This database was created in 2012 and has been developed and curated by Barbara Flueckiger, professor at the Department of Film Studies, University of Zurich to provide comprehensive information about historical film color processes invented since the end 19th century including specific still photography color technologies that were their conceptual predecessors.
Timeline of Historical Film Colors is started with Barbara Flueckiger’s research at Harvard University in the framework of her project Film History Re-mastered, funded by Swiss National Science Foundation, 2011-2013.
In 2013 the University of Zurich and Swiss National Science Foundation awarded additional funding for the elaboration of this web resource. 80 financial contributors sponsored the crowdfunding campaign Database of Historical Film Colors with more than USD 11.100 in 2012. In addition, the Institute for the Performing Arts and Film, Zurich University of the Arts provided a major contribution to the development of the database. Many further persons and institutions have supported the project, see acknowledgements.
Since February 2016 the database has been redeveloped in the framework of the research project Film Colors. Technologies, Cultures, Institutions funded by a grant from Swiss National Science Foundation, see project details on SNSF grant database.
Follow the links “Access detailed information ›” to access the currently available detail pages for individual processes. These pages contain an image gallery, a short description, a bibliography of original papers and secondary sources connected to extended quotes from these sources, downloads of seminal papers and links. We are updating these detail pages on a regular basis.
In June 2015, the European Research Council awarded the prestigious Advanced Grant to Barbara Flueckiger for her new research project FilmColors. Bridging the Gap Between Technology and Aesthetics, see press release of the University of Zurich and short abstract on the university’s research database.
Subscribe to the blog to receive all the news: http://filmcolors.org/ (check out sidebar on individual entries for the “follow” button).
The development of the project started in fall 2011 with stage 1. Each stage necessitated a different financing scheme. We are now in stage 3 and are looking for additional funding by private sponsors. Please use the Stripe interface to pay conveniently online or transfer your financial contribution directly to
Account IBAN CH2509000000604877146
Account holder: Barbara Flueckiger, CH-8005 Zurich, Switzerland
SWIFT Code / BIC: P O F I C H B E X X X
Bank: PostFinance AG, Mingerstrasse 20, CH-3030 Bern, Switzerland
Clearing Nummer: 09000
Read more about the financial background of the project on filmcolors.org.
The author has exercised the greatest care in seeking all necessary permissions to publish the material on this website. Please contact the author immediately and directly should anything infringe a copyright nonetheless.
English Harvest (GBR 1937, Humphrey Jennings, re-edited as The Farm)
“Experimentation with Dufaycolor progressed with advances such as reducing 35mm prints to 16mm, which encouraged short film production and increased the exhibition of advertising films. High-profile names were attracted to work with the process. As well as Len Lye, other notable directors included Humphrey Jennings, who directed Farewell Topsails (1937) and English Harvest (1937, re-edited as The Farm). Brown has observed how Farewell Topsails uses colour as metaphor:
Throughout the film there is subtle colour contrast between the browns and greys of the shore, and the blues of the sea. Topsail schooners transported chalky china clay, so Jennings’ palette is deliberately bleak, the browns of industry and the suits of the men in the village, the chalky grey-white of the clay, and then the blue of the sea and the black of the ship. The blue of the ocean contains within it the rhetoric of the spectacular. Partially, this is due to the inherent romanticism of the ocean itself, but Jennings exploits this by juxtaposing its vividness in contrast with the dour earth colours of the shore … The lack of colour on shore to contrast the bright blue of the ocean gives a sensual dimension to the plight of those without jobs and future.31
This lyrical, evocative style is also evident in English Harvest, a film that describes the introduction of mechanisation to harvesting methods. The colours are pale, even bleached-out, for the fields and trees, even though some of the shots of the sky are blue. Since the farmers wear brown, black and white, the opportunity for a wider colour range is not presented in the film which is more an evocation of the rural pastoral than a display of colour.
31 Simon Brown, ‘Dufaycolor – The spectacle of reality and British national cinema’, http://www.bftv.ac.uk/projects/dufaycolor.htm, p. 13.”
(Street, Sarah (2012): Colour Films in Britain. The Negotiation of Innovation 1900-55. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, on p. 42.)
Safranine. Normal positive. Source: Eastman Kodak Company (1927): Tinting and Toning of Eastman Positive Motion Picture Film. Fourth Edition. Revised. Rochester NY: Research Laboratories Eastman Kodak Company. Photograph by Martin Weiss, ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors.
Credit: By courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin. Photograph by Barbara Flueckiger. Film: Roald Amundsen’s North Pole Expedition (Norway 1924).
Edge mark: Agfa. Cf.: Brown, Harold (1990): Physical Characteristics of Early Films as Aids to Identification. Brussels: FIAF, on p. 15. View Quote on Page: Edge Codes and Identification
Print no. 1 of Amour d’esclave (FRA 1907, Albert Capellani). Credit: Library of Congress. Photograph of the nitrate film print by Barbara Flueckiger.
Edge mark: Pathé (April 1907-1909), on one edge, PATHÉ FRÈRES and on the other, 14 RUE FAVART PARIS (partially visible). Cf. Ill.PM.4: Brown, Harold (1990): Physical Characteristics of Early Films as Aids to Identification. Brussels: FIAF, on p. 9.
View Quote on Page: Edge Codes and Identification
Subtractive 3 color: Chromogenic monopack, reversal, 16 mm
Credit: Copyright: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. Source: Archivo Nacional de la Imagen – Sodre, Montevideo/ Cineteca di Bologna. Film: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (GER 1919, Robert Wiene).
Virages sur films à support teinté Pathé, Film teinté rouge (virage sépia) red tinted stock with sepia toning. Credit: Clayton Scoble and Stephen Jennings, Harvard University, Fine Arts Library. Source: Didiée, L. (1926): Le Film vierge Pathé. Manuel de développement et de tirage. Paris: Pathé. View Quote