For as long as I have been part of the UCLA MIAS Program, I have wondered what a SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers) meeting was like. I had my doubts and my apprehensions about attending, primarily because I thought that I would be lost in the dark, not know anyone and be entirely confused about the discussions taking place. Now, I know differently. To be perfectly frank, I wish I had started going when I entered the program last year. The scene I entered into this past March was warm, friendly, and welcoming. Not only was there pizza and sodas, I saw a slew of familiar faces from the AMIA conferences (both Reel Thing and the AMIA Annual Conference) and people that I have gotten to know due to classes and projects that I have worked on within the MIAS Program. My compatriot in the MIAS program, Gonzalo Ramirez (author of the article below!), had already been to previous SMPTE meetings, so he was “old school.” I know that there are also other MIAS students who have joined SMPTE, which (in my eyes) speaks volumes for the upcoming generation’s current dedication to the interplay between technology and preservation. I believe with all of my heart that from what I have seen amongst the students in the New York programs and those here in Los Angeles, we are all interested in learning more, pursuing more, and being more active as the next group of preservationists and moving image professionals. It’s very inspiring since I am concerned that those a few years above us aren’t aware of how excited we are about this work.
Attending the meeting was great. I was able to discuss subjects that I had thought just a few years ago I would be unable to comprehend. I listened to people present their work, and I understood it. In fact, I even disagreed sometimes. I never imagined I could chat with engineers on film related issues! It was exciting! The presentations were fabulous and I plan on going back as often as I can. The convivial atmosphere was also something that I appreciated quite a bit. As a young woman who really hasn’t been working in the technical areas for a great amount of time, I was treated with respect and people were interested in discussing things with me during the “social hour” and were extremely sociable and open. This was refreshing, exciting, and let me know that this is a group of people who are open with their work and willing to share. In other words, SMPTE is a community. My favorite word.
And with that, I will let Gonzalo tell you about the greater portion of the evening as he has done a stunning job writing it up. He is one of our lovely and bright students who has joined the MIAS program all the way from Chile, and I don’t think it would be beyond the pale to say HE TOTALLY ROCKS!!!! Check out his wonderful article. He did a simply SMASHING article!!! Thanks, Gonzalo!! And also, thanks to Dick May for allowing us to come in and give us the assistance we needed for our journalism! Much appreciated!
AMIA Student Chapter President, UCLA
“Today’s Use of Black and White and Its Potential Future.” - SMPTE Meeting, March 7, 2013
--- by Gonzalo Ramirez, Graduate Studies, UCLA MIAS Program
Not so long ago, back in Chile, a Cinema History Professor talked to us about having taught a class of students who didn’t understand anything. One day, the Professor told us that one of the students from this class asked him why he forced them to see unfinished films. “What do you mean?” the professor said, “These films look unfinished,” the student replied because due to the fact that all the movies were in Black and White.
On March 7th the Hollywood section of SMPTE got together at the Linwood Dunn Theater with the meeting subject of “Today’s Use of Black and White and Its Potential Future.”
The program opened with the Head of Restoration of the UCLA Film and Television Archive Scott MacQueen who remembered a painting professor who said “Good painting is good drawing” and for him, good drawing is to know perfectly the use of light in Black and White films. Next he showed us 9 examples of the use of Black and White in classical movies. Examples like Cleopatra (Cecil B. DeMille, 1934), A Midsummer Night's Dream (William Dieterle/Max Reinhardt, 1935), The Lodger (John Brahm, 1944), Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940), among others, exemplify the use of light from artists like Gregg Toland, Hal Mohr or Stanley Cortez as a stylistic tool and also establish the “mood” of the film. These examples showed how William Daniels in Marie Antoinette (W.S. Van Dyke, 1938) expected to achieved a “Glamour” look, in an open field, with hundred of extras in Marie Antoinette using slow stock and a lot of light, how Gregg Toland shot one scene in Grapes of Wrath that seems to be lit by a singular moving candle. How Lucien Ballard in The Lodger copies the atmosphere in foggy London illuminated with gas lamps.
|John Brahm's THE LODGER, lit by Lucien Ballard|
Black and White is about the use of light, the provenance of it, and the way it suggests things or creates an atmosphere that flows with the story of the movie.
The discussion followed with Andrew Oran from Fotokem and Tom Burton from Technicolor who made a presentation about today's use of Black and White film, and its potential future. Andrew Oran talked the history of Black and White Stock and the modern use in film restoration, meanwhile Tom Burton, made the ironic remark that Color stock replaced Black and White film; but preservation copies are still using color separation in Black and White stock. He discussed how to work with films and preservation elements for digital restoration, the use of scanners, dirt/scratch removal software and preservation copies in Black and White stock.
|Tom Burton from Technicolor|
Black and white did not die with Color Stock, it is still used as a tool for cinematographers. Modern examples such as The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011) The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011), The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009), Blancanieves (Pablo Berger, 2012), or the new Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon, 2012). All of these examples choose to do it in Black and White, and our field is key to fully understanding its capacities to preserve the past for the future in the best possible way.