When video killed the radio star in the 1980s, it also did a number on Russ Suniewick’s business — processing motion pictures. Suniewick co-founded Colorlab, a film-processing firm in Rockville. When the company started in 1972, D.C. was a major film town, with several large labs — Bono, Capital, Byron, among others — cranking out miles of government, public relations and educational films. Each of the network-affiliate TV stations had film-processing equipment. The phrase “Film at 11” was literally true. News of the day was recorded by 16mm film cameras, and the film was rushed back to the station, developed, edited and images readied for broadcast late at night or maybe the next day.
Today, Suniewick and his 20-person crew are innovators in the world of film preservation and restoration. “I am so old that we are actually preserving films that I worked on back in the ’70s,” the 66-year-old Suniewick says with a grim chuckle. “We had many, many good years with lots of film processing.”