Movie printing timer

SRI’s Academy Award – 1959

SRI was honored with an Academy Award® for its role in developing the Technicolor® electronic printing timer, which allowed the motion picture industry to release new color prints quickly.

In the early days of color motion pictures, it was difficult to make an adequate master film from which to produce multiple release prints for theaters. The variability of cameras and scenes composing a motion picture meant that it was very costly and time-consuming for highly skilled technicians to try to create a master film of consistently high color quality.

Technicolor contracted with SRI in 1952 to develop a near-instantaneous electro-optical alternative to the existing manual process. SRI developed an accurate transfer system that specified the color processing parameters for the new film prints. SRI used a high-quality, closed-circuit color television system that operated with color cathode ray tubes manufactured in SRI’s Vacuum Tube Laboratory.

In December 1952, a prototype system was delivered and immediately put into production. It was so accurate that it gave the correct processing parameters for the very first time. By saving costly film and enabling release prints to generate revenue more quickly, the Technicolor electronic printing timer greatly benefited the motion picture industry.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the 1959 Scientific and Engineering Award jointly to SRI and Technicolor for the design and development of the Technicolor electronic printing timer.

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