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IB print??


Chris Burke
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IB prints are color die transfer, which is a lot more work in the lab, but delivers a far more stable (long term) color image.

 

Standard color print film, has issues with fading over time, even modern stocks. IB prints don't have those issues.

 

This means, a print from even the early days of color, will still retain much of it's original color information decades later. This is why so many people prefer to project them, rather then a "restored" version, which may not look the same.

 

Unfortunately, IB prints were expensive to make, so once color print film took over, they were only used for archiving and/or special circumstances.

 

Technirama is an 8 perf 35mm horizontal format, nearly identical to VistaVision, but with the addition of anamorphic lenses. It was initially designed as a cheaper alternative to 5/70, but the projectors were expensive and only worked with the single format. Most 5/70 projectors also run 35mm, so it was a lot easier for theaters to buy those by-platform rather then one that does a single job like VistaVision/Technirama.

 

In the end, Technirama wound up being a great format for 70mm blow up's and there were many films shot on 8/35 and released in 70mm, though the cinemascope 35mm format wound up being the mainstay release format for most movies.

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IB prints were actually cheap to make per print but expensive (and time-consuming) to set up the matrices to make the prints, so Technicolor got rid of the process when print orders declined in the 1970's. Dye transfer printing is not a photographic process, the print stock is not light sensitive, it does not have an emulsion, and it isn't "processed" -- it is more akin to color printing for a book: yellow, cyan, and magenta dyes are pressed in separate passes onto a clear strip of film with a mordant to absorb the dye.

 

Since no color see coupler technology was involved, the color dyes used in printing were very stable, archival, similar to Kodachrome where the dyes were added during processing.

 

In the 1970's, the average studio release was reduced to a few hundred prints at the most and Technicolor got rid of their IB machinery in their three printing labs: Los Angeles, London, and Rome. "Godfather Part 2" was one of the last IB prints made in Los Angeles; "Star Wars" had only one IB print made in London as a test probably, and it was the only reference for how the colors originally looked when the movie was later restored, and "Suspiria" was famous for being one of the last IB print orders to come out of Rome.

 

Technicolor built a small prototype IB printer in the 1990's to experiment with bringing back the process but discovered that even with today's large print orders, studios no longer had a month to time and create the printing matrices, they wanted a shorter turnaround time for punching out thousands of release prints, plus their prototype printer was too small to make thousands of prints quickly anyway. So you had a few major releases using this IB printer -- another rerelease of "Gone with the Wind" and "Wizard of Oz", "Apocalypse Now Redux", and then a few scattered prints made for "Batman and Robin", "Godzilla", "Bulworth", "The Wedding Planner", and one print of "The Thin Red Line" finished after the release date and given to Terrance Malick.

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Thanks for the explanation. I am very thankful for having an art house in my home town that is showing these. The Vikings is screening from which what they are calling a technirama print. Is this printed to a standard 4 perf vertical pull down print or does it run through the projector horizontally? They list it as a 35mm Technirama Print.

http://somervilletheatre.com/70-mm-presentations/

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  • 4 years later...

I enjoyed Dean Mullin’s description of the IB  printing process but have one clarification. The print stock was, in fact, a light sensitive black and white print stock made by Kodak. It may have been designated 5307, as 5302 was the standard black and white print stock of that era. This was necessary in order to photographically apply the optical sound track to the print. That was printed and developed in a typical darkroom environment so what came down through the ceiling into the dye transfer room at Technicolor was a clear strip of film except for the sound track and one edge onto which was printed footage numbers. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Joe Dervin is right, I was going to post a correction to David's post about no photographic emulsion but no longer needed.

I visited Technicolor London in the mid-70s when they were still running the IB process, they even gave me a few samples of matrix films. The minimum order then was 200 prints.

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They showed me the entire process, it starts with a model C type printer, just printing the soundtrack from the negative in a loop cabinet. The film then gets processed in a B&W machine and is then transported to another floor where the imbibition process takes place. Each machine is about 100 ft long (distant memory) where three matrix films are coated with ink (YCM) and then contact 'printed' on the filmstrip that already has the photograpic soundtrack. All this in a continuous motion, film roll after film roll is spliced in the darkroom before the soundtrack printer and only taken apart after screening on the projector at the end of the chain. Keep in mind that the matrix films have to be in perf sync, even one perforation offset would be a disaster.

The matrix film absorbs ink according to the density required in the print. Quite a technological achievement. 

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Each loop belt (one for each color) had pins on which the matrix and processed printstock (sound track already on it) were held in contact to allow the dye to transfer.

I don't know about any coatings.

My visit must have been in 1975 or so, just before I bought my first Model C printer. I had been invited by B&H to see Technicolor in operation. This plant was later sold to China because it permits mass production of prints on cheap B&W printstock (then).

 

 

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