Paul de Burgh

Paul de Burgh
Family name: 
de Burgh
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Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
25 May 2009
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Part one 57 min duration
Part two 16 mins

Paul de Burgh (PB)

Laboratory, NFTVA, Restoration (Technicolor)

BECTU No.585

Interviewers: Kieron Webb (KW), Liz Watkin (LW), Charles Fairall (CF)

Date 27/05/2009

2 DV Tapes (Video)

Tape 1

00:00:00 – 00:08:20 PB shows his membership card for BECTU to the camera; KW introduces PB, LZ and CF; PB started at Denham in 1937 as an office boy; moved into dispatch; joined the Territorials before the war when he was called up; left the army in 1943; wanted to work in the studios rather than going back to the laboratory; worked with Tommy Howard in the special effects department at Denham; Tommy Howard left when Korda returned from America; PB invited to return to the labs by Bill Harcort (MD at Denham) in optical printing; optical printing B&W, mostly dissolves, fades, titles; PB discusses fading between night and day scenes; the director of the film would occasionally come in – most discussions would happened with the assembly editor, or the editor; Ealing had a technical manager, Mrs Brown.

00:08:20 – 00:13:10 Introduction of colour negative and the impact on opticals; Technicolor had always used full-length for their opticals and were done in-house; PB became a colour grader when they were working on Eastmancolor at Denham using the 2 frame method – 2 frames cut out at the end of each scene after the first negative had been cut; usually got the colours right by the third print; PB left the labs in 1954 and the 2 frame process remained for many years; this was grading by sight.

00:13:10 – 00:18:15 Moved to Anglo-Scottish Pictures in 1954 starting in the animation department; his experience in the labs meant that he working with the film crews also; Production Manager on One Plus One (Jean-Luc Godard), mainly pre-production; PB was shop steward at Rank during the lock-out in the early-1950s; asked to return to work when the Queen’s coronation was on the horizon; PB talks about his union activities; hundreds of staff at Denham during this time; Denham was taken over by Rank during the war when Korda went bankrupt.

00:18:15 – 00:21:20 Ealing films; PB worked on most of the B&W films from 1943 onwards (optical work on a dozen or so films); PB met the cameramen at the first showing of the answer print; later worked with them again during the preservation of the film; his experiences meant that he could discuss any issues quite easily with the filmmakers.

00:21:20 – 00:23:30 Increase in colour films when tripack was introduced; labs had to look after Gevacolor, Ferrania color, Eastmancolor; PB remembers test on an Ilford stock for archive purposes.

00:23:30 – 00:30:00 Restoration work; started at NFTVA in the1970s when work for film technicians was sparse (unless working on commercials); one Debry machine and a printing machine when he started working with Harold Brown; very little money at this time; printing started as part of the 24 year plan; his contacts at Denham offered old machines to the archive; engineer Phil Read started working at the archive as an engineer; 5 million feet a year, with a lab in London also printing 2-3million, during the 24 year project.

00:30:00 – 00:41:20 PB set up at Denham; Black Pirate restoration – test using an optical printer purchased as a result of support from the government; David Francis asked PB to work on Technicolor films (for 18 months before he retired); PB describes the restoration of 3-strip films; Eastmancolor negative made from the three black and white master positives; colour negatives processed and prints made at Rank; PB worked with the print graders at Denham on this project; PB discusses his set-up at Denham.

[Break in recording at 00:41:20]

00:41:20 – 00:51:00 Wet gate printing 3-strip; vinegar syndrome and how the BFI manage deteriorating film; accessing source material for restoration, Thief of Bagdad and travelling mattes; KW mentions the blue line appearing in Blithe Spirit.

00:51:00 – 00:57:35 PB worked on Dufaycolor feature Sons of the Sea and various shorts; Dufaycolor wasn’t easy to reproduce; Dufay negatives were much higher contrast that Eastman; the only way to control contrast is by using separations; on some titles he worked with Kodak internegative (5272) rather than normal intermediate stock in order to lower the contrast – also had a slightly better definition; when PB started some of the Eastman films were put on to camera negative; the films which have been transferred on to Eastman looked sharper than the original Technicolor prints; the original dye transfer process often had wandering colours; dark blue colours in the duel sequence in Colonel Blimp looked black in the original Technicolor print.

Tape 2

00:00:00 – 00:03:00 Starts mid-conversation; PB is credit as colour consultant on Sally Potter’s The London Story; Potter wanted her film to look more like Technicolor than the present Eastman colour stock, PB suggested Ferrania color; tests on the film were conducted at Denham; PB avoided wet gate printing with original negatives.

00:03:00 – 00:07:50 Film of the Olympiad shot on bi-pack (possibly Kodak stock); no shooting on three-strip until the opening at Wembley; there had been an attempt to convert the bi-pack into three-strip; stock was hard to come by in those days, otherwise Technicolor would have probably shot all in three-strip.

00:07:50 – 00:16:40 Harold Brown worked alone in restoration for a long time; the industry were not concerned with restoration for a long time; PB reflects on his career.



Paul de Burgh started at Denham Film studios in 1937 as office boy/doorman. Joined the TA in WW11. Rejoined Denham in the optical printing dept in 1943 at £9 pw. Gained experience with the Technicolour three strip system, eastman colour and dufay colour. Discussion about effects mostly with Editors on films. Latterly involved with archiving films. Has screen credit as colour consultant on "The London Story".