What's New in the Movies

Popular Mechanics, elokuu 1935


You may not be able to believe your own eyes and ears when you go to the movies tomorrow, for Hollywood is stepping on its own heels rushing new ideas into pictures. So rapidly are new processes of being developed that today's latest accomplishment is likely to be discarded as archaic tomorrow.

Recent developments include a process for making color pictures which is so simple that black and white movies some day may be as rare as silent ones, a method of recording sound which adds richness and the third dimension of depth to the original voice or music, and a new staging technique which has enabled the movies to move indoors and bring all the outdoors in with them.

Pictures, as well as sound, have been given the third dimension of depth in experimental work and one producer is now busy with a method for bringing movies into your home by television when the equipment and broadcasting facilities become available.

Color now can be brought to the screen in all the hues of the rainbow. "Becky Sharp" is the first full-length picture done in the full color process, which adds blue to the red and green previously used. These three colors, and combinations of them, make up all the hues the human eye sees.

The method for transferring these colors and combinations to the film is simple. The camera contains three negatives. Light entering the lens is divided by a prism so one-third passes straight through and two-thirds is deflected to the side. The one-third of the light goes through a filter passing only green-yellow rays which are registered on the film directly behind. On the side are two more negatives, one behind the other. Two-thirds of the light passes through a red and blue filter, but only the blue is registered. The light then passes through an orange filter and the reds are registered on the second negative. Thus the three negatives carry separately the three colors which make up all visible hues.

Matrices are made from the negatives and on these, the portions affected by the printing light - that is the shadows - expand in developing, forming relief images. The matrices then are dyed, but instead of dyeing the "green" matrix green, it is treated with magenta dye, a combination of red and blue. Similarly the "red" matrix is treated with a combination of green and blue and the "blue" negative with yellow. Then a black and white positive is made and one by one the three colors are transferred to it. Then whatever should appear in black and white shows, as well as every color. By overlapping, the colors reproduce the different hues.

This process makes possible the use of colored lights for effects not even attempted with black and white photography. Anger, for instance, can be depicted not only by the actions and expressions of an actor, but by the introduction of a deepening red light in the background. in the picture, "Becky Sharp," one of the actresses, was supposed to blush, something not easily accomplished to order. The blush was achieved by throwing a pin point of red light onto her cheek.

Color for "Mickey Mouse" and the "Silly Symphonies" is handled differently. The squares of celluloid or "cells," with their backgrounds, are colored by hand, ordinary water colors being used, with india ink for black. The cells are laid on their background, one by one, and photographed with a color camera. Matrices then are made from the negatives and dyed, after which the colors are transferred to the positive film.

Full color photography, even now, is only in its infancy. One improvement now forecast is the use of a tri-pack negative roll containing three negatives in a row, one behind the other. Tests also are being made with a single negative, combining in itself the color filters and three negative surfaces necessary.

While color technicians are producing rainbow pictures, sound engineers have combined several methods of sound recording into a process which gives back more from the screen than went into the microphone. There are two principal methods of recording sound - by wax and needle, and by film and the photo-electric cell, the latter being generally used in the movies. There are two methods of wax recording, the old type where the needle cuts sidewise, and the "hill and dale" system in which the needle cuts up and down. There also are two methods of film recording, the variable area, in which a line on the film indicates the sound, and variable density in which sound is recorded by the density of the emulsion on the film.

The advantage of the hill and dale system is that volume can be increased without distortion. But the wax record is too fragile for commercial purposes, although its recording is better than any film method yet devised. in making "One Night of Love," featuring Grace Moore, John Livadary, Columbia Studio's sound expert, combined wax recording with film recording to produce the sound effects. He made recordings of Miss Moore's numbers on the extremely sensitive hill and dale wax records, then transferred the wax record to film by playing it into the recording device while the sound film was being made or by superimposing it into the microphone.

In "Love Me Forever," Miss Moore's new picture, he has gone several steps further. he has combined hill and dale wax recording with the variable density and variable area types and has added a "third dimension" process to give depth to sound. Heretofore distance in sound has been represented by making the sound loud to insicate it is close up and faint to indicate it is far away. There never had been a sound recording from which anyone could estimate the distance a speaker was standing from the microphone.

To blend all these processes on a single film was a complicated problem because the third dimension sound alone had required two sound tracks, or two films. Because the hill and dale wax recor makes the finest recordings and can be amplified with least distortion, Miss Morre's songs were put on wax and at the same time a reverberation or "distance" record was made on variable-density film. Variable-density film also carried the dialogue while a third and fourth reel of the same type carried the effectsm such as footsteps.

In the variable density system, recorded sound can be increased or decreased in volume by printing the film dark or light, so any sound can be stepped up or cut down as desired. So the various sound tracks were put into dubbing machines and "piped" to a mixing table, several dubbing machines and one hill and dale reproducer being connected to the table through dial controls. By manipulating the dials, any part of any sound track can be mixed into the one output, and so recorded on the single film.

Watching the picture the sound engineer mixed his various sound tracks while other sound men listened and made notes for later changes. When Miss Moore sang with a chorus, one sound track carried the best recording of the chorus, another the best recording of the orchestra, a third the reverberation and three others the sound effects. Frequently the machine was stopped and changed from variable density to variable area where it was desired to alter the strength of the tone range.

When the hill and dale wax recording of Miss Moore's voice was turned on, the sound from it blended with the sounds from the six film tracks. The combined result was recorded on a single film. This single film later was reprinted to correct colume and some was recorded again to correct other faults. in the end the single film included the result of all the types of recording, plus third dimension of depth.

The "shadow box" also was first used in this picture. it looks like an old-fashioned square loud speaker. A microphone in the small end picks up only the sounds directly in front of it. By using three such boxes it is possible to separate each component part of a duet with an orchestra, registering the soprano on one microphone and sound track, the tenor on another and the orchestra on a third, while an open microphone hung within range of all records the reverberation track.

(Concluded next month)

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