Paul de Burgh (PB)
Laboratory, NFTVA, Restoration (Technicolor)
Interviewers: Kieron Webb (KW), Liz Watkin (LW), Charles Fairall (CF)
2 DV Tapes (Video)
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.
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.