Color images from the 20's and 30's

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by darinwc, Jun 6, 2007.

  1. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    I was looking at some color images from the 20's and early 30's.
    Specifically, I was looking at some images in a book of National Geographic photos titled "wide angle" or something similar. (the book has photos from the entire history of national geographic, but I am just talking about certain ones)

    I was surprised to see color images from that time period, and a quick search of the web turned up that Kodachrome was first produced in 1936.

    I assumed that some of the images may have been hand-painted black and white images. But I must say that if the color was painted, the artist was damn good! The colors were allmost exactly what I would expect from the scenes. And to think of all the time i spend trying to get the stinkin color balance right on my scanned negs. So I must give my hats off to those early pioneers!
     
  2. dsullivan

    dsullivan Member

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    Autochrome
    predated colour film and was used extensively by Albert Kahn and were shown in a recent BBC programme on his work.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/albert-kahn.shtml

    The quality of some of the images is quite amazing.

    David.
     
  3. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Yep, there were actually a few different color processes at the time, in addition to hand coloring.

    There was autochrome, DufayColor, a short-lived system by Paget, an early version of AGFAcolor, and likely some others. They were all screen-plate additive color systems,which differ drastically from the color films of today. The results are really quite striking, especially with Autochrome.
     
  4. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Kinemacolor was a two color motion picture process invented in 1913. National Cash Register, in Dayton, Ohio, shot training films in full color 35mm in the teens. Sadly, none survive to this day...
     
  5. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Autochromes can be truly beautiful. Thanks for the link to the Kahn project. I'm going to lobby my PBS station to air that program. Great stuff.
     
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  6. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    Wow interesting stuff. The autochrome process looks really cool! Though im a little confused about the emulsion layers.. main question being, the ordering goes like this: glass, adhesive, potato starch with carbon black, sealer, B+W emulsion... so i imagine you put the plate in the camera with the emulsion side facing backward? This is opposite of a film process where you put the emulsion side forward.

    Also, how in the world would they get the grains of starch to be the desired size?
     
  7. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Darin,

    The last time I gave a literature advice on a similar post like yours a was deeply insulted by another member, so I leave it this time. Look at my posts.

    Autochromes make part of the group of additive films with a filter grid, more specific: an unregulary mosaic.
    The typical structure of these are base, (ortho-)panchromatic emulsion, grid.

    To my knowledge the details of the manufacture of the Autochrome starch grains are not published. It would have been a grinding process. The objective was to make a range of sizes as narrow as possible. Other materials as resin would enable other sorts of processing.

    The last use of a (regular) mosaic was done by the Polaroid company.
     
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  8. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    The UK National Media Museum in Bradford currently has an exhibition of Autochromes. The accompanying website is worth a read:

    http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/autochrome/index.asp

    There are some informative old threads here at APUG which give other links and information. Most interesting to me is the way that the process has proven almost impossible to revive, despite having the original equipment available for use. Obviously, the Lumiere brothers kept some things out of the Patent.
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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  10. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    The Autochrome grains were definetely not all the same size. Though, as mentioned, they were sorted to be close to the same size. Examination of the plates or viewing micrographs reveals that the grains vary somewhat in size. I read that sorting during testing was done in baths of water; the lighter, smaller grains floated to the top, while the larger ones sank. I believe that this was later changed, as it caused issue with the grains swelling.

    The process is fascinating technically, and beautiful photographically.

    I set out about a year back to attempt to replicate the wonderful results of this process. Needless to say, my success has been [incredibly] limited, though I have learned a few things. The Lumieres definetely left out a significant amount of information, as specifics about the sizing, dying and coating of the starch grains are not available from any source that I know of.

    I have a pair of unexposed autochrome plates, which I bought from another APUG member. They are quite interesting, and will likely provide some insight into how everything was done specifically.

    I plan to work on this again this summer!
     
  11. AgX

    AgX Member

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    As indicated there are other ways to produce a random mosaic. Why not try the Agfa approach? With modern equipment this could be a project worthwhile.
     
  12. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    Now everyone will know I can't spell scoptopcitsdfsdidic. :-(
     
  13. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I seem to remember the first colour images, using a process based on dyed potato starch, were made in Edinburgh at the end of the 19th century. Quite why anyone felt the need to invent colour photography in that rather wet and grey city is another matter :smile:

    David
     
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  15. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Let's not forget that there were color photos made with "one-shot" cameras that took three b/w negatives at once, behind beamsplitter mirrors/color filters to achieve a b/w separation negative set of an original color scene. These were used extensively in advertising color photography in the 1920's and possibly before. National Geographic published Autochrome color images long before the 1920's.
     
  16. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    About the time that the fine folks at Wratten distributed reliable panchromatic plates (early 20th c.) there were people already involved in making three-color carbon prints based on color separation negatives. It was an involved process, but it gave many good results (cue in the name of that Russian photographer we always mention but whose name I presently forget).

    Technicolor is a more well-known example of this method.

    If you read the Ctein article I linked to, you'll realize that Maxwell's color photo is actually an accident, because panchromatic sensitization did not exist yet.
     
  17. AgX

    AgX Member

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    mhv,

    There were several techniques used in cinematography which were called Technicolor. The last and most famous one is an imbibition process. The carbo (or in this case rather a dyed wash-off-relief) process was employed in the second type of Technicolor processes.
     
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  18. Kino

    Kino Member

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    The first Technicolor, the 2 color process, was a technical nightmare that resulted in a film print that was a composite of two separate prints. I have only handled one such cemented print and it was in the final throes of decomposition.

    A fascinating, but highly convoluted process...
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Great story, isn't it? As I recall, Brian Coe was the first to explain it (though I may be misremembering and he was the first place I read it). Coincidental RGB peaks in blue and two different wavelengths of UV.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  20. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Kino,

    There was a first additive (though 2-colour) Technicolor process of 1916/17 based on two seperate films (which images were projected upon each other) before that bi-pack process.
     
  21. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Interesting. Sounds like a variation of Kinemacolor, although Kinemacolor predated it by several years.
     
  22. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Kino,

    I better not answer on this... The history of still colour material is already intricate. But the path of colour cinematography is much more likely to get oneself lost and I don't feel at ease on this path... Too much processes.
     
  23. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    If you read my comments to that article, and the papers I refer to there, it's pretty clear that 'accident' is a misnomer.
     
  24. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    You mention the AGFA approach. I realize that they made an early AGFAcolor film, but I have no idea how it worked.

    Could you explain in a little more detail?
     
  25. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Indeed, if some aspects of the purpose of the experiment are left unspecified, it's hard to call it an accident or a success.
     
  26. AgX

    AgX Member

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    the Agfa approach

    The `Agfa Farbenplatte´, later called Agfacolor as other Agfa materials too (search for my post on the Agfacolor name), employed the same principle as the Autochrome: a random additive filter mosaic.
    The difference lies in the kind of grains and that a blackout grid was made obsolete.


    The grains were made out of coloured resin. Without my library at hand I rather not state anything on the actual manufacture out of memory. One way of producing grains would be to make a true emulsion out of that resin and a non-solvent. The resin itself would have been given before the apt viscosity by using a solvent. With modern technology (mechanically, ultrasound) yielding droplets of the desired size should not be a problem.

    Coating would that emulsuion would be the greater problem. One has to achieve a tight one-droplet layer and get rid of that second part of the emulsion…
    (Though, don’t forget that in the Autochrome film also a tight one-starchgrain layer has to be established.)

    Whereas in the Autochrome film the spacing between the (irregular?) grains hat to be filled with soot, in the Farbenplatte those resin droplets layed tightly on the panchromatic basefilm, were flattened by sending the raw film through a roller system, after which the circumferences of those droplets where totally in contact.

    Writing this I realize that this would have evoked problems when processing. Coating the sensitve layer onto the mosaic would have yielded an outcome.

    I’m sorry that I was quite hasty with my advice on employing the Agfa technique. But at the same time this is the benefit of Apug, constantly proofing that one is less informed than one thought to be… In case I’d be able to deliver more information, especially on coating I shall do it.