Discovery of The World’s First Colour Film

17 Sep

On the 12th of September, the National Media Museum in Bradford, England made an announcement that changed the history of motion pictures. The first natural coloured film (previous films were hand paint with colour on the frames) had actually been invented five years earlier than what was thought to be the first colour film. In 2009 the museum found two film rolls in their archive that they thought were made by Edward Turner, who was then known to be an inventor who failed to create colour film but inspired others to keep on trying. They found during restoration that the technique Edward used was actually successful and found several clips, one of which included footage of his children playing in their back garden. [1]

The first successful colour film process was thought to be the Kinemacolor which was invented in 1906 by an Englishman named George Albert Smith and launched 1908 by an American expatriate called Charles Urban. [2]

In 1899, Edward Turner and entrepreneur Frederick Marshall Lee patented their technique (the combination of using blue, green and red filters in front of black and white film which were then combined to make colour) and began to test and improve the technique. Later Turner brought in Charles Urban to help with production. The newly found footage was filmed between 1901 and 1903. Unfortunately Edward died suddenly in March 1903 and Urban asked George Albert Smith to help finish the work. [3]

Smith worked on the project for another year but couldn’t get the process to work. So he decided to drop the blue filter and continued the work with the green and red filters which led to his invention of the Kinemacolour process. [4]

Despite creating what was then thought to be the World’s first colour film, it never really took off. This was down to the expensive installation of the projectors need and better quality techniques being invented. [5]

If you live in Yorkshire or the south-east regions of England you can view a documentary about this on the 17th of September on BBC. It should be available to the rest of the U.K. on BBC’s iPlayer after the initial airing.

Please join us for a discussion Tuesday 9/18/2012 @7pmE/12UTC

—————————————————— 

[1] http://nationalmediamuseumblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/edward-raymond-turner-discovery-re-writes-history-of-early-film/

[2] & [5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinemacolor

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Raymond_Turner

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Albert_Smith_%28inventor%29

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64 Responses to “Discovery of The World’s First Colour Film”

  1. Comic Relief September 17, 2012 at 6:04 PM #

    Ozzie,

    Great article Ozzie,
    If bragging rights in regard to who invented something mattered the most then I would not be nearly as turned off by the topic. In my opinion, Instead these battles mattered the most of the time pertain to royalties and likelihood of receiving some if any compensation for rental or reference access. I hope you will let us know how these issues detract or compliment this topic.

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

      Thank you CR! I shall try and remember to check and see if any of those things crop up!

  2. Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 2:36 AM #

    Before I read this article I thought innovations from the middle of the century were being discussed. I was surprised to find out how early this footage was.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3v7VN-J5_o&feature=related

  3. Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 2:37 AM #

    Ozzie,

    Do you know why it took so long to go from this to what we expect at the local movie theatre?

    • littlebells September 18, 2012 at 4:46 PM #

      What a remarkable find, CR! Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂

      • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 6:45 PM #

        Thanks LB. 🙂

        • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:14 PM #

          I love this period. I agree with LB cool find.

          • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

            Wow, what a lovely video! You can even see the blush on her cheeks! Thank you for posting it!

            As for your question, I’m not sure but there was a major court case regarding patents between George Albert Smith and a man called William Friese-Greene, which delayed the development in the U.K for years. It appears to have been a waste of money too because neither system seemed worked well!

            • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:12 PM #

              Seems that innovation can be a fairly rough arena for inventors. I’ve frequently heard the second person to innovate frequently profits more than the first.

              • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

                Here are a number of people who have spent a lot of time thinking about the topic.



                • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:42 PM #

                  Sorry I was trying to keep it so you did not have to leave the site. Here it is again;

  4. littlebells September 18, 2012 at 4:44 PM #

    Ozzie,

    Fantastic history! I had no idea! 🙂 What inspired you to pick this topic?

    I also will most not likely be at the discussion tonight, but I will check back in. The last few weeks have been very crazy and I have lots of discussions to go back and comment on.

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM #

      Hi LB! No problem! I’m in another slow typing speed so by time I’ve caught up with everyone’s questions you’ll probably be online, lol!

      I chose this because it’s made headlines here and as we talk about technology alot, I thought it would be interesting for us to disscuss. Plus, I found it fascinating, lol! 🙂

  5. Open Book September 18, 2012 at 6:54 PM #

    Very interesting article Oz!

    Hi Everyone!

    • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 6:59 PM #

      Hi OB.

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

      Thank you OB! 🙂

  6. Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:01 PM #

    Ozzie,

    It was mentioned Turner never got a chance to see his discovery work. Did Smith get credit for this discovery or Turner?

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:25 PM #

      Turner was never credited until now. I read somewhere I read somewhere about his widow giving all of his work to Urban or Albert in hopes of providing some income but was pushed away. So despite Albert’s work being based off of Turner’s no credit was giving to him or his family. Unfortunately, I can’t find the link that I saw this information on so I can’t say (or rather remember, lol) who it was she gave his work too.

      • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

        Hmm! So basically his wife sold him out? Wow!

        • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

          Yipe!!!

          • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 9:08 PM #

            I think it was down to the bleak financial situation after he died rather than selling out. With Edward gone, I don’t think there was any income. He left behind a young wife with three very young children. Also, she did fight for several years after handing them over (and I think even went to court over it) but those with the most money win as usual. Desperate times, means desperate measures or whatever the saying is! So in my view, she’s a good woman. Had Edward lived longer she wouldn’t of been in that situation so it wouldn’t have happened and I also think he would of been properly credited. Smith couldn’t understand how Edward had made it worked. I’m sure had he been alive he would of finished his work before Smith, especially as Smith based it off his work, lol!

            • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 10:44 PM #

              That makes sense. Also with his sudden death it did not allow for planning.

  7. parisienne September 18, 2012 at 7:02 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    Great topic Ozzie!

    • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

      Hi Paris.

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:26 PM #

      Thank you Paris! 🙂

  8. Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:12 PM #

    Ozzie-

    U mentioned a long time ago films were invented for War propaganda. Did the sudden interest in color film invented for the same reason?

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:37 PM #

      I think that would be a yes! Urban was interested in making propagander films and made several during World War I. I can’t find out at the moment if they were purely black and white or if they had colour but I think that given he had access to the technology that he would utilize it.

  9. Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:13 PM #

    Hi,

    CR & Paris!

    • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:14 PM #

      Hi LB too!!

  10. Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:19 PM #

    I wish I could have seen this documentary. Oh! Well.

    • parisienne September 18, 2012 at 7:23 PM #

      you might be able to access it through the BBC website once it airs.

  11. ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 7:23 PM #

    Hello everyone!

    I found the iplayer link for the documentary. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01mw0cl/Race_for_Colour/ I’m just trying to find out if it’s only available for UK viewers or world wide.

    ETA: It’s only available up to Monday 24 Sep 2012 for the UK iPlayer (the link above).

    • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:28 PM #

      Ah! Thanks Oz & Paris.

    • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 7:29 PM #

      Hi Ozzie.

      • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:38 PM #

        Hi CR!

  12. Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

    Ozzie,

    I like the way the clip in the article discusses the difference between filming in color and hand painting the frames.

    The secondary topic pretty much moves the process much closer to an animation process. Have you heard of many movies being colorized that way?

    Can you imagine how long it would take to discuss a two hour movie painting each frame????? Here’s example below. I recommend drinking some coffee before starting this video; it is informative Paintshop Pro tutorial yet very boring.

    • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

      Oh! Thank goodness for technology. Great tutorial CR!

  13. Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

    I thought the idea of hand painting films was ridiculous but obviously this process has used frequently.

    • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

      “has BEEN used frequently”.

      • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:44 PM #

        They were going to colorize CK? Hahahaha! Yeah! Get ready to have stones and rotten tomatoes thrown. What were they thinking is right?

  14. ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

    Unfortunately that link only works for the UK. However there is a version of iPlayer for iPads and iPhones for some countries. I assume they will be expanding to more countries later on but don’t worry, your not missing anything at the moment! It’s not even up and available yet. I’m not sure whether it will feature on there or not but hopefully it will be!

    More info here: http://www.youtube.com/BBCiplayerglobal

    • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

      Thanks Ozzie for the info. I will try and find it. I’m sure I can get it somehow.

      • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

        Ozzie,

        As you said in your article…….
        “In 1899, Edward Turner and entrepreneur Frederick Marshall Lee patented their technique (the combination of using blue, green and red filters in front of black and white film which were then combined to make colour) and began to test and improve the technique. Later Turner brought in Charles Urban to help with production.”

        Do you know who was it that drew the royalties for this invention? Or did anyone since…

        “Unfortunately Edward died suddenly in March 1903 and Urban asked George Albert Smith to help finish the work.”

        • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:50 PM #

          It definately wasn’t his family! Smith couldn’t get it to work so he simplified Turner’s work and came up with the Kinemacolour so he and his associates got the credit. I don’t know whether it was world wide credit though. I think it was. The U.S.A. and other European countries were developing it at the same time so it would of been a close race!

  15. parisienne September 18, 2012 at 7:42 PM #

    Everyone,

    I’m going to go for the evening. Great article, Ozzie!

    • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

      Bye Paris.

    • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

      Goodnight Paris!

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:51 PM #

      Thank you for coming Paris! 🙂

  16. Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

    Seems like it took an enormous effort to get color feature film off the ground. I can’t imagine what it took to get these experiments off the ground.

  17. Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:03 PM #

    Ozzie,

    Does it seem likely that technicolor was the final successful expression of this effort for color film?

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 9:09 PM #

      I think it was. I’ll go check!

      • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 9:48 PM #

        Yes, it seems Technicolor was the first successfull three colour system (1932). There were earlier ones but oviously there were various reasons as to why they didn’t really work.

  18. Open Book September 18, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

    Perhaps that’s why film technology takes so long to introduce new innovations because of money and time.

    • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:19 PM #

      I think far more resistence comes from the business departments than one might expect. This might be expected given their range of responsibilities, (anything to keep them out of the way of the creative departments).

      • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

        CR-So what are u implying? Bean counters hinders progress?

        • Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:35 PM #

          Sometimes. Or they can be extremely hesitant to change or modify profit models even when they are their area of expertise.

          • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:52 PM #

            I agree with you there CR!

  19. Comic Relief September 18, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

    Really rich topic Ozzie thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention.
    Unfortunately I have to leave, see everyone later.

    • ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 8:53 PM #

      Bye CR! Thank you for coming! 🙂

  20. ozzie20 September 18, 2012 at 9:50 PM #

    Well, I’ve got the start of a migraine so I’ll be off now. I’ll try to remember to come back! Thank you for all the videos, CR! 🙂

    • Open Book September 18, 2012 at 10:48 PM #

      Excellent article Ozzie. Sorry I had to step away for a bit because I find this topic very fascinating. I will try and find the documentary. Anyway, very informative.

      Goodnight!

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