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View Diary: America Before Pearl Harbor - Early Kodachrome Images (321 comments)

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  •  Color photos very early (1+ / 0-)
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    vox humana

    The color separation process is very early, it appeared only a few years after the invention of photography itself. The first true colour photograph was made by Scottish scientist, James Clerk-Maxwell in 1861. The principle was used in early colour TV cameras. What you do is take three separate photos through red, green and blue filters. The positive black and white images are then projected through the same color filters and aligned so they overlap. If you have or have seen a big projection TV you will immediately know what I mean. The problem of early phots was that the film was differently sensitive to each colour. That's why early pictures of say the US flag show a darkish grey background to the stars but black stripes.

    Some early (circa 1900) processes used a layer of filters in front of the film. This way either a printed grid, a bit like seeing an LCD screen close up (Dufaycolour) or even a mixture of fine starch grains dyed in red, green and blue and a layer of that spread on the film plate emulsion.

    Commercially, Kodachrome in the USA and Agfacolour from Germany were available from roughly the same time.

    Movie film also used the color screen process but because it was much enlarged in the theatres, it was not popular. Many early films were hand colored or tinted to give an impression (blue tint for example gives the impression of night time. Film can be tinted or toned. The difference is that with toning the silver is replaced with another chemical. Sepia brown toning was popular with early prints as it was far more permanant with ordinary silver images which could deteriorate if they were not processed scrupulously. Tinting is applying color to an ordinary photos so the white paper or clear movie film holds the color. Pictures of fires for example would be tinted red.

    Three color Technicolor movies were originally shot on multiple films using the same technique as Maxwell-Clark. Earlier techniques involved a spinning pair of color filters in front of the camera so that alternate frames were shot through red or blue/green filters. The projectors used a similar setup and persistence of vision meant a viewer's brain combined the two images.


    This process was invented by Claude Friese-Greene who made a road trip the length of Britain to take movies to showcase his technique. Many were of well known places of interest that would appeal to ex-patriots in the USA as a memory of their or their parents' homeland. The films have been rescued and digitally enhanced to stop the flicker. The BBC had a series showing the entire trip.

    You can also view some of the archive from BBC site

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