Brian Pritchard

Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
5 Mar 2019
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 

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Brian Pritchard (BP)

Motion Picture Consultant (Formerly Kodak, Filmatic, Humphries & Hendersons)

Interviewer: Paul Frith (PF)

Date 05/03/2019

Length 02:17:14

PF: This is an interview with Brian Pritchard. Thank you for taking part in the interview today. So just to start can I ask how your interests in films and photography developed and what were your first experiences of colour photography?

BP: Well it all started when a friend of mine had a camera, a movie camera, and I thought this was really interesting and I asked whether I could borrow it and he said yes and I bought a couple of films of Kodachrome 8mm and tried it out and found I really liked it and got involved from that point. I them obviously had to find a job and having got interested in it I thought I would check and see whether Kodak had any vacancies which they did, in the research department, so I applied for that and luckily got the job. That got me going on photography.

PF: And do you remember any of those early experiences of shooting on colour film stock? Did you used to follow any of the guides that they used to have in the amateur film magazines?

BP: Yes I would read Amateur Cine World and also I was quite interested in stills photography as well so I used to read the photographic magazines. And I was quite interested in the colour and colour reproduction. It’s interesting I always remember the remark in one of the magazines where they said “If you shoot on Kodachrome it makes your garden look like the south of France. If you shoot on Agfacolor it makes the south of France look like your back garden.” Well I expect that’s terribly unfair but it gave the difference that people noticed between the stocks. But certainly Kodachrome was a wonderful stock and, providing you got your exposure right, you got very nice colour from them.

PF: So, can you talk about the inception of Eastman monopack and how it developed during that post-war period. What are your experiences and understanding of that development?

BP: Yes. Most of that happened before I got involved in the industry but having worked at Kodak and in labs you get to know of these things. Obviously Technicolor was really the first system that was useful for producing colour feature films without all the hard[special] apparatus that you needed for the other early types. And therefore it was at the leading edge of making colour films. However, the big problem for producers and filmmakers was the fact that you were very tightly controlled by Technicolor. You were forced to employ a Technicolor colour consultant who told you what colours you were allowed to have and what you weren’t allowed to have because their interest was mainly in producing a print that had good colours and looked natural and obviously there were certain colours that didn’t always reproduce correctly and they tried to avoid you doing that. You also, of course, had to use a Technicolor three-strip camera and these were incredibly expensive. You had to buy three rolls of stock for every reel you use. So it was an expensive business which is why when the opportunity to use monopack came along people jumped at it because it meant you could use your crew, you could use your camera, and you only had to buy one roll of stock. And they used the early Kodachrome for this before going on to Eastmancolor. But it made a great difference to the filmmakers and the costing – that was the main difference I think. And so you shot on monopack and then went into the three colour system.

PF: So, kind of going on from that, what were the key factors that brought about the end of three-strip production and was there a noticeable shift in colour reproduction between the two?

BP: I suppose that the cost and also the control that Technicolor exhibited over the filmmakers was quite a contributing fact. Not everybody wanted to have a colour consultant there and they certainly didn’t want to use this bulky equipment. And, obviously, if you’re shooting on three strip then you have to develop three rolls of film for every reel and, again, that’s another additional cost. So when you went on to monopack, again, you only had one roll which you had to process. And also you had the advantage of rush prints, that you didn’t have to go into the three strips system. You shoot on three-strip black-and-white and from that you have to make your matrices and then you make your imbibition prints, and for rush prints that’s an expensive business. Whereas if you’re shooting monopack you can make do with an Eastmancolor print which would just show you what was going on and you can use that for editing. So it gave quite an advantage again there, mainly on cost. It’s very difficult to tell the difference between three-strip and monopack because obviously there are factors involved, that you’ve got the spectral sensitivity of the separation negatives that you use and that will give you a particular result. If you’re shooting on Eastmancolor or Kodachrome then they have, again, different colour sensitivities. So there will be a difference between a film shot on three-strip and a film shot on monopack but, unless you shot the same thing with both systems, it would be very difficult to tell the difference. I’m sure there has been some research into the colours that you get and which colours look better on Kodachrome, which look on Eastmancolor, and which on Technicolor, but it’s very difficult to quantify that just from looking at films really. Every type of colour film stock has its own look and they reproduced different colours differently. Some stocks are very good at producing reds and some are good at blues so you will get a difference and the experienced viewer would be able to look and know what the stock was just from which colours look good and which don’t. Also, I mean, with the three-strip you do sometimes get loss of colour. Particular things like, for example, you could have soldiers wearing a uniform and their trousers are a, how can I describe it, a sort of dark blue colour, and you photograph that on Technicolor and they will come out black. And then this leads you into a serious problem when you’re restoring it at a later date because you say, “Are we going to restore this film to show the Technicolor-black trousers or are we going to show it as the way it would have been, which would be navy-blue trousers?” So a lot of things to think about.

PF: So if we can just skip back slightly to talk about your responsibilities at the research lab at Kodak – if you could just talk us through…

BP: OK. I joined the Kodak research lab in late-1962 as a lab assistant and like all the lab assistants, you start at the bottom and that was the standards laboratory where I worked in the dye and filter section where we were doing spectrophotometric measurements on dyes used in camera filters and so on. So any dyes that the manufacturing department was using, we would measure and test them for them. After a little while I moved out of that department and went into x-ray fluorescence where I was measuring coating weights, the amount of silver in various films, because obviously all the time they’re trying to develop new films. So they would produce samples at a testing coating track and I’d measure those samples to measure the silver. And I also used a bit of equipment called a Coulter counter which measured the size of the grains in film emulsion. Again, something they needed to know. Well eventually I moved onto the colour and print & processing department which was quite a big department. And there I was mainly measuring samples for the testing department doing modulation transfer measurements which measure the sharpness of films basically. So the testing department would get hold of samples that are being produced by either research or the coating tracks of new films and I’d measure those to see what the MTF was to see whether the film was better or worse than what they were trying to improve upon. We also did work on colour reproduction and people’s stimulus to colour reproduction. So we’d go out with a stills camera and a great heap of Kodachrome film and we’d shoot the same film, same shot, using different coloured filters and show these to people and they would say which they preferred to try and get an idea of what was a good colour balance. People used to hate the sight of me coming round and saying “Would you like to come and help me out” because it meant they had to sit for two hours looking the same shot a hundred times or whatever. And then eventually they opened a new section, which was a television section. They’d always had a problem in printing colour reversal prints from slides. It was necessary to use reversal paper and the quality was very poor so someone had the bright idea of transferring the slide onto TV using flat screen monitors and then printing that straight onto normal print, using a cathode ray tube again, using red green and blue. And that was quite a step forward really. Eventually, I’d been going to college day release and I took by Higher National Certificate and moved onto the motion picture sales division up in High Holborn working as a technical assistant there and we used to give advice on the phone to customers ringing in. I used to mainly deal with customer complaints, so if they had a particular… this would mainly be cameramen and laboratories so if they ran into a problem they’d ring in and say “We’ve got this problem” and send a sample in and we’d check to see whose fault it was and replace the stock or not as the case may be. I stayed there until I moved on to laboratories.


PF: I’ll just ask a quick question about the test that you were doing with Kodachrome. Was there anything, any particular looks, or any kind of… was there any kind of outcome from those tests that you were doing that, you know, if you can give us some insight into a particular style that was suited to the time.

BP: It didn’t really… the problem was almost everybody had different ideas of what they thought was the correct colour. Rather than saying “Here is a building with a nice grey wall, and we get the wall grey and everybody’s happy” it did turn out into everybody had different ideas. And of course again you have the problem that you have defects in colour vision so some people, although they’re not colour blind, have slight defects and they would prefer something that you’d’ look and think “Oh that doesn’t look right.” I don’t think it had any direct relationship to the production. It was merely more, merely research for people to give papers and say “Well this is what people like. They like a picture that is a couple of points yellow from the overall neutral.” I don’t believe it had a great effect on the result. You always have the difficulty with colour films that you’re restricted to the colour reproduction by the dyes you’re using. And the dyes you’re using are restricted by the type of film you’re producing. And the main aim for the result is to get a neutral balance really. It’s quite an interesting subject really.

PF: Yes because we’ve heard from other interviewees who talked about the relationship with the cinematographers and how sometimes the cinematographers were shown the new stock and they discussed with them what it was they actually wanted out of it. Did you experience anything similar to that?

BP: One of the things that they did at the motion picture division was you would show to relevant customers test films on every new stock. So if the stock was made in Rochester they would shoot a series of test films which are designed to show the best side of that film. And so you would go along to a particular cameraman, a producer, and show them these test films and they did this at BKS meetings and so on. And they would obviously be trying to emphasise what was good about that film. In other words, it was very fast and therefore you could shoot a film in midnight and still get a result and you would say “Compare this stock” which was the stock available now, compare it to the new one and say, “Look how much better it is.” Or, how much better the yellows reproduce. So you would have pictures of daffodils and say “This is one film and this is the other.” And it therefore led the people who had the decision on what stock to use as to whether they would like to use that or not or whether they were more happy using Agfa negative because they’re entirely different and some peoples said “Yes I like that” and they would use it. Although, again, you always have the financial side coming into it and you do get certain producers who will say “You will use that stock whether you want to or not because I’ve got a good deal on it.” So it’s not always the stock that’s chosen that gives the best result. Sometimes finance comes into it.

PF: So that did happen then? Because we know that certain labs were used because of the relationships they had with the producers – and the same went for stock did it?

BP: Yeah. Originally you had a range of colour print stocks. You had Eastmancolor and then you had other stocks which used their own process. So you had 3Ms, you had the ORWO stocks – and they all went through different processes. And this influenced the particular laboratory because if you were Humphries and you had Eastmancolor processing, you wouldn’t use ORWO stock because it didn’t go through the process. Whereas you had another lab that had the ORWO process in, wherever, East Germany, and they would only use that because Eastmancolor wouldn’t run through it. Well eventually it obviously got to the point where they decided, everybody decided, we would have a standard process because it’s the only way to sell enough stock because if you’re making ORWO, and there are only three labs processing it, you’re not going to sell much film. Whereas if that stock goes through Eastmancolor process, you’ll sell a lot more. So eventually it all got down to virtually one process which was Eastmancolor and all the stocks, such as Fuji, 3M, and Agfa and Gevaert, and so on, all went through the same process. So then you got to the point where a lab would buy the print stock they got cheapest. Although sometimes the technical side came into it. I know that when Fuji was introduced labs certainly found out that their consistency was very much better than Kodak. So with Fuji you’d buy a roll of, or you’d buy a batch, of colour print and you’d do your tests on it and this would… say you set your printer up with a setting of 23-27-24 on the printer, then you bought a new batch and it was virtual the same which is great because what you don’t want to do is have a printing machine set up with four or five different settings for the stock because someone will use the wrong setting and it takes time to change the printer. So Fuji became quite popular because it was so consistent and this upset Kodak because there used to be quite a difference in balance between the emulsions and they had quite a hard time of it because labs were saying, “Well, I’m gonna use Fuji because A, it’s cheaper” which quite often it was “and B, it’s much more consistent.” And sometimes laboratories were forced into using a different stock. Producers who had a big pull… I mean if you’re going to have a thousand copies you can say “Right, I want you to use Eastmancolor because I like Kodak and they look after me. They take me to lunch and buy me a drink” and so on. And you would use that. Or, “don’t you want it or shall I go to Technicolor. I don’t mind” you know. So these were the influences. It wasn’t always quality, colour reproduction. There was a lot of other reasons for it.

PF: Because we always think of it being the relationship with the cinematographer and the choices they make. So I guess there was probably a very few cinematographers or directors that could actually go out and say “No, this is what I’m doing” or…

BP: Yeah. You had to be someone pretty important to be able to specify. It was usually a financial decision particularly with the printing side with the labs because they would compete. If you say “I’m shooting the latest James Bond and I want 1000 copies. OK Mr Technicolor, what you going to charge me? What are you going to charge me at Rank?” And Rank might say, “Well, we’ll do it for this price but we’ll use Eastmancolor” and they might get the job. But I don’t think there were many cameramen who were able to say “No I don’t want to use Gevacolor, I want to use AGFA, or 3M” or so on. It was largely a financial decision. But obviously Kodak employed technicians who went out and tried to persuade people to do it. You did entertaining with producers, entertaining with directors, entertaining with cameraman. And sometimes you’d find that some cameramen that had a particular favourite. So, Joe Bloggs liked Agfa and if he was told that he had to use Kodak he would quite often find a reason to stop using it. And we used to get complaints from the cameramen which you knew weren’t true. But he would say “Well how much is this costing us? You know, we’re shooting every day. I’m not going to use that stock” and he would force them to over to Agfa or vice versa.


PF: Just to go back a second, what kind of date was that when the stocks were going through the same process? Was that late ‘70s early-80s? Or was it earlier than that?

BP: Yes it was in the ‘70s. Before that time there were all the different processes. Some of the quality was pretty dreadful on some of these stocks. I mean, ORWO had a pretty rotten reputation. But then again you had the problem of the Iron Curtain and therefore if you had a lab in Czechoslovakia, firstly, Kodak wouldn’t sell you any stock and, secondly, the Russians, or whoever, would insist you used ORWO. It was quite interesting, I was in the motion picture division from ’69 to ’71 and during that time that was quite a thing because the Americans, the Eastman company, refused to supply stock to Eastern European countries but Kodak in London did and the film would be shipped over to Kodak and they would have to say under no circumstances would they supply it to Hungary or wherever and then quietly they would ship it via somewhere else. Someone in West Germany would buy it and they would ship it on because some of the Russian and ORWO stocks, the duplicating stocks, were very poor so they used to buy Eastman intermediate stocks but then they printed onto ORWO stock.

PF: So Kodak was over there during that period during the Cold War then?

BP: Yes

PF: Because you hear about the fact that there were limited supplies of certain stocks but it was actually part of the… did that happen quite often?

BP: Yes: I mean we had a technician who used to go to Eastern Europe. I mean, obviously the people from Eastman wouldn’t go, or weren’t allowed to go. It wasn’t really their decision it was a political decision. But we had a rep who went there all the time and he would sell the stocks and they would sneak it in.

PF: Yeah that’s interesting because, another area of the history of Kodak that people probably forget isn’t it?

BP: Yes. I mean it was kept fairly quiet because they were effectively breaking the law really.

PF: Yes of course. If we could talk about the developments in Eastmancolor then during this period. Obviously, as you’ve mentioned before, faster stocks, the grain was changing constantly in the ‘50s and the ‘60s. From your experience, and prior to when you started working there, could you share with us something about those key developments? You know, you mentioned before about the stronger blues, the stronger reds, and as that developed over the ‘50s and ‘60s there were a lot of changes. What, for you, were the significant, sort of, moments?

BP: Well, originally with Eastmancolor negative they just produced a single stock which was 5248 or 5251 and then 5254 and so on. And you had no option and it came up and it had an ASA of 16, with a filter, and 32 and that was it. But obviously the development started to produce faster stocks because that was quite important. They always want fasters stocks because if you got faster stocks you use less light, and so on.

[Break in recording]

BP: So the two things that they were working on was the grain, because the early stocks were pretty grainy, and the other thing was speed. So gradually the stocks increased and you went on to 5254, which was faster, and then 5247, which was faster. At that point, the development seemed to change and they produced many more stocks with a variety of speeds and grain and so on. Presumably there was a demand for it. If you’re stuck with a film that has a particular speed with a filter and another speed without the filter, you don’t have a lot of option. Whereas, if you can get hold of a film that is 500ASA then it has certain uses which are, which make life much easier and cheaper. They were, obviously, all the time hoping to improve the colour reproduction and as the different stocks came along usually you found there was an improvement. You’ve got the problem with these type of films that the dye that is produced that gives you your colour reproduction, the three dyes, are produced chemically and you don’t have a lot of choice in the dyes that you use until research produce better ones. So all the time they were working on colour couplers to produce dyes which had a better spectral response and if you get a better response you’ll get a better reproduction; the yellows will be better, the blues will be better, and whatever. This was the main advantage that Technicolor had over the monopack, is that you only had to choose the dyes as being suitable to print with. It was a mechanical printing system and you didn’t need to have any photographic qualities to the dye. In other words, it didn’t have to be made from a colour coupler and that gave you great advantage in colour reproduction and fading as well. Which leads me to another point of the development that was taking place on fading. Because there’s always worry that if you shoot on film that has dyes in them then the dyes will fade and some dyes fade in the light there are other dyes that are dark fading and so people were obviously worried that films would fade, although this didn’t really seem to come to life until later on. But all the time they were trying to produce dyes that didn’t fade. They were always doing work, putting bits of film up on the roof in the sun and seeing how long they lasted because obviously it’s important. And on the other side you had the colour print which was going through development. Now, most of the research on colour negative was happening in the States but quite a lot of development was carried out at Harrow on colour print. And originally, again as I said before, the early stocks, there was just a single stock and that’s what there was, 5381 and then it moved on to 5385. Again, they were interested in increasing the speed because you want to use as little light on the printing machine as you have to in order to print as fast as possible, and so on. So they were working on that side and obviously trying to increase the definition and reduce the granularity. So they were working quite hard at Harrow and I was measuring samples of these films as they came through. And the people in the research, you had the different people working on them, you had the people who were interested in dyes, and the people who worked on couplers, and the people who worked on the film emulsions, and so on. And again the other side that they would be working on was the use of silver. Well silver was an expensive business and if you can reduce the amount of silver in the film then you make more money. I know they were using 5 tonnes of silver a week at Harrow when I was there. So, that was something else, but you had to make sure that when you reduce the silver you didn’t reduce the quality of the film. I mean that was obviously more important with black-and-white where the silver remained in the film than in the colour films where the silver was all removed and you just had dyes left. So they were working on all sides of it really and when the problems of fading really came to life they started to do work on producing low-fade print stocks. I think, again, they were under pressure from Fuji, that Fuji didn’t seem to fade as much as Eastmancolor. And it was an interesting sort of time at the late-70s because you had the problems with the monopolies where Kodak were in trouble for operating a monopoly. And they got terrified by this and they were always very careful when we had meetings and you talked about Fuji not to call them competitors, and things like that. And they were very worried because Fuji were making inroads. They obviously had to try and stop this so they were all the time trying to produce film stocks that were better than Fuji and they had the advantage that it was their process whereas Fuji had to make their films to match this process whereas Kodak could change the process whenever they wanted. But, again, they had to be careful no to be seen to be keeping Fuji out because obviously when you went from ECP-1 or ECN-1 to ECN-2, and the temperature went up from normal processing to high temperature, Fuji obviously had to make a new stock and they were terrified that they would be criticised for saying “Well we’ll change the stock and then your stock won’t work anymore.” Because obviously labs wanted to use higher temperature quicker processing and it was to put Fuji on the back foot a bit. I mean it wasn’t all that they obviously did it because it was a good thing to do from their point of view. But all the time, as the different stocks came in and they eventually got to the point where they had a range of colour negatives, I mean, you go through the numbers and sometimes, at one time, they had seven or eight different stocks – daylight, tungsten, slow, medium, fast. They were always working on trying to produce a better quality and every time they produced tests they would get everybody round and try and persuade people that you do need to use this stock cos you get a better result –  Fuji were doing exactly the same thing.


PF: Just talking about Fuji there then Brian, did they ever really have much of an impact on British film production would you say?

BP: Yes, very much so.

PF: When really did that start?

BP: It started in the late-70s really and they became quite dominant it was quite a worry for Kodak. They were losing sales to Fuji because Fuji was cheaper, more consistent – what more do you want, you know. And the quality was fine, colour reproduction was fine. It was slightly different, I don’t know how you would actually describe it but it was obviously different because it had different dyes in.

PF: Obviously for our project one of the things that we’re doing is research into which negative stocks were being used. That’s easier in the earlier days because they used it a lot in the promotional material but for later on, from that period sort of mid-70s onwards, it’s harder to define, aside from where the film was processed, there’s not necessarily information relating to the negative stocks being used. But would you say that it was quite a substantial number of films perhaps, feature films?

BP: The majority of feature films were Kodak. There was small number using Agfa and same sort of number, perhaps a little bit more, using Fuji. It was more the colour print where Fuji dominated. It’s the usual story of sticking with what you know. Most of the big cameramen would say “Well, you know, since I was a boy I’ve used Eastmancolor negative and I’m happy with it.” And, again, you got reps in London and if they’re shooting a feature at Pinewood and there’s a problem someone would hotfoot it over there. And we had, let me think now, 1-2-3-4-5, we had five technicians and two technical assistants who were available all the time. So you could ring up at any time and there would be someone to answer your query. We had five people going out and they would go to the labs at least weekly to look at the rushes. So you’d go down to Technicolor and sit in and watch the rushes, or Rank and watch the rushes, so that you knew what was going on. You also knew what stock was being used because they would tell you in the lab “Well this is Fuji print” and you would know whether that particular cameraman was under-exposing, over-exposing, not very good, or whatever. Whereas with Fuji of course they only had a couple of reps I think and if you had a problem you had to send it to Tokyo. You know, if there was a problem at Pinewood and they said “Our rushes were unsteady last night”, you’d hotfoot it over, you’d grab a sample, you’d take it from there to Harrow and they could process it in the testing department, you can measure the perforation pitch etc, and you’d have an answer right away. If you had to send it to Tokyo it could be a week and if you’re on a shooting schedule, you can’t do that. So they, to a large extent, they dominated on the negative side. But certainly the positive side, I mean, people used 3M and they used what was Ferrania and so on.

PF: So I guess at this point, in the early-80s then, would the labs like Rank, or Technicolor, would they put Fuji through as a print stock?

BP: Yes. It could go through… there was some talk that you had problems controlling the process if you mixed them so they tended to use a batch at a time. So they would go over and start using Fuji and run that and then, if the finance came up, and Kodak said well we’ll let you have it a bit cheaper, they might go back on to Eastmancolor. But they would largely be saying what they were going to use and you might find Rank are using Eastmancolor, and Technicolor and Kays and Humphries are all using the different stocks. You had a lot of pressure in the labs from the manufacturers, you know, the reps would be calling all the time. So you’d have the Agfa rep and, you know, a lot of entertaining went on that was the thing in those days. I don’t suppose it happens so much now. You know, they all did it. And you kept in close touch with the right people at Rank and Technicolor if you were Kodak. You went there, as I say, you went there regularly to watch the rushes and to see what they were doing and what their quality was like. And you also had the Kodak laboratory aim strips which went out and once a month each lab processed a series of strips which went back to, I think they went to Rochester, and they measure them and you got a rating on your process which said, you know, “This is good, good, good, bad, bad, good, bad.” And they would rate all the different things, the speed of the process and the cleanliness and so on. And that was obviously quite important for the lab to get good results on their various processes and the reps would be keeping an eye on that and if you saw that Rank were producing what didn’t look like a hundred percent quality you’d pop in and see them and tell them where they’re going wrong and whatever.

PF: So that consistency was always being monitored?

BP: Yes, the whole time yes. I mean, you didn’t have to do it but you obviously did do it because from your point of view you didn’t want to waste stock, you know. If you produce a print and it’s got a blue cast, or whatever, then that goes in the bin so people… it was called an inter-laboratory survey and it was done all round the world and virtually every lab would do these tests so Kodak would know what they were all doing, which was good from a consistency point of view.

PF: So with that, it was very unlikely that anything would be sent out that wasn’t of a standard then, would you say? It could happen I guess…

BP: It obviously depended on the customer and how important they were and how they were able to control the quality of the prints themselves. You get people like Stanley Kubrick and he would view every copy, and say “No this in no good” and send it back. Well, because he was loved by the labs, if Kubrick was shooting a film he could well shoot a million feet of negative, which is lovely. It’s not so fun when you get on to the printing side because he was very particular and he would say “I don’t like this, I don’t like that” and so on. Normally the labs had a very high standard for the prints. Certain things like, for example, you make a first answer print and you show it to the customer and they say “Yeah OK but I’d like that scene a little less blue and that one a little less red and that lighter…” so, OK if he’s the sort of customer you want to look after which you’d do a second answer print to get it right and he says “Yes I love that. I’ll have a hundred copies.” Well it’s quite likely that you’d print 99 and slip the answer print in with the 99 because, you know, it may seem a little dishonest but rather than put it in the bin, I know that used to happen, it was called ‘get-rid of it in the bulk’ and they used to do that. But in general the quality was fine and they took a lot of trouble. It depended also on how they were viewed. Technicolor, when they were running imbibition printing, viewed everything as it came off the process. So when you stood on the dry end you had a little monitor which showed you it coming off and they were able to make adjustments to the colour balance from the processing. They had effectively three valves which controlled the wash-off, so if it was coming through a bit too yellow you could turn up the yellow and wash that off and get a result. So they were looking at everything that came through. Other labs tended to use high-speed viewers. I mean, Technicolor were going quite fast, but they would use high-speed viewers and whip through them there. You just wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything disastrous wrong. But if you’re running at, I don’t know, 200ft a minute, it’s really difficult to spot everything. And, again, it’s depending on where the prints were going. What happened to them if they just went out to the cinemas and out they went and no one would, you know, if it had sparkle all over it then it had sparkle all over it and it would end up at the Embassy, Bradford, with sparkle all over it. I mean, I’ve been to the cinema where a reel of Technicolor has come up with one of the colours missing. Well, someone should have spotted that but I don’t suppose they bothered. And then again other customers, particularly the smaller one, would view every print themselves to make sure it was up to quality.


PF: That’s what I was going to say about that actually. The level of quality from that print run – I guess you’ve probably already answered the question – it might be the cinema audience themselves, the first ones to actually sit through the whole print.

BP: I think the majority of prints would have been viewed even though it would be at high speed because you’re never sure. You get things like sound drop-out because of the applicator missing and so you’d really want to make sure that didn’t happen. Or it was out of sync. So you have various things on the print which will tell you, I mean, you know, you can look at it and be sure that it’s in sync without having to play the whole thing but you do have to do a certain amount of looking at the print. You can’t just print a hundred copies, or a thousand copies, and send them out. You’ve got to have some form of control.

[00:47:30 End of Part One / Start of Part Two]

PF: So, just thinking about the developments in Eastmancolor what was the end goal for those developments that were happening in terms of improvement? What were they trying to attain?

BP: The whole object of the process is to produce a negative or positive with the best possible quality. You’ve got the two sides of that. That’s the film stock itself – so they’re working all the time on the film stock, making improvements, changing the couplers, changing the speed, the grain, and so on, of the emulsion. And they would be sticking that through a standard process saying “Well we’ve made our new batch of stock and it looks better because we get better greens” and so on. And the other side is the processing people who are working on getting the best out of the film with the process. But also, they’re interested in the financial side, the use of chemicals, how many chemicals you’re using, how many baths you need because if you have eight baths as oppose to seven baths or six baths, you need less chemicals, you need less water, you need less heat, and so on. So they’re trying to make the process as economic as possible, as quick as possible, because if it takes you forty minutes to run through the processing machine then that is obviously longer than if it takes you twenty minutes you’d rather have one that works faster. And for the processing machine to run faster, so it’s running at up to a thousand feet a minute, or whatever, and sometimes you need, well not sometimes, but you would need to modify the process. If you’re running at a thousand feet a minute they’ll be a lot more carry-over from the various baths and therefore you would need to increase the replenishment rate, there might be more oxidation, and so on, so the research would be going into that. You want a process which is as short as possible, which is as economic as possible, which is good from an environmental side because, I suppose in the ‘80s and ‘90s it suddenly became important that you shouldn’t be chucking colour developer down the drain, and so on, and you got people coming to the lab checking your effluent. This was quite a problem. We would get regular visits and they’d come and take a sample of your water and measure to see what you’re putting down. So the process would be modified to produce less effluent and to make sure the effluents were more friendly. And also, of course, the result you got on the screen from the colour couplers that you incorporated in the film stock are effected by the colour developing agent in the process. So the colour developer, or colour developing agent, would change from CD1, to CD2, to CD3, and CD4, and so on. And the different processes had different colour developers in because they worked slightly differently. So the process itself, if we’re talking about the process, would be constantly being trying to improve by upping the temperature to make it quicker, to improve things like dye fading and so on because if you leave chemicals in the film this can contribute to dye fading so you want to make sure the washing is sufficient and some chemicals don’t get left in the bath, and so on. There’s a lot of things that they had to think about to produce an economic, quick, good process and it tended to go towards shorter processes with less baths. And you have things like Rem-jet backing. Now, all the early colour films had Rem-jet backing which is a carbon dispersion in a gelatine coating on the back of the film which prevents static, or reduce static, and also prevents halation. Well, in order to get this off you have to have a backing removal plant where you dip the film into an alkaline bath and then you buff it off. Well, that’s fine if it works alright but if the backing gets round to the emulsion side of the film you will get silver streaks on it which will effectively wreck the picture. So they’re doing research to find out whether they can produce a backing which doesn’t have to be scrubbed off, do they actually need a backing, and so on. So these are all things… and gradually they produced processes where they didn’t require backing removal on some of the neg stocks, some of the print stocks also would also not have backing on them. They were able to produce a good result. And research on things like soundtracks, because soundtracks in colour print processing is one of the biggest problems of wastage. You had to put a developer on which was viscous, it’s a bead down the side of the film, and if the bead broke you’d get a drop-out in sound, if the bead got onto the picture you’d have black marks all over the picture, and it was one of the most difficult things to control in processing. So again, they were researching ways to get rid of this and they eventually went on to high-magenta and cyan tracks, and so on, which solved that problem. So research was ongoing all the time to improve the quality but also to improve the usability of the film stocks, to make it easier for the labs. What you don’t want to do is to produce a stock which is a nightmare for the lab because they won’t use it. Things like the CRI, Colour Reversal Intermediate, was a very difficult process and every lab had problems with evenness of processing. And it turned out to be horrific that the fading on CRIs is absolutely appalling, the majority of CRIs these days are unusable. So that made life very difficult for the lab who were doing it, you know, you don’t want to go in every morning to the lab and say “We’ve got to run CRI. Will it be any good? Will we get streaks? Will we get this? Will we get that?” So the research goes on all the time. They come out with ideas which are not always a good idea and make life difficult for the lab and if you make life difficult for the lab they won’t use your stock and then you don’t sell film.


PF: It’s interesting to hear you say that because, again, you know, we think about the film, the cinematographer, but no it’s… you have to think of it as an industry, you know, the way it works. And the final product has as much to do with the work of the lab as it does anywhere else down the line doesn’t it?

BP: The ruling thing is finance. Everybody’s in it to make money. You don’t make… well, some people do but, you don’t make films just for the sake of it. You have to make a film and you have to sell a thousand copies or show it in a thousand cinemas, or whatever, and there are all these things that come into it. You must produce good quality, you must produce a product that is easy to process. The lab wants to be able to use it and have it easy to use and economic and so on. So there’s a lot of factors that come into it really.

PF: So, if we could move on and talk a little bit about your time after Kodak. Could you talk a little bit about the work of the smaller labs? I’m particularly interested in, having talked to people from, who worked at, Rank, this relationship between the smaller labs and Technicolor and Rank. What work was going on in the labs in London and how did that relationship work with bigger print runs at Rank?

BP: You had a division between the labs. You had the big labs, which was Rank, Technicolor, Humphries, Kays, and they were the people who were mainly working on feature films. They were the people doing bulk release printing. They obviously did all the other work as well. Kays were very busy working with the BBC, they had half the contract of BBC doing news, and so on, and telerecordings and things like that. Then you had the other side which were the smaller labs. You had quite a number of those, there was Universal, Colour Film Services, Filmatic, Reeds. Studio Film Labs came halfway between really, their main side originally was doing commercials and short features. Who else… there was Brent laboratories. Probably that’s about it. The only other big user of film was Film Strip Services who were doing film strips on Eastmancolor. The smaller labs tended to concentrate mainly on 16mm and the documentary side of things. You did get the occasional feature release, small runs at places like Colour Film Services, but it didn’t happen very often. Filmatic, for example, were purely 16mm so all their work was 16mm which was mainly documentary work and they also did a lot of bulk printing on 8mm for that side of things, home movies and so on. Colour Film Services were probably the same … Universal. They all tended to spring from big labs. So Colour Film Services were started up by people who started Technicolor and formed Colour Film Services and then, from Colour Film Services, Universal branched out from them doing work. Brent were a funny little lab on their own, they didn’t get involved with anybody else really and they were one of the few labs that ran Agfa and Gevaert processing and black-and-white, and so on. Of course Kays had three sections, I think, three or four sections. They had a black-and-white lab, which was at Finsbury, and then they had the colour lab which was at Gillespie Road, and then they had a titling department and a sound recording department. Originally places like Filmatic would mainly be doing colour reversal printing because a lot of the documentaries would be shot on colour reversal, Ektachrome Commercial, and so on, and then you produced release prints on colour reversal. And Kodak provided a processing service for a stock called 7387 which was Kodachrome print stock so Filmatic would get a job which had been shot on Ektachrome Commercial, you printed it onto this stock and sent it to Kodak for processing and it came back the next day. Well this was an expensive way of working but, at the time, Eastmancolor was pretty poor quality in 16mm. It was OK on 35mm. I mean, the very early Eastmancolor negative stocks weren’t terribly wonderful and the duplicating stocks were even worse so if you had to go through a double dupe, you’ll notice in early Eastmancolor films that when you have an optical fade or dissolve, the quality goes downhill and you see it bang in and bang out. And it wasn’t really a suitable product for use on 16mm. If you wanted 16mm prints, it tended to be reduction printed from the 35. So in the early days very little Eastmancolor 16mm was carried out and then things improved with 5254 and places like Filmatic started processing colour neg and people were shooting on 16mm colour neg and you would be making prints on Eastmancolor. Prior to that, if you wanted a bulk release, you would make an internegative from the reversal stock and then print onto Eastmancolor print. So they weren’t really involved terribly in the features side. The printing would be either 16mm documentaries or the bulk printing of 8mm. Filmatic were one of the biggest printers of 8mm.

PF: So, let’s think about the feature industry at this point. So we have the lab at Rank, Technicolor, Kays and Humphries – was there any difference between those labs in terms of what types of films might be… I’m assuming that Technicolor and Rank might get some of the bigger productions and contracts. Were Kays and Humphries, kind of, the lower rung or the lesser known…

BP: Yes. They tended to print the less well-known features, B-pictures sort of thing really, where you didn’t have so many copies. The copy side of things is quite interesting because it changed. Originally… you’ve got to get a balance between the number of cinemas you show your film and how you advertise it and so the cost of advertising is compared to the cost of prints. So, if you find that advertising throughout the country is quite cheap, you’d tend to do a thousand copies and send it to every cinema at the same time. If advertising became expensive then you tended to have less prints and ship them from cinema to cinema and not do a national advertising. You would do advertising on the local cinema so you’d use Anglia TV to advertise this feature next week and just use the cinemas in East Anglia. So that made a difference to the lab when people stopped having a thousand copies and only had ten and then it changed again because it was cheaper to have more. So that made a difference but places like Kays and Humphries tended to do the B-pictures although Humphries did do some of the big ones, I mean, they used to… Kubrick always went to Humphries so they were always doing that until Rank stole him away eventually. And you do get directors and cameraman who like to use particular labs and if they’ve got sufficient influence they can say “Yes I want to go to Humphries because they’re not doing anything else and they will look after me.” Whereas, at Rank, they’re doing a James Bond and something else, and something else, “Will I get the priority that I want?” And the same, the people who loved Kays and always went to Kays. And it’s to do with the lab contact-man because all labs had contact men whose job it was to look after that feature. So you’re coming to my lab and I am your contact man and I will be up at the studio every day and I’ll look at your rushes and make sure they go through the lab and they’re grading properly, and so on. And certain people, for example Technicolor, had contact men who were known and there was cameramen who wouldn’t use anyone else because they liked him and they knew he would look after them. So if you got to know a contact man and, again, another important thing is the grader so if there is a particular grader you like you would go to that lab because you knew he would give you what you wanted, he would understand what you wanted. Again, that was a slightly… that was a difference between big and small labs. For example, at Filmatic, I only know that because I worked there obviously, we employed graders as contact men. So, if you came in with your film, you would say “Well, you’re going to see Ken Nelson, he’s your grader and contact man” and that’s it, you deal with him. So he would grade your film and you’d come in and you’d sit in the theatre with him and go through your film. Whereas, at places like Rank and Technicolor, then it tended to be the contact man who dealt with the grader. So you would tell the contact man what you wanted and he would pass that on to the grader who made a copy then the contact man would sit with the grader and with you and deal slightly second-hand with it because it’s not very easy to make grading alterations if you’re being told second-hand. You know, if you’re sitting there and you see that scene and you think “Yeah that’s a little bit too blue. Do you agree?” and “Yeah it does look a bit…” Whereas, if someone’s saying “Oh, can you make the seventh scene a bit less blue”, how much? So that was the difference but obviously somewhere like Filmatic, where you had six or seven graders, you could afford on the amount of work you’re doing to appoint a grader to look after a particular job whereas, at Rank, where they’re doing, you know, dozens of films, it’s not quite so easy to do and the graders don’t have the personal involvement with whoever is calling the shots.


PF: A couple of things there then. So, perhaps a film that was worked on at Kays and Humphries might have more of a direct contact, potentially, with the filmmakers, the cinematographer…

BP: And the grader

PF: And the grader.

BP: Yes. It was different ways of working really.

PF: And also what’s interesting is, because we’ve noticed that there were a number of films from the ‘60s, the B-pictures, the horror films, which were processed at Kays or Humphries. So, just to kind of reiterate what you were saying before, it could be the fact that those films invested more into… or they were kind of doing the regional tours, as you say, advertising in the specific locations rather than a widespread national release.

BP: Yes those films did tend to be, they would have less copies unless… it was sometimes a tie-up. You get small filmmakers… there was one I remember a chap called Harold Baim who made travelogues but he, I think, was related to one of the big producers, and he got all his films in with the big releases. So when they produced, whatever the film was, if we say a James Bond, and he would know that he could have his print showed with all of those, whereas other people had problems in getting a release on their films. And sometimes they would go round the country really.

PF: That’s interesting actually. So Harold Baim, those travelogues and those films that were made, a lot of them were in colour from the mid-50s onwards until the 1970s. That was part of a friendship or a relationship that he had?

BP: Yes, I think it was his brother-in-law or something, I can’t remember who it was now but it was a long time ago. But we all knew that, you know, he had a guaranteed release on his travelogues and they weren’t, dare I say it, terribly good some of them.

PF: That leads me on to something else actually I’m interested in which is, would any of the labs refuse work because, again, the sex films from the ‘60s probably not going out on mass print runs, probably playing in a couple of theatres in London. Did they have… do you know of any, kind of again, horror, sex, you know, those kind of ‘X’ films, was there any, kind of, relationship they had with particular labs in London?

BP: Yes it did tend to be like that. For example, again going back to Filmatic, we did a lot of 8mm printing and a good quantity of 8mm films were, I suppose you’d call them sex films. I mean they were rather limited in what they showed, but nude pictures and things like that, and we refused to do them at Filmatic. The man in charge, Rex Ebbetts, said “No we don’t do that” and they would have to go somewhere else. It was a little bit cutting off your face, you know, because it was big money but he said “No we didn’t want to do those” and the same thing applied to the feature side, you know, there were some labs that didn’t do it. In those days the police were involved and they would be looking into that side of things. I mean we used to process film for the Met Police from the pornography squad. So they would move in on somewhere and confiscate the film and bring it to the lab. We’d process it and then they’d view it to see whether it would be considered pornographic or not. So it was a little bit difficult for some of these people to find places to do it and some of the smaller labs tended to do that. There were also some very small 8mm labs who only did that. They were sort of garage processors really. Yeah, they would tend not to go to Rank because they wouldn’t have a… the quantity of negative they shot would be small, there would tend to be only one take for obvious reasons and then the quantity of neg shot would be very small and the quantity of prints would be quite small so they would tend to go to the smaller labs.

PF: Just going back to something else before I forget. I’m aware of the fact that occasionally processing might happen in a different location to the print run. Does that come back to what you were saying again about Stanley Kubrick, perhaps someone like him might have a relationship with a lab but the print will go elsewhere even though that’s not ideal. I think the best scenario is the fact that it’s end-to-end…

BP: I mean eventually Humphries lost Kubrick but he started by taking the print away and it went somewhere else. I think they went to Rank. That was purely cost I should imagine. As I say, he was a very valuable customer because of the vast quantity of negative he shot and it was very well worth doing. But he was a bit of a nightmare. The Technical Director at Humphries would be called in in the middle of the night to look at rushes. So what would happen is Stanley would shoot his film during the day, they would produce rush prints, he would go in and view the rushes himself and if he saw a spot on the film he’d call the Technical Director in and he would have to identify what the problem was which is OK but it’s hard work. And eventually he moved his release to Rank, I think for financial reasons, and eventually they took over the processing of his negative stock. It did happen, you know, the difference… and also, you’re dealing with different people. The production company are producing a film and it might be their only obligation to produce an answer print and then that went to whoever the cinema chain who’d bought it, you know, whether it was Odeon or… and they could well be responsible for the release printing and they would go somewhere else. They would have an answer print and now you’ve done your answer print your obligation is finished and then they would say “Right, well we’re going to order 250-550 copies and we will get them done at Rank” and you go to Rank with the answer print and say “That’s what we want.”

PF: Do you think at that stage, perhaps if you’ve not got to worry about the cost of release printing, you can be more choosy in which lab you go to for processing? Or do you think they, as a whole, they generally did a good job you know…

BP: Yeah I mean, you’ll always find somebody who says they’re the best lab of all and they all produced excellent quality. Not all the time, it depends who it was. If it’s Kubrick, you always produced the best possible quality because you know he’s going to look at every one and you couldn’t afford to do anything. But if it’s a smaller customer… you get the problem that some of the smaller customers tend to be more picky. They’d look at an answer print and not like it and have another one, and then want another one, and another one, and another one, and eventually the lab gets fed up about it and say “Well that’s it. We’re not doing any more” and he might storm off and go somewhere else or he might have to except it. It costs money to do answer prints and not everybody knows what they’re doing when they’re looking at a print on the screen. We had a director who used to sit with his back to the screen and grade from there, “It’s too blue. It’s too green.” When you’re talking about art films it did happen. But yes, I mean, it would make a difference really, you know, the type of film and where it went and what the final result was and who was paying for the release prints.

PF: I guess it’s always, again, bringing it back to costs. The money was in the printing wasn’t it not the processing? Unless you’ve got someone like Kubrick

BP: Yes, who did millions of feet. In general you didn’t make much money from processing the colour neg because it was so critical. If you had a disaster, stop in developer and, you know, the rushes they had to go back and reshoot and you became very unpopular. And you did get the point where people moved because a lab had problems. You can get a stop in developer because the film broke because the previous film had been shot by someone who’d torn a perf and someone didn’t spot it. So you wreck the latest James Bond film because of somebody else and therefore, if it happens too many times, that’ll be it and they’ll go somewhere else and you did get people moving. We had a film being shot in… I think it was Czechoslovakia, and they burned a cornfield and Kodak had a stock defect on it and it caused a lot of problems. Because, you can imagine, you can’t burn too many cornfields because of a stock defect, you know, and that might make people say “Well I’m not going to use your stock anymore we’ll go to Agfa”, or… And the same thing in labs, you know, if you had a problem then eventually people would change labs. So it wasn’t always cost. As I mentioned earlier, you know, some cameramen were very pro-Kodak, Agfa, etc.


PF: So, moving on. You’ve kind of answered a few of these questions already but… the relationship between Filmatic and Rank and Technicolor, was there any… obviously you’ve already mentioned you did a lot of 8mm and 16mm work…

BP: It was a strange sort of relationship because there was always competition between the labs. You obviously wanted to get as much work as you could. Again, finance comes into it and would Rank do the job cheaper than Filmatic would. But then again you use Filmatic because you liked a particular grader and he gave you a good result and you liked the result you got in the end. There would be certain amount of competition between them. You did also get, I don’t know whether you could call it unfair competition. There was a lab called Visnews who were mainly concerned, as the names suggests, with news processing. So film would come from all round the world. If there’s a disaster in Hong Kong then they would film it and ship it over to Visnews and their job was syndication of the films. So, they would get the negative in and then would produce 50-100 copies to send back round the world. And they, or the people that owned it, decided that they wanted to get involved with release printing because there’s not every day a disaster that they can do a hundred copies. And they started… stealing is a strong word, but they would say to the customer “Go to Filmatic. Take your film there, get an answer print and bring it to us and we’ll do the release print.” Well, processing the negative and producing an answer print is a costly business and you don’t make a lot of money. It’s the release print that makes the money and I know we got very upset at Filmatic because this was happening and they were saying, “Oh, and can you get the grading information from Filmatic so we don’t have to re-grade it.” This did happen sometimes even with the big labs and Technicolor and Rank would try to steal, if they knew there was going to be a lot of copies, they would try and steal it. You obviously had salesmen at the big labs whose job it was to go out and get film, you know, go and get productions. The relationship was reasonable and you would sometimes pass work between labs. For example, you might have black-and-white reversal and someone wants something from that. Well, you wouldn’t be able to do anything if you worked at Technicolor so you would ship it to Filmatic and we would do it for them and send it back, and so on. And things like processing of sound negatives, not every lab ran a sound bath so that would be passed around. Relation in general was quite good. You got unpleasantness when somebody stole a production, you know. If Technicolor lost James Bond or Rank lost James Bond they’d be very upset. But, you know, it happened and you get over it really.

PF: Now, I think… sort of talking about… going back to talking about Technicolor, the move away from IB printing, was that a gradual decline from when Eastmancolor first came in because, obviously three-strip ended in the mid-50s, IB was obviously meant to give superior results. Whether or not that is true…

BP: Yeah I would say it was true. A good Technicolor print is better than anything else. It was a… well the problem was that, was twofold. It’s expensive for the customer because you shoot on your Eastmancolor and then you have to have the various separations made, you have to make matrices, you have to make protection masters, before you start making the prints. And the prints tended to be reasonably cheap but the duplicating stage was quite expensive and, therefore, imbibition printing became quite an expensive way of doing it when you could get a colour neg and bash prints off at an enormous rate. The price of colour print stock began to come down, making imbibition printing much more expensive, relative, and eventually Technicolor decided that, however good it was, it was cheaper to do Eastmancolor printing and it gradually faded away. Other than in China because they shipped the plant from, I think it was from London to China because they were making lots of copies in China and it was a more economic way of doing it. You know, once you’ve got an imbibition set-up you can pump the copies out, but it was all the paraphernalia of getting there really that was the problem and it just eventually died. They did try and reintroduce it in the ‘90s I think and they did make some prints on imbibition in America. I did see a copy of that at Bologna at one stage, I can’t remember what the film was. But, they did try that but it didn’t succeed. But it was a wonderful process and gave wonderful results because of the fact you could use the best possible dyes and the colour reproduction was spot on.

PF: It’s interesting because, obviously we know that Technicolor were producing prints in the UK beyond that point. So when did this move away from IB happen and what was their Technicolor process? Was it basically the same as what Fujicolor were doing, they were doing on Eastmancolor? Was it the same…

BP: Technicolor just purely went over to Eastmancolor. So they were like every other lab. It was no different. If you sent the roll of neg into Technicolor they made Eastmancolor prints and they became a normal lab. Although they used the Technicolor symbol to say it was in Technicolor but everybody was doing that, Metrocolor you know they didn’t really exist, there was no such thing as Metrocolor, and so on.


PF: And do you think because, you know, we obviously think of a date, 1972 or thereabouts, when we think of IB ending, do you think there are probably films from, you know, sort of around the mid-60s that were probably Technicolor on Eastmancolor or Technicolor IB?

BP: They sometimes did both. You’d have a, I’d say, a hundred copies on IB and the rest on Eastmancolor so they would use… they quite often used IB perhaps for the first print and for showing at, you know, premiere cinemas and then the rest would just be done on Eastmancolor. It’s very difficult to know really unless you’re certain by looking at the print whether it was an IB print or an Eastmancolor, you wouldn’t always know, it would just say Print by Technicolor. I think I sent you some letters didn’t I from…

PF: Yeah Keith’s [Johnston] got them.

BP: Where the chap was asking them, you know, what was happening and why it was called Technicolor and when it was called Technicolor. But they used to put Print by Technicolor, but that didn’t mean it was an IB print. But it was a difficult process to run. Wonderful quality, but not easy to do because you had to make the separations and you had to make sure the registration was correct and making the matrices and things.

PF: I guess, like you said, if you’ve got the quantities like they needed in China, I guess that was fine but, you know, the industry was slowing down in the ‘70s.

BP: It was partly because the IB system was a continuous system. They eventually went on to the same thing they did at Rank with 12,000ft rolls of negative and raw stock, and so on. But with the Technicolor it was continuous, so you laced the matrices up onto the IB plant and then you had a Model C printer which was printing the soundtrack onto the blank and that was fed by a loop. So you had Reel 1 on a loop and you just kept printing the copies and then they would go into the IB plant to have their picture printed and that just carried on so, you know, you were just working flat-out. We had an interesting thing when I worked at Kodak then, where we had a stock problem on the imbibition blank. We had over-exposed edge print which meant you got flaring in the side of the picture because the edge numbers had been printed too heavily and we only had one batch of stock and we had to go down there and take a bit off every roll of film, dip it in developer to see whether the edge print was right and, if it was OK, they took it straight away and it went onto the printer, so we were trying to feed them hand and foot. So it was a continuous process whereas with colour printing you tended, you know, although you could use loops, you tended to only have small rolls of stock and you would print them, you know, much slower. So, it was a quicker way of printing large numbers of copies.

PF: Just on that, you mentioned edge codes there and it got me thinking. Because the stock for Technicolor came from Kodak…

BP: And 3M’s actually. 3M’s blank.

PF: Would there be a way to identify the print stock of Technicolor during that period if it wasn’t IB. Did they have their own branding or was it just Eastmancolor.

BP: No they did sometimes… I’ve seen 16mm print saying Technicolor on the edge but the imbibition blank is black-and-white so an imbibition print will have black edge numbers, black ‘safety print’, and the soundtrack will be black-and-white. Eastmancolor, or any of the generic ones, will have coloured edge print and the soundtrack will be blue or dark blue. So you can tell an imbibition print straight away by the fact its black-and-white because that was the first stage. They printed the sound on it, processed it in the normal way to process the track up, fixed and washed it and then that was fed into the imbibition to print the colour on so you can always spot an imbibition print without any problem.

PF: So what about when we had the Technicolor equivalent of an Eastmancolor print?

BP: That would say Eastmancolor on it. Or 3M or Ferrania, no not Ferrania but Agfa, or whatever.

PF: I’m just thinking about, you mentioned before about if we’re talking about this late ‘60s period were it could be a IB print, it could be a Technicolor-Eastmancolor equivalent, if there was any way of… obviously looking at the picture would probably give you the best answer…

BP: Looking for the edge print. The black-and-white, that spots it straight away. There’s never any doubt. As I say, I’ve only ever seen 16mm with Technicolor down the edge. I’ve got some samples of that. But, yeah, you can tell an IB print straight away, no problem. It’s quite important to determine that because if you do things like rewashing. If you rewash a Technicolor print you wash all the colour off it and you do sometimes rewash Eastmancolor prints if it’s got scratched or whatever. But there should be no difficulty in determining whether a print is IB or Eastmancolor.

PF: Again, I think this might be something that you… did you have a relationship with any particular cinematographer or any directors, kind of, over your career really?

BP: Yeah I suppose so. Working at Filmatic you’d get to know some of the documentary makers. For example there was a chap called Hugh Gibb who mainly worked through the BBC and he went making documentaries all round the world and I would always deal with him when he came. And there was an Australian producer who always shot the Olympics, and he shot the Olympics wherever they were then come into the lab and I would deal with them. In general at Filmatic, the graders dealt with whoever it was responsible for making the answer print. Sometimes the cameraman would be involved but usually it was the producer/director it tended to be with documentaries. But when I moved to Humphries, I didn’t really have any great relationship with cameraman or directors. Working in a larger lab, my job as Technical Director really didn’t involve getting too involved unless there was a problem. I would certainly deal with whoever it was responsible for the film if there was a problem. So, I would look at, you know, if they weren’t happy with the people in the lab who were dealing with it I would be the next level up. Particularly in dealing with TV companies. So you would… if you had work with Granada, which was being processed at Humphries in Manchester, then if there was a serious problem, and it went over the head of the local lab, then I would go and deal with the Head of Film with a problem. But, I obviously… Humphries closed in ’85 and I went there in ’81 so it didn’t really give much of a chance but we did a few features while I was there. But Technical Directors tended only to get involved with problems.

PF: Not wanting to dwell on problems but was there anything around that period because, probably in terms of features, because, you know, there are a lot of changes in the film stocks, obviously the problems with restoration which we’ll come on to in a minute, but also in terms of special effects. Was there anything you encountered around that period?

BP: No there was… there were always problems coming up with things like stock defects and so on and problems within the lab with process, perhaps causing a problem with things like spots on CRI or internegatives. What else would there be? I mean unsteadiness was quite a problem. That tended to be in the early stages if they’re shooting a feature and complain that their rushes were unsteady you’d have to try and track down what was causing this, whether it was problems with the perforations or with the printing machine or with the camera. It could get quite unpleasant actually, everyone getting involved and the cameraman blaming the lab, the lab blaming Kodak, and Kodak saying it wasn’t the lab or it was the lab, or it was the camera, that particular camera. It could get quite involved. And you can get things where they would change the camera because they would say, you know, everyone would agree that the problem is the camera. And then the cameraman, or the director of photography, would get onto the Samuelson’s, or whoever was supplying the equipment, and it would involve lots of tests and things. You know, you’re involved with a lot of money, you know, they’re paying film stars a lot of money to be there for a short time and if you got a problem then everyone gets very upset. And you get involved with insurance companies and that’s a nightmare. They’re always trying to pass the blame onto someone else because the production would be insured because you’re employing Charlton Heston and paying him, you know, whatever it is a day, and if you run into a problem where the rushes are no good for some reason then they have to claim on insurance and then the loss adjustors would come and make himself a nuisance at the lab, hoping to blame the lab because then they could claim against the lab, and so on. And it could get quite unpleasant.

PF: In that case, the most valuable thing on the film production isn’t the star it’s the negative isn’t it?

BP: Yes, that’s right. You’ve got to always remember that whatever the investment on the feature is, if it’s a hundred million, then that equates to ten rolls of film stock and until you’ve duplicated it, that’s it.

PF: That’s probably a good place to stop there.

[01:37:30 End of Part Two / Start of Part Three]

PF: OK, so as we know that various labs were involved in releasing prints of films across the globe, from your experience, what was done to maintain the same standard’s and, perhaps, the look of the film? Or, was there sometimes, internationally, variations on the look of British productions?

BP: Yes, it depended on who was involved with the overseas versions and what the arrangement was. Some films would be completely handled in this country, all the overseas versions would be made here. For example, if you look at the films stored in the vaults for The African Queen, that involved all the foreign version, so you would find the Latin-American Spanish track, and the Latin-American titles, the Latin-American… what else would there be… the trailers, and so on, were all kept here and all printed in this country. And this depended on who was responsible for the film, who is making them, and the production company, and whether they want to keep control of it or not so they would know that the prints that went out all round the world would be the same and to their specifications. But, again, it would depend on deals that they’d done. They might have done a deal that said the Italian copies had to be printed by Technicolor in Italy and I think sometimes Technicolor tended to pass on to some of their other labs around the world to spread the film around really. And quite often, though, American releases had to printed in America. Again, if the film was being made for United Artists, and it was being paid for from the States, they would probably say all the copies will be made in America even though it’s been shot over here. So you’d get as far making the relative dupe negs, and so on, and then they’d be shipped to America to be printed. And sometimes obviously it’s easier to have a foreign version made in a foreign country, you know, an Italian version in Italy would be quite easy because you’d need Italian actors to dub it and make the Italian titles, and so on. It depends whether the production company wants to keep control of it or not. They might have sold the rights to the film to an Italian production company, they would be completely responsible for the release and for whatever title it’s released under, it might be a slightly different title. There was no real way of saying this is the way it always happened, it varied quite a lot. If you can get a very good deal from Technicolor then you might have all the foreign versions made in this country. It was relatively easy to do but things like dubbing are quite difficult and they might be dubbed abroad. So, you might be doing the release printing over here but the dubbing is done, wherever, because it’s easier to employ, you know, the actors and things.

PF: I guess there is the chance as well… I’m thinking about an example we came across recently which is Masque of the Red Death which was a co-production between AIP and Anglo-Amalgamated, I believe, in the UK. I guess there could be the case that they had agreements in the UK and the US which were different but, on both sides both production companies perhaps, because that film was released on Technicolor in the UK and Eastmancolor in the States. So I guess that could happen as well, different agreements between the different co-producers?

BP: It’s one of my favourite films that.

PF: Well it’s just been restored in 4K.

BP: I just love that film. Yes it would depend on the finance. So, as you say, AIP in America are providing fifty per cent of the finance then they would have a right to say how they want them printed and if they’ve got a deal with Consolidated, and not with Technicolor, then they would say “Well we’re going to have Eastmancolor prints because we get a good rate from Consolidated and so, therefore, we will need a, CRI or a dupe negative” or whatever, which would be sent to the States for printing. And over here, then Anglo-Amalgamated, or, you know, whichever way around it was, would say “Well we’ve got a deal with Technicolor and we’re gonna have IB prints”, not because they prefer IB prints, but purely because they have a deal. You would go to Technicolor and say, “We’re going to make six Hammer productions and we’ll put them all with you. What’s the rate going to be? We will be shooting a hundred thousand on each, so there will be five hundred thousand feet of negative and we will have eight hundred copies of each” and they’ve got their deal and they’re happy. But they can’t say to the American, you know, “You’ve got to do to it” because they’ve got their own deals. And so it does happen.

PF: It’s interesting because perhaps Nic Roeg worked with the grader in the UK and the, obviously with it being shipped to the States, perhaps a certain amount of his control was lost there.

BP: Yeah, I mean, he would have been responsible for making, theoretically, a one-light dup-neg. I mean that’s the principle you work on. You produce an answer print and when that’s approved you make an intermediate pos and an intermediate neg, a dupe neg, a colour dupe neg. And that should be, effectively, one-light printing. So you would ship that to the states but they would then make an answer print from that and they might not be happy with that, whoever’s responsible. It depends again on the deal, you know, who decides how the colour print will look? And if it’s decided that the cameraman, or director, over here has no control, then that’s the end of the story. That would go into Consolidated and they’d produce a one-light print and say “Well, let’s make a few alterations.” It’s a little bit unlikely that they would because hopefully, you know, they would match the answer print. They would have got the dupe neg and an answer print from it over there and try and match it.

PF: I guess, like you say, chances are they’d be happy and it would be one-light printing but I suppose there could be the instance where the American graders perhaps have a different eye to the British graders.

BP: Yeah and also it depends on, you know, if it’s going to television, for example, then you need a different grading for that. But yes, I mean, not everybody has the same eye and in America they might like their prints slightly bluer, yellow or whatever, and that gives them the option of doing it.


PF: Could we, kind of, move on then and talk about… go on to talk about analogue restoration, where you came in to that. I believe was it Hendersons you were at?

BP: Yes we did some of that work there, yes.

PF: So what were those early techniques, what were the ways of restoring, perhaps, faded colour?

BP: You didn’t have an awful lot of options, really. Obviously in the last few years digital restoration has made life very much easier. In those days you were limited to what you can do. What you would normally want to do is go back to the original negative if that’s available. You might have a CRI that’s faded and therefore you try to go back to the original negative hoping to improve the quality. You had two options really. You could go through the normal colour duplicating stage, make a new colour inter-pos and then a colour dupe neg, and try and grade-out any of the problems, if there was fading you would try and grade that out. Well, grading-out fading doesn’t solve the problem, all you’re doing is changing the colour balance and fading doesn’t involve only a change in colour balance. You got a change in contrast from the various layers so the layer that has faded will have lost contrast and you try and bring that back by altering the colour balance but it doesn’t work a hundred percent. So the only option you have then is to go back to separations. If you’re lucky enough, and the customer was rich enough and clever enough to have separations made, you stand a very good chance of making a good restoration. They tried for many years to persuade people to do that. This is why you had pro-masters with Technicolor. You made positives which were protection masters so that you could go back and remake either the matrices or the dupe neg if that’s the way you wanted to work. And they tried to persuade people and the labs would try and persuade people to make separations from your colour neg, separation pos, because that future-proofs against any fading. One of the problems you came against was the fact that in the early days of colour not every cinema was prepared to pay for a colour print and a lot of productions they also had black-and-white prints and the most economic way of doing that was to use the green separation to make the black-and-white prints. So the green separation tended to get worn out as opposed to the other two so you often ran into a problem if you wanted to restore from the separations if this happened. But, that having said, you would solve any problems with fading if you could go back to the original separations but not everybody did it and not everybody was prepared to spend the money on it and not everybody believed it was worth doing. They said, “Well we’ll have a CRI and that’s wonderful” not knowing that CRIs are a disaster and they fade terribly badly and if you’re original negative is also faded, you got a problem. So as I say, the other way you can do it, if there are no separations then you make separations, red green and blue separations from the original negative and alter the contrast to correct for the fading and this can be done and you get a fairly good result. But it’s an expensive way of working and not everybody, including the archives, can afford to do it so people did restorations just by grading. And you’ve got the problem with fading, the slope of the layer has changed and when you print it you get red highlights and cyan shadows, or the other way around, and there’s no way you can grade it because if you grade the cyan shadows out it makes it even redder, so the highlights go even redder so it can be very difficult to do an analogue restoration unless you’re prepared to go through separations. With digital restoration you are actually doing that, you can tweak the slope of the different layers to bring back the fading. Well, you can obviously do that analogue but it’s difficult to do. It’s the old problem with digital, you twiddle knobs until it looks right, but with analogue work you have to hope that you’ve got it right and it can take a lot of work. There’s an interesting, I suppose, project that many years ago they did a restoration of The Black Pirate and that was two-colour Technicolor which they did by analogue restoration and it took a tremendous amount of work and cost a lot of money because they had to make three separations. This was done by Technicolor for the BFI, and they had to make the three separations to get the result they wanted. So analogues restoration’s expensive and difficult but, you know, it was still done if people were prepared to pay.

PF: I guess when the issue of Eastmancolor fading became more widely known in the late-70s, I guess at that point the focus was probably still on restoring earlier films, probably Technicolor films. Whereas, Eastmancolor films probably too close, in terms of history, for them to be as much of a priority, would you say?

BP: Yes, you don’t have too much problem with fading with Technicolor because of the system. It prevents, no it doesn’t prevent, it reduces the amount of fading because the dyes have been used because they give very good colour reproduction and don’t fade. But with Eastmancolor you’re stuck with the dyes that come out of the couplers and they do fade. But, as you say, some of the earlier productions wouldn’t have been restored because nobody wanted them. You have this thing that happens in the film industry that people made a film, they made a B-picture, it went round the country, and that was it. It was put away in the vault, no one would ever want it again. There was no reason to show a B-picture around the circuits once it had been shown. “I’ve seen that one” you know “I’ll go to see The African Queen and you’re showing me a B-picture that I saw three years ago.” So a lot of these producers had a hard financial time because they made these pictures and then they went back in their vaults and never saw the light of the day and the saviour for that was television because television got to the point where they were prepared to buy anything. They need product because, if you look how many channels there are now, they buy anything. And the BBC told us as a lab once, “Any film you’ve got, we’ll buy, and we don’t care if you don’t know who owns it, we’ll find out.” They just wanted them. But, with the cinema, that didn’t happen. A film got shown once and never got shown again. And there was no reason to restore it because it’s never gonna be shown. But these days, thanks to television, people want to show these films again but they’ve probably faded so you have to do a restoration on them to make them usable again.

PF: So a lot of those prints that were made for Channel 4, BBC 2, they were doing a lot in the ‘80s weren’t they? Based on what you’ve said there, that was probably a key point in getting some of those films back into the public spotlight. It was what Channel 4, ITV, and the BBC were after.


BP: They had terrible problems with pirates actually. I mean, piracy was quite a problem in the, sort of, ‘60s and ‘70s. Amazing things happened, like in Egypt, they sometimes used to take an Eastmancolor print with an English soundtrack and paint emulsion down the soundtrack and re-record the sound on to it so they could use it. And the BBC, obviously, and Channel 4, and so on, used to buy libraries up but they would get lumbered with the prints that they had. It wasn’t all that often that they had a new print made. I mean, obviously, if the print was absolutely appalling, or there wasn’t one available… they would buy a library from somebody or other and libraries would always try and force Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC, ITV, to buy as many pictures as possible. That’s what you want to do. So you would go along and say “I want to buy African Queen” and they would say “Yes you can have African Queen but you must buy another hundred pictures” but not all of those would have prints still available because it was a B-picture and they would junk all the prints after. I mean, some of them would have be completely worn out because they’d been on the circuit. Especially in the days when they didn’t produce a copy for every cinema, they went round the country, they would come back worn out and they’d been junked. So then the BBC or whoever would get a new copy made at the lab but they wouldn’t tend to restore them at all, they would just get a print and those prints would be put onto video tape and quite often the prints went into the skip. And that’s where the so-called pirates would collect them and now they’ve become very valuable because they would say “Well there’s no copies left of this” but you’d find a collector somewhere who’s got one and instead of taking him to court they would now buy them off them. But it wasn’t until more modern times when 4K, and so on, came in when people wanted restored copies. They wanted to show something that was really good. In the past they didn’t care very much and you used to see some dreadful prints on TV because that was all they had and weren’t certainly going to pay to have them restored because it was difficult and expensive to restore them.

PF: Well I think that legacy has continued because of the eighteen hundred we’re looking at in our project, not all in-depth, I’d say the vast majority were probably videotape versions from the ‘80s because they’re pan-and-scan and often in the wrong aspect ratio and you can tell they’ve come from a 1” tape, a 2” tape, whatever it was at the time. So I mean, that is still being felt because a lot of those versions are the ones we’re still watching, we’re still seeing, on TV because they’re not going to have the same restoration are they?

BP: I mean, it was dreadful because they had 4:3 pictures and, as you say, they pan-and-scanned them and you had picture shot on Techniscope, or something, which was, you know, completely ruined by pan-and-scanning it because you don’t get the result that the director wanted. He wanted you talking to me in the same frame.

PF: OK, so going back to restoration, what else could be done if there wasn’t a suitable reference copy available for creating a new print?

BP: This is a very difficult problem. If you have a reference print, this is great and assuming that it hasn’t faded, that’s always a problem, you’ve got to hope that the print is the way it was when you first saw it, or when it was first made. If you haven’t got that then you can obviously forget the whole thing and just grade it to how you think it should look. That can be a problem if the director wanted a particular result. Had an interesting thing many years ago at Humphries where we did a copy of a film where the director insisted that it had a yellow bias to it so that all the prints looked yellow. And it was taken by Channel 5 and when they asked for a copy and we made them a copy and they rejected it saying it was too yellow and you say “Well, that’s the way he wanted it” and they say “That’s not the way we want it” and you end up with a print that doesn’t look anything like it was originally. So you can go back and, if you’re lucky enough and the director is still alive, or the cameraman, and they’ve got a good memory then you can show it to them. You do have a slight difficulty that people’s memories fade and also, given the opportunity, they often want to change it. Sort of going slightly off-track, I did some work many years ago for a lady who made silent films which were made in colour and she wanted some 16mm prints made. And when she found out when we made the prints we could alter them, she decided to go through and change everything so rather than making 16mm prints that matched the 35, we were changing them because she knew she could and she said “Oh, well if I’d been able to do this in my day I would have done it.” So you’ve always got a problem that if you show it to a director he might think, “That was always a bit green, I think I’ll make it a different colour.” But, you’ve got to choose the option of whoever’s got the best information. So, if you’ve got the cameraman, or the director, or anybody else who knew, then you could use that as a guide but apart from that, you just graded and hoped you make it look correct and hope that the director didn’t have a special, want a special look to it. Some of them do, you know, they like it slightly blue or green or whatever, but in general you would just grade it to be as correct as possible. It’s a difficult problem.

PF: I guess, you know, it’s always important to remember that these are always new versions of the film to some extent aren’t they. There’s probably only one way of getting back to the original and that’s to see, you know, the premiere print or whichever…

BP: Yes. I mentioned earlier about this case of the soldiers with the trousers and you’ve got this problem that if you’re restoring a film that was made with Technicolor IB, or whatever, you’ve got to make a decision as to whether you want the print to look identical to the imbibition print if you can possibly do it or do you get the best possible result from it? And that might be completely different to the original because you’re using a completely different system and something that looks slightly pink will now look much redder or a green will look slightly cyan and you have to decide, do you want to make a print that looks the way it would have been seen when that was first shown, or do you want to get the best possible result? And do you want your soldiers to have navy blue trousers rather than black ones that were in the original Technicolor. And it’s a matter of ethics, you know, an ethical restoration, and you have to decide which way you’re going to go and who calls the shots? Whoever’s paying for the restoration will say “That’s the way I want to go” and it can be difficult. And certainly in the early days of digital restoration, you had the problem that they carried out many layers of digital restoration without recording what they’d done, you know, used dust-busting programmes which get rid of white spots but they also get rid of little white footballs or white spots in your eyes and things, and unless you record what you’ve done… Certainly these days they’re much better at recording what they’re doing and what they have done.

PF: I guess that kind of goes back to, perhaps when, you know people started to revaluate silent films and they were beginning to consider what frame rates they should be projected at, and I guess those early days of digital probably echo that. Getting used to the technology again and then actually thinking “We’re losing something here by doing this.”

BP: If you talk to a layman about a silent film they would say “Oh, they always go too fast. Everybody’s running along and their legs are going fast.” Well, they weren’t like that and it infuriates me that on the television whenever you’ve got a drama and it involves showing film they have scratches down it. There’s someone going to… the film’s about 1944 and they’re going to the cinema in 1944 to look at the newsreel and it’s covered in scratches. Why? It wouldn’t have been it was a brand new print. But, no, archive film always has scratches down it and they’re very clever at putting digital scratches in. So it’s a difficult area to deal with restoration, you know, how far you go and what you do.


PF: And again, to reiterate the point you were saying before, its who’s paying for it as well because sometimes, you know, the big investors that want a re-release of their film to make a bit more money, you know, it might just be the best version that they can get and that’s as far as they’ll go.

BP: Yeah they’re happy to. As long as it looks alright they don’t want to get a really good quality and it’s a shame really but it’s always been the same, you know, the man who holds the purse strings does it.

PF: I think we’ve kind of covered most things here. Is there anything you’d like to add in terms of, perhaps, restoration? It’s interesting because obviously, you know, again you were there at that point when the issues around Eastmancolor fading were becoming more recognised. Did you, kind of… were you involved with those early, sort of, stages because digital intermediates were becoming… well they were being developed in the late-80s, I think…

BP: I was tending to be involved in black-and-white in those days. Once I left Humphries I went to Hendersons which was a black-and-white lab although we did have a lab up in Leeds, Film Lab North, that did colour work. We were involved with some restorations for that Tate Gallery. That was quite tricky. We did some restoration for somebody called Tacita Dean, I don’t know if you’ve come across, she’s a well know artist, cinematographer. And she… they were super-critical about what they were trying to get, almost to the point that what they were asking for was impossible because they had a show copy, or a copy to work by, but we were doing duplicating using modern stocks or stocks, you know, ten years on. To say we want a print that’s on Fuji, and they wanted it on Fuji for some reason, to match an Eastmancolor print, it’ll never happen. And it becomes a bit of a nightmare when you’re dealing with that. You have to recognise sometimes that you can’t go back to exactly how it was. You can’t restore an imbibition three-strip print on Eastmancolor using dupe stock and get the same result. It doesn’t work because there are all the factors that are involved that affect it and it can be very frustrating for a lab where you’ve got somebody who can’t accept the fact. And you have things like finite steps of grading, so when you grade a print the smallest increment you can make is one point. So, if you show someone a frame against the original and they say “That is too blue”, all you can do is make a one printer point adjustment to the yellow and if they say “That’s too yellow” you have to say “Sorry, I can’t do any better” because you’re working at the limit of the alterations. Don’t know if there is anything else really. Yeah, I mean when fading came in which was really, I suppose, I think Scorsese was the man who produced this book here [BP point to a book on his shelf] which was hastily withdrawn after being sued by Kodak. I don’t know, have you ever read that?

PF: I haven’t, no, but I’m aware there was an issue with Kodak never guaranteed it was going to last forever.

BP: No. Well this man did an analysis of the different manufactures’ stock including motion picture and he came up with a conclusion that Fuji was much better than Kodak for fading, and Fuji bought up a lot of copies to give to people which is why I got a copy after it was banned because they’re saying “Well it’s not terribly fair because when a print is faded, you don’t know its history.” It’s not just a simple question of, you’ve made a print, you’ve put it in a dark cupboard and bring it out and it’s faded, you know. You can put a print in a cupboard and it will fade and you can send a print all round the world and it’s been printed a thousand times and it will fade, so you have to very careful as to know why its faded. Not all of it’s down to the manufacture but certainly, the fact that things were fading came to light and Kodak went out of their way, as did Fuji, to produce low-fade print stocks and that was quite a move for all the manufacturers to try and prevent fading and involved the introduction of many different stocks for that purpose. And all labs were conscious of it being a problem and if you’re working in the archive industry, as I was, it became more and more of something you were aware of, and this problem with CRIs particularly. Unfortunately not everybody looks after their masters the way they should and you have things like vinegar syndrome. And if your original negative has died from vinegar syndrome and all you’ve got left is a CRI, you’re in serious trouble.

PF: Actually, could you explain a little bit more about the colour reversal intermediates and perhaps their introduction and their purpose and just, kind of, how it came to be that they were so difficult to deal with.

BP: When Eastmancolor first came in, the very first stocks, there were no duplicating stocks available at all. Then eventually they introduced inter-pos and dupe neg stocks so that, if you needed an optical with a fade or superimposed titles, then it was necessary to make a dupe pos and a dupe neg and do whatever you needed to do to produce the fade or superimposed titles. But the quality of these was poor and if you look at a film from the ‘50s, Eastmancolor, you will know immediately that a fade’s coming up because the whole thing changes, the contrast changes, the colour changes. Bang, and the fade comes in, it goes out, and then it goes back. Because duplicating is expensive, they never duplicated the whole film, they would just duplicate the sections that were need for opticals and then you went ahead and duplicated the whole thing. Well you were now duplicating an original neg which went to an inter-pos, which went to a dupe neg, which went to an interpos, which went to a dupe neg, so you know what the quality is going to be like of those sections because you’ve got a … and the duplicating stocks were fairly grainy and so on. Gradually they improved them, so the duplicating became better but then Kodak came up with the idea that “Why don’t we make it so that we only use one duplicating stock?” So, we start with a negative, we make a duplicate negative and then go straight into print so we’ve got a one stage duplicate. It’s got to be better because every time you print a negative, or any other stock, you lose a little bit on definition and colour, and so on. So it was hailed as a revolution. You took your original negative, you made a reversal duplicate which means a one stage negative from your original negative. Kodak were awarded an Oscar for it for technical innovation and everybody was very happy because it’s always important to duplicate your original negative to protect your investment. As I mentioned earlier, the sensible thing to do would always be to make separations because then you won’t have any problem with fading, you won’t have any problem with decomposition hopefully. Well, people said “Oh this is a wonderful idea. I’ll just make a CRI and my negative is preserved.” They didn’t stop and think that the other system of negative, interpos, dupe neg, print, gives you a double protection because if your dupe negative wears out you can make another one from the interpos and you don’t go back to your original negative. If your CRI gets damaged, you’ve got to go back to your original negative so there’s a disadvantage there. Although the quality is better, you have less protection. Reversal processing, whether it be black-and-white or colour reversal, is a complicated difficult process. It’s very difficult because you’re going through two stages of development to get evenness of processing and, particularly, they found with CRI that it was a problem and labs had great difficulty making CRIs without streaks. I’ve actually got a paper written by the reps at Kodak about this when they did a survey of problems with CRI and it says Kodak knew it was a problem. What they didn’t realise was that the process and the way the film was made caused it to fade and it suddenly came out in the late, I suppose, late-90s, and so on, that when people went back to old films… because that was the time when TV came to the forefront and they wanted product and sometimes you didn’t have a print, all the prints were completely ruined. They made a new one and they went to the CRI and found that they were faded and you couldn’t get good copies. You also, at the same time, had problems with vinegar syndrome and some of the original negs were no longer printable. So you were completely stuck because your original negative was effected by vinegar syndrome, your CRI was faded and all you had was, hopefully, a print somewhere which might have been printed on low-fade stock and you were more or less stuck. So it was quite a problem and continues to be really. So eventually CRI was withdrawn. They went back to using two-stage duplicates. Or, you go digitally. You can have a digital intermediate and then print from that. But it was a problem.

PF: Right. I think we’ll finish there Brian.

BP: Yeah?

PF: Lovely. Thank you.



1962 - 1971  - Kodak Ltd  

Research Laboratory

Spectrophotometry, X-Ray Fluorescence, Modulation Transfer Function Measurements, Colour Print and Processing.

Motion Picture Sales Division

Customer Complaints, Technical Advice.

1971 - 1981 - Filmatic Laboratories Ltd 

Technical Director,  a 16mm Colour & Black and White Laboratory.

1981 - 1984 - Humphries Film Laboratories Ltd  

Technical Director,  A 16mm & 35mm Colour and Black and White Laboratory.

1986 - 2002 - Hendersons Film Laboratories

Technical Director,  A 16mm & 35mm Black and White Laboratory specialising in archive work.

2002 - Present  - Consultant