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Technicolor Talks 100 Years, DNA Research

“This is a special recognition in honor of Technicolor’s 100th anniversary,” said Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce yesterday, at a ceremony outside the company’s headquarters on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Hollywood, CA (March 31, 2016)—“This is a special recognition in honor of Technicolor’s 100th anniversary,” said Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce yesterday, at a ceremony outside the company’s headquarters on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Gubler noted that Technicolor, known for its color film processes, was originally established in Boston, where the founders attended MIT, before relocating to Hollywood in the 1920s. Now a part of French media company Thomson, Technicolor has offices worldwide.

“This was the first new building to be built in Hollywood in 30 years,” said Gubler, who added that one-million square feet of office space is currently in development in Hollywood, with both Viacom and Netflix scheduled to soon move in within a couple of blocks. “This is going to be an exciting environment to do business; you paved the way,” he said, presenting a commemorative plaque, inscribed “A Hollywood star for 100 years,” to Technicolor CEO Frederic Rose.

“We have transitioned from the end of film…and we’ve moved completely into digital production,” said Rose, who noted that company co-founder Herbert Kalmus was presented with a special Oscar in 1939 for bringing color film to Hollywood. “More recently, Technicolor has been recognized by the Academy for sound mixing and for visual effects. The last five movies that won the Oscar for best cinematography were finished by the Technicolor teams.”

Unveiling Technicolor’s Star of Recognition are (l-r) actor Edward James Olmos; Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; Frederic Rose, CEO of Technicolor; Ricard Crudo, president of the American Society of Cinematographers; and Beth Marlis, chairman of the board of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and VP of Industry and Community Relations at the Musicians Institute.

In a technology presentation after the ceremony, company representatives demonstrated HDR (high dynamic range) display and distribution solutions, including a new set-top box (Technicolor is the second-largest STB distributor in the world). The company announced a collaborative partnership with LG to incorporate its technology into HDR displays earlier this year, an experience produced in cooperation with and with the endorsement of film director Francis Ford Coppola.

Following a presentation of virtual reality content produced by Technicolor brands including visual effects house MPC, The Mill, Mikros Image and Mr. X, Jean Bolot, director of the company’s research center in Palo Alto, CA, unveiled an innovative archival storage project. “What you are looking at here are one million copies of the movie A Trip to the Moon [1902’s Le voyage dans la lune, by Georges Méliès],” he said, holding up a tiny vial of liquid. “The water takes 98 percent of the space,” he noted.

The process encodes digitized content as human DNA, assigning the zeros and ones to the four base molecules, adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T), which are built into strands using a DNA synthesis machine at Harvard Medical School. The strands are then made into a solution that can subsequently be read and reconstructed by a DNA sequencing machine. All of the films ever made could be stored in a space the size of one Lego block, said Bolot.

“This is a cost saving,” said Rose. “I’ve got an entire floor of this building that’s just used for storage. If Jean manages to do this, imagine the amount of money I’m going to save in storage. And one of the biggest problems we have in the industry is keeping our historical assets. On what physical medium do we keep all these assets? All of the new technologies have shorter and shorter life cycles, and if you don’t have the right device to read it, you can’t do anything with it. The devices become outdated in 10 or 15 years. Remember floppy discs?”

In contrast, “Reading this is going to be as easy to do in 1,000 years as it is today,” said Bolot. “DNA has a shelf life to 10,000 years, guaranteed,” and probably to 100,000 years. The technology will change the future of archiving, he added—if the project is successful: “Come back to us in a year and we’ll have the answer, yes or no.”

“If you only fund the things that are certain, you’re always going to be behind the eight ball,” said Rose. “You’ve got to take risks. We take risks in the domains in which we have competence.”

As for what technologies will likely emerge over the next 100 years, said Rose, “When you wonder what is next, you should always go back to the original Star Trek series. Read one of Asimov’s novels for ideas. When you read what Robert Heinlein wrote 50 years ago, it’s eerie how many of those concepts have come to reality.”

But one thing is certain, he said: “In 80 years from now, the one thing people will be looking for is entertainment. We’re trying to create premium content; that’s always going to be there.”