Please access detailed information on over 250 individual film color processes via the classification system on this page, display the Timeline of Historical Film Colors in chronological order, search via the tag cloud at the end of this page or directly on the search page, or see the contributing archives’ collections on the header slides.
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 of the 19th century including specific still photography color technologies that were their conceptual predecessors.
Timeline of Historical Film Colors was 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 the 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. Since 2016, the team of the research project ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors has been collecting and adding written sources. All the members of the two research projects on film colors, both led by Barbara Flueckiger, have been capturing photographs of historical film prints since 2017.
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).
Contributions to the Timeline of Historical Film Colors
“It would not have been possible to collect all the data and the corresponding images without the support from many individuals and institutions.Thank you so much for your contribution, I am very grateful.”
Experts, scholars, institutions | Sponsors, supporters, patrons of the crowdfunding campaign, April 23 to July 21, 2012
Experts, scholars, institutions
Prof. Dr. David Rodowick, Chair, Harvard University, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies
Prof. Dr. Margrit Tröhler, Department of Film Studies, University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Jörg Schweinitz, Department of Film Studies, University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Christine N. Brinckmann, Department of Film Studies, University of Zurich
PD Dr. Franziska Heller, Department of Film Studies, University of Zurich
Dr. Claudy Op den Kamp, Department of Film Studies, University of Zurich
Prof. Anton Rey, Institute for the Performing Arts and Film, Zurich University of the Arts
Dr. Haden Guest, Director, Harvard Film Archive
Liz Coffey, Film Conservator, Harvard Film Archive
Mark Johnson, Loan Officer, Harvard Film Archive
Brittany Gravely, Publicist, Harvard Film Archive
Clayton Scoble, Manager of the Digital Imaging Lab & Photography Studio, Harvard University
Stephen Jennings, Photographer, Harvard University, Fine Arts Library
Dr. Paolo Cherchi Usai, Senior Curator, George Eastman Museum, Motion Picture Department
Jared Case, Head of Cataloging and Access, George Eastman Museum, Motion Picture Department
Nancy Kauffman, Archivist – Stills, Posters and Paper Collections, George Eastman Museum, Motion Picture Department
Deborah Stoiber, Collection Manager, George Eastman Museum, Motion Picture Department
Barbara Puorro Galasso, Photographer, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film
Daniela Currò, Preservation Officer, George Eastman House, Motion Picture Department
James Layton, Manager, Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art
Mike Pogorzelski, Archive Director, Academy Film Archive
Josef Lindner, Preservation Officer, Academy Film Archive
Cassie Blake, Public Access Coordinator, Academy Film Archive
Melissa Levesque, Nitrate Curator, Academy Film Archive
Prof. Dr. Giovanna Fossati, Head Curator, EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam, and Professor at the University of Amsterdam
Annike Kross, Film Restorer, EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam
Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, Curator Silent Film, EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam
Catherine Cormon, EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam
Anke Wilkening, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, Wiesbaden, Germany
Marianna De Sanctis, L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna
Paola Ferrari, L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna
Gert and Ingrid Koshofer, Gert Koshofer Collection, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
Memoriav, Verein zur Erhaltung des audiovisuellen Kulturgutes der Schweiz
BSc Gaudenz Halter, Software Development Color Film Analyses, video annotation und crowdsourcing platform VIAN, in collaboration with Visualization and MultiMedia Lab of Prof. Dr. Renato Pajarola, University of Zurich, (Enrique G. Paredes, PhD; Rafael Ballester-Ripoll, PhD) since 07.2017
BSc Noyan Evirgen, Software Development, in collaboration with Visualization and MultiMedia Lab von Prof. Dr. Renato Pajarola, Universität Zürich (Enrique G. Paredes, PhD; Rafael Ballester-Ripoll, PhD), 03.2017–01.2018
Assistants Film Analyses:
BA Manuel Joller, BA Ursina Früh, BA/MA Valentina Romero
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.
There is evidence by this time of an apathy, if not an antipathy, towards the coloured film. The trial began with subjects in Edison’s Kinetoscope, 1891, before moving pictures were projected. With the era of the Screen, an indulgence in cosmetics naturally continued; and conspicuous in 1904 was a painted version of Melies’ Trip to the Sun. Short or long, educational or dramatic, such chromoscopic imitations appeared in the programmes of all succeeding years.
You may reason that artificial colours are not a fair test. I reason that all the other processes are artificial too. “Natural colours” is a convenient misnomer; autocolours would be a better term. When results are compared the advantage often lies with that reproduction we call artificial. At least the stencilled film continues to be countenanced by patrons as much as its rival.
The trials of the natural-colour processes need to be more discriminately reviewed. Wanting space, I must take notice of nothing until the introduction of Technicolour in 1920. From then onward this system shared the scenes – hence also the circulation and publicity – of most of America’s world-boosted super films, apart from its all-coloured investments, remembering especially the prestige of Fairbanks’ The Black Pirate. Then Al Jolson, singing about a rainbow round his shoulders, started the talkie boom that was to incur a new load of rainbows for all our shoulders in the form of talkie coloured attachments.
Why, then, do we still have films in black-and-white? Practicability? That question fails, in face of practice. It may be added that, twenty years back, topical reels were recorded and exhibited in auto-colours without departure from the normal time-table. The question of expensiveness likewise fails. First parasitically fostering itself for twelve years or so, then subsidised by the talkie gold mine, colour cinematography has enjoyed an economic advantage. Even that old alibi about “awaiting the supervision of an artist” holds good no longer; and never had it much to do with the question of colour’s popularity.
So the mystery grows and grows. Neither Hollywood nor Critical Opinion appears competent to clear it up, save to look around for their old friend “the technical solution” to help them out. This, too, when Critical Opinion, even more than those commercially concerned, has assured us that natural-colour photoplays have been “wondrous,” “exquisite,” “like old masters,” “like Nature herself.” Go back to The Black Pirate (1926); to Friese-Greene (1924); to The Glorious Adventure (Prizma, 1922); to Gaumont’s luxurious three-colour Chronochrome (1913); to Kinemacolour (1911). Read up the testimonials. If Critical Opinion can go into raptures about photochromy on the screen, much readier should the indiscriminate fans be to extol it.
Besides, it is human nature to tolerate imperfections in everything, until something better is put before us. So, if colour reproduction were a vital condition in the moving picture, mechanical crudities could not seriously stand in its way. After all, Nature is not very exacting, apart from the particularity of human complexions. Impossible to hit upon a green, a brown, or a yellow that does not represent some true appearance of a leaf. Then nearly everything the popular eye demands from colour, all its artificialness, all its extravagance – the sensational and the sentimental – can be supplied by quite a clumsy process. A venture like Kinemacolour, by its very evidence of practicability, profitableness and merit, is evidence of limitations not concerned with those factors. To-day also a market could be exploited through the enormous interest and attraction in coloured subjects. But – there is enormous interest and attraction in the movie dramas too. The markets must either be separated or be reconciled.
Colour is not missing in the movies. The real peculiarity is that our intelligence demurs at the presence of colour in a life-like representation, but never at the absence of it. The achievement of black-and-white drawings, photographs, and moving pictures ought to be regarded as a positive achievement. The pure photograph exerts an emotional influence so moving and so instinctive as to be unreached by any other form of picture. It registers some indefinable quality of the subject. It evokes a vivid recognition. More: from the box-office point of view, it is human.
To colour it is to transform it into the dead product of the hand. If it is a portrait of a face intimately known – and a film star’s face is intimately known – individuality and personality disappear. Vulgar people take a naïve pride in a coloured enlargement of someone dear to them; but for emotional purposes they are careful to keep a copy in black-and-white.
In so far as this refractoriness of colour disturbs the illusion of realness, it nullifies what is vital in our medium. This is, in a way, the most important part of the problem, but since it leads into a theme far out of our present path, I must be content to assume it is agreed upon, this need of some peculiar realness in the Image Play that is active in prompting a mental reciprocation of real experience.
Why colours seem unreal may be less a psychological than a visual problem. Not so much a pigmentary problem, either, because any colour reproduction – even paintings, even the best printing processes – have something false about them; and even an actual spectacle can be made to appear artificial in its hues.
Colour seems to be an entity in itself. It trespasses on the field of vision. It provides an abstract spectacle imposed over the spectacle concrete. Monochrome allows the eye to come closer, as it were, to concentrate more, to absorb more, to digest more. As infra-red rays, X-rays, and all the other rays afford our vision a means of deeper penetration, so black-and-white photography pierces a fog of light sensations.
The painter gets at the nude in defiance of prude. The sculptor, I contend, goes one better by stripping off the colour as well as the clothes. Colour brings visual indigestion.
These effects add to the troubles of pictorial composition. The eye can have no softer bearing than the tones of light and shade. Colour seeks rather to imprison the vision; and when there are casual, accidental colourings the field is strewn with obstacles, until the eye finally lands in a bunker. Painters are satisfied that they have turned these disadvantages to their own advantage. Lowbrows, failing such satisfaction, prefer paintings to be over-coloured, so that at least they can extract the sensation of colour as colour.
Circumstances of the cinema – which I shall not apologise for – inevitably widen the argument. A canvas, usually, is comfortably within one’s field of vision, and the light around you relieves the sight. The cinema screen necessarily fills the whole field of vision and annihilates consciousness of all other existence. This stresses an unnatural condensation of colour, just as there is an unnatural condensation of sound within the talkie frame. Free of colour, the black-and-white shadows on the screen join swifter the shadows of the hall. We can make a colour amalgam around the picture, but experience shows that the mind makes a much better settlement if left confronted with the ultimatum of one uncompromising boundary of sight.
Colour enthusiasts refer gleefully to the “pull” of gorgeous posters and magazine covers. When, however, you consider that these draw the eye to themselves amid a world of competing lights and forms, you get an idea of the force we are playing with in the cinema confines. Signal-lights also ought to warn us in more senses than one.
The chromotechnics of the screen cast me into a dungeon, with darkness and suffocation. Lost is the very essence of cinema, its space, and freedom, and light. Nothing like it on earth; although in the weird world underseas Technicolour seems singularly apt. Ignore the limitations of colour photography. Remember that in certain circumstances of vision, colours will always tend to denaturalise themselves. Above all, daylight in real existence, apart from its local decompositions into hue, prevails imponderously around every visible thing.
Screw up your eyes at a stage scene, squeeze out all the light you can spare. The result can be uncannily like a Technicoloured interior, even to the queer complexions. If you try the same trick on a Technicolour picture, the effect is an improvement! Colours become lighter and more distinguished, the flesh tints especially appearing more life-like.
Artificially coloured films are superior in their preservation of light. There is not that effect of depression, not to say oppression, to be found in natural colour photography. Moreover, the simpleness of the tints produces at least an elementary harmony, and often a finer delicacy. Our autocoloured reproductions should be severely diluted, by fair means or foul.
As there are physical, so there are mental conditions in actual life to modify the impertinence as well as the exuberance of colour. The want of such protection makes itself evident in a coloured reproduction of any kind. What should be latent, what is irrelevant, is all forced without mercy into one’s perception. A man can go a life-time without learning the true colours of a friend (symbolicalists, please note). He can fall in love with a girl with only the haziest notion whether her eyes are blue or grey. In a picture, these colours merely advertise themselves as abstract patterns. Often it is asserted that we cannot dream in colour – a fallacy, mind you, but not without a foundation of truth.
To remark further the cinema’s distinctions. Animated, the subject moves as well as the eye, and two motions have to correspond. An idiot wearing a scarlet scarf may walk from the foreground and far into the distance, and drag the helpless eye in chains behind him. Colours of stationary subjects (composing the bulk of the scene) mislead in another manner. They tend to make everything inert. Even perched on a moving object, colour appears to lack the agility of form. At times the forms seem to be struggling to move themselves beneath the weight of the colours. The dragging tendency is aggravated, I consider, by the known inclination of colours to jump into discrepant focal planes.
Nature demonstrates everywhere that colour is static in suggestion. Each creature loses an apparent ability of motion as it increases its colours. A peacock could never look swift. Such inaptitude is, indeed, utilised ecologically.* If this is so, it causes a serious retardation, not only in locomotion but in the finer mobility of facial expression. Ultimately, there is a similar influence on the tempo.
Brief, too, our changing scenes; and varying their scales. In the long run the all-coloured film can be more monotonous than the monotone film. It reveals yet more that real life does not permit an observation of colours commensurate with that lavished on us by the photochromatic drama. Hundreds upon hundreds of coloured records are thrown at us without remission, and the eye has no source of escape. No matter how different the subjects, the hues tend to become a stream of abstract, satiating sensations. It is like music trying to dispense with silence.
Undoubtedly there are technical improvements to anticipate, especially if we bear in mind that even objections against elaborateness of equipment and operation in the theatre are hardly valid in face of the talkie manœuvre. Observe, though, that colour has not yet provided in the box-office that irresistible lever that sound provided to make such an upheaval possible.
And that, first and finally, is what I want to impress. Claude Friese-Greene did once say that picture-goers would have to be educated to an appreciation of colour films. This was corroboration from a source where I least expected to find it; for, of all the colourites, inventors who have devoted everything they have to a practical solution of the problem are the ones I can most excuse for assuming that the public is clamouring for a solution.
If it had not been generally assumed, without leave to question, that picture-goers would turn away from black-and-white movies to coloured movies as greedily as a schoolboy turns away from bread to chocolate, inventors and investors would have saved a vast amount of effort and money. They would have tackled the problem forwards instead of backwards. They would have recognised that, even in the case of an article definitely desired by the public, application rather than cheapness, ingenuity or publicity, is the factor that finally counts in the market. Mechanically and commercially, as well as dramatically, coloured film has been badly mishandled.
“Awaiting the technical solution”! That is the stalemate position our colour was in ten, say twenty, years ago. Our first task is to make colour wanted in the cinema. Solve that problem, and the inventors will have in their hands the only weapon they really need for their advancement. Technical perfection comes last, not first. The moving picture proved it. The gramophone proved it. The radio proved it. The talkies proved it. I cannot think of any scope in popular entertainment that has not proved it.
* With certain natural colour processes still more fatigue might be supposed to result from the separation of the complementary images into successive frames. On the other hand it is a fact, I believe, that with colour the eye allows more latitude in a synthesis of animation. Incidentally this may point to a persistency in the colour sensation that is objectionable in other ways.”
(Elliott, Eric (1934): Wither colour? In: Cinema Quarterly, 2,3, Spring, pp. 161–165.)
For as long as celluloid can last, the filmed record of Captain Scott’s last tragic journey to the Pole is at last completed. It has taken years of work, and now posterity can look on it, just as we do, for as long a time as discovered science can ensure (Ponting, 11 August 1924: 8)
The 2010 digital restoration of The Great White Silence (Ponting, 1924) commemorates the centenary of the departure of the British Antarctic Expedition (1910-13). Herbert G. Ponting’s photographic record of the expedition has been integral to the narratives that have emerged around the loss of the polar party. The stills and cine-photography formed a strand of the expedition’s scientific research by offering a visual record of the region. A study of the provenance of the 2010 restoration discerns a supplementary layer of information (residual marks of production and decay) beneath the fascia of image and narrative. The interpretation of instructions that are scratched into the film and attributed to Ponting have informed the “return” of color in the 2010 release of Silence. The restoration refers to and incorporates sections of film from diverse archives and pasts elaborating a historiographic process that embeds ideas of authorship and authenticity in a narrative of irresoluble loss.
Herbert G. Ponting, camera artist to Captain R. F. Scott’s fated polar expedition (1910-1913), re-edited his film footage across an initial twenty-year period in response to the technological and cultural contexts of each release. The material and textual alterations that can be tracked across the different versions reveal a tension between the film as scientific document, historical record and the continuing development of a narrative that underlies its remobilisation as a commercial enterprise in the film market. […]
This discourse, of authenticity and authorship, in which the return of color is keyed to Ponting’s instructions scratched into sections of leader, is invoked in the digital simulation of tinting and toning as applied color processes. These technical alterations open a space in which to address the impact of the digital on the film object and text. It is in this sense that the reconstruction (Busche 2006: 3) of the color scheme operates as a facet of historiography, imagination and memory.
The camera negatives were initially processed by Ponting in the Antarctic and returned to the UK in two consignments to be screened in two parts under the title With Captain Scott R.N., to the South Pole (1911 and 1912). Ponting, who held the rights to the expedition stills photography, subsequently purchased those for the cinematograph films from the Gaumont Company in 1914 for £5,100. […] Work on editing Silence began after the 1921 publication of his written account of the expedition, The Great White South.
[…] During this period Ponting’s correspondence with Frank Debenham who, with his assistant Miss Winifred M. Drake, advised on the accuracy of the film’s illustrations, indicates the difficulties of revitalising the film in keeping with the full breadth of technological developments that would position his “ancient results equal to modern panchromatic photography” (Ponting, 22 October 1932; 15 August 1933).1 Adaptations to the technique required to produce 90° South included the transfer of material to film stock with different perforations and the alteration from the speed of filming at 16 fps to that of the 24 fps of synchronised sound projection. The residual effects of these technical manipulations are visualised in the instabilities of the image in relation to the frame (Ponting, 12 January 1933). Ponting’s revision incorporates additional material including the commissioning of new maps, a 25-foot painting of the landscape, a diorama and an amended animated line and map sequence, each of which was filmed and inter-cut with still photographs to further illustrate the journey of Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Evans to the South Pole (Ponting, 15 August 1933). […]
In reformulating the film footage to the shifting interests of its anticipated reception the visual appeal of the image and the drama of the story are emphasised. The tension between the film as commodity and expedition record lies in the accumulation of information and its erasure and of the materials and detritus that invoke a direct relationship between the photographic imprint and the cinematic illusion projected of light. While the re-editing of the film footage is responsive to different innovations, indicating its potential to be deciphered as a tract of film history, such alterations in technique also affect the film as a text.
Ponting’s references to the use of color for his still photography primarily concern the selection of hues that enhance the subject: “Ice Blink” is printed “in the green [carbon] tissue” and another “in a very fine blue tissue, which seems to suit the subject exactly” (Ponting, 15 June 1926). In Silence, however, the fourteen different combinations of tinting, toning and hand coloring that are detailed by instructions scratched into sections of film indicate a color design that is also significant to its themes and narrative.
Cherchi Usai tracks the significance of certain colors in the silent period to suggest thematic associations, such as a shift to amber which could signal “when a table lamp was turned on in a room” (1991: 29–38). In Silence the thematic use of color, perhaps unintentionally, maps territory, both by delineating between areas associated with the ship and those inhabited by the Antarctic wildlife. In this context a shift from amber in the record of the expedition member’s daily work to the sepia tone and green tint of zoological studies indicates that of a different realm, whilst combinations of a blue tone and pink tint are associated with the effects of light refracted by the ice. Ponting’s use of color contributes to narrative progression through a historiography practice of editing and commissioning new material.
The initially black-and-white film footage and selected photographs of the Terra Nova seen through an ice cave can be linked to his written account of the expedition, which is particularly attentive to color:
During this first and subsequent visits, I found the coloring of the grotto changed with the position of the sun; thus sometimes green would predominate, then blue, and then again it was a delicate lilac. (Ponting  2000: 68)
[…] Such descriptions suggest what was not immediately recorded by the cinematography. The movement of the ice floe is evoked in Silence through inter-cut still and moving images of the grotto taken a year apart, each shot colored in jewel-like tones to be found in tinting and toning catalogues. The addition of color to these images offers the cinematographer’s perspective as a layer of interpretation over the “subtle shadows of the snow and […] wonderful transparent texture” that Scott notes of his black-and-white photography (Scott  2000: xv).
The significance of color to the narrative is established in the opening section of the film. The initial black-and-white images of Captain Scott and Ponting position them as auteurs of both the expedition and the diegesis before the color scheme is instigated as the Terra Nova sets sail. The changes in color that are contiguous with those of the film’s themes are reduced in the section detailing the final journey to the Pole. This also gives an inflection of coherence across a section that is assembled from a significant number of technical revisions including animation, still-photographs and drawings, to avoid distraction from the tale. A shift in color to a blue tint denotes their imminent demise in the “fateful tent” which persists across the memorial portrait photographs of the five men. The still images screened are the work of duplication across a strip of 35 mm film. This contrasts with the transcendent blue tone and amber tint that transfigures the remaining images: drawings of an angel reaching down to Captain Scott and a cairn of rocks surmounted by a cross that marks the graves of the expedition members. Notably the remaining inter-titles of Silence are dominated by a quote from Scott’s diary and marked by the imaged authorisation of his handwritten signature which forecloses the film.
The 2010 restoration of Silence, which sees the return of the chromatic schema, is drawn into a discourse of authenticity and authorship through reference to the color instructions scratched into sections of leader that accompany the film negatives. For Silence, as with many examples from the 1920s, the instructions do not consistently distinguish between tinting, toning and hand painting as possible methods of coloring the film. Luciano Berriatúa notes “the variety of these tints and their intensity from year to year. And also from laboratory to laboratory”, indicating potential points of divergence from the color instructions (Berriatúa 1998: 135–139).3 Both Paul Read and Nicola Mazzanti indicate material inconsistencies that occur between prints of what is ostensibly the same film due to differences in the concentration of dye solution and the duration of the submergence of each strip of film (Mazzanti 2009: 67–93; Read 2009: 9–46; BJP 1924: 611–614). For example, the recurrence of a color instruction could incur a variation in color intensity. It is in this sense that the salience of color in the study of Silence encounters numerous factors affecting the variations in hue, transparency and intensity that result from different dyes and processing methods.
[…] In the 1990s Angelo Lucatello’s comparative work, which contributed to the later digital restoration, identified several differences between the 1923 nitrate soft print of Silence and the EYE Film Institute’s holdings which include additional material such as a still-photograph of Dr Atkinson’s frost bitten hand. Such combinations of elements also extend to the duplication of fragments of leader and instructions in the fine grain contact print assembled in the 1990s by the NFTVA. The diversity of materials that informed the reconstruction (see workflow chart in Figure 21.3 […]) indicates the potential for the film image and text to alter.
[…] For Mazzanti the collation of different versions and generations of prints toward what Busche calls a reconstruction (2006: 3) can elicit shifts in the film text by decomposition or design to constitute a “variant” rather than new “version” of a film (Mazzanti 2009: 76–77). While Ponting’s re-editing constructs new versions, the trajectory of the digital reconstruction forms a variant within the cultural context of its production. The “return of color” through digital grading encounters inconsistencies in the filmic elements sourced. The inflection of color across the configuration of assembled materials (see the workflow chart) noted in the exhibition of the 2010 print contributes to the discourse of authorship and authenticity. […]
In evaluating the concepts of “authorship” and “variants”, Ponting’s correspondence with Debenham is significant in its recognition of the involvement of four assistants. The assistants include Mr Gent, who had been the Gaumont Company’s representative in Australasia and acted as their signatory on the agreement with the expedition. Gent was in Ponting’s employment from 1918 until at least 1930 on a wage of £400 per annum. Ponting states that in addition to his work on the cinematographic films Gent was responsible for the care “of the negatives and everything appertaining to them” (Ponting, 29 July 1929; 8 January 1930). […]
In a sense, the process of reconstruction resonates with Ponting’s own practice. The assembled materials therefore map the path of the digital reconstruction to formulate an image of the film elements and a digital simulation of the applied color processes of tinting and toning. Each transfer to a new medium signals a shift in the image and text. The assembled “film” accumulates the characteristics of each medium and process; alterations remain visible through the details that they add or erode from the image. […]
The subsequent image sustains a trace of previous generations of film material. The residual imprints of processing and the simulacra of marks specific to other film elements reveal fragments and images drawn from diverse pasts into a new narrative form. […]
Although an assumption of objectivity underlies the subjective selections made, there are layers of interpretation from Ponting and his assistants, through to those of the reconstruction. The NFTVA’s work documents a trajectory through previous generations of materials now detailed and in storage. A study of the restoration trajectory tracks alterations in design and the contingent marks that register the susceptibility of celluloid and photosensitive emulsion to the impact of the environment during filming and storage. Traces of the technologies of production and decay constitute data which can be read as a supplementary record of the expedition and form a strand of the historiography of its materials and texts. Ponting’s photographic work is integral to the narratives that have emerged around the expedition. The restoration underscores and distances photography and detail as paradigmatic of authenticity. It also offers a new point of access to Silence as film text and to a narrative that plays on imagination, memory and the historicity of the subject. For its historical, narrative and pictorial significance the chromatic scale of the film, like the deictic salience of marks and scratches, offers the illusion of the past in the present that allows the spectator to invest in the digitally colored image as an image of authenticity.
1. Debenham was a geographer on the British Antarctic Expedition (1910-13). He was later Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute.
3. The NFTVA consulted a Pathé catalogue of tints and tones and additional individual frames that form part of the Kodak collection at the National Media Museum Bradford. These sources were used as a point of reference for the 2009-2010 restoration of Silence. Additional reference material included prints of Silence from the EYE Film Institute and La Cinémathèque de Toulouse, and a research screening of tinted and toned prints of The Lodger (Hitchcock, 1926) and South (Frank Hurley, 1919) for NFTVA restoration project members and technicians from Deluxe Digital, London.
Berriatúa, L. (1998) “Regarding a Catalogue of the Tints Used on the Silent Screen”, All the Colors of the World: Colors in Early Mass Media 1900-1930, Reggio Emilia: Edizioni Diabasis: 135–139.
British Journal of Photography [BJP] (1924) “A Review of Dye Toning Processes”, British Journal of Photography [BJP], 71, 3360: 611–614.
Busche, A. (2006) “Just Another Ideology? Ethical and Methodological Principles in Film Restoration”, The Moving Image, 1: 1–28.
Cherchi Usai, P. (1991) “The Color of Nitrate”, Image, 34, 1-2: 29–38.
Lucatello, A. (2010) “How Do They Do It? The Great White Silence“, The Discovery Channel, 27 October. Online. Available at http//ww.yourdiscovery.com/ video/how-they-do-it-how-they-do-it-the-great-white-silence/
Mazzanti, N. (2009) “Colors, Audiences and (Dis)continuity in the ‘Cinema of the Second Period'”, Film History, 21: 67–93.
Ponting, H. G. ( 2000) The Great White South, New York: Cooper Square.
Ponting, H. G. (17 December 1913) Letter to Apsley Cherry Garrard, British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, MS559/102/2, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.
– (11 August 1924) “The Great White Silence Programme Notes”, D. 1500/1/1, Bournemouth Electric Theatre, Dorset History Centre: 3–10.
– (22 October 1932) Letter to Padre Hayes, MS964/7/22, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.
Ponting, H. G. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, Volume 7, MS280/28/7, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.
– (15 June 1926) Letter to Frank Debenham.
– (29 July 1929) Letter to Frank Debenham.
– (8 January 1930) Letter to Frank Debenham.
– (12 January 1933) Letter to Frank Debenham.
– (15 August 1933) Letter to Frank Debenham.
Read, P. (2009) “‘Unnatural Colors’: An Introduction to Coloring Techniques in Silent Era Movies”, Film History, 21, 1: 9–46.
Scott, R. F. ( 2000) “Kathleen Scott’s Foreword”, in H. G. Ponting, The Great White South, New York: Cooper Square: xv.”
(Watkins, Liz (2013): Herbert G. Ponting’s Materials and Texts. In: Simon Brown, Sarah Street and Liz Watkins (eds.): Color and the Moving Image. History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. New York, London: Routledge, pp. 230–242, on pp. 230–240.)
“The major form of color in silent cinema was applied color, colors not achieved by photographic processes, but applied to the positive print. In the most common process, tinting, a black-and-white positive print was immersed in a translucent dye. Thus the lighter areas of the image were colored, while the darker, and especially the entirely black areas, remained unchanged. A tinted image could be described as black and red (or black and green, or blue, or yellow, etc.). Toning, less frequent but still common, involved a process of printing and processing in which the actual chemicals that created the range of grays and blacks in the image were colored. Thus instead of a black-and-white image toning produced a blue and white one (or orange and white, red and white, green and white, etc.). In the era of shorter films some filmmakers colored areas of the image with a variety of colors, either by hand or with the aid of stencils, often with a realistic effect such as green trees, blue water, red flames, golden armor, or blue dresses. Tinting or toning were common practices from the feature era, appearing in most films until at least the mid-1920s.
However, color prints from the silent era were rarely screened until recently, leading to the distorted view that color film emerged gradually during the sound era awaiting the technical perfection and industry adoption of color photography. This was mainly due to archival policy. Until a few decades ago, color film stock was vulnerable to decay and deterioration and less suitable as an archival preservation medium than more stable black-and-white stocks. Applied color appears only on positive projection prints, not on negatives, and not on all prints of a film. Silent films were primarily printed on nitrate stock, whose chemical instability demanded their transfer to more recent stocks for preservation. Should an archivist copy a colored nitrate print onto color stock in order to preserve its tints, knowing that the color stock would itself eventually fade, or should she transfer it onto more stable black-and-white stock? Official policy of film archives until recently recommended duplicating nitrate prints onto black-and-white stock, an entirely defensible decision given the necessary trade-off that all preservation involves.
Certain archives screened nitrate prints with original tints publicly. I remember the excitement when MoMA would screen their tinted prints of Intolerance (D. W. Griffiths, 1916) or Broken Blossoms (D. W. Griffiths, 1919). Scholars realized that color, especially tinting, formed part of the silent film aesthetic. But that color appeared in most silent films was not widely realized until the 1980s, when archivists’ attitudes towards color changed, partly due to more stable color stocks. The decision not to preserve silent films in color came from practical preservation concerns, but it also reflected an attitude towards color that has cultural and aesthetic roots. Tints were considered secondary to the photographic aspects of the film. Color remained a supplement. Film scholars often viewed color as an add-on rather than an essential aspect: tints were applied after the production and directors may have had little or nothing to do with the process, instead leaving them in the hands of technicians. Some critics claimed that tinting was vulgar and obscured photographic qualities, a claim sometimes made by critics in the silent era as well. This viewpoint reflects a strain of chromophobia that runs through Western culture, often directed towards popular arts with their loud carnival colors. Philosophers held that color was not a primary, but, according to Descartes, a secondary accidental quality; certain forms of Puritanism claimed color was a sign of vanity and a cause of distraction; while some schools of painting suggested that color offered only a minor aesthetic quality compared to drawing which outlines essential forms (Batchelor 2000).
Awareness of color in silent film has come full circle with a new fascination in color processes and the effects (and affects) of color in cinema generally. But problems from the preservation side remain. Archivist Giovanna Fossati surveyed color prints made from nitrate originals in the collection of the Nederlands Filmmuseum (Fossati 2009: 83–89). Fossati found colors rarely strictly corresponded. The reasons were multiple. Photographic duplicates from applied color original prints involve a process of translation and unintended transformation. As anyone who has studied photographs of paintings knows, color photography is always selective and particularly responds differently to colors placed in close juxtaposition. But even if the photograph were strictly accurate in the reproduction of the original, neither color system is totally stable. The applied dyes in silent film are always in a process of fading or transforming. Even an accurate photograph will only capture one moment in this process. Color in film remains transitory, subject not only to changes wrought by time, but changes as it migrates through different film stocks and modes of processing. Attempts to preserve colors produced by different processes means those changes can be immense. Video not only offers new tools for the control of color, with its millions of differentiated colors, but also new problems in reproducing them yielding the old joke about the meaning of the initials NTSC – the video standard set in the US by the National Television System Committee – that they actually indicate “never the same color,” still applies (Fossati 2009: 45–49).
All of these aspects indicate the headache color presents to archivists and historians of film stylistics. While one inevitably regrets the loss of aspects of an artwork, some archivists have decided to acknowledge and even embrace the inevitable ephemerality of our medium. Paolo Cherchi Usai in his work as archivist, theorist and filmmaker has embraced this inevitable death of cinema and the role historians and filmmakers play in constructing requiems willing to acknowledge the mortality of film works (Cherchi Usai 2001). Such filmmakers include Pieter Delpeut in Lyrical Nitrate (1991) or Bill Morrison’s Decasia (2002), and the filmmakers who have used colors obtained by unconventional chemical processes, such as David Gatten in What the Water Said (1998-2007) and Peggy Ahwesh in The Color of Love (1994).1 Color belongs to the material side of film. While it may be stored as digital information, its dynamic unstable chemical nature balances the serendipity of alchemical transformation with the inevitability of decay. This inherently unfixed nature of color combines with its unique perceptual and emotional effects to create a power foreign to either Cartesian certitude or the Platonic ideal eternity.
From the perspective of archiving and preservation, film color remains uniquely vulnerable and its relative absence from earlier accounts of silent film history may derive less from suspicion or ideological suppression than from the nature of color itself, elusive and ungraspable, as eager to appear to us as to flee from us. But what I am calling the suppression of color refers also to our incomplete understanding of another aspect of the history of color in silent cinema: less the prevalence of color during most of the silent era, now widely acknowledged, but the near total disappearance of applied color by the 1930s, which has rarely been remarked upon – even though everyone recognises it! The true mystery of color in film may lie in the emergence of black-and-white in the 1930s through the 1950s as the standard of cinema. Because the preservation of applied color in silent prints remains spotty, the nature of this transformation remains unclear. Was it abrupt, and did it basically coincide, as has often been supposed, with the coming of sound or did it occur gradually, as some preliminary evidence seems to indicate, with a reduction in colored prints during the late 1920s? It has often been claimed that the disappearance of tinting had a technological basis since the dyeing process interfered with the soundtrack. While this sounds plausible, given that some early sound films were tinted, it needs to be questioned and subjected to further investigation. Could the addition of a soundtrack offer a different sort of explanation, more aesthetic and stylistic, as synchronized sound and dialogue clashed with, or somehow rendered redundant, the addition of color? For example, it is useful to recall that early talkies often eliminated the continuous musical accompaniment that had defined silent film, or restricted it to opening and closing credits. It is most likely that streamlining the production of projection prints with sound played a major role, since applied color processes added a complicated stage in the preparation of prints. But why did the aesthetic addition of color at this point seem no longer worth the effort? Histories of laboratory and print preparation may well hold the answer to our question, although aesthetic effects must also have been a consideration. Whatever the explanation may be, this literal suppression of color in the 1930s or late 1920s remains a stylistic change that has basically been taken for granted.
How was black-and-white film viewed during the silent era? Was it a stylistic alternative to color, a seemingly random variation, or was it rarely seen at all? Undoubtedly this question needs to be asked in terms of specific periods (e.g. pre-1907; 1908-1913; 1914; 1919; 1920-1924; 1924-1929); for different national cinemas; and for genres (was tinting and coloring more common in dramas than in slapstick, in fiction than in newsreels?). In how many films did tinting appear only in a few sequences and what sort of scenes were these (to what extent was tinting limited to blue night scenes, red fires, or did it operate as stylistic markers within otherwise black-and-white films)? The lack of tinting was remarked upon in the admittedly limited showings of the Expressionist film Von Morgens bis Mitternacht, Karl Heinz Martin’s 1920 adaptation of George Kaiser’s expressionist play. Recent restorations of classic Weimar films reveal the expressive possibilities of tinting in such films as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919), Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922) and Orlacs Hande (Robert Wiene, 1924).2 But if Von Morgens bis Mitternacht avoided tints, was this for expressive motives? Did stark black-and-white make the film seem closer to the severe woodcuts of the early German Expressionist group of artists, Die Brücke? […]
Issues of archival restoration of color also raise stylistic considerations. However, when a modern photographic color print is made of prints originally using these processes, these distinctions tend to blur. The blacks of a tinted print lose their integrity, while the whites in a toned print tend to merge with the dominant color. To address this problem The Royale Cinémathèque of Belgium introduced an alternative called the Desmet process (Fossati 2009: 89–90). Instead of simply photographing the original colored print onto color stock, a black-and-white print is flashed into color in order to preserve the original dark blacks, preserving the original tonal contrast.
1What the Water Said was a series of films made by David Gatten from 1998 to 2007.
2 Contemporary critics remarked on the lack of tinting in the Expressionist film Von Morgens bis Mitternacht, Karl Heinz Martin’s 1920 adaptation of George Kaiser’s Expressionist play (although the film had admittedly very few screenings).
Batchelor, D. (2000) Chromophobia, New York: Reaktion.
Cherchi Usai, P. (2001) The Death of Cinema: History, Cultural Memory and the Digital Dark Age, London: British Film Institute.
Fossati, G. (2009) From Grain to Pixel: the Archival Life of Film in Transition, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press.”
(Gunning, Tom (2013): Where Do Colors Go at Night? In: Simon Brown, Sarah Street and Liz Watkins (eds.): Color and the Moving Image. History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. New York, London: Routledge, pp. 81–92, on pp. 82–86.)
Wesley T. Hanson, who worked for Eastman Kodak for 43 years and was in charge of research from 1972 until 1977, has said that around 1940, Kodak:
‘Came very close to marketing Kodachrome roll-film and prints, but Kodacolor film and paper came along at just the right time; they provided much simpler processing, both for the negatives and the prints.’
Hanson was referring to a Kodachrome in its negative form, together with a silver masking image that would have added anothert 15 processing steps to make a total of 43!
Mannes and Godowsky had already obtained several patents on negative films that would be processed by the controlled penetration of a sequence of colour developers and then used to produce prints on a second, similarly processed positive material. But as Hanson also said – ‘I shudder to think about the problems had we tried to market such a complex process.’
Kodak’s research staff at Rochester were aware that Agfa had discovered long-chain diffusion-fast couplers in 1935, they nicknamed them ‘oily tails’, but knew that an alternative way of incorporating couplers in emulsion layers would have to be found if they were to produce multi-layer colour materials that would be as easy to process as Agfa’s colour films and papers.
According to Hanson, it was in 1939 that Paul Vittum and Edwin Jelly discovered that ‘shorter chains of five carbon atoms each worked even better than Agfa’s formulas.’
The relevant patent reads:
‘Certain water-insoluble colour couplers are mixed with “oil formers” so that a liquid solution results which is then dispersed in a gelatine silver-salt emultion in the usual manner.’
A couple of years before Vittum and Jelly disclosed their ideas, Michael Martinez, whose tri-pack patents had led to the formation of Colour Photographs Limited in the UK back in 1928, obtained a quite different patent protecting the incorporation of a colour coupler in a resinous binder.
In brief, Martinez’s 1937 patent read:
‘In order to minimize the diffusion of a colour former from the emulsion layer in which it is incorporated into another layer or into the colour developer, it is localized by means of a natural or artificial resin not chemically combined but in intimate physical association. The mixture is prepared by dissolving the resin and the colour former in suitable organic solvents and incorporating the solution in an aqueous gelatine solution or directly in a silver halide emulsion.’
In 1940, while he was in an internment camp on the Isle of Man, Martinez was granted another patent for a mixed grain monolayer colour film, and Kodak must have considered that because the proposed procedures were sufficiently close to what they expected to do, they should obtain rights to the Martinez patents.
Also in 1940, D. J. Howe, a research chemist working for Elliott & Sons, a small British manufacturer of plates and films, was granted a patent covering the use of synthetic resins for the protection of colour couplers. Howe acknowledged Martinez’s earlier patent and then described his own idea, which was to use either ‘Glyptal’ or ‘Paralac’, two synthetic resins made by ICI, to ‘form a solution of the resin and colour former in a common solvent and precipitating therefrom a mixture of resin and colour former in intimate physical association but not combined.’
Barnet, Elliott & Sons’ trading name, did produce some simple single-layer colour development papers rather like the Chromal papers made by the Neue Photographische Gesellschaft in 1913; but they never used their couplers in a multi-layer product.
Because it was similar to their own line of activity, Kodak also acquired the rights to Howe’s patent.
With the patent situation tidied up, Kodak was ready to launch the Kodacolor process; the first complete system of colour photography to use the type of colour coupler that would one day become the norm throughout the photographic industry. In 1941 the vast majority of amateur photographers were still using roll-film cameras and they were the people for whom the new process was intended.
Kodacolor was announced in December 1941 and launched early in 1942. The press release was positive, claiming the new process to be ‘the greatest achievement in photography since George Eastman pioneered and introduced roll film in 1889.’
Since no photofinishers in the US had any experience of handling colour negatives, exposed Kodacolor films had to be returned through a camera store to Rochester to be developed and printed, just as the first Kodak black and white films had been half a century earlier.
PHOTOFINISHING IN COLOUR
Kodak had already gained some experience of making large numbers of colour prints from Kodachrome transparencies, but the task of making prints from colour negatives was far more difficult. Special printers had to be designed and built to assess automatically both the amount and colour of light required to expose each negative so that an acceptable colour print would result. Kodacolor films were developed by a process known as C-22 which took about 50 minutes and remained in use until 1955. Customers were charged one dollar for processing a film and 30 cents for each print made on paper 3-1/2 inches wide – the other dimension depending upon negative format.
All these entirely new operations represented the beginnings of photofinishing in colour and are dealt with in a later section.
KODACOLOR NEGATIVE FILM
The speed of the original daylight Kodacolor film was ASA25. It was a basic three-layer material incorporating no colour or contrast correction masks and using couplers that resulted in unstable dyes and rather degraded colour prints. Nevertheless, Kodacolor was a success from the start and Kodak’s research staff immediately set to work to find better couplers and faster emulsions. It has been reported, and the patent literature confirms, that a team under Arnold Weissberger made and tested thousands of different colour formers during the next few years in the search for better colour reproduction and more stable images.
Because the early image dyes used for Kodacolor negative film were far from perfect, the contrast of the negatives had to be high in order to achieve reasonable colour saturation in the prints. The result was high tonal contrast leading to frequent loss of highlight and/or shadow detail. A partial solution to this problem was found by incorporating an additional black and white image layer in which a negative image was automatically generated during development. This kind of negative silver image mask was used in Kodacolor films from 1944 until 1949; after which coloured coupler masking was introduced.
Hanson was responsible for introducing coloured couplers in Kodacolor film and he has told how it came about:
‘Lying in bed one night in February of 1943, I thought if you had a coupler itself colored and you destroyed that color when you made the dye, then you had an automatic mask right there. I got up the next morning and wrote down that idea, then I went into the labs and told Paul Vittum. He said, “I think we’ve got something on the shelf that might do it.” So that same day we ran an experiment and, sure enough, it was colored and it was a coupler and it worked.’
Other people before Hanson had been aware of couplers that were themselves coloured. In 1938 R. B. Collins and J. D. Kendall of Ilford Limited had in fact patented coloured couplers, but their patent contained no suggestion that such couplers could be used to provide a masking image. R. W. G. Hunt, in his book The Reproduction of Colour, says of coloured couplers used for masking that – ‘the credit for their introduction must be shared by the Research Laboratories of the Eastman Kodak Company and the General Analine and Film Corporation (GAF), who filed the first patents on the subject on the very same day!’
Hanson’s basic patent has been summarized succinctly:
‘To eliminate the necessity of using a separate mask for colour correction, at least one of the dye layers has incorporated in it a dye which cancels out the minor, unwanted colours absorbed. The dye is so chosen that, upon coupling, it changes to a complementary colour of the main colour former in the emulsion layer.’
In fact this represents an oversimplification of the’ system, as Hanson and Vittum made clear in another patent:
‘In the use of coloured couplers whose original colour is destroyed during coupling, it is important that the light absorption of the uncoupled coloured coupler should be equal to the light absorption of the fully coupled colour coupler in the regions of the spectrum where correction is required. The present invention achieves this result by a suitable mixture of a coloured coupler and an uncoloured coupler, both of which give the same hue after coupling, the proportions of the mixture being chosen to obey the above requirements.’
The GAF patent, while having the same objective, reached it in a different way; it described a process:
‘for producing negatives for colour photography in which there is uniformly distributed in at least one of the layers capable of forming the cyan and magenta negative images, an azo dye capable of producing a positive dye image in the layer by treating with a bleaching bath that does not affect in an irreversible manner, the dyes produced by colour development.’
In an address to the Society of Photographic Scientists and Engineers in 1984, Hanson outlined some of the work that was carried out in the 1950s and 1960s by the Research Departments at Rochester to improve the performance and quality of Kodacolor film and prints, as well as allied colour products.
He explained that:
‘The quality of the photographic image results from dozens of interdependent qualities. One of the most intriguing is the simple issue of sharpness. One of the things that influences the sharpness of photographic images is the scatter of the light as it penetrates the emulsions. The thicker the emulsion, the more grains there are in it, the more light scatters, and the poorer the sharpness. Through the years sharpness has been increased tremendously by learning how to coat the layers more thinly. Not only did this involve the mechanics of coating but it also involved the structure of the couplers and their activity so that the smallest amount of coupler could be used. These advances and other developments made possible Eastman Color negative film and the Eastman Color motion picture system.’
Another shortcoming of early Kodacolor film was that, because of its high contrast and simple construction, it had hardly any more exposure latitude than Kodachrome. It was not until the 1950s that the introduction of new multi-layer coating techniques allowed the use of double-coating for each colour record, and both speed and latitude were improved.
A 35mm version of Kodacolor did not appear until 1958, some sixteen years after it had been launched in roll-film sizes. There were probably two reasons for the delay. First, the graininess of the early films was too coarse to allow printing from 35mm negatives. Secondly, the colour printers in Rochester were designed to handle roll-film negatives after being cut into individual frames, a procedure that would not have been possible with strips of 35mm negatives.
Hanson was undoubtedly correct in stating that the introduction of Instamatic 126 films in 1963 did more than any other marketing step to popularize the use of Kodacolor film throughout the world. The cameras were cheap, easy to load and easy to use, while the cartridge-loaded films were all rated at ASA64 – making it possible to obtain good results under a wide range of conditions.
Before the Instamatic landmark, an earlier event had changed the way in which people in the US had their Kodacolor films processed and printed. In 1954 the US Supreme Court ruled that Eastman Kodak could no longer sell any of their colour film with the cost of processing pre-paid. Prior to that time, most colour films had been sold together with a mailing bag in which the exposed spool was returned to one or other of Kodak’s laboratories.
The Anti-Trust ruling also required Kodak to make processing formulas and know-how available to any bona-fide photofinisher who wanted to undertake the processing of Kodachrome or Kodacolor films. It was difficult for Kodak to comply quickly with the Anti-Trust ruling and the transfer of colour processing to independent laboratories took some time, but eventually it happened and while Kodak continued to offer processing services in most countries, their share of the business became relatively small, although there were 10 Kodak processing laboratories still operating in the US during the 1960s.
The success of Instamatic cameras and films in the 126 format encouraged Kodak to launch another generation of Instamatic cameras using less film and a smaller image format. This step was taken in 1972, with the introduction of Instamatic 110 cameras and cartridges. It was made possible by a further significant improvement in the sharpness of Kodacolor film, which was then renamed Kodacolor II. Kodak reckoned that the l6mm wide film used in Instamatic 110 cameras permitted 7x enlargements to be made that were equal in quality to the 3x enlargements made from 126 Kodacolor X negatives on film 35mm wide. Kodacolor II required different processing so C-22 was phased out and the C-41 process soon became and is still the standard for colour negatives throughout the world. Processing time was reduced to 18 minutes – dry to dry.
The improved resolution and better colour reproduction of Kodacolor II came about after the discovery of the benefits that could result from using a new form of colour coupler. […]
KODACOLOR DISC FILM
In 1982, Kodak went a step further towards even smaller negative formats by introducing their Disc cameras with a range of Kodacolor HR films rated at ASA100, ASA200 and ASA400. Subsequent events showed that this was a step too far. The size of each negative image in a disc film was 11mm x 8mm – hardly more than one-tenth of the area of a standard 35mm frame – which meant that lOx enlargements had to be made to produce a print on 3-1/4 inch wide paper.
It would have been of little use continually improving the performance of Kodacolor films if the paper on which the negatives were printed was not improved at the same time. When roll-film Kodacolor was introduced in 1942, the negatives were printed on a simple three-layer colour paper with the red-sensitive (cyan image-forming) layer next to the paper base and the blue-sensitive (yellow image) layer on the outside. The trouble with this arrangement is that the cyan image, which has to provide much of the modelling in a picture, is relatively unsharp because image-forming light is scattered by the two emulsion layers above it. The answer was to rearrange the layer sequence so that the red-recording emulsion was on top and the blue record nearest the base. This was achieved by eliminating the yellow filter layer and ensuring that the blue sensitivity of the bottom emulsion, next to the paper base, greatly exceeded the native blue sensitivity of either of the other two layers. This change was made with the introduction of Kodacolor Type III paper in 1954.
Kodacolor Types I, II and III were used exclusively by Kodak for making prints from amateurs’ negatives until 1955 when ‘Type C paper was made available to photographers using Ektacolor sheet film – a professional version of Kodacolor introduced in 1948 and originally intended to provide separation negatives for subsequent printing by the Dye-Transfer process. After 1959 Colour Print Type C became known as Ektacolor paper in accordance with a ruling laid down by Mees, that:
‘The prefix “Koda” – is to be used for materials processed by the company and “Ekta” – for those to be processed by the user. The suffix – “chrome” is to be used for reversal materials and – “color”for non-reversal materials.’
This dictum could not be strictly observed because as the variety of their colour negative materials increased, Kodak films began to appear with names such as Vericolor and Ektapress, one version of which was rated at ISO1600 – some sixty times faster than Kodacolor in 1942.
R. L. Heldke, L. H. Feldman and C. B. Bard described the evolution of Kodak’s colour negative print papers in a paper presented to the SPSE in July 1984. As well as explaining the improvements in colour reproduction, sharpness and image permanence that had been achieved during four decades of production, they also showed how processing had been shortened and simplified. In 1942 the original P-122 process required 7 solutions and took 50 minutes before the paper was ready for drying.
Resin coated paper (Ektacolor 20 RC) was introduced in 1968, after which wet processing time was reduced to 20 minutes and drying only added another minute or two.
In 1976, Kodak introduced the EP-2 process, requiring only 2 solutions (plus wash-water) and 8-1/2 minutes of wet processing. At the conclusion of their paper the authors took the opportunity to point out that ‘the price of a 3R print from a Kodak Processing Laboratory has been held approximately constant in current dollar terms since 1942. This was achieved in face of inflation that has reduced the purchasing power of the dollar in real terms by more than a factor of six.’
EASTMAN COLOR MOTION PICTURE FILMS
In ‘Journey: 75 Years of Kodak Research‘, the editors, writing about Dr. Wesley T. Hanson, say that ‘when he returned to Rochester in May 1945 (after being seconded by Dr. Mees to work on the Manhattan Project), he resumed research on color motion picture processes and, working closely with Nick Groet, he eventually saw his invention of the colored coupler masking process reach fruition in Eastman color negative film.’
Before he had left Rochester to work at Berkeley and Oak Ridge, Hanson thought it might be possible to use Kodachrome as a professional motion-picture process, but he had met serious problems. Although original Kodachrome camera film was excellent, the contrast and colour reproduction of first and second generation copies were poor. Yet such duplicates were necessary in order to produce special effects and to protect the original film from wear and tear.
Hanson therefore concluded that it would be more satisfactory to use a motion-picture version of Kodacolor negative together with a film-based version of Kodacolor (Ektacolor) paper, for making release prints. The earliest experiments along these lines were made by Nick Groet, who in 1948, persuaded the laboratory studio to expose a length of 35mm Kodacolor negative film, which he then printed onto an Ektacolor type print film.
In terms of colour and tone reproduction the result was better than anything previously achieved, but sharpness and graininess were quite unacceptable. It was found that the poor resolution resulted from light being reflected from the coarse grain yellow image-producing layer at the bottom of the tri-pack, exposing the two upper layers a second time, causing a fuzzy double image.”
(Coote, Jack H. (1993): The Illustrated History of Colour Photography. Surbiton, Surrey: Fountain Press, on pp. 157–163.)
The Phantom of the Opera (USA 1925, Rupert Julian)
“2. Die dramaturgischen Funktionen
2.1 Die ortsbezogene Farbgebung (indexikalisch)
Eine der elementarsten Aufgaben der Viragierung ist die Indikation der Handlungsorte. Helmut Regel versteht diese Art der Färbung in seinem Aufsatz über “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari in Farbe” als “dramaturgische Verständnishüfe”; er schreibt:
Das Springen der Handlung zwischen verschiedenen Schauplätzen, zum Beispiel zwischen einem Arbeitszimmer des Hausherrn in Sepia und einem Salon des Hausfreundes in Gelborange, war wegen der unterschiedlichen Viragierung leichter nachvollziehbar (Regel 1985, 8).
Als Ortsindikator diente die Farbe zur Markierung bestimmter Schauplätze in Sequenzen mit häufigem Wechsel zwischen gleichbleibenden Szenerien. Der primäre Zweck war also die Kontrastierung der Schauplätze durch Farbe; zugleich wurde die jeweilige Örtlichkeit mit der einmal definierten Ortsfarbe wiedererkennbar gemacht.
Unbedingte Voraussetzung für diese Art dramaturgischer Farbgebung war jedoch, daß sie beibehalten werden mußte; zumindest solange, wie es im Kontext der Sequenz wichtig war, daß der Wiedererkennungseffekt beim Wechsel auf einen bereits eingeführten Schauplatz garantiert blieb.
In The Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian & Edward Sedgewick, USA 1925) beispielsweise dient Violett als Standardfarbe für die Innenräume des Opernhauses (für die Bühne und die Kulissen, den Zuschauersaal und das Foyer) und wird damit zur meist verwendeten Farbe der ersten Filmhälfte. In ortsbezogenen Kontrast gesetzt ist sie hier mit Gelb, in welches die Szenen im Büro der Direktion der Oper, in und vor der Garderobe der Sängerin Christine Daaé sowie zwei kurze Einschöbe, die im Haus ihres Geliebten Raoul bzw. im Büro des Polizeipräfekten spielen, getaucht sind.
Weiterhin manifestiert sich ein ortsbezogener Kontrast zu Blau, der Standardfarbe für “Nacht”, mit der in diesem Film – in dem es so gut wie keine Szenen gibt, die bei Tag spielen – das “Außen” versinnbildlicht und in Gegensatz zum “Innen” (Violett, Gelb) im Opernhaus oder – in der zweiten Filmhälfte – (Grün) in den Katakomben gesetzt wird.
Am Beginn der zweiten Hälfte, wo zum erstenmal seit den Credits wieder Blau erscheint, ist dies eindeutig zu sehen:
BLAU: Auf dem Dach der Oper, Nacht.
(Raoul und Christine, die sich in Sicherheit gebracht zu haben glauben, besprechen Fluchtpläne, werden aber vom Phantom belauscht.)
VIOLETT: Foyer, Gänge in der Oper.
(Raoul und Christine tauchen in der tanzenden Menge unter, nachdem ihnen der Polizist Ledoux einen ungefährlichen Weg gezeigt hat. Das Phantom rauscht als Roter Tod kostümiert einen Gang entlang und läßt einen der Anwesenden erschrocken in Ohnmacht sinken.)
Die offensichtliche farbige Ortsbestimmung korrespondiert in beiden Szenen mit einer eröffnenden Totalen, einerseits auf das Dach der Oper, von dem aus man den Blick über Paris erahnen kann, andererseits auf das große Foyer, in dem sich zahllose Tanzende bewegen; ein alter Kunstgriff der Montage, um dem Zuschauer eine Orientierung innerhalb bzw. überhaupt eine Identifizierung des Schauplatzes zu ermöglichen. In diesem Fall also geht die gängige Assoziation (und nichtsdestotrotz weiterhin immanente Bedeutung) der Farbe Blau als “Nacht” über in die Bedeutung “Außen”. Tatsächlich gibt es in The Phantom of the Opera nur eine Tageslichtszene im Freien; nämlich als am Tag nach der “Kronleuchterkatastrophe” auf der Straße die Zeitung verkauft wird, die darüber berichtet. Interessanterweise ist diese kurze Szene in Gelb gehalten, das bisher nur “neutralen” Innenräumen vorbehalten war. Inwieweit in diesem Zusammenhang der Farbe Blau der zeitliche Gegensatz in Form des “Tag – Nacht” zugunsten des räumlichen Verhältnisses von “Innen – Außen” zurückgetreten ist, verdeutlicht noch einmal, wie wichtig zuweilen die Ortsbestimmung ist, daß sie gegenüber der Zeitebenenbestimmung beispielsweise (s. Punkt 2,2) Vorrang hat.
2.3 Die personenbezogene Farbgebung (indexikalisch)
Die letzte noch verbleibende Möglichkeit der Farbgebung mit indexikalischer Struktur, die Zuordnung einer bestimmten Farbe zu einer bestimmten Filmfigur im Sinne eines Leitmotivs, ist ein relativ selten nachzuweisender Fall. Als Musterbeispiel hierfür kann jedoch wiederum The Phantom of the Opera gelten, in welchem sich diese Vorgehensweise sehr auffällig manifestiert.
In der ersten Hälfte des Films, die sich – wie bereits erwähnt – im Hinblick auf die Strategien des Farbeinsatzes völlig von der zweiten Hälfte unterscheidet, ist Grün die Leitfarbe des Phantoms. (In der zweiten wird Grün zur ortsbezogenen Farbe der Katakomben, dann auch eingesetzt, wenn das Phantom selbst nicht im Bild erscheint; ebenso sind dann – am Ende des Films – die Nachtszenen auf der Straße trotz der Anwesenheit des Phantoms in Blau.)
Während der ersten beiden Akte des Films besteht die Viragierung fast auschließlich aus Violett und Gelb, einzige Ausnahme ist das Blau der Credits und der allerersten Szene. Nach beinahe zwanzig Minuten Film kommt es zum ersten Auftritt des Phantoms und zur erstmaligen Verwendung der Farbe Grün:
Als erstes Grün erscheint ein erläuternder Zwischentitel:
“From hidden places beyond the walls a melodious voice, like the voice of an angel, spoke to her.”
Die nachfolgende Einstellung zeigt den Schemen des Phantoms als Schatten an einer Wand, ebenfalls in Grün.
Im nachfolgenden Dialog sind die Zwischentitel unterschiedlich viragiert, um dem Zuschauer die Zuordnung der entsprechenden Dialogpassage zur jeweils sprechenden Figur zu erleichtern. Die Dialogsätze des Phantoms in Grün (was das Phantom – verborgen hinter einer Wand – zu Christine sagt) stehen in Kontrast zur Antwort Christines (in Gelb), die in ihrer Garderobe auf die Stimme aus der Wand lauscht.
Auffällig hierbei ist, daß die klassische Zeichenstruktur der Dialogzuweisung im Stummfilm trotz der farblichen Unterschiedlichkeit der Zwischentitel dennoch beibehalten ist; folglich ist die Szene nicht bereits auf eine beabsichtigte farbliche Unterscheidung hin montiert worden.
Die Dialogzuweisung im Stummfilm funktionierte allgemein nach drei Kriterien:
1. Der Zwischentitel wurde durch Anführungszeichen (“”) als Dialog ausgewiesen – im Gegensatz zu erläuternden Inserts.
2. Der Dialog-Zwischentitel wurde zwischen zwei gleiche Einstellungen der den Mund bewegenden Figur montiert.
3. Zumindest der erste Zwischentitel ist adressiert. (“‘Christine,…(Text)'”). Hierdurch ist der Adressat des Dialogsatzes identifiziert und dem Zuschauer als nicht identisch mit dem Sprecher ausgewiesen.
Dem denkbaren Einwand, es könne sich hier ebensogut um eine ortsbezogene Farbgebung handeln, da sich die beiden Figuren Christine und Phantom an verschiedenen Orten aufhalten (eben diesseits und jenseits der Wand), läßt sich entgegenhalten, daß die Systematik von Grün als Leitfarbe des Phantoms in der ersten Filmhälfte konsequent durchgehalten ist: In der Szene beispielsweise, als das Phantom den großen Kronleuchter im Zuschauersaal absägt, wird die ortsbezogene Farbgebung zugunsten der personenbezogenen aufgegeben. Schauplätze, die nach der ortsbezogen definierten Farbe Violett sein müßten (bei der Flucht des Phantoms über die Lichtböden etwa) sind mit einem Male ebenfalls Grün.
Regel, Helmut (1985) Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari in Farbe – Zur Rekonstruktion durch das Bundesarchiv. In: Fischer, Robert (Hrsg.): Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. Stuttgart: Fischer, Kress, Wiedleroither, 8–13. (FOCUS-Filmtexte).”
(Traber, Bodo (1995): Dramaturgische Funktionen monochromer Farbgebung im Stummfilm. In: Karl-Dietmar Möller-Nass Möller-Nass, Hasko Schneider and Hans J. Wulff (eds.): 1. Film- und Fernsehwissenschaftliches Kolloquium. Münster: MAkS, pp. 30–36, on pp. 31–33.) (in German)