Today the British Film Institute published a list of Colour in Film: the 10 best film colour systems, written by Dr. Ulrich Ruedel, Conservation Technology Manager, and a top expert in the field of film color restoration. The online publication is illustrated with many photographs taken by Timeline of Historical Film Colors creator and curator Barbara Flueckiger earlier in 2014. In a joint project with the BFI, Flueckiger documented selected color films as outlined in Dr. Ruedel’s article:

The BFI has always been engaged with these problems [of research and documentation], ranging from issues related to the very earliest colour films to the authentic colour rendering in major BFI restoration projects, with scientific research and outreach informing such endeavours. Recognising the quantum leap towards documentation of historical colour systems facilitated with her Timeline of Historical Film Colors, the BFI’s conservation managers and curators were thus delighted to welcome the University of Zurich’s Professor Barbara Flueckiger to the J. Paul Getty Jr Conservation Centre in March 2014. In a joint project and with help from the conservation and collection teams, various colour systems evidenced in the rich collections were to be visually documented for dissemination within the Timeline website.

During two days on site, Professor Flueckiger thus captured numerous high-quality, colour-calibrated digital images of a carefully selected, yet extensive number of historic colour prints, often on volatile nitrate stock, from the BFI’s vaults. The high-quality images thus generated now form part of the BFI’s Collections and Information Database and are available both to specialists and the public through the galleries in the Timeline of Historical Film Colors.

Colours captured range from the early, ‘unnatural’ tint and stencil colours in the BFI’s remarkable Joseph Joye Collection to the pioneering ‘natural’ colour systems such as the additive Francita and Dufaycolor processes, the latter famously employed in films by Len Lye and Humphrey Jennings. They evidence both colour fading such as in Dufaychrome and the gorgeous, resilient colours of, for instance, Gasparcolor (typically employed in animation, but also used in rare London documentary footage). They also comprise the most famous systems such as Technicolor (and even its variations among different archives’ prints) and effectively forgotten ones such as Cinechrome, Spectracolor, Chemicolor and Dunningcolor.

The collaboration with the BFI is a role model for the connection of academic research with archival practices. Not only does the BFI offer a comprehensive catalogue online for open access, which enabled the search for selected films by the researcher herself, but Flueckiger also encountered a maximum of support and interest for her project. In two talks at the BFI in London and at the JP Getty Conservation Centre in Berkhamsted, she presented her approach both to the documentation of historical film colors and the applied research project DIASTOR, where she and her team elaborate new methods for the restoration of color film. Both talks were attended by numerous staff of the BFI who engaged in a lively discussion.

Many thanks to the staff of the BFI, to Ulrich Ruedel, Kieron Webb, Bryony Dixon and Charles Fairall!

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