Friday, November 2, 2007
The blog has covered a range of aspects to screen, colour and sound technologies, which had significant social, cultural, economic and industrial impacts on cinema. The Hollywood system would not have existed without the evolution of these technologies.
One of the interesting aspect to the history of film technology is the shift of major players with Fox and Warners Bros. overtaking the key studios at the time because they were willing to take the risks.
There is a great deal of information linked into the postings from a range of websites, but the wikipedia entries are detailed and precise, particularly about widescreen. For those skeptical of wiki, I would recommend following up any of the books recommended or cited in the blog postings.
The famous 'chicken run' and fight sequences take advantage of the widescreen's ability to show more action and spatial flexibility, which heightens the tension between Jim Stark and Buzz. However, the mansion and astronomy sequences in cinemascope produce a far greater range of emotional undertone to the story.
Fox Cinemascope was produced as a reaction to Cinerama and 3-D, but the Cinerama remained unscathed by the development. Instead the conflict arose between Fox and Paramount VistaVision competing to be the industry standard. VistaVision technology focused on the negative by producing a finer-grained and wider film negative surface removing the aspect ratio conversion upon projecting the image to screen.
Authors: David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kirstin Thompson
Publisher: Columbia University Press
There is a tendency for academic texts to become outdated, but this book is one of the exceptions. When Bordwell and Thompson or Staiger for that matter are attached to any film book, there is definite certaintity it will be user-friendly. The book provides an overview of the different socio-cultural, economic and industrial factors involoved with the developed of classic cinema. The authors pay a great deal of attention to the significance of technology within the context of other factors and the relating importance between the different technologies. There are a lot of pages, which may dishearten some potential buyers. Therefore, a possible first choice would be the first chapter of Bordwell and Thompson's Film Art: An Introduction, New York:McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
The delay in using colour came from the dominant position held by Technicolor, who was an industry leader of colour film in the United States. The company protected its market position through strict secrecy and contracting out the equipment and operators placing great restrictions on the production process while refusing to directly challenge the studio's control over the production sphere.
There were three main changes to the industry between the period of the 1940s to the 1950s enabling the growth of colour film production:
- In 1947 Technicolor were successfully charged with restraint of trade through a anti-trust suit;
- In 1949 Eastman Kodak opened a range of new commercial processes through his development of the single strip colour process and printing film stock;
- The film industry needed to find ways to compete with the pressures of television
Further information about Technicolor can be located in:
Steven Neale's Cinema and Technology: Image, Sound, Colour
London:MacMillan, 1985, pp 129-144
The resources is relatively small, but there is generally a great deal of repetition in published texts about early cinema technology. Therefore, the quality is far more important than the quantity, but the user should note that the resources are predominantly British. This offers a slightly different historical perspective to the United States by presenting a more aesthetic connection to technology as opposed to the business and industrial relationship with technology reflected in the United States cinema history.
- Warner Bros. film was successful and placed pressure on other studios to change to talkies; and
- The film has a tendency to be falsely consider the 'historic moment' of when sound in film was invented.
The sound in Jazz Singer was predominantly made up of singing with only a few sequences of synchronised dialogue and produced on vitaphone sound-on-disc system. While the film extended on the use of sound in Don Juan, but sound was still at an infantile stage. However, the success of the film enourage the major studio who were Paramount, Lowes and First National to follow Warner Bros. By 1928, the sound on disc was replaced with sound being photographed straight on to the film.
A little trivia: the sound was processed on the left hand side of the film.
The introduction of sound in Warners Bros. production was a primary focus, whereas sound was an element of a huge acquisition by Fox in the 1920s. This led to an extensive vertical integration project where Fox purchased theatre chains, distribution rights and production including German director F.W. Murnau, who made Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) a highly artistic film using synchronised music and sound effects track including intertitles.
The additive colour process was introduced, which used red/green filters on a rotating colour wheel in sync with the film. It was projected onto the film removing the issue of bleeding, but the prcoess was highly unstable.
The subtractive process was more successful and predecessor of technicolor where coloured images were produced on the celluloid and projected onto the screen using white light.