As the 1980s approached, Technicolor faced an increasing challenge from other film labs that were now competing on a playing field that no longer included the company’s IB dye-transfer offering. That degree of differentiation between Technicolor and its competition was removed, but again, as it had many times before, the company turned to its legacy of innovation and color-science to manage to forge another crossroads of change. That process included dramatically growing its home entertainment business for VHS tape-replication of studio films. With new state-of-the-art high-speed printers to keep pace with the greatly expanded international demand of Hollywood films, it also dramatically grew its global film-print capability.
To further address the changed landscape, Technicolor increased its focus on core relationships with cinematographers and filmmakers to address their creative demands. Such was the case with Technicolor’s relationship with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, AIC, ASC, who is arguably one of the greatest cinematographers in the world.
Over the last five decades of an illustrious career, Storaro has photographed 60 films — including his newest (untitled) project for director Woody Allen. Of those 60 films, Technicolor has served Vittorio on 58 of the 60, first as his “go-to” laboratory in Rome, then Technicolor Hollywood, New York and London, and now as his digital “lab” partner. When one considers the list of truly remarkable films Vittorio has photographed, and the equally remarkable group of directors he (and Technicolor) has served, his accomplishments are truly robust. Starting in 1970 (and to name just a few) Vittorio’s resume is nothing short of staggering: The Conformist; The Spider’s Stratagem; Last Tango in Paris; 1900; Agatha; Apocalypse Now; Luna; One From the Heart; Reds; The Last Emperor; Tucker: The Man and His Dream; Dick Tracy; and The Sheltering Sky. More recently, Vittorio spent much of a year in Iran shooting Muhammad: the Messenger of God, a beautifully realized 5th century historical drama about the early years of Muhammad that premiered in Montreal.
Anyone that’s worked for Technicolor since 1970 has been honored with Vittorio’s association. Not only has he created a body of celebrated work that is almost without peer in motion picture history, but he’s also served as one of the world’s greatest ambassadors of cinematography, color and light. He has written and produced a series of books on cinematography that celebrate the traditions of western and eastern art – which great cinematography draws on. His understanding of the juxtaposition of imagery, color and light is nothing short of breathtaking. Former Technicolor and Warner Bros exec Rob Hummel shared with us a set of documents Vittorio produced before many of these productions began, a brief manifesto of sorts outlining his thinking about the upcoming production:
Hummel was Vittorio’s lab contact for many years, and shared some thoughts about working with Vittorio and his place in film history:
“I met Vittorio for the very first time on April 1st, 1979. I was 24 years old, a wide-eyed kid really. On that day I was told to be in Theatre One after lunch at which time I met Vittorio for the first time. He was screening a top-secret project, the work-print of ‘Apocalypse Now’ — which at that moment had never been seen by anyone other than Francis Coppola’s closest associates. Vittorio, at that time, didn’t speak a word of English. We had a Hazeltine timer who was Italian and who translated for Vittorio. I sat in the back row and took copious notes.
The amazing thing about Vittorio was his painstaking approach to planning for a production. And his execution was impeccable. On ‘Tucker’, Vittorio designed three different looks for the various periods of the film. These were the days long before digital. And he challenged every technical limitation of the lab. For me, Technicolor became the greatest film school in the world.”