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: https://blog.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.
“In 2015, the Deutsches Filminstitut (DIF) undertook the restoration and digitizing of 20 lithographic film loops from its collection, selected for their beauty and unusual colour technology. The loops bear no titles, and almost all have lost their original packaging, which formerly identified subject, producers and/or retailer; given this absence, any information printed on the film edges provides important clues. Two loops – [Ringkampf / Wrestling Match] and [Wippe / See-saw] – have the edge code “GC&CoN, dep.”, identifying Georges Carette & Co. The two were packaged together in a small can displaying the term “Litho-Film” with the label of the Vienna toyshop Anton C. Niessner and an emphatic fire warning, ACHTUNG! ZELLULOIDFILM! Only one other loop, [Clownsgesicht / Clown’s Face], carries a manufacturer’s edge code: “FOTO- BING-FILM-GESCH”. This shows a photographic image of a clown’s facial contortions, reproduced onto the film strip by monochrome lithographic printing. Along with the similarly produced [Pferdekutsche und Auto / Horse-carriage and Automobile], this may be one of the series first listed in Bing’s 1907 catalogue as “new ‘Photobing’ Films directly produced from original photographs”.
Most of the surviving loops show numbering on the films’ edges, which seem to follow 3 or 4 different styles or systems. The significance of this variability in numerical edge coding remains open for debate; some surviving loops may be condensed from longer subjects, or may evidence production processes similar to rotoscoping by showing a selection of phases traced from a photographic master, and it is likely that the different manufacturers had their own styles of edge coding. Yet, each producer could have changed their method of edge marking over the years, and production may also have been made jointly. How many manufacturers designed and printed loops is yet unknown; makers beyond Nuremberg should be considered, not least of all Lapierre in France.
The digitization work, carried out at ARRI Munich, was challenging. About half the shorts are still intact loops, most of them very shrunken, brittle, and warped, with damaged perforations, and the resulting scans still have a notable degree of instability. We settled for a fairly open framing on a neutral background, to leave at least some of the perforations and edges visible, to convey some sense of the intimacy inherent in the act of hand-cranking such a loop on a toy cinematograph. Although no doubt the original users were playful in their variation of film speeds, we chose a steady 12 fps, which occasionally looks a trifle fast, but seemed a good compromise while fitting smoothly with the 24 fps standard of a DCP, without any three-fold repetition of frames. We settled for five repeats of each subject, which allows time to study the on-screen action in full colourful splendour, without stretching the patience of modern audiences.
In colour grading, the aim was to match the colours and colour intensity of the chromolithographic printing process, while taking into account the original lantern illuminants: initially simple oil lamps, or, in higher-end models, duplex paraffin lights. Digital clean-up was performed with minimal intervention, limited to the most obtrusive dirt and the most irritating damage.
A new title card was created for each loop, indicating an assigned archival title and references to potentially corresponding entries in the catalogues of the Nuremburg manufacturers. This assignment of tentative identities and dates is a preliminary result of research. Only a selection of catalogues was available for reference; not all of them contain an itemized list of film subjects, and a fair amount of popular subjects are present in several manufacturers’ catalogues, making identification even more challenging. – ANKE MEBOLD
The 20 “Lithofilms” will be shown individually, interspersed throughout the week of the Giornate. All films are from the film archive of the Deutsches Filminstitut-DIF, Frankfurt am Main.
Key to Production and Distribution Companies
Bing = Gebrüder Bing AG, Nürnberg
Carette = Georges Carette & Co., Nürnberg
Plank = Ernst Plank KG, Nürnberg
The assigned descriptive archival film titles are preceded by numbers indicating the order in which they appear on the DIF’s DCP. The series numbers are derived from original vintage catalogues.
11 [RINGKAMPF / WRESTLING MATCH]
DIF_50_427, 35mm, chromolithographic loop, 53 frames.
Georges Carette & Co., Nürnberg. Tentative ID:
Carette c.1907 (ENG): No. 329/11 C coloured. 4. Wrestlers (54 frames)
Carette 1911 (ENG): Coloured Films of excellent cinematographic effect, 54 frames, 40 1⁄2 inches. No. 329/11 CB. Wrestler
12 [WIPPE / SEE-SAW]
DIF_50_433, 35mm, chromolithographic loop, 25 frames.
Georges Carette & Co., Nürnberg. Tentative ID:
Carette c.1907 (ENG): No. 329/11 C coloured. 6. The Seesaw (28 frames)
Carette 1911 (ENG): Coloured Films of excellent cinematographic effect, 28 frames, 21 1⁄2 inches. No. 329/11 CA. See-saw
19 [PFERDEKUTSCHE UND AUTO / HORSE-CARRIAGE AND AUTOMOBILE]
DIF_50_437, 35mm, monochrome photolithographic loop, 50 frames (incomplete?). Tentative ID:
Plank 1914 (GER): E. P.-Noris-Films photographisches Druckverfahren (Printing Process), c.100 cm. Serie 48/5. Straßenszene [Street Scene]
20 [CLOWNSGESICHT / CLOWN’S FACE]
DIF_50_419, 35mm, monochrome photolithographic loop, 59 frames.
Gebrüder Bing AG, Nürnberg. Tentative ID:
Bing 1907 (GER): 6665, neueste sog. “Photobing-Films” naturgetreu nach photographischen Originalaufnahmen; c.1 m. Serie 6665/2 Mimik [Facial Expressions]
Bing 1907 (ENG): 6665, The new “Photobing” Films directly produced from original photographs, c.39 in.; 2. Mimic
Bing 1912 (GER): 6667, Photobing-Films naturgetreu direkt nach photographischen Originalaufnahmen, c. 1,10 m. Serie I. 2. Mimik; Serie V. 1. Der Mimiker [Facial Contortionist]”
(Mebold, Anke (2016): German Chromolithographic Loops. In: Le giornate del cinema muto 35. Pordenone: Giornate del cinema muto, pp. 215–221, on pp. 216–221.)