Magazine article American Cinematographer

Polaroid Introduces "Instant Color Movies"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Polaroid Introduces "Instant Color Movies"

Article excerpt

A revolutionary technical breakthrough makes possible Super-8 film ready for viewing 95 seconds after having been exposed

NEEDHAM, Massachusetts

The mysterious phone call had come from a public relations representative of the Polaroid Corporation, asking me to attend the company's Annual Meeting of Stockholders and promising that an announcement "of utmost importance" about a new photographic system would be made. The seductive (female) voice on the other end of the line would provide no further information regarding the nature of the important announcement, but promised that it would be well worth my while to attend.

It would have to be well worth my while, in editorial terms, for me to travel all the way across the United States, from Los Angeles to a suburb of Boston, in order to attend a four-hour meeting, but I had a gut feeling as to the nature of the information to be disclosed.

For the past several years it has been rumored that Polaroid has been working on a system for producing "instant color movies" - a seemingly impossible dream, but not all that far-fetched when one considers the miracle of the same company's "instant still color photograph" system. My lumbago tells me that the moment for the announcement of instant movies has arrived, and it is spurred on by that thought that I board the plane in Los Angeles to wing my way diagonally across the American continent.

Arriving at the Technology Square headquarters of Polaroid in Cambridge, I am impressed to find myself in the company of a hundred-or-so members of the elite world Press. Included are representatives of such general-interest news journals as Time, all the major news services, and prestigious publications from as far away as Japan and Australia. There are also in attendance several completely equipped remote television crews. The news has to be big, I tell myself, in order to draw these pillars of printed and electronic journalism from the four corners of the earth.

Although no one claims to be absolutely sure about it, several of the more vocal correspondents share my supposition that the announcement to be made will refer to Polaroid's long-rumored instant color movies system.

We are transported to Polaroid's Service Center building in Needham and ushered into the large, well-equipped Press facility which has been set up.

Some objects, tantalizingly covered with a blue cloth, are lying on a table up front, but the mystery is promptly dispelled after Polaroid President William J. McCune, Jr., introduces Dr. Edwin H. Land, Chairman of the Board and Director of Research.

"I would like to introduce to you a new field in science, art and industry - called Polavision," says the affable and witty Dr. Land, whisking away the blue cloth.

There on the table are three items: a small amateur-type movie camera, what appears to be a film cartridge or cassette and an apparatus that closely resembles a portable television receiver with a 12-inch (diagonal) screen. Dr. Land explains that these are the components of the process for producing "immediately visible living images", which Polaroid has been in the process of perfecting over the past eight years. In other words, instant color movies!

He explains how the system works. You simply slip the cassette into the camera, expose the film, take the cassette out of the camera and pop it into a slot in the top of the TV-like player. After 95 seconds of whirring sound (during which, we are told, the film is being simultaneously rewound and processed), the player turns on its light and begins to show the finished product - in gorgeous color.

The blasé members of the Press are stunned by what is obviously a technological blockbuster - a truly revolutionary scientific breakthrough. Dr. Land explains briefly how the system works. The film itself does everything, he says. Programmed information on the film's edge triggers all the signals within the cassette to control the operation of its components. …

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