Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Media museum discovers it has first color film ever shot.

Staffers at the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK, opened an old tin reel box to discover what they think is a reel of test shots for the first system for capturing natural color in motion pictures.  The reel was apparently produced in 1902, but later research suggests that problems with the film's nonstandard format and projection system, and Turner's untimely death in 1903, led to the process being abandoned and largely forgotten for the last 110 years.  While film historians knew of Edward Turner's 1899 UK patent for his color process, and thought that some footage likely existed, confirmation awaited the discovery of the film tin and the development of a process for transferring the original nonstandard film onto modern film stock, then digitizing and assembling the overlying frames to produce a single color frame that could be reassembled so that the film could be displayed as shot.

Two experts in early film technologies had to create a special gate to hold the film's frames, and then match the differently colored frames individually before capturing the image digitally, restoring it, and combining it into a motion picture.  Going into the project, it wasn't clear whether the process would work.
"Then we saw it on screen. We looked at it and we were absolutely astonished with it. We never expected it to be so good... Knowing all about colour reproduction, and all the pitfalls along the way, to do something as good as that coming from 1901, 1902 was really totally unexpected. It was very exciting."

  While a number of early filmmakers produced "color" movies, those were produced by adding color to individual frames of the normal black&white film stock.  Capturing natural color on single film stock didn't make inroads into the film industry until the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Source - World's first colour film footage viewed for first timeBBC News

edit - had to correct a couple of technical steps in the restoration process.

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