The use of Technicolor in The Wizard of Oz

In 1939 the musical “The Wizard of Oz” was released on the big screen, based on the children’s novel of the same name written by L. Frank Baum. This story is about the adventure of Dorothy and her dog in the world of Oz, after being taken away by a tornado. On her way, she meets magical creatures from this world. Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly lion and they accompany Dorothy to “Emerald City”, where the Oz, a wizard, can take her back to her home, Kansas. This film has innovative productions, whether it is the scenography or costumes design, but what stands out is the use of technicolor to highlight the colors of the film.

One of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema is Dorothy leaving the sepia tone house and entering a world of bright colors. This could not be done without the “DF – 24 beam splitter camera”. This camera required using color filters that were composed of red, green and blue. When they filmed the scenes they used black and white 35 mm tape; in the process of revealing the ribbon they unite them and create the film in full color. But the camera did not do the whole process in its absolute fidelity. You had to play with the colors of the costumes and the scenery so that when they film it and goes through the filming process; does not miss the essence of bright colors that you wanted for the film. Every scene needed a color test strip and they did double or triple take just to be sure.

One of the challenges in the filming process was the lights since it needed a certain amount to make the color stand out in the process of revealing the tape. It was said that the set for this movie sometimes reached 100 degrees FF. One of the many things this movie achieved by using light was Dorothy’s famous shoes. To capture the eye of the audience, the used the bright lights to reflect the sequins. This helped highlight that striking red we see on the big screen.

The Wizard of Oz” was not the first film to use this technique, but it is a perfect example of the early work of colors in cinematography. The brilliant production of lights and the intensity of the saturated color palette is what made this film. Thanks to the use of technicolor we have the illusion of entering this bright and colorful world that is the world of Oz.

On this scene Dorothy is leaving her sepia tone house and entering the world of bright colors with the help of a DF – 24 beam splitter camera : 


{ picture by thecoolidge  }

Video by Benjamin Portman }


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