Sound is not the first thing that comes to mind when reviewing Technicolor’s history, but, in fact, for almost 90 years, sound has been both a major component of the company’s intent and offering. One can easily review how much sound is a major facet of Technicolor today, from the company’s technology portfolio which includes MPEG standards; to future-facing MPEG standards development; to the research and development of 3D sound; and not the least of which is Technicolor’s sound-services offerings to theatrical features, broadcast productions and the games creative community. Technicolor’s theatrical sound creative talent won the coveted Academy Award for their Achievement in Sound Mixing, for Whiplash – the “indie” award-season darling of 2014.
Reflecting back on the company’s history, the year the Academy was founded, 1927, was certainly a crucial turning point in Technicolor history and the motion picture world at large with the first sound projects hitting theatres in the US. It’s been argued that it was the stock market crash of 1929, and subsequent depression, that adversely impacted Technicolor, but it’s debatable that it was in fact the revolution of sound that nearly killed demand for early color, and that the novelty of 2-color motion pictures had seen its day. In any case, Technicolor had complete belief in its IB-dye transfer printing technique from the late 1920s, and also understood that real-life color was its immediate challenge.
The company started producing color prints with sound by 1928, and witnessed the immediate emergence of a new genre of motion pictures…the “song and dance” film that exploded across North American theatres. Hollywood was able to marry itself to Broadway, with its stars and subject matter. Sound and color were a natural fit, and whereas a whole generation of silent-screen movie actors couldn’t successfully make the leap into “talkies”, that was hardly the case for Technicolor.
Once again, the company re-invented itself. Filmmakers like Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, David O. Selznick and Merian C. Cooper championed Technicolor’s drive towards full-color features and animated shorts, and Dr. Kalmus successfully brought in new capital to the company, led by investor Jock Whitney. Technicolor engineers continued their two-pronged approach to movies, creating a new camera – one that could handle 3-strips of negative that would be printed, using its patented IB-dye transfer process to create the most stunning revolution of color motion pictures in history!
Technicolor’s love affair with sound also continued to evolve over the next decades. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the company a Sci-Tech Award in 1961 for its “integrated sound and picture transfer system.”
Later, Thomson and Technicolor were involved with the development of the MPEG sound standard. More recently, Technicolor’s research laboratories around the world continue to work on new sound possibilities, like 3D sound and “Ambisonics” solutions to match the expanded dynamic range of the company’s visual offerings. And lest we not forget Technicolor’s sound team, based in Hollywood, took home the 2014 Oscar and British Academy BAFTA Awards for theatrical sound mixing for their work on Whiplash.
Learn more about the Technicolor sound services