America in Colour

Smithsonian Channel

America in Colour

From the 1920s through the 1960s, America transformed from a young country on the rise into a global superpower. It’s a decisive period in the nation’s history that most have only witnessed in black and white….until now. Using digital colorisation technology, this series revisits 50 vibrant years of good times and great despair, technological triumphs and natural disasters, and global villains and national heroes.

Senior Colourist: Ross Baker

The objective in post was to give audiences an insight into America in a way that had never been experienced before, whilst remaining true to the colour of the eras which had been painstakingly researched by the colour investigators leading the colourisation team. Halo colourist Ross Baker worked to refine and restore the archive, preserving the resolution of the footage and using tools to reduce video noise accentuated by any upscaling, and to align the various source qualities. The grade session also acted as a secondary QC of the archive, as quite often this was the first opportunity to view the material in the UK on a 4K monitor and assess the large volume of rotoscoping that was carried out during colourisation. One of Ross’ biggest tricks was adding natural sky detail to highlights that the original black and white negatives would not have picked up; using cone shapes, highlight keys and bright regions to inject blue.

Supervising Sound Editor: Jay Price

Not relying on the restored colourised footage alone, Jay Price created a sonically rich and detailed soundscape representing the auditory culture and the unique sounds of these decisive and formative decades of America’s history. Our state-of-the-art audio software was used to restore the archive sound bringing clarity, intelligibility, and coherence to historic speeches as well as injecting new life into previously damaged and distorted original recordings. Through the use of sound fx, an entire world was created sonically both on and off the screen by using a combination of authentic and modern recordings of sounds (such as the Model T Ford) that would have been at the forefront within the auditory landscape of that era. It was a very demanding and rewarding process; the result is that the soundtrack authentically coloured the series in a way that compliments the stunning work done with the picture.

An incredible 27 miles of film was scanned to create the series, amalgamating in dozens of file types and frame rates being sent to halo. Thanks to the meticulous organisation and communication from our production and tech teams, the collaboration between editorial and finishing based in London and the colourisation artists in Paris proved that distance does not stand in the way of making incredible television.

Online Editors: Alan Jones / Adam Hall
Head of Production: Jackie Malin
Technical Operations Supervisor: Mikey Sienczak

America in Colour premiers with the 1920s on Smithsonian Channel this Sunday 2nd July.
Running for 5 weeks, each week will show a new decade through to the 1960s.

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