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.
Since the earliest days of cinema, film has been a colorful medium and art form. More than 230 film color processes have been devised in the course of film history, often in close connection with photography. In this regard, both media institutionalized numerous techniques such as hand and stencil coloring as well as printing and halftone processes. Apart from these fundamental connections in terms of the technology of color processes, film and photography also share and exchange color attributions and aesthetics.
This publication highlights material aspects of color in photography and film, while also investigating the relationship of historical film colors and present-day photography. Works of contemporary photographers and artists who reflect on technological and culture-theoretical aspects of the material of color underline these relations. Thematic clusters focus on aesthetic and technological parallels, including fashion and identity, abstraction and experiment, politics, exoticism, and travel.
Color Mania contains a general introduction to color in film and photography (technique, materiality, aesthetics) as well as a series of short essays that take a closer look at specific aspects. An extensive image section illustrates the texts and color systems and continues the aesthetic experience of the various processes and objects in book form.
Edited by Barbara Flückiger, Eva Hielscher, Nadine Wietlisbach, in collaboration with Fotomuseum Winterthur
With contributions by Michelle Beutler, Noemi Daugaard, Josephine Diecke, Evelyn Echle, Barbara Flueckiger, Eirik Frisvold Hanssen, Eva Hielscher, Thilo Koenig, Joëlle Kost, Franziska Kunze, Bregt Lameris, David Pfluger, Ulrich Ruedel, Mona Schubert, Simon Spiegel, Olivia Kristina Stutz, Giorgio Trumpy, Martin Weiss, Nadine Wietlisbach
16 × 24 cm, 6 ¼ × 9 ½ in
240 pages, 122 illustrations
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 and photographs. 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 information on the University of Zurich’s website.
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.
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.
Subtractive 2 color: Beam-splitter, double-coated film
“The principle of the subtractive colour process was described first by Louis Ducos du Hauron in 1868.
Although eminently suitable for colour motion pictures, the principle could not be applied until means were found of producing several colour ...
“Coloratura. This is the process of Pathé Exchange at Bound Brook, N. J. Negatives are made by the bi-pack method. Prints are made on double-sided film and are dye-toned on one side and metallic-toned on the other. The double-sided film, ...
Additive 3 color: Additive 3 color, still photography
“In a lecture on the theory of three primary colors, given at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on May 17, 1861, Maxwell presented the first demonstration of a photograph in color. According to the records of that meeting (Maxwell, 1890c, ...
“The first two-colour additive method in which the two components were taken and projected simultaneously was the Colcin process, in 1913. The result of a Franco-Japanese collaboration, it was demonstrated at the International Kinematographic ...
Additive 2 color: Prism, rotary filter, double-sized film
“[…] pictures were taken side by side, full-size, on double-width film, the film not only being perforated on the edges but also down the centre between the pairs of images.”
(Klein, Adrian Bernhard = Cornwell-Clyne (1940): Colour ...
(Technique adapted from print media and laterna magica)
Applied colors: printing
Widely used in print media around 1900, the chromolithographic printing process was first adapted for the Laterna Magica and then utilized to produce early animated films primarily aimed at children. These films were usually very short ...
“Chemicoior was the name under which the German Ufacolor Process was marketed in Britain. Ufacolor was also marketed under the name Spectracolor. The process used Agfa bipack negatives loaded with the emulsion sides facing and separated by a ...
Additive three-color: line screen, still photography
Process for still photography in which light is filtered through a screen or transparent plate covered in lines or dots in the primary colors orange, green and violet. For the positive, the process relies on a support material which includes an ...
Credit: Gert Koshofer Collection. Photograph by Barbara Flueckiger.
Source: Klein, Adrian Bernhard (Cornwell-Clyne) (1940): Colour Cinematography. Boston: American Photographic Pub. Co.
Source: Eggert, John (1932): Kurzer Überblick über den Stand der Farbenkinematographie. Bericht über den VIII. Internationalen Kongress für wissenschaftliche und angewandte Photographie, Dresden 1931, pp. 214-222. Leipzig: J. A. Barth.
Subtractive 2 color: Perforated mirror as beam-splitter, duplitized film
“Following the premises of one of William Friese-Greene’s systems, this two-colour subtractive process required that two reels of film be printed in parallel through a lens fitted with a prism that split light in two directions, through red ...
Subtractive 2 or 3 color: Perforated mirror as beam-splitter, duplitized film
“The Brewster Process.
(U.S.P. 1,752,477. 1930-)
Camera. – P. D. Brewster, an American inventor, who was one of the first to apply the bipack system to colour cinematography, has a number of patents to his credit covering various cameras and ...
The procedure for obtaining the lenticular elements in relief required a series of steps: starting from three black and white positive color separations, obtained with any of the available methods, three matrices were printed, from which the film to ...
Projection of lenticular film in Bocca-Rudatis. Refraction of light beams through lens. Source: Pierotti, Federico (2016): Un'archeologia del colore nel cinema italiano. Dal Technicolor ad Antonioni. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, p. 81.
William Friese-Greene and Colin Bennett; Claude Friese-Greene
Additive 2 color: Alternately stained images
“Inevitably, the success of Kinemacolor led to the appearance of imitations. One company, Friese Greene Patents Ltd had been formed in 1908 to exploit several patents, mostly impractical, filed by Friese Greene. From this came a new company, ...
A. Gurtner (Eng. P. 7924/03; U.S.P. 730454), used a front element that was sensitive only to the blue, and a rear element that was sensitive up to but not including the red. He was the first person to suggest that the two films or plates be placed ...