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Technicolor and Digital Cinema
Over the past 6 years Technicolor has "reinvented" the Dye Transfer Release
Print Printing Process. Several years ago they made several prints of Batman.
Then there were a few prints of Bullworth and Godzilla. These prints were
promising for the color quality, dynamic range and deep blacks with no crushing
of the image. Then came more prints of archive material "Gone with the Wind"
and "Wizard of Oz". These last two releases suffered from the quality of the
archive material available.
Now today. Last Friday history was made. Over two hundred prints of "The 13th
Warrior" were released. These prints from Buena Vista Releasing (Disney) are
showing in the metro areas of Los Angeles, New York and Orlando, Florida.
RUN, RUN, RUN to see one of these prints. They are truly spectacular. See for
the first time in modern history what is really on the negative translated to
Last May I and the rest of the Hollywood SMPTE Education Committee were
privileged to see a side by side comparison of one reel of 13th Warrior
comparing Eastman Kodak Vision and a Dye Transfer print. The comparison was
most interesting. The dynamic range was far greater on the Dye print and the
color was wonderful. Deep blacks. Truly black with no hint of cyan tint as
most Eastman/Fuji prints tend to be. And the whites truly white. And from
Black to White true tracking of the color and black and white gray scale. Skin
tones to die for. Skin tones that showed that everybody has a different skin
tone and not everybody is some shade of orange. Color like we remember
Technicolor to be.
On this anamorphic film resolution was better than the Kodak print. And
absolutely steady pictures. This is because every step of the process is pin
registered. Now the only unsteadiness is in the theater projector and they are
better than we think after seeing 4 prints on 4 different theaters in the LA
area over the weekend. Technicolor told us at the May USC/SMPTE conference that
they were making these Dye Transfer prints at over 800 feet per minute pin
This picture was shoot 2 years ago and has been on the shelf waiting for
release. There are two scenes in particular that show the process to the
fullest. The arrival of the band of 13 warriors coming to save the king's
kingdom as they enter the tribal house. The wood interior decorated with animal
skins, leather objects and the wood trappings shows the incredible blacks and
tracking into the shadows with no hint of color contamination. The other scene
is the trek through the woods with shafts of sunlight. Incredible dynamic range
with full detail still visible.
I have never seen video pictures like this displayed on any type of display.
The most costly studio monitor cannot show images like this. And Digital Cinema
comes no where close. The lack of film grain is amazing in this dye transfer
print. This film is obviously shot with a lot of high speed negative (probably
pushed) and many practical lights (flaming torches) and there is little to no
grain in the projected image. This indicates that much of the projected grain
we see is added in the intermediate film stages or in the Eastman/Fuji projected
print. Kodak does make both the matrix and blank stock used in the printing
The director of photography was Peter Menzies, Jr., ACS and the camera operator
was Robert Prestley, SOC. Menzies also filmed "The General's Daughter" released
this year. They are to be commended. This may well be one of the year's best
For background on how the Technicolor Process works look at the following links:
These sites are a great source of information on all early color processes.
This picture may not last too long in the first run theaters. In the LA area I
know that the picture is playing at most AMC's, General Cinema theaters and at
the Pacific Winnetka. At the Pacific Winnetka it is in two theaters including
one with a 70 foot wide screen. It looks great and looks much better that the
trailers proceeding it. The 70 foot screen is a real test that digital cinema
cannot come close to. At the AMC 14 theater in Burbank it is ironic that it is
in the same theater as the June TI Phantom Menace technology demo. This film
image is much better. The best theater image that I watched over the weekend
was the Glendale General Cinema at Central and Milford. And for those sound fans
the sound track is one the best I have ever heard. A great theatrical
presentation with a Jerry Goldsmith music score and some of the best sound
mixing I have ever heard. The sound effects editing and the use of the surround
channels is incredible. Disney's own (Pacific managed) El Capitan theater in
Hollywood is playing a Kodak print.
Don't know what theaters in the New York/New Jersey area are playing the film in
Dye Transfer. You will know it when you see it. Probably playing in Orlando at
the AMC Pleasure Island complex where the digital cinema showing was. Maybe
members of this group can post locations if they learn of them. More production
details can be found at:
As usual these opinions are my own. I believe that this Dye Transfer image
quality raises the bar way up. Will be very hard for Digital Cinema to equal
but I think digital presentations will come eventually. No pixels or
compression artifacts visible on this film screen.
Regards, Bill Hogan
Sprocket Digital, Burbank, CA
Thanks to Complete Post/Bob Blanks for support in 1999
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