Telecine History

Marc Wielage Nov 6, 2013

  1. My old pal Rob Lingelback of the Telecine Internet Group has agreed to host a bunch of old 1980s color-correction brochures that capture a moment in time when serious color-correction first started happening. They include literature on the Rank TOPSY and Amigo color-correction computers (among the first serious mass-market devices for color-correction that could store to disk), the original Rank-Cintel Flying Spot Scanner, and a bunch of other crap.

    Main link is here:'s_PDF_gallery_(retrospective)

    and here's an example of what passed for "state-of-the-art" film transfer in 1982:


    I've been threatening to write a "history of color correction" article for some time now; maybe I'll eventually get off my duff and actually do it. It's sobering to think how far we've come in 30 years -- from a time where you were lucky to store just one reel (20 minutes) of simple color corrections directly from film, to being able to do very complex secondaries, to using hard drives as image sources, to doing all the color correction and pulling all the non-linear images from a single computer.
  2. The first desk i got to play on was a mk3. Play was a strange word considering the price and up keep on a ursa.
  3. Our joke at Complete Post in LA (courtesy of Sparkle, our lead colorist at the time) was "nothing could be worse-a, than working on an URSA." Problematic machine. They were nice compared to the old IIIC's, but I was never happier than when the Spirit 2K and 4Ks came in. The pictures off those were lightyears better than the previous scanners, in my opinion, plus I think they handled film a lot better.

    The machine pictured above cost about $200,000 in 1982 money... and that was before you added a color-correction system!

    For anybody under 35: this is back in the day when we had to actually load up actual film and physically let the reels turn and pull images off of that in real time, rather than deal with files. Once I started doing file-based work in 2002 or so, I thought, "I'm done with film." It was a huge chore in those days when you'd get 15 minutes into a film reel, and the director would say, "could we check the second shot on the reel? I just had an idea on how to change it." And we'd sit there for 2 solid minutes waiting for the reel to rewind. Pulling up the shot instantly from files spoils you very fast.
    Jeff Kreines likes this.
  4. I just loved the fact i worked in place with four ursas working 24 hours a day except for Friday afternoon, they almost always broke down on a Friday afternoon. Extended lunch break in the pub while the engineers fixed them, but always late getting out on a Friday night. But could a spirit really be considered a telecine? Even Phillips called it a datacine.
  5. Doh, we had five! (Plus a Turbo'd Mk III, which was awful.) Sometimes, they all worked at one time -- but only rarely.

    You just brought back memories of having to auto-align before doing a Super 35mm job -- I haven't thought of that in 15 years at least. I made little cardboard shields to go on top of the glass cover, so that if somebody turned the overhead lights on in the room, the spill wouldn't get into the light path and ruin the alignment. Man, those were the days, eh?

    We still called the Spirit a telecine, even in the days when our company was owned by Thomson. The name for the department finally changed to "Color" once Complete moved across the street to the Technicolor building; "Telecine" seemed a little quaint by that point.
  6. This is a great resource Mark. Thank you for going through the trouble to preserve and immortalize these on the TIG.
    Jason Myres likes this.
  7. At Modern we easily had double of that and they were used 24 hours a day. Very rarely we had down time. I know, I was one of the engineers keeping them going.
  8. I have a Y-Front, it still runs and is pretty reliable I also have a Turbo2 here with a Copernicus. I sold the Dubner to someone in Egypt some years ago.

  9. Ah, I was at Modern when it first started, from 1980-1984, in both buildings they had in Hollywood, starting from the original place at Modern Film Effects on Melrose. I had some terrific friends back then, though only a handful are still working in the business today. Roger Berger was the original tape op for the facility and is still there at Modern as a top finishing editor and conforming artist, a great guy.

    Modern's Moshe Barkat knows a lot about how challenging the early days of telecine were. I can recall we had one of the original Amigos with secondaries, and we had to disconnect the secondaries because of the ongoing "Rainbow Patent" lawsuit going on from Armand Sarabia of CCC. It took a year or two for that to be settled, since he claimed ownership of any system that changed hue or saturation of color in analog form. Eventually, digital systems came out that bypassed the patent, which made it possible to perfect more advanced systems (and not get stifled in court).

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