Bringing Up Colors

The Introduction to Color

In 1916, a process known as Technicolor introduced by the Technicolor Motion Picture Company, would make its first debut as the alternate and most popular process for coloring film at its time. Its predecessor, Kinemacolor, was the first successful color motion picture process, which was used commercially from 1908 to 1914. It was created by a British man, George Albert Smith, in 1906, and the process was launched by Charles Urban’s Trading Company in 1908. Kinemacolor differentiated from Technicolor in the sense as it was only a two color additive process, projecting only red and green filter on black and white film. Kinemacolor made its first debut in 1909 during an eight minute short film called A Visit to the Seaside. Kinemacolor became somewhat successful in the UK, as more than 250 venues had the license to possess a Kinemacolor system to view Kinemacolor films on. However, the company never became a huge success. Installing Kinemacolor projectors in cinemas were quite expensive, and the process also resulted with film technical difficulties called fringing and haloing. This technical problem would not be resolved until another additive color process would become the successive process to Kinemacolor. This process was known was Technicolor.

Kinemacolor film, Frame from Two Clowns

Technicolor’s Success

Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

The Technicolor process reigned over every coloring processes for color cinematography in  1922 to 1952. It was founded in 1916 by the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation, founded by three engineers, Herbert Kalmus, Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott. This process was known for creating highly saturated color films, and, therefore, was used in popular films like The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Technicolor first became highly popular because it fixed the fringing technological problems that Kinemacolor could not. Technicolor shared methods of printing and recording in color successfully, making it almost the only used color process in Hollywood through the 1930s and 1950s. When it was perfected in the 1930s, Technicolor differentiated from its predecessor as it became a three color additive process. A camera specialized for Technicolor used a beam-splitting optical cube that would expose three black and white films. Those films would be passed through three different colors, red, green, and blue, and then those films were developed separately through their appropriate dyes. Then, the three films strips of different dyes would be laminated together to portray natural and saturated colors. 

The three-color film process is what debuted Walt Disney’s films, Flowers and Trees and Cat and the Fiddle. However, even if the results from Technicolor were highly successful, other problems arose. The three-color process was still quite expensive, and the cameras needed for Technicolor were limited in the industry. Therefore, obtaining this camera was not actually possible for all studios, and Technicolor required to rent them. As a result, Technicolor cameras were rented by only more prestigious studios through the 1930s and 1950s, until Eastman Kodak and Technicolor Corporation collaborated to make the process cheaper and more available. 

The Better Technicolor

After Eastman Kodak created his own color cinematography process, known as Eastmancolor, it rivaled against Technicolor’s popularity as the process was more compatible with the Cinemascope format, a new widescreen format. Eastmancolor was a lot cheaper than Technicolor as well since it was the first successful single-strip color process. You did not need three of the same strips of film to arrange them into one for successful color films with Eastmancolor. With these new technologies, color film was more accessible and seen as the standard for Hollywood films over black and white films.

Bibliography

“Kinemacolor.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinemacolor.

“Technicolor.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technicolor.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Technicolor.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1 Oct. 2013, www.britannica.com/topic/Technicolor.

McKittrick, Christopher. “How Movies Went From Black and White to Color.” LiveAbout, LiveAbout, 21 June 2019, www.liveabout.com/how-movies-went-from-black-white-to-color-4153390.

 

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