Brian Dale (BD)
Laboratories (Kodak, Technicolor)
BECTU No. 665
Interviewer: Martin Sheffield (MS)
00:00:00 – 00:06:10 Introductions and family background; lived close to Harrow; left school in 1967/8; Kodak were the largest employer at the time; got a job at the warehouse in Ruislip; within ten years worked within the motion pictures division and this is where his interest in the film industry began; worked with Brian Pritchard at this time; told Dennis Kimberly (his boss in motion pictures) that he wanted to mainly work behind the scenes rather than with clients; the factory at Harrow was going to stop making motion picture film and move to France; Brian’s job was to maintain quality while this transition happened; John Croft (Motion Picture) told BD to come and see Arthur Branson at the BBC who he got on with very well; BD realised he wanted to work with clients; started out working with rushes and dealing with cameramen etc; he went on the road for 18 months working with television – all of the television companies above the Thames, LWT up to Aberdeen; through this he got to know people at Rank and Technicolor; a management shakeup happened at Technicolor; a position as Technical Controller came up and BD moved from Kodak to Technicolor.
00:06:10 – 00:09:20 BD worked on Superman while at Kodak with Tony Isles who was looking after the feature industry; BD helped on the blue screen work of Superman flying which was very exciting work – separation issues in the colour film; Pinewood changed the side of the road you drive on during production of Supergirl as it was an American crew.
00:09:20 – 00:14:35 Cartlon Communications took over Technicolor circa-1990 (David Cameron worked here and BD exchanged Christmas cards with him); member of BKSTS since his motion picture role at Kodak; chaired the technical committee for the BKSTS and awarded a fellowship in the mid-1990s; front end of the business was tremendously important; release prints were key; print machines ran at 1500ft a minute developing machines 1000ft per minute; BD worked with the stock manufacturers to ensure they would cope under the pressure; sometimes BD would call Rank for advice on issues they were having.
00:14:35 – 00:20:20 Technicolor took over Metrocolor in 1987; management of Technicolor were aware that there would be a decrease in demand so there was a need to consolidate; many people were laid-off at this point; the lab was reduced to 70 staff; it was successful during this period; a major contract held by Metrocolor was lost during this transition; it kept going for three years but profits were in decline.
00:20:20 – 00:30:10 BD discusses his transition from Technical to Operations (dates are not given here); 2000-2001, BD move out to Montreux the week after September 11th; President of Technicolor in the US wanted a laboratory in a part of the word where they could produce film very inexpensively; Rank were already out in Canada at this time; the build began the winter before BD arrived; BD was there to guide operations; lab was built and running in 12 months; closed 8 years prior to the interview; BD visited the Technicolor companies worldwide on an annual basis (this was before moving to Metrocolor); MS and BD discuss the cost of dye transfer.
00:30:10 – 00:41:00 During the period as Operations Director, BD looked towards Japan for management applications, moving away from managers running departments towards self-managed teams; this was one of the most successful changes at the company; BD finally became Managing Director for Technicolor during a period of transition; they now provided rushes through telecine; BD explains the increased use of digital; when the lab was moved to Pinewood they added a space in the lab for digital prints; Metrocolor were the first to put a telecine in the plant and Technicolor soon followed; BD and MS discuss the transition to digital and the return to prints; MS mentions that the Technicolor prints which were broadcast on television at the BBC did not need to be adjusted for transmission like other prints.
00:41:00 – 00:51:30 BD has a credit on Hamlet (1996) shot on 65/70mm – all work done at Technicolor London; BD and MS discuss cinematographer Alex Thomson; MS discusses the bypass bleach effect on 1984 and how later television transmission tried to correct the colour effect; BD used a similar effect of The Last Emperor; BD talks about Derek Jarman’s Blue; MS talks about sparkle problems on an advert for Labatt’s beer staring Leslie Nielson.
00:51:30 – 01:01:30 Technicolor’s move to Pinewood from the site they’d been at since 1936; a lot of equipment had to be disposed of; the lab they had at Pinewood was the ideal size for what they needed; new negative machines were purchased for the move; BD took the executive decision to move to Pinewood to save the business; BD decided to retire on the day they moved to Pinewood as he didn’t feel he knew enough about the digital side of the business; MS talks about his brother’s work at Trident and a similar situation following the shift towards working in home studios; MS discusses Roger Deakin’s refusal to use a Sony camera for his work on James Bond.
01:01:30 – 01:11:30 Charles Parkhouse Award for his work on high-speed developers when Technicolor were leading the field; an engineer had developed a glass developing machine; they worked with Kodak on oxidation of developers, bleach accelerators; when Key Code was introduced BD created a volume of work based on approaches to using the process which had a direct impact on the industry; most of the printers at Technicolor were Bell & Howell; developers were ‘home brew’ until the later days; the strengths of Technicolor lay in the developers; Technicolor never had a 16mm printer – all printed on 35mm and split.
01:11:30 – 01:23:00 BD still stays in contact with friends from the business but has little to do with it; now has a place on the parish council; when he retired it was the right time for the business and allowed someone with a new area of expertise to step in; BD and MS discuss the problems with digital and analogue tape; MS discusses his career and the Oral History project.