents likeColor Consciousness,”

  • she extended her reach into artthe essay includes aesthetic color theory.

  • Red: danger, blood, life, heat.

  • Green: Nature, outdoors, freedom, freshness.”

  • Kalmus's influence was significant, but it's as important as a reflection of Technicolor's

  • power.

  • Technicolor had its own processing facilities, and its own camera crew that continued Natalie

  • Kalmus' work after she left the company.

  • The technology and the production process gave Technicolor a significant competitive

  • advantage to alternatives being used.

  • Despite all those alternatives shown on Barbara Flueckiger's website, studios stuck with

  • Technicolor for a long time.

  • It had a reliable system and could be shown in any theatre in splendid

  • color, without requiring special equipment.

  • Technicolor eventually fell to cheaper processes through the 1950s, like Eastman Color, that

  • used a single strip.

  • The Godfather, Part II was one of the final major releases to use the Technicolor we recognize.

  • But old prints remain surprisingly vibrant today due to the dye transfer process used.

  • Today, I can snap my fingers and be in The Matrix or in Stranger Things' Upside

  • Down.

  • Ok.

  • What are all these dust particles?

  • Is this asbestos?

  • Am I covered in asbestos right now?

  • Technicolor was never just a clickthe look was formed by the camera's strengths

  • and weaknesses, the artistic choices made for color, and the Technicolor company's

  • infrastructure and supervision.

  • In that key scene from the Wizard of Oz, you might not have known the trivia about Dorothy's

  • double, or the sepia doorway, or even that it wasn't Technicolor's debut.

  • But one thing is easy to understand, intuitively.

  • The movie is all about it.

  • Technicolor wasn't a switch or a doorway.

  • It was a whole world, just waiting on the other side.

  • You can nerd out a lot more on Technicolor by checking out Barbara Flueckiger's website,

  • or Eastman House, which was really generous with their time and a lot of the images that

  • you saw in this video.

  • I've linked both of those below.

  • You can see the director's commentary for this video in an additional video that we've

  • made where I share some behind-the-scenes info and a few of the details that couldn't

  • quite fit in.

You know this scene from The Wizard of Oz.

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How Technicolor changed movies

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    Evangeline posted on 2018/05/10
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