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.
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Uranium tone. Yellow base, normal positive. Sidelit. 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.
“Inevitably, the new process will be compared with Kodacolor, but the two can be likened only with respect to the results they give; in every other way they are completely different. Kodacolor is capable of very fine colour rendition, but suffers from certain inherent limitations from which Kodachrome is free. Some of these limitations are common to all additive processes; and, because of this fact, I may perhaps be excused if I digress at this point to recall to mind very briefly the essential differences between additive and subtractive colour processes. Kodachrome is a subtractive process, and its comparison with Kodacolor is largely a comparison between these two different kinds of colour photography.
In the field of amateur kinematography, the additive process has been used without necessitating three separate exposures and the use of a triple projector, by the adaptation of the principle of the screen plate. In this, the three separation negatives are obtained with a single exposure on the same piece of film, by filtering the light incident upon it through a mosaic screen in contact with the film and made up of elementary areas of the three primary filters. On projecting the print obtained by reversal, the close juxtaposition of the elementary areas on the screen causes the blending of the colours in the eye to give the desired effect. Dufaycolor is the best known application of this method to the 16 mm. field.
In Kodacolor, the first colour process available to the 16 mm. film user, the same general principle is adhered to, although the colour separation into the elementary areas is obtained by optical means: the film base is embossed to give numerous lenses of microscopic size, which form, in the plane of the emulsion, multiple images of a filter placed over the camera lens and consisting of strips of the three primary colours: in projection, the same tricolour filter is placed over the lens of the projector, and the colour elements are projected on the screen to give the appearance of a picture in natural colours.
All additive processes of this kind suffer from two major disadvantages. Firstly, the screen brightness possible is severely limited both by the fact that only one-third of the screen is illuminated by any one colour and by the fact already mentioned, namely, the low transmission factor of the filters. It has been calculated that a theoretically perfect mosaic screen made from the best available filters would transmit only one-sixth of the incident light. Few commercial screens have a transmission much in excess of one-tenth, so that, in any process depending upon this principle, it is exceedingly difficult to obtain an average screen brightness greater than one-tenth of that obtained when projecting a black-and-white film under the same conditions. Needless to say, this is a very serious limitation. The second disadvantage is due to the fact that the pattern of the elementary areas is seldom invisible under ordinary viewing conditions and thus limits the definition possible.”
(Davies, E. R. (1936): The Kodachrome Process of 16 mm. Colour Kinematography. In: The Photographic Journal, 76, pp. 248–253, on pp. 248–249.)
Detail Agfa Pentachrom, backlit. Source: Arens, Hans; Heymer, Gerd (1939): Die „Agfa-Farbentafel für Farbenphotographie“. In: Veröffentlichungen des wissenschaftlichen Zentral-Laboratoriums der photographischen Abteilung Agfa, Vol. 6, 1939, pp. 225-229. Leipzig: Hirzel. Photograph by Martin Weiss, ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors.