Color Technology that have Revolutionized the Film Industry


In 1916, one of the most important techniques of the seventh art arrived: Technicolor,which allowed filmmakers to record films in colour. A key turning point for the industry, which was possible thanks to the introduction of a photographic chemical process that managed to introduce colour in movie frames.


Thanks to the discovery of Daniel Comstock and Burton Wescott, the Technicolor Corporation company succeeded in turning black and white films into colour. This discovery, based on the Kinemacolor system, recorded images in two colours (red and teal) using only one lens. How did it work? A light and colour filters beam splitter facilitated the process, however, it ended up having many difficulties for the projection in theatres. And so was demonstrated with the premiere of The Gulf Between, in 1917. The projectionist – due to the novelty of the process – was not able to adjust the machine properly and correctly register the two colors on the screen, affecting to the proper display of the film.

The arrival of two subsequent systems (called Process 2 or “two strip” system and Process 3) would improve the production of colour films. But it was the development of the three–color camera (Technicolor three–strip) which would revolutionize the industry technically. According to what David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson wrote in The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960, this invention was attributed to Comstock, Troland and Ball (graduates and students of MIT), while its development was thanks to Kalmus. A development that made colour films experience an ‘unstoppable growth’ from 1935 on.

Two decades after these technological revolutions, film came face to face with what would remain its biggest competitor until the arrival of the Internet: Television. To counteract its popularity, Fox developed a new imaging system known as Cinemascope. This method takes large images by compressing a normal size one within the standard 35 mm frame. The aim is to achieve a ratio between 2.66 and 2.39 times wider than high, thanks to the use of special anamorphic lenses, which were placed in the cameras and screening machines. The introduction of the Cinemascope also inaugurated a new era in film, thereafter characterized by the use of panoramic formats, with similar systems to VistaVision, Todd-AO, Panavision, SuperScope and Technirama.

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