Technicolor concentrates Hollywood's golden age in one vial
Los Angeles (AFP) – Technicolor, the legendary Hollywood post-production company, is now at the forefront of a technological revolution worthy of a science fiction film: it manages to store a million copies of an old title in the space of a small vial.
The company, whose cameras and film treatments “trichrome” gave its colors to old Hollywood gems like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Gone with the Wind”, celebrated this week its centenary.
She took the opportunity to unveil to the press her latest cutting-edge technology: the coding and storage of digitized films on synthetic DNA.
In the historic Sunset Boulevard site of the group now under the French flag –it was bought by Thomson in 2000– Jean Bolot, vice president of research and innovation, created amazement by showing a parterre of journalists a vial as large as a sample of perfume.
According to him, it contained one million copies of the 1902 silent film “The Journey to the moon”, the first to use special effects.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is called a macro-molecule, but in spite of everything infinitely small, and invisible to the human eye: we can house 90,000 of them in the thickness of a hair and thus store 1 million copies of old films digitized and coded in DNA in the space of a few droplets.
“This, believe it, is what the film archive of the future looks like,” says Mr. Bolot, holding the small flask in his hand, with a little water at the bottom.
Scientists have been experimenting with DNA as a means of storage for years. Technicolor’s project is based in particular on the work of researchers at Harvard University, who in 2012 successfully managed to store 5.5 petabytes of data, or 5.5 million gigabytes, in a single gram of DNA.
Transferring movies to synthetic DNA has huge advantages, Bolot points out, explaining that archiving the entire catalog of a Hollywood studio, which currently takes up square kilometers, could fit in the volume of a few pieces of Lego.
The DNA conversion of the “Journey to the Moon” took six weeks and tens of thousands of dollars, but Technicolor is trying to fine-tune the technology to make it commercially viable.
Mr. Bolot does not yet know if they will succeed, but he thinks he will know “within a year”. If they succeed, it will really be “the beginning of a new era of archiving”.
Founded in Boston in 1915, Technicolor moved to Hollywood in the early 20s and has done post-production on thousands of films since.
“The Revenant”, by Alejandro Inarritu, was this year the fifth film in a row awarded the Oscar for best cinematography whose image was retouched by Technicolor engineers.
Richard Crudo, director of the American Society of Cinematographers and himself the cinematographer of many films, has been working with the society’s teams since 1978 and calls them”exceptional”.
– Virtual reality –
“With the adoption of digital technology, there have been a lot of changes and a lot of companies have broken their teeth, but Technicolor has made the transition,” he explained.
The most significant innovation in the film industry in recent years has been the emergence of virtual reality, often interactive films, mixing filmed and computer-generated images, now often watched with headsets offering 360-degree immersion.
Technicolor, which rebounded from near bankruptcy in the late 2000s, was an early adopter of innovation. Last year, the group announced the $ 295 million acquisition of The Mill, the largest visual effects and creative studio for the advertising industry.
Technicolor’s portfolio of assets also includes the special effects company MPC, which worked with Ridley Scott for “Alone on Mars”, and designed for its release a 360-degree virtual reality film that puts the viewer in the shoes of an astronaut in full flight to Mars.
Frédéric Rose, who has led the group since 2008, doesn’t know what the future holds for Technicolor but for him one thing is certain: we will always want to have fun.
What form will it take in 100 years? He jokingly assures that a good way to find inspiration is to “always refer to the original series of +Star Trek+”.