Jury Coordination and Notes

Early Stages of Color in Film By Keefer C. Blakeslee

The evolution of film is a vast subject. Whether it’s the development of technology, writing or performance by actors its growth continues to this day. I want to focus on a aspect of film that we take for granted but is a defining step in today’s modern film. That is the addition of color!

Today, color in films is nothing special but, back in the early 1900s it was revolutionary. Since the history of color in motion pictures has a long but fascinating timeline, I’m going to split this blog into two parts. In this blog I will be tackling the early stages of adding color.

If you asked people what the first movie filmed in color was, people would usually say, The Wizard of Oz. However, that was not the first colored film. That title goes to, Annabelle, Serpentine Dance by legendary film maker George Melies released in 1895. Melies hired people to hand paint his films, frame by frame, and this introduced the world to color. This led to people in the film industry creating different methods of adding color to their films.

Here are several techniques* that film makers have used:

Tinting: One of the earlier and widespread techniques used to apply color to film. The positive print is immersed into a variety of dye baths, scene by scene.

Toning: This is not the simple immersion of a film into a dye bath but involves a chemical reaction converting the silver image. There were two chemical recipes available for toning, either a one-bath or a two-bath process.

Stenciling: This method required manual cutting frame by frame. Usually the number of colors applied ranged from three to six. The process was highly improved by the introduction of a cutting machine. 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 Keefer.2014.5.jpgcontinuous velvet band. Several hundred women performed the exacting task at the Pathé workshop in Vincennes.

These methods created early colored films and worked for some time. However, these methods were done after the film was made. And, they took a lot of time, patients, and money.

How did we move on to filming movies in color? Join me in the next blog and I will tell you.

*information comes from http://zauberklang.ch/filmcolors/ 

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