Gasparcolor OR Gaspar Color


Gasparcolor was the first multi-layer monopack film available for practical use. It was a double-coated print film with a cyan layer on one side and two layers dyed magenta and yellow on the other side (see image). As a consequence of this arrangement the process required b/w separation records of the red, blue and green light, either produced by a beam-splitter camera or by successive photographs taken through the corresponding filters. Thus most of the films produced with Gasparcolor were animation films. Gaspar’s process was chemically and optically very sophisticated and elegant. It produced brilliant and very stable colors.

The basic idea of the silver dye-bleach process was the controlled destruction of dyes in relation to the amount of developed silver present at a specific locus. Therefore the gelatin emulsions were dyed before exposure. After development the dyes were bleached by acid thiourea with the silver serving as a local catalyst for the reaction. Since the dyes are destroyed in the exposed areas Gasparcolor is a reversal process.

Although the chromolytic principle was proposed very early, many obstacles had to be resolved for a practical solution. For instance, as Gaspar pointed out, for optical reasons it was not possible to sensitize the layers to the complementary spectrum of the dyes. Therefore Gaspar chose an arbitrary connection between the colored light for exposure and the corresponding dyes such that the green separation was exposed by blue filtered light on the magenta dyed layer and subsequently the blue separation by the use of red filtered light on the yellow layer. The cyan dyed emulsion on the opposite side of the film was exposed by blue filtered light through the red separation print (see schematic representation on this page). The yellow layer acted as a filter to block out the blue light from both sides.

For political reasons Gaspar had to flee from Germany before the Second World War. While he established a plant in London, he could not convince the producers in the US to adopt his process. In the late 1950s, however, the principle was revived by Ciba-Geigy and distributed as Cibachrome (later Ilfochrome) for photographic paper prints.

Gasparcolor prints can be identified by the emulsion layers on both sides of the film. In case of scratches or cuts the colors of the layers become visible (see image). In addition, the sound track is often printed in color (see link to Brian Pritchard’s website on this page).

  • Kreise (1933-34)
  • Allegretto (1936-1943)
  • OF-GasparcolTest004c.jpg
  • Koshofer
  • Radio Prohaska prophezeit (1937)
  • Steinbacher (2013)
  • Cornwell_Clyne_CP1951_Gasparcolorfig237.jpg
  • Steinbacher (2013)
  • Cornwell_Clyne_CP1951_Gasparcolorfig238.jpg
  • Komposition in Blau (1935)
  • Komposition in Blau (1935)
  • Komposition in Blau (1935)
  • Koshofer
  • CoePhotography_Gasparcolor_1934.jpg
  • Gasparcolor_Process
  • Agfa Farbentafel Tripo-Film
  • Pénichon (2013)

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Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources

Gaspar, Béla (1935): Neuere Verfahren zur Herstellung von subtraktiven Mehrfarbenbildern (Gasparcolor-Verfahren). In: Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Photographie, Photophysik Photochemie, 34, pp. 119–124. (in German) View Quote

Secondary Sources

Agde, Günter (1998): Flimmernde Versprechen. Geschichte des Deutschen Werbefilms im Kino seit 1987. Berlin. (in German)

Alt, Dirk (2011): “Der Farbfilm marschiert!” Frühe Farbfilmverfahren und NS-Propaganda 1933-1945. München: Belleville, on pp. 49–50 View Quote, on pp. 53–54 View Quote, on p. 84 View Quote, on p. 99 View Quote, on p. 100 View Quote, on p. 107 View Quote, on p. 110 View Quote, on p. 117 View Quote, on p. 126 View Quote, on pp. 157–159 View Quote, on p. 160 View Quote, on p. 161 View Quote, on p. 188 View Quote, on pp. 197–198 View Quote, on pp. 199–200 View Quote, on p. 228 View Quote, and on p. 409. (in German) View Quote

Beyer, Friedemann; Koshofer, Gert; Krüger, Michael (2010): UFA in Farbe. Technik, Politik und Starkult zwischen 1936 und 1945. München: Collection Rolf Heyne, on pp. 49–50 View Quote, on p. 50 View Quote and on p. 51. (in German) View Quote

Brown, Simon (2012): Technical Appendix. In: Sarah Street: Colour Films in Britain. The Negotiation of Innovation 1900-55. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 259–287, on pp. 272–273. View Quote

Coe, Brian (1981): The History of Movie Photography. Westfield, N.J.: Eastview Editions, p. 136. View Quote

Coote, Jack H. (1993): The Illustrated History of Colour Photography. Surbiton, Surrey: Fountain Press, pp. 183–189 on the Cibachrome process.

Cornwell-Clyne, Adrian (1951): Colour Cinematography. London: Chapman & Hall, pp. 419–427. View Quote

Dr. N. (1937a): Gasparcolor. In: Film-Kurier, 183, 2.8.1937, Serie „Farb-Film-Fibel”. (in German) View Quote

Dr. N. (1937b): Teerfarben (Anilinfarben). In: Kinotechnische Rundschau. Beilage zu Film-Kurier, 21.8.1937, Serie “Farb-Film-Fibel”. (in German) View Quote

Dr. N. (1937b): Teerfarben (Anilinfarben). In: Kinotechnische Rundschau. Beilage zu Film-Kurier, 21.8.1937, Serie “Farb-Film-Fibel”. (in German) View Quote

Eggert, John; Heymer, Gerd (1937): Der Stand der Farbenphotographie. In: Veröffentlichungen des wissenschaftlichen Zentral-Laboratoriums der photographischen Abteilung Agfa, pp. 7–28, on pp. 18–20 View Quote and on pp. 26–28. (in German) View Quote

Forster, Ralf (2005): Ufa und Nordmark. Zwei Firmengeschichten und der deutsche Werbefilm 1919-1945. Trier. (in German)

Friedman, Joseph Solomon (1945): History of Color Photography. Boston: The American Photographic Publishing Company, pp. 405–429. View Quote

Guckes, Emil (1937): Der Tonfilm als Werbemittel in Deutschland. Dissertation. Innsbruck. (in German)

Heymer, Gerd (1935): Farbenfilme nach dem Silberbleichverfahren. In: Veröffentlichungen des wissenschaftlichen Zentral-Laboratoriums der photographischen Abteilung Agfa, 4, 1935, pp. 177–186. (in German) View Quote

Huntley, John (1949): British Technicolor Films. Cornhill, London: Skelton Robinson, on p. 18 View Quote and on p. 202. View Quote

Ignatow, G. (1937): Das Gasparcolor-Verfahren zur Herstellung von Dreifarbenfilmen. In: Kinotechnik, 6, 1937, pp. 126–127. (in German)

Koshofer, Gert (1966): Fünfundzwanzig Jahre deutscher Farbenspielfilm. In: Film – Kino – Technik, 20,10, 1966, pp. 259–262, on p. 259. (in German) View Quote

Koshofer, Gert (1981): Farbfotografie. München: Laterna Magica., Band 2: Moderne Verfahren, pp. 167, 174–177 on Cibachrome.

Koshofer, Gert (1988): Color. Die Farben des Films. Berlin: Wissenschaftsverlag Volker Spiess.

Lavedrine, Bertrand (1998): History and Technology of Colour Photographic Processes. In: Luciano Berriatúa et al.: Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Edizioni Diabasis, pp. 117–119, on p. 119. View Quote

Mees, C. E. Kenneth (1937): The Development of the Art and Science of Photography in the Twentieth Century. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 28,1, pp. 3–20, on pp. 13–14. View Quote

Meyer, Kurt (1940): Die farbenfotografischen subtraktiven Mehrschichten-Verfahren. In: Ergebnisse der angewandten physikalischen Chemie, 6,2. Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, on pp. 368–370 View Quote and pp. 411–427. (In German) View Quote

Misek, Richard (2007): “Last of the Kodak”. Andrei Tarkovsky’s Struggle with Colour. In: Everett, Wendy (ed.): Questions of Colour in Cinema. From Paintbrush to Pixel. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 161–176, on p. 163. View Quote

Moritz, William (2004): Optical Poetry. The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, on pp. 220–221 View Quote, on pp. 222–223 View Quote, on pp. 224–225 View Quote, on pp. 226–227 View Quote and on pp. 227–229. View Quote

Pénichon, Sylvie (2013): Twentieth Century Colour Photographs. The Complete Guide to Processes, Identification & Preservation. London, Los Angeles: Thames & Hudson, on pp. 212–214. View Quote

Pinel, Vincent (1992): La forêt des techniques. In: Michel Ciment (ed.): Ciné mémoire . Colloque international d’information (7-9 octobre 1991). Paris: Femis, pp. 17–24, on pp. 21–23. (in French) View Quote

Ryan, Roderick T. (1977): A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. London: Focal Press, pp. 213–216. View Quote

Schultze, Werner (1953): Farbenphotographie und Farbenfilm. Wissenschaftliche Grundlagen und technische Gestaltung. Berlin/Göttingen/Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 92–97 (in German). View Quote

Street, Sarah (2012): Colour Films in Britain. The Negotiation of Innovation 1900-55. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, on pp. 45–46. View Quote

Westbrock, Ingrid (1983): Der Werbefilm. Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Genres vom Stummfilm zum frühen Ton- und Farbfilm. Hildesheim/Zürich/New York. (in German)

Wyckoff, A. (1941): Gasparcolor Comes to Hollywood. In: American Cinematographer, 22,11 (November 1941), pp. 510–511.