Check out some early colour film, isn’t it beautiful?

This is some of the earliest colour movie footage. It was scanned recently and put on YouTube by Kodak, who created it as a test clip in 1922. That’s 13 years before the first full-length colour feature film, Becky Sharp.

The film was produced using the two-colour Kodakchrome process. You may have heard of Kodachrome, a slide film known for its incredible colour reproduction and now sadly discontinued. It was used, for instance, by Steve McCurry for his his 1984 portrait of Sharbat Gula, the ‘Afghan Girl’, for the National Geographic magazine.

The film footage here was shot with a different kind of Kodachrome, however. This is an earlier version, first produced commercially by the Eastman Kodak Company in 1915. The early Kodachrome film was a a subtractive colour transparency invented by John Capstaff.
It only used two colours, red and green, produced by combining two negatives, one exposed through a red filter, the other through a green filter. After exposure, the two negatves were dyed blue-green and red-orange, respectively to create two positive images. These were then combined on a glass plate.

The colour reproduction, at least in portraits, is pretty remarkable for a two-colour process. In fact for the lomographers out there it has that fantastical quality that many of us try to achieve by cross-processing flims known for generating a greenish tinge, or by experimenting with colour flashes.

You can read more about this piece of test movie footage and the two-colour Kodakchrome process at the Kodak blog.

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