Posts Tagged ‘colour grading’

Arthur Cambridge slips away into the night.

Arthur Cambridge, the legendary film grader from Colorfilm and later Atlab, has died.

Arthur was one of the small cadre of Colorfilm staff who had a hand in more feature films in those glory days of the 70s and 80s than anyone else in the industry. He, negative matcher Margaret Cardin, lab liaison Bill Gooley and optical effects specialist Roger Cowland, were the dream team!

Arthur CambridgeFrom the early days of the Australian film renaissance, Arthur developed an eye for colour balance, but more importantly, an empathy for exactly what look and mood the cinematographer and director wanted to achieve in telling the story of the film. For film after film, Arthur’s first answer print (made once the camera negative had been cut) was almost invariably accepted with very few further corrections – no mean achievement in the days when colour video monitors bore only a passing resemblance of the projected film print image. His skill in delivering the right look with only the rudimentary controls of red, green or blue, lighter or darker, was remarkable. None the less, Arthur would emerge from grading almost every feature announcing that it was the most difficult job he’d ever tackled.

Some jobs were indeed difficult, however: ironically, the challenge of blending archival newsreel footage of the Maitland floods with Phil Noyce’s new material for Newsfront, despite it all being black and white, had this writer and Arthur working late into the night – but successfully so, as when the film was released in the UK, the director gave up trying to match our results through his UK lab, and requested prints from Colorfilm.

When Colorfilm closed in 1990, Arthur moved straight over to Atlab: his skill was undiminished, but the best days were over. The dream team was no more, with only Roger Cowland of the four still around, and feature production was slumping after the removal of the 10BA tax breaks. However, he continued grading for another decade before retiring.

While younger film graders made the switch to digital colour correction, Arthur remained resolutely a film grader, using the familiar Colormaster equipment. This writer recalls an occasion however, when he was called to a telecine suite by a colourist who couldn’t match two shots in a print that Arthur had graded. Arthur watched the colourist struggle with gamma, lift and gain controls for a while, then quietly asked if he could try. He reached across, moved each control once, and the shots matched perfectly!

Arthur’s extraordinary skills came into their own again when Atlab produced restored prints of many of the features of that era for NFSA’s Atlab/Kodak collection. He had graded most of them the first time around, and remembered exactly how they looked then. Picnic at Hanging Rock came back with exactly the same brooding atmosphere, while The Night, The Prowler was exactly the right shade of blue – something no other grader would have imagined!

At an editors’ conference around 1991 this writer gave a talk (as part of a panel) about the arrival of computers into film editing rooms, and the consequent loss of a training path for assistant editors. As an analogy it was pointed out that the introduction of computers into the grading room some years previously had reduced opportunities for assistant colour graders to learn the skills – and as a result there was no ‘next wave’ of film graders coming through. During questions, someone asked the panel if this was true, and what we would all do when Arthur Cambridge retired. One of the other panellists muttered “stop making films, I suppose”.

Arthur is survived by his wife Jan and sons Doug and Mark.


This memory was first published in Screenhub.