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Archive for May, 2015

Early Stages of Color in Film (Part 2) by Keefer C. Blakeslee

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

 I would like to continue this fascinating history of color in film by introducing the innovations from Technicolor. Since they’ve a lot of history as well, I will keep it brief. The following quoted material has been gleaned from: http://filmmakeriq.com/lessons/the-history-and-science-of-color-film-from-isaac-newton-to-the-coen-brothers/

“There are two ways to create color: The additive system is where primary colored lights are added together to create white light. The other system is the subtractive system where primary colors (cyan, magenta and yellow) are subtracted from white light to create black.”

“The Technicolor Company was founded in 1915 to exploit a two-color additive process. Their first film was an utter failure so they changed direction and started working on a two color subtractive process. The new process, patented in 1922, used a beam splitter in the camera to split the light onto two black and white film stocks. The resulting dyed positive images would be cemented together for a final color positive image which could be played back in standard projectors with no special equipment.”

In 1932, Technicolor perfected the three strip system. Using a beam splitter they captured light onto three pieces of film. Using this new process, they showcased the film Becky Sharp. This was Technicolor’s first feature film. Later, they completed The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.

“In the 1990s, many filmmakers explored different lab processes such as bleach bypass to create unique film tones. Moving into the 2000s, computers became powerful enough to handle entire films. Digital intermediaries came into use – a process of scanning a film frame by frame into a computer to be digitally manipulated.” As they say, the rest is history.

There is so much information about color in film that I can’t tell you everything without making this blog boring. If you want to learn more, you can find many websites that share the whole history.

I took you on this journey to give you a reality of how far we’ve come in making films. Back in the early 1900s you were luck to get color in your film. When Technicolor stepped in with its innovative ideas, we finally had a way to film movies in color. When I look at films throughout history I’m amazed to see drastic changes in the quality of these films. People are still finding new ways to capture stories and make them into movies. Whether it’s live-action or animation, color is used to create breath-taking visuals.

Just because we now have the power of color doesn’t mean we should neglect black and white films. While I love color in film and the optics created with it, there is something about black and white that sticks in my brain. Why? Because most of the classic films were done in black and white? Or, is it that black and white formed the original faces of films? While both of these are true, I believe I have an answer. Well not me, but film critic, Roger Ebert. I’ve read his memoir, Life Itself, so many times and there is a section (Chapter 21: My New Job, Pg. 159) where he talks about color in film.

“Color is sometimes too realistic and distracting. It projects superfluous emotional cues… Black and white (or, Keefer.2014.5.jpgmore accurately, silver and white) creates a mysterious dream state, a world of form and gesture. Try this. If you have wedding photographs of your parents and grandparents, chances are your parents are in color and your grandparents are in black and white. Put the two side by side and consider them honestly. Your grandparents look timeless. Your parents look goofy. Go outside at dusk, when day light is diffused. Shoot some natural-light portraits of a friend in black and white. Ask yourself if this friend, who has always looked ordinary in every color photograph you’ve ever taken, does not, in black and white, take on an aura of mystery. The same happens in the movies.”

The word is, timeless. I agree and disagree with Ebert. I don’t believe color is distracting. I feel like color can also create a dream state. The Grand Budapest Hotel with its vibrant colors transports you into another world. Where I do agree with Ebert is the timeless and mystery aspect of black and white films. A bit of a pet peeve of mine is when a studio decides to take a classic black and white film and add color. I feel like it looses its agelessness. While I am happy with the evolution of color in film just remember that black and white are colors too.

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Films vs. Movies by Willie Jones

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Lawrence_Of_Arabia.jpg“Are they not the same thing?” you may ask, as you read the title of my blog. The answer is yes – and no. By literal definition, yes, they are the same thing. But in connotation, they are not. There Will be Blood is a film. Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie. A film is something with substance and has a more artful approach to its filmmaking and construction. Whereas a movie is more about pure entertainment and allows for a more (and I don’t mean this in a bad way) mindless viewing experience. There’s no thinking involved. You can sit back and just watch.

It is an everlasting debate between the movie-buff and the movie goer. The movie buff is the one who movie goers call “pretentious” and “snobby.” You know, the ones who think Pi and The Third Man are masterpieces. The movie goer is the one that movie buffs call “impatient” and “unappreciative.” They’re the people who find Transformers and Guardians of the Galaxy to be masterpieces. Demographically, it could be a battle of old (The Third Man) against the young (Guardians of the Galaxy).

It’s funny I say that because, I speak on behalf of the movie buff. I would like to begin by saying that blockbusters are essential to the cinematic cannon. They provide good fun and relief from heavy dramas or intellectual satirical comedies. The explosions, familiar plots, predicable stories and cool one-liners provide a comforting convention that we can rely on for entertainment. Yet, they are also our biggest epidemic.

We are in an age where the re-make, sequel, prequel and adaptation rule in the world of cinema. They are what the masses flock to see. They make the perfect date night movie, or Friday night reliever. Billions of dollars are made by these films and, that is fine. At least, it was. It was back in the early days of Spielberg, when the likes of Amadeus and Raging Bull could still be appreciated. That’s not the case today.

My complaint is that the films that will last are not being appreciated by mass audiences. The Best Picture winning film is no longer among the highest grossing. The masses no longer have the patience or will to sit and watch a film that has something to say and has a unique and artistic way to say it. Lawrence of Arabia, one of the greatest movies to ever grace the silver screen, was the highest grossing picture of 1962 and the Best Picture winner of the year. That film would not even be made today. A four-hour epic about T.E Lawrence’s experiences in the Arabian Peninsula during World War I starring an unknown in the lead wouldn’t get a pass in today’s producer’s office Even with a big named star attached, it probably still wouldn’t be made or would be cut down significantly.

The thing is, people in the 60s were accustomed to sitting through a motion picture that gave them an experience of something that goes beyond a couple hours of mindless entertainment. They wanted something with substance. They ALLOWED themselves to open up and take in whatever ideas the film was expressing or, to study the situations and characters that they could relate to.

I feel that movie goers fail to realize that films can change lives. A character study such as Birdman has the ability to cause self-reflection or self-realization and place a mirror to you. Is that pretentious? No, it is simply true. It is deep, it requires thinking and an open mind. Films can take society to the forefront of judgment and commentary, providing people with information and influencing debate that might even affect society itself. Is that, too, too pretentious? Again, I don’t think so. I think it is plausible and very possible. 

The Tree of Life is one of the greatest movies of all-time, quite easily in my top ten film of all-times. Many critics and movie aficionados agree with that assessment. Yet, the masses were not interested in it and still do not care for it. Yet, The Tree of Life is an exploration of life from a spiritual and chronological point of view. It is something that could change one’s perspective on life itself. Even with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in the lead roles, this film barely made half of its budget domestically although it did well overseas. No one nowadays has the patience to sit through 140 minutes of visually stimulating and philosophically intriguing pieces of art. They want their explosions and predictable hero films.

If our society were to fall and, all our successors had to learn about our life, our past, our ideas, and intellect, would you rather us be represented by Two Women or Spider-Man? If people allow themselves to, they could be affected by these films. Then they wouldn’t complain about the Academy being “pretentious” or “stuck up,” they’d see where the Academy and movie buffs are coming from. Even the old black and white films are better than a lot of the modern movies. Give me Duck Soup over Pineapple Express. Why? Because Duck Soup is smart, witty and funny. Pineapple Express is funny in its own right, but it’s not nearly as smart as Duck Soup. Intelligence is something to appreciate more than brash comedies. The old films were intelligent. They presented themes like sex, prejudice and injustice with class and brains. That’s why most older films are considered…films.

I can respect modern films that approach these things with explicit examination if they have artistic intent like Shame or Blue Valentine. But films like Fast and Furious 7 with random shots of skin and butts, that use sex and things like that for commerciality, aren’t going to last. There will be another one just like it next year or next month. But there will never be another 8 1/, or Ladri di Biciclette.

Our transition to this period of cinema is one brought about us by more industrialization, technology and an incWillie1.jpgreased appeal in popular culture. Spielberg began it with Jaw  and Lucas cemented it with Star Wars. Now that’s all we see.

My wish and desire is to see films like The Last Emperor become popular again. I’d like to be able to say that our current place in cinematic history is a good one, but it isn’t. Movie goers who think of us as “pretentious.” “old-fashioned,” and “boring” will continue to have a closed mind. They won’t care because they don’t take cinema seriously and only see it as mindless entertainment. But cinema is much more than that. Like Salvatore in Cinema Paradiso, an evening in a theater can be life changing. It can open one’s eyes or change an opinion or teach a lesson or incite an exploration of society or self. It is a powerful medium that is now being taken less and less seriously. That is why I believe artistic filmmakers make films more for their contemporaries than for the masses. And that’s a theory I will talk about more in my next blog.

Thank you for reading. Willie Jones



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Summer Blockbusters by Raven Devanney

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

SumerMovies.2015.jpgThere’s cause for celebration because most of us are entering the final few weeks of the school year! And you know what that means – barbecues by the pool, lying on the beach, hanging out with friends and of course, summer blockbusters!

Summer is one of the biggest times of year for the movie industry. However, it isn’t always as successful as we hope. 2014 had the worst summer movie record in eight years with box office receipts down 30%. But there is still hope! Earlier this year, the market began picking back up in preparation for the 87th annual Oscars, with moviegoers everywhere hitting the theaters to catch up on the latest nominees for the awards.

With summer right around the corner, buzz surrounding upcoming films is visible all over social media. Pitch Perfect 2 is rolling into theaters on May 15th and I personally cannot wait to catch all the hilarity and breath-taking musical numbers that this film has in store. In 2012, Pitch Perfect slowly grossed $113m worldwide and had strong DVD sales, earning $135M in physical and digital sales. Forbes predicts that the sequel to this beloved film will earn even more revenue since it has gained such a large following over the years.

Spy, starring the hilarious Melissa McCarthy is set to hit theaters on June 5th – another comedy that I am very much looking forward to. This is the third movie that Melissa and Paul Feig have done together since Bridesmaids and received outstanding reviews after it was screened at South by Southwest a few months ago. RavenHeadshotLR.jpg

Jurassic World
follows close behind Spy with a release date of June 12th. Starring Chris Pratt and directed by Colin Trevorrow, this story takes place 22 years after Jurassic Park and features a luxury resort and theme park that has been built on the island. It will be interesting to see how this film works out since Steven Spielberg, Jurassic Park’s original mastermind and director, will not be behind this project. Rumors of the movie have been going on for the past 14 years and the anticipation is sure to result in a very successful turnout for the film.

We are entering a busy time in the industry and many of the films set to hit the big screen make for a very promising summer. There are over 30 features film making their debut this summer, so make sure to check out as many as you can!

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Early Stages of Color in Film By Keefer C. Blakeslee

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

The evolution of film is a vast subject. Whether it’s the development of technology, writing or performance by actors its growth continues to this day. I want to focus on a aspect of film that we take for granted but is a defining step in today’s modern film. That is the addition of color!

Today, color in films is nothing special but, back in the early 1900s it was revolutionary. Since the history of color in motion pictures has a long but fascinating timeline, I’m going to split this blog into two parts. In this blog I will be tackling the early stages of adding color.

If you asked people what the first movie filmed in color was, people would usually say, The Wizard of Oz. However, that was not the first colored film. That title goes to, Annabelle, Serpentine Dance by legendary film maker George Melies released in 1895. Melies hired people to hand paint his films, frame by frame, and this introduced the world to color. This led to people in the film industry creating different methods of adding color to their films.

Here are several techniques* that film makers have used:

Tinting: One of the earlier and widespread techniques used to apply color to film. The positive print is immersed into a variety of dye baths, scene by scene.

Toning: This is not the simple immersion of a film into a dye bath but involves a chemical reaction converting the silver image. There were two chemical recipes available for toning, either a one-bath or a two-bath process.

Stenciling: This method required manual cutting frame by frame. Usually the number of colors applied ranged from three to six. The process was highly improved by the introduction of a cutting machine. For every color, the stencil print was fed in register with the positive print into a printing machine where the acid dye was applied by a Keefer.2014.5.jpgcontinuous velvet band. Several hundred women performed the exacting task at the Pathé workshop in Vincennes.

These methods created early colored films and worked for some time. However, these methods were done after the film was made. And, they took a lot of time, patients, and money.

How did we move on to filming movies in color? Join me in the next blog and I will tell you.

*information comes from http://zauberklang.ch/filmcolors/ 

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