Technicolor No. III
The third Technicolor process used the same camera as process no. II to combine a pair of frames of the red and green record respectively on the b/w negative (see image). In contrast to the former process, however, the two images were printed on one side of the positive by the dye transfer or imbibition process.
For the dye transfer, again matrices were prepared by hardening the gelatin with a tanning developer and washing away the soft portions of the gelatin. These wash-off reliefs were then dyed with the complementary hues in green-blue and red-orange respectively. In the actual imbibition process the dyes were transferred by contact onto a blank film which was specially prepared to absorb the color and to prevent it from bleeding.
While this process was very sophisticated in terms of mechanical precision, it was still a two-color process and as such it was not able to display the whole range of colors (see images).
Nevertheless it was an economic success when in the wake of the transition to sound many producers also started to shoot in color at the end of the 1920s. In addition the Technicolor company launched a publicity campaign in fan magazines to support the acceptance of color films. However, the company was not able to handle the sudden huge demand without compromising the quality. Thus after a short peak in color production at the turn to the 1930s the number of films declined very fast again.
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King of Jazz (USA 1930, John Murray Anderson, Pál Fejös).
Excerpt courtesy of USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive collection at the Academy Film Archive.
Trailer courtesy of Library of Congress.
Photographs by Barbara Flueckiger.
Layton, James; Pierce, David (2016): King of Jazz. Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue. Severn, MD: Media History Press, 300 pp.
O’Brien, Charles (2013): Color as Image Schema. Technicolor Number 3 in King of Jazz. In: Simon Brown, Sarah Street, Liz Watkins (eds.): Color and the Moving Image. History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. New York, London: Routledge, pp. 37–46.
The Mysterious Island (USA 1929, Lucien Hubbard and Benjamin Christensen)
Chromogenic print of the two-color Technicolor film.
Credit: Národní filmový archiv / National Film Archive, Prague. Photographs by Barbara Flueckiger.
Text by James Layton in the catalogue of the 33rd Giornate del Cinema Muto festival in Pordenone, 2014, on pp. 107–108.
The Fire Brigade (1926?) combines shots in Technicolor No. III with sequences in the Handschiegl process.
Credit: Library of Congress. Photographs of the nitrate print by Barbara Flueckiger.
Redskin (USA 1929, Victor Schertzinger). Credit: Library of Congress. Photographs of the nitrate print by Barbara Flueckiger.
“Paramount was the first to produce a full-length feature film utilizing Process Number Three. Entitled Redskin, the picture premiered in New York City in January of 1929. The New York Times reviewer was generally impressed.
So beautiful are many of the natural color sequences
. . . that the spectators were impelled to
applaud some of the lovely visions that greeted the
eye. . . . There is no fringing of the colors, but
if one might presume to call attention to something
that is at least constant, let it be said that the
skies are pale green and anything with a light blue
tint seems to become more green than blue. Now a
pale green sky, when viewed in the “shots” in this
production, are by no means an eyesore.
New York Times, January 28, 1929, p. 20″
(Nowotny, Robert A. (1983): The Way of All Flesh Tones. A History of Color Motion Picture Processes, 1895-1929. New York: Garland Pub, pp. 225-243, on p 230.)
Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources
Ball, J. Arthur (1935): The Technicolor Process of Three-Color Cinematography. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 25,2, 1935, pp. 127-138, on pp. 128-129.
Behlmer, Rudy (1964): Technicolor. In: Films in Review 15,6, 1964, pp. 333–351, on pp. 242–243.
Brown, Simon (2012): Technical Appendix. In: Sarah Street: Colour Films in Britain. The Negotiation of Innovation 1900-55. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 259-287, on pp. 284-286 (all Technicolor processes).
Cornwell-Clyne, Adrian (= Adrian Klein) (1951): Colour Cinematography. London: Chapman & Hall, pp. 451-479 (all Technicolor processes).
D’haeyere, Hilde (2013): Technicolor – Multicolor – Sennett-Color. Natural Color Processes in Mack Sennett Comedies 1926-1931. In: Simon Brown, Sarah Street and Liz Watkins (eds.): Color and the Moving Image. History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. New York, London: Routledge, pp. 23–36, on pp. 26–29.
Everett, Wendy (2007): Mapping Colour. An Introduction to the Theories and Practices of Colour. In: Wendy Everett (ed.): Questions of Colour in Cinema. From Paintbrush to Pixel. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 7–38, on pp. 20–21.
Flueckiger, Barbara (2015): Zwischen Chromophobie und Farbrausch. Entwicklungslinien des frühen Technicolor. In: Connie Betz, Rainer Rother, Annika Schaefer (Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen) (eds.): Glorious Technicolor. Berlin: Bertz und Fischer, pp. 20–47. (in German) Download
Haines, Richard W. (1993): Technicolor Movies. The History of Dye Transfer Printing. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, on pp. 8–13.
Kalmus, Herbert T. (1938): Technicolor Adventures in Cinemaland. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 31,6, 1938, pp. 564–585, on pp. 571–577.
Neale, Steve (1985): The Beginnings of Technicolor. In: Angela Dalle Vacche and Brian Price (eds.): Color. The Film Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006, pp. 13–23, on pp. 14–15.
Nowotny, Robert A. (1983): The Way of All Flesh Tones. A History of Color Motion Picture Processes, 1895-1929. New York: Garland Pub, on pp. 225–243.
Ryan, Roderick T. (1977): A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. London: Focal Press, p. 79.
Ruedel, Ulrich (2009): The Technicolor Notebooks at the George Eastman House. In: Film History, 21,1, 2009, pp. 47-60, on pp. 49-50.
Society of Motion Picture Engineers (1930): Report. Progress in the Motion Picture Industry. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 15, December 1930, pp. 791–793, on p. 792.
Stokes, Melvyn (2009): Colour in American Cinema. From The Great Train Robbery to Bonnie and Clyde. In: Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard (ed.): Cinéma et couleur. Paris: M. Houdiard, pp. 184–192, on p. 186.