5-13-05I watched "The Dark Crystal" last night with Dan. At the end the credits roll, and there, as always, is "color by Technicolor". I wondered, what does that actually mean in this day and age? Back in the old days, Technicolor was a revolutionary colorization process, but now people just use color film and develop it, so what is "color by Technicolor?". Well, it turns out Technicolor is a company with a cool website that tells you all about what they do; basically they develop film, provide dailies, film manufaturing, etc. One of the cooler things to me is the way they now mix film processing with digital control. The primary film process is still all chemicals and light. That is, a negative is exposed in the camera; this is developed with chemicals to set it. This is copied to a positive just by shining light through it (this is the "interpositive"). The positive is copied to another negative; this negative is now used to mass-produce the production positive prints (this is the "internegative"). The original negative could have been used, but the idea is to touch that as little as possible to keep the original master safe. If the production negative is damaged in printing, you can make a new copy from the interpositive without going back to the original. Now, the cool thing is that you can control things like saturation and contrast and brightness in the copying process in a purely analog physical way, by controlling the light and the chemical processing of the films. The cool thing that Technicolor now does is let you control this with computers; rather than futzing around with exposure time and different chemical baths like they would in the old days, the interpositive is scanned into a computer. You can then tweak the image settings per-frame if you like, and this is all stored; then when the internegative is made, it uses the computer settings to control the physical process; the film process still is fully analog and physical, but it uses the convenient digital controls. Of course all of this is going away and everything will be pure digital soon, and then "color by Technicolor" will be even more meaningless than it is today.
Another thing in "The Dark Crystal" made me rather sad. There's this creature "fizzgig" which is a small, cute ball of long fur that hops around, but when it's mad is surprises you with a massive snarl of sharp teeth. In one scene, the heroine, a female Gelfling, gets captured and is strapped into a torturous operating chair, and the evil mad science doctor (a Skeksies) is going to drain her life to feed to the emperor to make him young. Fortunately, she's surrounded by cages full of these cute little animals, and she has the ability to speak to them; she calls to them to save her and they break out of their cags and suddenly transform from cute to snarling and jump on the doctor, while some bite her straps and she escapes. Some of you may find this scene eerily familiar.