Pathécolor / Pathéchrome / stencil coloring
Stencil coloring required the manual cutting, frame by frame, of the area which was to be tinted onto another identical print, one for each color. Usually the number of colors applied ranged from 3 to 6. The process was highly improved by the introduction of a cutting machine. Thus the cutter could follow the outlines of the image areas on a magnified image from a guide print projected onto a ground glass. A pantograph reduced the enlargement back to frame size. The machine performed the cutting on the stencil print with a needle. When cut-out manually, the gelatin had to be removed from the stenciled print to form a transparent strip. In the machine cutting process the stencil was cut into a blank film directly. For every color the stencil print was fed in register with the positive print into a printing machine where the acid dye was applied by a continuous velvet band.
Several hundred women performed the exacting task at the Pathé workshop in Vincennes. Similar techniques were applied by Gaumont, Oskar Meßter and the Cinemacoloris process invented by Segundo de Chomón.
Stencil colored films can be identified by the sharp outlines that define the colored areas. Color hues were most often soft pastels. The stencil colored images have a painterly quality.
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Casanova (FRA 1927, Alexandre Volkoff).
Credit: Cinémathèque française.
Photographs of the stencil colored safety print by Barbara Flueckiger.
L’Antre infernal (FRA 1905, Gaston Velle).
Credit: Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art Department of Film.
HDR photographs of the nitrate print by Barbara Flueckiger.
L‘Amour d‘esclave (FRA 1907, Albert Capellani). Comparison of two Pathécolor nitrate prints.
Credit: Library of Congress. Photographs of the nitrate film print by Barbara Flueckiger.
Cyrano de Bergerac (ITA/FRA 1923, Augusto Genina).
Credit: EYE Film Institute Amsterdam.
Photographs by Barbara Flueckiger. Full representation of the two tinted, toned and stencil-colored reels.
Single frames from the George Eastman Museum, Moving Image Collection.
See gallery with toned frames only.