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Pathécolor / Pathéchrome / stencil coloring

Description

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, but often they strive for a reality efffect.























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Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources

Dana, Jorge (1984): Couleurs au pochoir. Entretien avec Germaine Berger, coloriste chez Pathé. In: Tobin, Yann (1992): Dossier. La couleur du cinéma. In: Positif, 375–376, May, pp. 121–158, on pp. 126–128. (in French) View Quote

Forch, Carl (1921): Die Herstellung kolorierter Kinematografien. In: Kinotechnik, 3,7, pp. 248–252. (in German) View Quote

Forch, Carl (1921): Die Herstellung kolorierter Kinematografien. (Teil 2). In: Die Kinotechnik, 3,8, pp. 289–293. (in German) View Quote

Hulfish, David Sherill (1909): Pictures in Color. In: David Sherill Hulfish (ed.): The Motion Picture. Its Making and Its Theater. Chicago: Electricity Magazine Corporation, pp. 41–44, on p. 44. View Quote

Kelley, William Van Doren (1931): The Handschiegl and Pathéchrome Color Process. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 18,2, 1931, pp. 230-234, on pp. 233-234. View Quote

Löbel, Léopold (1922): Le coloris. In: La technique cinématographique. Projection et fabrication des Films. Paris: Dunod, pp. 312-333 (in French). Download PDF

Ruot, M. and Didiée, L. (1925): The Pathé Kinematograph Colour Process. In: The Photographic Journal, new series, 65,3, March 1925, pp. 121-126. View Quote

Secondary Sources

Abel, Richard (1996): Pathé’s “Heavenly Billboards”. In: Monica Dall’Asta, Guglielmo Pescatore and Leonardo Quaresima (eds.): Il colore nel cinema muto. Bologna: Clueb, pp. 56–76, on p. 56 View Quote, on pp. 57–61 View Quote, on pp. 63–64 View Quote, on p. 65 View Quote and on pp. 66–67. View Quote

Alt, Dirk (2011): “Der Farbfilm marschiert!” Frühe Farbfilmverfahren und NS-Propaganda 1933-1945. München: Belleville, on pp. 36–37. (in German) View Quote

Anonymous (1911): Toning and Tinting as an Adjunct to the Picture. In: Moving Picture World 8, 18.3.1911, p. 574. View Quote

Basten, Fred E. (1980): Glorious Technicolor. The Movies’ Magic Rainbow. South Brunswick: Barnes, on p. 14. View Quote

Borde, Raymond (1988): Die Filmarchive und der Farbfilm. Eine Einführung. In: Gert Koshofer: Color. Die Farben des Films. Berlin: Wissenschaftsverl. Volker Spiess, pp. 7–10, on p. 7. (in German) View Quote

Brown, Simon (2012): Technical Appendix. In: Sarah Street: Colour Films in Britain. The Negotiation of Innovation 1900-55. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 259-287, on pp. 277-278. View Quote

Cherchi Usai, Paolo (1996): The Color of Nitrate. Some Factual Observations on Tinting and Toning Manuals for Silent Films. In: Abel, Richard (Hrsg): Silent Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, pp. 21-30, on pp. 24-25. View Quote

Dana, Jorge; Kolaitis, Niki (2009): Colour by Stencil. Germaine Berger and Pathécolor. In: Film History, 21,2, pp. 180-183. View Quote

Enticknap, Leo (2005): Moving Image Technology. From Zoetrope to Digital. London: Wallflower Press, pp. 76-77.

Everett, Wendy (2007): Mapping Colour. An Introduction to the Theories and Practices of Colour. In: Wendy Everett (ed.): Questions of Colour in Cinema. From Paintbrush to Pixel. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 7–38, on p. 18. View Quote

Fossati, Giovanna (1998): When Cinema Was Coloured. In: Luciano Berriatúa et al.: Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Edizioni Diabasis, pp. 121-132, on pp. 123-124 View Quote, p. 125 View Quote and p. 127. View Quote

Gili, Jean A. (1992): Cyrano de Bergerac. In: Yann Tobin (ed.): Dossier. La couleur du cinéma. In: Positif, 375–376, May, pp. 121–158, on p. 125. (in French) View Quote

Goergen, Jeanpaul (2010): Bunte Bilder aus dem Farbenbottich. Tonung und Virage in dokumentarischen Filmen der 1910er und 1920er Jahre. In: Filmblatt, pp. 3–52, on p. 42 View Quote and on p. 44. (in German) View Quote

Hanssen, Eirik Frisvold (2006): Early Discourses on Colour and Cinema. Origins, Functions, Meanings. (= Diss. University of Stockholm, Stockholm Cinema Studies, No. 2), pp. 65-68.

Hanssen, Eirik Frisvold (2009): Symptoms of Desire. Colour, Costume, and Commodities in Fashion Newsreels of the 1910s and 1920s. In: Film History, 21,2, 2009, pp. 107-121.

Lameris, Bregtje (2003): Pathécolor. ‘Perfect in Their Rendition of the Colours of Nature’ In: Living Pictures. The Journal of the Popular and Projected Images Before 1914, 2,2, 2003, pp. 46-58. View Quote

Malthête, Jacques (1984): Méliès et la couleur. In: Madeleine Malthête-Méliès (ed.): Méliès et la naissance du spectacle cinématographique. Paris: Klincksieck, pp. 185–197, on pp. 186–196. (in French) View Quote

Maulbecker, Maximilian (1919): Der farbige Film. In: Film-Kurier, 25.7.1919. (in German) View Quote

Minguet Batllori, Joan M. (2009): Segundo de Chomón and the Fascination for Colour. In: Film History, 21,1, pp. 94-103. View Quote

Misek, Richard (2010): Chromatic Cinema. A History of Screen Color. John Wiley & Sons, on p. 15 View Quote and on p. 16. View Quote

Montesanti, Fausto (1954): Lineamenti di una storia del film a colori. In: Giuseppe Sala (ed.): Bianco e Nero. Il colore nel cinema. Rassegna mensile di studi cinematografici, XV,2-4, pp. 11–51, on p. 18. (in Italian) View Quote

Nowotny, Robert A. (1983): The Way of all Flesh Tones. A History of Color Motion Picture Processes, 1895-1929. New York: Garland Pub, pp. 11-13. View Quote

O’Brien, Charles (2007): Film Colour and National Cinema Before WWI. Pathécolor in the United States and Great Britain. In: Frank Kessler and Nanna Verhoeff (eds.): Networks of Entertainment. Early Film Distribution 1895-1915. Eastleigh: John Libbey, pp. 30-37. View Quote

Pierotti, Federico (2012): La seduzione dello spettro. Storia e cultura del colore nel cinema. Genova: Le Mani-Microart, on p. 20 View Quote, on p. 28 View Quote and on p. 29. (in Italian) View Quote

Pinel, Vincent (1992): La forêt des techniques. In: Michel Ciment (ed.): Ciné mémoire. Colloque international d’information (7-9 octobre 1991). Paris: Femis, pp. 17-24, on p. 18. (in French) View Quote

Read, Paul (2009): ‘Unnatural Colours’. An Introduction to Colouring Techniques in Silent Era Movies. In: Film History, 21.1, pp. 9-46, on pp. 15-16. View Quote

Ruivo, Céline (2013): Le Livre de fabrication de la compagnie générale des phonographes cinématographes et appareils de précision. À propos d’une source pour l’histoire des recherches sur la couleur chez Pathé Frères entre 1906 et 1908. In: 1895. Revue d’Histoire du Cinema, 71, 2013, pp. 47–60, on pp. 52–53 and on pp. 58–60. (in French)

Ryan, Roderick T. (1977): A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. London: Focal Press, pp. 22-23. View Quote

Salmon, Stéphanie (2009): Tinting and Toning at Pathé. The Jacques Mayer Notebook. In: Film History.21,2, 2009, pp. 177-179.

Stokes, Melvyn (2009): Colour in American Cinema. From The Great Train Robbery to Bonnie and Clyde. In: Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard (ed.): Cinéma et couleur. Paris: M. Houdiard, pp. 184–192, on p. 185. View Quote

Talbot, Frederick A. (1912): Moving Pictures. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, pp. 288-289. View Quote

Yumibe, Joshua (2012): Moving Colors. Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism. New Brunswick et al.: Rutgers University Press, pp. 4-6  View Quote and 78-97. View Quote

Measurements

Absorbances measured with a multispectral imaging system from film areas with pure dyes. Credit: Giorgio Trumpy, ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors.

See the specific sample from which the spectra were measured.

 

Restoration

Aubert, Michelle (1992): Pour une déontologie de la restauration des films en couleur. In: Michel Ciment (ed.): Ciné mémoire. Colloque international d’information (7-9 octobre 1991). Paris: Femis, pp. 25–28, on pp. 26–27. (in French) View Quote

Boarini, Vittorio (1992): La couleur dans le cinéma muet. Des techniques anciennes pour une restauration moderne. In: Michel Ciment (ed.): Ciné mémoire. Colloque international d’information (7-9 octobre 1991). Paris: Femis, pp. 33–36, on p. 36. (in French) View Quote

Borde, Raymond (1988): Die Filmarchive und der Farbfilm. Eine Einführung. In: Gert Koshofer: Color. Die Farben des Films. Berlin: Wissenschaftsverl. Volker Spiess, pp. 7–10, on pp. 7–8. (in German) View Quote

Desmet, Noël; Read, Paul (1998): The Desmetcolor Method for Restoring Tinted and Toned Films. In: Luciano Berriatúa, Manlio Brusatin, Noël Desmet, Enrico Fornaroli, Giovanna Fossati, Bertrand Lavedrine, Bob Mabberley, Nicola Mazzanti, Ruggero Pierantoni, Paul Read and Sonja Snoek: Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Edizione Diabasis, pp. 147–150, on p. 147. View Quote

Hertogs, Daan; De Klerk, Nico (1996): Disorderly Order. Colours in Silent Film. The 1995 Amsterdam Workshop. Amsterdam: Stichding Nederlands Filmmuseum, on pp. 6-7 View Quote, on pp. 12-14 View Quote, on pp. 18-19 View Quote, on pp. 23-25 View Quote, on pp. 71-76 View Quote and on pp. 87-88. View Quote

Mazzanti, Nicola (1998): The Colours of the Film d’Arte Italiana. In: Luciano Berriatúa et al.: Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Edizioni Diabasis, pp. 141-146. View Quote

Read, Paul; Meyer, Mark-Paul (2000): Stencil Coloured Films. In: Paul Read and Mark-Paul Meyer: Restoration of Motion Picture Film, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, pp. 181-182. View Quote

Contemporary Reception

Anonymous (1911): Toning and Tinting as an Adjunct to the Picture. In: Moving Picture World 8, 18.3.1911, p. 574. View Quote

Anonymous (1912): Il Pathecolor. In: La Cinematografia Italiana ed Estera, 6,126, Mar., p. 1955. (in Italian) View Quote

Coustet, Ernest (1914): La cinematografia a colori. In: La Tecnica Cinematografica, I,3, ottobre 1914, pp. 71–78 published in Grifo, Marco (2006): Dal film colorato al cinema a colori. In: Michele Canosa, Giulia Carluccio and Federica Villa (eds.): Cinema muto italiano. Tecnica e tecnologia. Volume primo. Roma: Carocci, pp. 173–182, on pp. 174–175. (in Italian) View Quote

Coustet, Ernest (1921): Le cinéma. Paris: Librairie Hachette, on pp. 162-163. (in French) View Quote

Fossati, Giovanna (1998): When Cinema Was Coloured. In: Luciano Berriatúa et al.: Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Edizioni Diabasis, pp. 121-132, on pp. 126-131. View Quote

Rondelli, T. (1914): Lo stato attuale della cinematografia a colori. In: La Vita Cinematografica, 32–33, 30 Aug.–7 Sept. 1914, pp. 36, 41–43 published in Grifo, Marco (2006): Dal film colorato al cinema a colori. In: Michele Canosa, Giulia Carluccio and Federica Villa (eds.): Cinema muto italiano. Tecnica e tecnologia. Volume primo. Roma: Carocci, pp. 168–173, on pp. 171–173. (in Italian) View Quote


 

Cyrano de Bergerac (ITA, FRA 1923, Augusto Genina):
Anonymous (1924): Cyrano de Bergerac. In: The Bioscope, 926,LX, Jul., p. 38. View Quote


 

Thrown to the Lions (FRA 1911, Gaumont):
Anonymous (1911): Thrown to the Lions. Gaumont Company’s Magnificient Coloured Drama. In: The Bioscope, 266,XIII, Nov., p. 463. View Quote

Selected Analyses

Abel, Richard (1996): Pathé’s “Heavenly Billboards” In: Monica Dall’Asta, Guglielmo Pescatore and Leonardo Quaresima (eds.): Il colore nel cinema muto. Bologna: Clueb, pp. 56-76.

Hanssen, Eirik Frisvold (2009): Symptoms of Desire. Colour, Costume, and Commodities in Fashion Newsreels of the 1910s and 1920s. In: Film History, 21,2, 2009, pp. 107-121. Link

Hertogs, Daan; De Klerk, Nico (1996): Disorderly Order. Colours in Silent Film. The 1995 Amsterdam Workshop. Amsterdam: Stichding Nederlands Filmmuseum, on pp. 56-57. View Quote

Minguet Batllori, Joan M. (2009): Segundo de Chomón and the Fascination for Colour. In: Film History, 21,1, pp. 94-103. View Quote

O’Brien, Charles (2007): Film Colour and National Cinema Before WWI. Pathécolor in the United States and Great Britain. In: Frank Kessler and Nanna Verhoeff (eds.): Networks of Entertainment. Early Film Distribution 1895-1915. Eastleigh: John Libbey, pp. 30-37. View Quote


 

Casanova (FRA 1927, Alexandre Volkoff):
Street, Sarah; Yumibe, Joshua (2019): Chromatic Modernity. Color, Cinema, and Media of the 1920s. New York: Columbia University Press, on pp. 216–217. View Quote


 

Cyrano de Bergerac (ITA, FRA 1923, Augusto Genina):
Street, Sarah; Yumibe, Joshua (2019): Chromatic Modernity. Color, Cinema, and Media of the 1920s. New York: Columbia University Press, on pp. 216–217. View Quote


 

La peine du talion (FRA 1906, Gaston Velle):
Pierotti, Federico (2012): La seduzione dello spettro. Storia e cultura del colore nel cinema. Genova: Le Mani-Microart, on pp. 47–48. (in Italian) View Quote


 

La poule aux œufs d’or (FRA 1905, Gaston Velle):
Pierotti, Federico (2012): La seduzione dello spettro. Storia e cultura del colore nel cinema. Genova: Le Mani-Microart, on pp. 43–47. (in Italian) View Quote


 

Lonesome (USA 1928, Paul Fejos):
Yumibe, Joshua (2013): The Illuminated Fairytale. The Colors of Paul Fejo’s Lonesome (1928). In: Simon Brown, Sarah Street and Liz Watkins (eds.): Color and the Moving Image. History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. New York, London: Routledge, pp. 127–137. View Quote


 

Maudite soit la guerre (BEL 1914, Alfred Machin):
Yumibe, Joshua (2012): Moving Color. Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism. New Brunswick et al.: Rutgers University Press, on pp. 130–131. View Quote


 

Rapsodia satanica (ITA 1917, Nino Oxilia):
Pierotti, Federico (2012): La seduzione dello spettro. Storia e cultura del colore nel cinema. Genova: Le Mani-Microart, on pp. 76–79. (in Italian) View Quote


 

Voyage sur Jupiter (FRA 1909, Segundo de Chomón):
Pierotti, Federico (2012): La seduzione dello spettro. Storia e cultura del colore nel cinema. Genova: Le Mani-Microart, on pp. 48–49. (in Italian) View Quote