Predecessor of Kinemacolor


“Then we come upon the name of George Albert Smith, F.R.A.S., of Laboratory Lodge, Roman Crescent, Southwick, Brighton, who in E.P. 26,671, of 1906, patented the method which eventually was commercialized as Kinemacolor.

In this patent he proposes to substitute two colours for the three which everyone had been trying to get. Alternate red and green filters were rotated in front of the lens. Double the usual number of pictures were taken: namely, 32. Smith mentions projection at 30 pictures per second. In a lecture delivered at the Royal Society of Arts (Dec. 9, 1908), he remarks that two colours seem to give a range equal to three. He exhibited a harvesting scene, and a yacht race. The greys were said to be excellent. He said: In 1902 I was invited by Mr. Charles Urban to assist in a thorough trial which he was making regardless of reasonable expense, of a three-colour process (it was probably that of Lee and Turner [see Frederick Marshall Lee and Edward Raymond Turner who patented a system in 1899], and perhaps of W. L. Davidson also). At that time little was known about the possibilities of sensitizing film to red and green, and to that extent we were handicapped. Nevertheless, in good sunlight we did succeed in taking a few negatives. He goes on to say that superimposition was found impossible ; registration was terribly uncertain ; and parallax troubles always defeated them. Simultaneous superimposition was first attempted (Lee and Turner). Then successive projection. This was successful up to a point, but required high speed, namely, 48 pictures, or even 72 pictures per second, which was entirely impracticable on contemporary projectors. The death of the original patentee (Turner) put a further damper on the enquiry. During the last four years I have renewed enquiry, said Smith, I take pictures with an Urban Bioscope Camera at 32 pictures per second. The present results are presented as early experiments in the photography of moving things in colour, and as the first serious exposition of work done in that direction.”

(Klein, Adrian Bernhard = Cornwell-Clyne (1940): Colour Cinematography. Boston: American Photographic Pub. Co.. 2nd revised edition. p. 7.)

Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources

E.P. 26,671, 1906, revoked in 1915.


Secondary Sources

Klein, Adrian Bernhard = Cornwell-Clyne (1940): Colour Cinematography. Boston: American Photographic Pub. Co., 2nd revised edition, p. 7. View Quote

McKernan, Luke (2003): ‘Something More than a Mere Picture Show’ Charles Urban and the Early Non-Fiction Film in Great Britain and America, 1897-1925. Diss., Birkbeck College, University of London, pp. 122-194. View Quote

Contemporary Reception

The British Journal of Photography, December 6, 1907. View Quote