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.
Virages sur mordançage, Rouge-Orangé (red-orange mordant toning) toplight and backlight, Swiss collector’s copy. Source: Didiée, L. (1926): Le Film vierge Pathé. Manuel de développement et de tirage. Paris: Pathé. View Quote
Virages sur mordançage, Rouge (red mordant toning), toplight and backlight, Swiss collector’s copy. Source: Didiée, L. (1926): Le Film vierge Pathé. Manuel de développement et de tirage. Paris: Pathé. View Quote
Virages sur mordançage sur films à support teinté Pathé, Film teinté lavande, virage rouge-orangé (red-orange mordant toning on lavander tinted Pathé stock), backlight, Swiss collector’s copy. Source: Didiée, L. (1926): Le Film vierge Pathé. Manuel de développement et de tirage. Paris: Pathé. View Quote
Virages sur mordançage, Rouge (red mordant 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
The Garden of Allah (USA 1936, Richard Boleslawski)
“Later, three-strip Technicolor films would flaunt the process’s ability to capture a wide range of skin tones. From La Cucaracha (Corrigan, 1934) to King Solomon’s Mines (Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton, 1950), filmmakers relied on “exotic” subject matter to put the technology’s skills on display, turning racial diversity into pictorial spectacle.
Typically this exoticism would function to define whiteness as the norm. In figure 8.5 (color section), from The Garden of Allah, the topfrontal key-light brightens and smooths the facial features of Marlene Dietrich, allowing her red lips and blue eyes to stand out. Her dark blue outfit emphasizes the lightness of her face, while the yellowish backlight brings out the blonde in her hair. These strategies already work to emphasize the whiteness of her character, but that racial identity is underlined every more strongly when the film cuts to the shot in figure 8.6 (color section). With a bright kicker and a prominent eye-light, the lighting works to emphasize the man’s grotesque expression, thereby marking him as the pictorial opposite of Dietrich’s beauty. Two boys stand behind him, for no other purpose than to allow the filmmakers to underscore Technicolor’s ability to capture a wide range of skin tones. The result is a kind of racial montage, domesticating the exotic presence of Marlene Dietrich through a strategic use of contrast.”
(Keating, Patrick (2010): Hollywood Lighting from the Silent Era to Film Noir. Columbia University Press: New York, on p. 214.)
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.
Rouge, red tinting, Swiss collector’s edition, toplight and backlight. Photograph by Barbara Flueckiger. Source: Didiée, L. (1926): Le Film vierge Pathé. Manuel de développement et de tirage. Paris: Pathé. View Quote
„Auf Jodsilber getonte Positive, Agfa-Rot für Virage“ (toning on silver iodide, Agfa red for tinting), backlight, LED spotlight. Source: (ca. 1925): Agfa Kine-Handbuch. Berlin: Actien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrikation. View Quote