Color Motion Picture Film - Monopack Color Film

Monopack Color Film

For many years, Monopack (capitalized) was a proprietary product of Technicolor Corp, whereas monopack (not capitalized) generically referred to any of several single-strip color film products, certainly including various Eastman Kodak products. It appears that Technicolor made no attempt to register Monopack as a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office, although it certainly asserted that term as if it were a registered trademark, and it had the force of a legal agreement between it and Eastman Kodak to backup that assertion. It was a solely-sourced product, too, as Eastman Kodak was legally prevented from marketing any color motion picture film products wider than 16mm, 35mm specifically, until the expiration of the so-called "Monopack Agreement" in 1950. This, notwithstanding the facts that Technicolor never had the capability to manufacture sensitized motion picture films of any kind, nor single-strip color films based upon its so-called "Troland Patent" (which patent Technicolor maintained covered all monopack-type films in general, but monopack-type motion picture films in particular, and which Eastman Kodak elected not contest as Technicolor was then one of its largest customers, if not its largest customer). After 1950, Eastman Kodak was free to develop and market color films of any kind, particularly including monopack color motion picture films in 65/70mm, 35mm, 16mm and 8mm. The "Monopack Agreement" had no effect on color still films.

Modern color film is based on the subtractive color system, which filters colors from white light through dyed or color sensitive layers within a single strip of film. A subtractive color (cyan, magenta, yellow) is what remains when one of the additive primary colors (red, green, blue) has been removed from the spectrum. Eastman Kodak's monopack color film incorporated three separate layers of color sensitive emulsions into one strip of film.

Kodachrome was the first commercially successful application of monopack multilayer film, introduced in 1935. For professional motion picture photography, Kodachrome Commercial, on a 35mm BH-perforated base, was available exclusively from Technicolor, as its so-called "Technicolor Monopack" product. Similarly, for sub-professional motion picture photography, Kodachrome Commercial, on a 16mm base, was available exclusively from Eastman Kodak. In both cases, Eastman Kodak was the sole manufacturer and the sole processor. In the 35mm case, Technicolor dye-transfer printing was a "tie-in" product. In the 16mm case, there were Eastman Kodak duplicating and printing stocks and associated chemistry, not the same as a "tie-in" product. In exceptional cases, Technicolor offered 16mm dye-transfer printing, but this necessitated the exceptionally wasteful process of printing on a 35mm base, only thereafter to be re-perforated and re-slit to 16mm, thereby discarding slightly more than one-half of the end product.

A late modification to the "Monopack Agreement", the "Imbibition Agreement", finally allowed Technicolor to economically manufacture 16mm dye-transfer prints as so-called "double-rank" 35/32mm prints (two 16mm prints on a 35mm base that was originally perforated at the 16mm specification for both halves, and was later re-slit into two 16mm wide prints without the need for re-perforation). This modification also facilitated the early experiments by Eastman Kodak with its negative-positive monopack film, which eventually became Eastmancolor. Essentially, the "Imbibition Agreement" lifted a portion of the "Monopack Agreement's" restrictions on Technicolor (which prevented it from making motion picture products less than 35mm wide) and somewhat related restrictions on Eastman Kodak (which prevented it from experimenting and developing monopack products greater than 16mm wide).

Eastmancolor, introduced in 1950, was Kodak's first economical, single-strip 35 mm negative-positive process incorporated into one strip of film. This rendered Three-Strip color photography relatively obsolete, even though, for the first few years of Eastmancolor, Technicolor continued to offer Three-Strip origination combined with dye-transfer printing (150 titles produced in 1953, 100 titles produced in 1954 and 50 titles produced in 1955, the very last year for Three-Strip). The first commercial feature film to use Eastmancolor was the documentary Royal Journey, released in December 1951. Hollywood studios waited until an improved version of Eastmancolor negative came out in 1952 before using it, perhaps most notably in This is Cinerama, which employed three separate and interlocked strips of Eastmancolor negative. This is Cinerama was initially printed on Eastmancolor positive, but its significant success eventually resulted in it being reprinted by Technicolor, using dye-transfer.

By 1953, and especially with the introduction of anamorphic wide screen CinemaScope, Eastmancolor became a marketing imperative as CinemaScope was incompatible with Technicolor's Three-Strip camera and lenses. Indeed, Technicolor Corp became one of the best, if not the best, processor of Eastmancolor negative, especially for so-called "wide gauge" negatives (65mm, 8-perf 35mm, 6-perf 35mm), yet it far preferred its own 35mm dye-transfer printing process for Eastmancolor-originated films with a print run that exceeded 500 prints, not withstanding the significant "loss of register" that occurred in such prints that were expanded by CinemaScope's 2X horizontal factor, and, to a lesser extent, with so-called "flat wide screen" (variously 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, but spherical and not anamorphic). This nearly fatal flaw was not corrected until 1955 and caused numerous features initially printed by Technicolor to be scrapped and reprinted by DeLuxe. (These features are often billed as "Color by Technicolor-DeLuxe".) Indeed, some Eastmancolor-originated films billed as "Color by Technicolor" were never actually printed using the dye-transfer process, due in part to the throughput limitations of Technicolor's dye-transfer printing process, and competitor DeLuxe's superior throughput. Incredibly, DeLuxe once had a license to install a Technicolor-type dye-transfer printing line, but as the "loss of register" problems became apparent in Fox's CinemaScope features that were printed by Technicolor, after Fox had become an all-CinemaScope producer, Fox-owned DeLuxe Labs abandoned its plans for dye-transfer printing and became, and remained, an all-Eastmancolor shop, as Technicolor itself later became.

Technicolor continued to offer its proprietary imbibition dye-transfer printing process for projection prints until 1975, and even briefly revived it in 1998. As an archival format, Technicolor prints are one of the most stable color print processes yet created, and prints properly cared for are estimated to retain their color for centuries. With the introduction of Eastmancolor low-fade positive print (LPP) films, properly stored (at 45 °F or 7 °C and 25 percent relative humidity) monopack color film is expected to last, with no fading, a comparative amount of time. Improperly stored monopack color film from before 1983 can incur a 30 percent image loss in as little as 25 years.

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