With every evolution in technology comes a series of complaints. Whether it's competitive developers attacking each other's weaknesses or end-users panicking about change, sometimes it seems unlikely that a new development will ever gain acceptance as the norm.
This circumstance is especially prevalent as video product manufacturers, broadcasters and the general public make the difficult transition to HDTV. The cable companies are producing ads proclaiming the inferiority of the satellite companies. Television manufacturers are extolling the virtues of the chip du jour. Broadcasters are on a spectrum quest. And in the midst of the fray is the consumer who just isn't sure when they should up the ante up and get an HDTV set.
Before the situation seems too hopeless, it might be worthwhile to examine the technology battles of yesteryear. In the 1920s, when Technicolor was attempting to bring more realistic images to the silver screen, the argument among those resistant to change was that "color interferes with drama." How anyone could accuse this technical marvel of being a distraction after centuries of theater productions had occurred in front of audiences in full color is startling today. But hindsight is high-definition, and it is now clear that color may certainly add to the drama.
The fact that Technicolor faced some animosity while it developed its cinematic techniques is somewhat understandable when one considers the fact that sound was simultaneously entering the cinema. While talkies thrilled audiences, many actors who looked good in silent films were suddenly out of work because they lacked the voice for the new Hollywood. With audience favorites being left by the wayside in this transition, the world held its breath to see what color would do to this beloved escapist medium.
As is so often the case, adversity led to technical marvel. Technicolor developed a camera that split recorded images onto three separate reels of black-and-white film which corresponded with red, green and blue wavelengths. These negatives were then printed by projection onto special stock which was dyed to add color, and next the transfers were combined into one print that would dazzle audiences.
The difficulty in this process was in maintaining the
registration of the various strips of film during the transfer. Technicolor developed a machine to handle this task with an amazing degree of precision, but it was not until recently that an even more perfect transfer was made possible.
In the frenzy to release cinema classics on DVD, the phrase 'digitally remastered' has been bandied about on a regular basis. But with Technicolor films, remastering material from three separate reels of film is actually quite a scientific process. After compensating for celluloid shrinkage and other ravages of time, the matrices for combining the three images have been realigned using software developed specifically for the process. This leads to an extremely high-definition version of beloved film classics, which are then color treated to restore the unique color balance that was characteristic of Technicolor films when they were originally released. The result is captivating enough to justify technical evolution, and it may even help to sell more high-definition televisions, as Technicolor used specially designed lenses with its cameras in order to correct for loss of definition in the recording process.
While the past glories of this early film process have been enhanced by modern technology, it looks like present-day color video displays are still short-changing us. But that's about to change, as well. Genoa Color Technologies has demonstrated its Color Peak five-color video processing system to the general public, and the response is overwhelmingly in favor of these enhanced images over RGB.
At least nowadays it's unanimous. Rather than detracting from drama, color heightens the viewing experience. So decades from now, when the HDTV transition is complete, watching the digitally remastered Gone With the Wind will potentially offer more thrills than it did when it premiered in 1939.