George Eastman House invites paper proposals for the conference Technicolor 100: The Art of Dye-Transfer Printing scheduled for April 23-26, 2015. The four-day conference will bring together scholars, film industry professionals, and archivists to discuss the unique technology, aesthetics, and cultural significance of Technicolor's dye-transfer printing process. The conference seeks to provide a unique opportunity for participants to develop and exchange ideas by juxtaposing paper presentations and roundtables with 35mm archival screenings of nitrate and safety dye-transfer film prints, thus overcoming access difficulties that have hindered previous academic discussions of color film.
The advent of Technicolor's three-color dye-transfer printing in 1932 marked a milestone in the history of cinema. Its vivid images and stable dyes helped define Technicolor as the first practical and economically viable full-color process, aesthetically superior to the majority of its competitors. One of the dye-transfer process's key strengths was its adaptable "look," ranging from the shimmering Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz (1939) to the weathered palette of John Huston's Moby Dick (1956). The greater use of color afforded by the Technicolor process brought about sweeping changes in the film industry in the United States and worldwide, leaving an indelible mark in the evolution of star culture, film style, and visual composition.
Technicolor's color consultancy department employed the theory of "Color Consciousness" to advise studios on effective color combinations, allowing directors and cinematographers to better control the psychological and dramatic implications of color in narrative filmmaking. As Technicolor's impact grew, new facilities were opened in London and Rome, and briefly in France. Jack Cardiff and other notable British cinematographers gave a distinctly regional interpretation of the Technicolor aesthetic yielding a much more subdued and nuanced color palette, while Luchino Visconti and Jean Renoir experimented in Italy and France, respectively, with more lavish color saturations. Technicolor continued to offer its superior dye-transfer printing process well into the 1970s, even after it retired its three-strip cameras. A new generation of filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas utilized the process to its maximum creative effect. Coppola's The Godfather Part II (1974) was among the last Hollywood features to be printed using the imbibition technique, and Lucas's Star Wars was released in stunning I.B. prints in Britain upon its first release in 1977. With the support of Technicolor engineers, the process was revived in China in the 1980s and was briefly reintroduced in the United States in the 1990s for commercial release prints and film restoration.
Possible research topics might include (but are by no means limited to):
Dye-transfer process in the larger history of printing, photography, and mass media
Two-color Technicolor—its history, technology, and aesthetics
Three-color Technicolor—three-strip camera, imbibition printing, and aesthetics
Classical Hollywood and Technicolor aesthetics
Case studies of color pioneers—Disney, Selznick, and Pioneer Pictures
Theories of color film—Natalie Kalmus's theory of "Color Consciousness," the art historical debate on disegno andcolore, and color composition
Technicolor and rival color processes—Cinecolor, Magnacolor, Trucolor, etc.
Technicolor's impact on film production—lighting, location, production design, and costume
Color film and genre—Westerns, Musicals, Melodramas, Travelogues, etc.
Realism and Spectacle—the critical debate on color as a tool for realism or spectacle/fantasy/expressionism
Color and the box office—economic history of color film
Color spectatorship—classed, gendered, and geographically marked reception history of color film
Technicolor cameramen—e.g. Ray Rennahan, Jack Cardiff, "Duke" Greene
Technicolor around the world—Technicolor Ltd. (Britain), Technicolor Italiana (Italy), Société Technicolor (France)
Monopolizing color—The United States v. Technicolor antitrust case
Color and Technology—the impact of sound and widescreen on Technicolor
The decline of three-strip photography and the rise of Eastmancolor
The phasing out of dye-transfer printing in the 1970s
The use of dye-transfer printing in China and the revival in the United States in the 1990s
Technicolor restoration—issues of historiography, technology, and aesthetics
Color and archive theory—archival access policies, digital initiatives, and image dye-stability of Technicolor prints
In order to enhance their presentation, selected speakers will be encouraged to conduct follow-up research using the Technicolor Corporate Archive and other related collections at George Eastman House. The museum will support access to these collections and will offer assistance in providing images for presentations where necessary.
Proposals directly drawing from the study of archival Technicolor dye-transfer prints will be favored. Each session should be 15-20 minutes and will be accompanied by a screening of a short or a film excerpt. You may include screening suggestions in the proposal. George Eastman House will be responsible for sourcing all archival film prints screened at the event.
Interested participants should submit a one-page abstract and a curriculum vitae to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 1, 2014.
As the conference relies on grant funding, it remains tentative until the results of the grant application are confirmed in September 2014.
Keynote speakers: John Belton, Professor of English and Film at Rutgers University and author of Widescreen Cinema (Harvard University Press, 1992) andFrom Paintbrush to Paintbox: A History of Motion Picture Color (forthcoming).
Scott Higgins, Associate Professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University and author ofHarnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s (University of Texas Press, 2007) and Matinee Melodrama: Narrative and Aesthetics of the Sound Serial (forthcoming).
Sarah Street, Professor of Film and Foundation Chair of Drama at the University of Bristol and author of Colour Films in Britain: The Negotiation of Innovation 1900-55 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), and co-editor of Color and the Moving Image: History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive (Routledge, 2012) and British Colour Cinema: Practices and Theories(Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
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