Color film

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The history of color film began at the end of the 19th century with the occasional subsequent coloring of monochrome moving images and has been part of cinema and film history ever since . Color films have made up the majority of all newly produced films since the 1960s .

History of color film in film production


Film coloring

The development from black and white to color film was not an inevitable sequence; A large number of color experiments are known from the early days of film. Different color systems were introduced between 1900 and 1935. Two different procedures were used. When coloring , the individual images of the film were colored by hand or with the help of stencils in coloring studios. A group of colorists could do about 128 images a day; the films consisted of up to 112,000 individual images. The first hand-colored film dates from 1895. During viraging , individual scenes of the film were immersed in a tub of paint after developing; this process was simpler and cheaper, leaving a single shade of color on each film. Over the years, a color and virage language developed in which each color had a specific dramaturgical meaning. The tinting (coloring) of film sequences using various chemical substances worked in a similar way.

The first color films

The first color films have been known since 1896. In 1905, Pathé Frères introduced the stencil process to make coloring work easier. In this method, each film was passed through the stencil machine in turn, color by color.

The young inventor Edward Turner succeeded in producing the first realistic color reproduction using film, using a method patented in 1899. This is an additive process: When the images are recorded on conventional black-and-white film, a colored disk rotates in front of the lens, comparable to the one found today in simple DLP projectors for home use. For each color - red, green and blue - an image is ideally taken. For projection, the same colored disk rotates again in front of the projection lens, so that the rapid sequence of images results in a composite color image. Among other things, a short photo of a scarlet macaw , which was taken in 1902, is preserved today .


On February 26, 1909, Charles Urban premiered the first cinema film to use the Kinemacolor technique in the Palace Theater in England. This two-color process was invented in 1906 by George Albert Smith . The images are recorded alternately through two different color filters and then projected . A colored short film from 1916 was produced using the Kodachrome two-color process. Various color systems were used in the following years.

The three-color process

The first three-color process

In 1912 Rudolf Fischer developed the first usable three-color process. With his camera, he recorded three rather small and blurred color separations on black and white film through three filter discs tinted in the basic colors, which were projected through three equally colored filters during the demonstration. However, despite the successful presentation to the French Photographic Society and despite the films that were set to music in 1913 in New York, his films did not establish themselves commercially. The use of the process disappeared around 1920, although there had been repeated screenings before. But the development of color photography continued.


In 1915, the American physicists Herbert Thomas Kalmus (1881-1963), D. F. Comstock and W. B. Westcott founded the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation , which in 1922 became Technicolor Incorporated. In the so-called Technicolor process - after a preliminary stage of no practical importance - two colors were recorded simultaneously on black and white film using color filters: green (as a mixture of the primary colors blue and yellow) and red. The positives were later colored and glued together so that the films could also be played back with normal projectors ( bipack process ). However, only two colors were initially used here too; the reproduction of pure blue and yellow tones was therefore not possible. The first film to use this technique was The Gulf Between in 1917 .

Finally, the two color separations, on which a weak relief is created during development due to the varying degrees of leaching of the silver salts, were used as gravure originals and the positives were printed with color on blank film (hence, film positives are still called prints in America today). This cleared the way for the construction of a new Technicolor camera that simultaneously recorded three color separations in blue, green and red.

The first full-length cinema film that used all three basic colors with the Technicolor process was Becky Sharp by Rouben Mamoulian from 1935. The breakthrough for color film only came in 1937 with Disney's cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs . This was followed by successful films such as Robin Hood, King of the Vagabonds (1938, with Errol Flynn ), The Wizard of Oz (1939, with Judy Garland ) and the 1939 Oscar-winning film Gone with the Wind (1939, with Clark Gable) and Vivien Leigh ).

Ufacolor and Opticolor

The UFA brought as the first color film a wildlife film titled Colorful Animal World 1931 in the cinemas and used the two-color process Ufacolor. The Gasparcolor of Jürgen Clausen was the first film production company that produced by Gaspar's three-color process color films, mostly commercials, as well as the 1933 cartoon film Night on Bald Mountain by Alexandre Alexeieff .

In 1936 a short fictional film was made with the title The Beauty Spot , in which a lenticular lens process called Opticolor was used, which was developed by Siemens and Perutz .


The process that finally prevailed at Ufa was the Agfacolor process developed by Gustav Wilmanns and Wilhelm Schneider . Agfacolor was a three-color process that only required a single negative and was therefore easier to use than the American Technicolor process. However, the colors were weaker and subject to greater fluctuations.

The first films that were produced in Agfacolor were the cultural films Bunte Kriechtierwelt and Thuringia (both 1940). Nine feature films followed by the end of the war: Women Are Better Diplomats (1941), The Golden City (1942), The Bath on the Tenne (1943), Immensee (1943), Münchhausen (1943), The Woman of My Dreams (1944), Große Freedom No. 7 (1944), sacrificial passage (1944) and Kolberg (1945).

Since 1936/37, German film amateurs had the first three-layer color films in the form of reversal films from Agfa and Kodak in 16 mm format, later also in 8 mm format. The color-superior Kodak Kodachrome film was preferred. Adolf Hitler film enthusiasts mistress and future wife Eva Braun , a trained and later Hitler's personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann salaried photo lab technician , also used as early as 1938, Kodachrome cine.

post war period

The main spread of color film material only began in the post-war period. The first color film made in West Germany after the war was Black Forest Girl , and in the GDR it was Das kalte Herz . From 1952, Technicolor and Eastmancolor established themselves in the West .


  • Alfons Maria Arns: The brown from Agfacolor. Review of Dirk Alt, “The color film is marching!” Early color film processes and Nazi propaganda 1933–1945. Munich: Belleville Verlag 2013, in: Fritz Bauer Institut (ed.), Insight 12 / Fall 2014, p. 80, ISSN  1868-4211
  • Friedemann Beyer , Gert Koshofer, Michael Krüger: UFA in color - technology, politics and star cult between 1936 and 1945 . Collection Rolf Heyne, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-89910-474-5
  • Gert Koshofer: COLOR - The colors of the film . Wissenschaftsverlag Volker Spiess, Berlin 1988, ISBN 978-3-89166-054-6
  • Joachim Polzer (Hrsg.): Weltwunder der Cinematographie , 5th edition. Polzer Media Group, Potsdam 1999, ISBN 3-934535-01-1 (to Agfacolor)
  • Joachim Polzer (Hrsg.): Weltwunder der Cinematographie , 6th edition. Polzer Media Group, Potsdam 2002, ISBN 3-934535-20-8 (on Eastmancolor and Technicolor)
  • Joachim Polzer (Hrsg.): Weltwunder der Cinematographie , 8th edition. Polzer Media Group, Potsdam 2006, ISBN 3-934535-26-7 (on the history of the film copier and 90 years of Technicolor)
  • Werner Schultze: Color photography and color film - scientific principles and technical design . Springer, Berlin 1953, ISBN 978-3-642-53094-4

Individual evidence

  1. Website Brian R. Pritchard Under 7. you can see both the disassembled and the composite image of the macaw.
  2. ^ J. Bailey, LA Williams: The photographic color development process . In: K. Venkataraman (Ed.): The chemistry of synthetic dyes , Vol. IV. Academic Press, New York 1971, p. 345
  3. ^ Friedemann Beyer, Gert Koshofer, Michael Krüger: UFA in color - technology, politics and star cult between 1936 and 1945 . 2010, p. 47

Web links

Wiktionary: Color film  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations