Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Media United Kingdom Science Technology

World's First Color Moving Pictures Discovered 105

Posted by timothy
from the with-or-without-a-u dept.
BoxRec writes "The BBC is reporting newly-discovered films made by pioneer Edward Raymond Turner from London, who patented his colour process on 22 March 1899." When Turner invented his process, though, existing projection systems weren't up to it; to see the discovered footage, British archivists digitized the film for computer playback. When you're used to old films being both black and white and jerky, it's amazing to see it in color and (relatively) smooth.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

World's First Color Moving Pictures Discovered

Comments Filter:
  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:18AM (#41322703) Homepage

    1899? That'd be even earlier than Colin McKenzie's film, which I believe was 1911 ... I'd have to rewatch Forgotten Silver to confirm it, though.

    • Hehe, I first watched Forgotten Silver on TV and missed the start, so I didn't get any hints that it was a hoax, and like many other people I did not pay proper attention to the comical or unreliable parts. Years later I saw a certain DVD on the shelf in a store and thought: "Hey, great, a Peter Jackson movie ... wait a minute, that story seems familiar ..."
    • by jhoegl (638955)
      LTFA reveals that the film was dated 1902.
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Hurray color! Let's party like it's 1899!

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:22AM (#41322739)
    ...it's jarring to see a still image stamped with "this content is not currently available for your device". Nice illustration of 113 years of progress, BBC.
    • by rolfwind (528248)

      Thought the same exact thing. Don't know whichidiot marked you as a troll. On an iOS device myself. Happens way too often.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Funny... works fine on my Linux box :P

      • That's what you both get for using an iThing.

    • by Per Wigren (5315)
      ...or, at least in non-UK Europe, the more common "this content is not available in your region".
  • Incredible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by puddingebola (2036796) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:23AM (#41322751) Journal
    That's amazing. It's so amazing that I almost think the National Media museum is the victim of some kind of hoax. Reading about color in motion picture films, Wikipedia says hand colored films began in 1895 with Thomas Edison. This isn't hand painted though. Anyone with photography knowledge have an explanation?
    • Re:Incredible (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EvilSS (557649) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:32AM (#41322857)
      Looking at the clip it appears to use black and white film, but with a rotating color wheel front on the projector similar to DLP projectors today. I assume one was used in front of the camera as well. I would guess that syncing issues were probably what killed it.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        rotating color wheel front on the projector similar to DLP projectors today

        That was one tech they investigated when trying to invent the color TV back in the 1940s.

        • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @11:30AM (#41324451) Homepage

          It was actually ADOPTED as the official US color broadcast standard by the FCC from 1950-1953.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field-sequential_color_system [wikipedia.org]

          The main limitations of the CBS field-sequential system were the requirement for a rotating color filter wheel more than 2X the diameter of the picture tube. TV sets larger than 10" screen size or so became absolutely HUGE. The system was also incompatible with existing monochrome sets, which already had a substantial installed base by then.

          Once RCA developed the all electronic system that eventually became "NTSC", the field sequential systems were relegated to niche applications such as the color cameras that flew to the moon on the Apollo landings. And yes, a similar system forms the heart of modern color DLP projectors.

          • by jackbird (721605)

            I believe field-sequential wheels continue to work with the proper kind of tube-driven black-and-white TV and an analog color NTSC signal.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            I didn't know that, thank you for the education!

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        I agree, you can definitely see some sort of RGB separation on the moving areas.

        It could easily be synced to the film transport. I don't see why sync would be a problem.

        • Re:Incredible (Score:5, Informative)

          by omnichad (1198475) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @10:41AM (#41323727) Homepage

          Sync is a problem because the objects are moving! The only way around it with B&W film is to have three simultaneous cameras shooting through color filters.

          • by Skapare (16644)

            Or a color filter that rotates in some way. One way could be a strip of filter film in a loop (of some multiple of 3 frames) the same size as being shot (35mm ?) being rotated with a mechanism similar to the film transport mechanism. It just needs to syncronize the two film mechanisms together in the camera, and expose an extra marker somewhere to show where the start is. That or someone guesses the start later on through use of standard color chips in the slate. Once that is done, then it's just a matt

            • by omnichad (1198475)

              With a rotating color wheel, each color frame is exposed at a slight delay from each other by necessity.

              • by Skapare (16644)

                But with a color filter loop film, the filter frame would have the same mechanism that holds the film still for each exposure. Just run the two like mechanisms locked together from the same crank or motor. It would require twice the force to do it.

                • by omnichad (1198475)

                  And between the time that red is exposed and then green is exposed, fast moving objects have moved. You're getting a different picture. It's not about the pictures being lined up.

          • by TheSync (5291)

            The only way around it with B&W film is to have three simultaneous cameras shooting through color filters.

            Which is exactly what Technicolor [wikipedia.org] was, simultaneously photographing two consecutive frames of a black-and-white film behind red and green filters.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by 91degrees (207121)
              3 strip technicolor was actually smarter than that. It only used a single camera with two exposure surfaces [widescreenmuseum.com]. The image was split in two by a prism, with a green filter in front of one strip, a second strip that was only sensitive to a narrow frequency (in the blue range), and a third strip behind the blue strip and behind a red filter.

              Really ingenious. This means you're not trying to do the same camera operations at the same time with three separate cameras
              • by mug funky (910186)

                ingenius until you decide you want to shoot the Bourne trilogy (quadrilogy?) in Technicolor... those things were HEAVY.

                people complain about how much a tricked out RED one weighs, but these things...

                try shooting 6 simultaneous 70mm films for technicolor 3D!

        • by EvilSS (557649)
          Each frame has to match to the correct color on the wheel, which means the projector has to match both the velocity of the film through the projector plus the position and rotation speed of the color wheel to the same parameters that the camera used. With today's tech that's not a huge deal. With a purely mechanical system in the late 19th century, I could see it being a challenge.
          • by Skapare (16644)

            Use the same mechanism that is used to transport the film, to transport color filters arranged in a film-like loop (multiple of 3 frames). Then interlock these mechanisms so you don't end up skipping or double shooting a color during shooting. Put color chips on the slate at the start and leave the camera rolling from slate to program. The film, of course, would be at the objective focal plane. The color filters would be out of focus just behind the lens (this would probably still handle an aperture up

          • by mug funky (910186)

            nah, if you're able to build a pin-registered gate at all (and run it at 24 fps without destroying the film), you've already got the skills necessary to add a filter wheel at the same speed.

            the engineering in old film gear is just phenomenal. awe inspiring that they could make all this stuff work together.

            even the capstan-servo telecine machines of the 70s (and still today) are incredible. they could get 1200 feet of heavy film to move at _exactly_ the right constant speed to get exactly 576 lines per fil

    • Wikipedia says hand colored films began in 1895 with Thomas Edison. This isn't hand painted though. Anyone with photography knowledge have an explanation?

      Explanation for what? None of those things contradict the other.

      It looks to me (having not listened to the audio track) like it was shot through rotating red/green/blue filters, which results in some slightly psychadelic colour trails on moving objects but some remarkably clear full colour on still objects.

      • through rotating red/green/blue filters

        Or cyan/magenta/yellow.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by mcgrew (92797) *

            Color mixing is different with pigments than with light. In pigments, the primaries are red, yellow, and blue. In light it's cyan, magenta, and yellow.

            • Color mixing is different with pigments than with light. In pigments, the primaries are red, yellow, and blue. In light it's cyan, magenta, and yellow.

              Ah crap. You should really tell display manufacturers, they've been doing it wrong for decades!

              • by mcgrew (92797) *

                They're using the right colors, just slightly naming them wrong. magenta is a purplish red, cyan is a greenish blue. (I learned this stuff in an undergrad physics class, one of the most interesting classes I took. The part with lasers and holograms was especially cool.)

                • They're using the right colors, just slightly naming them wrong. magenta is a purplish red, cyan is a greenish blue. (I learned this stuff in an undergrad physics class, one of the most interesting classes I took. The part with lasers and holograms was especially cool.)

                  I learned about this in primary school art class, and you still have it backwards.
                  Hold a magnifying glass to some white area on your display, and you will
                  see very nice red, green, and blue subpixels. Ok, this might be trickier with
                  high-density displays nowadays. Use a good magnifying glass...

                  You'll see nothing purplish about the red or greenish about the blue. There's a perfectly
                  fine green subpixel right next to it anyway, so making blue greenish would also be
                  stupidly reducing the display's gamut.

                  I

            • by mug funky (910186)

              nope. other way round.

              but the problem is we're shooting negative film...

              however, light is light, and on it's way into the camera it has to go through RGB filters.

              film is developed, and you end up with the negative (CMY).

              film is _printed_ for viewing, and you're in RGB again.

              • by mcgrew (92797) *

                Yes, that's how film works, but mix cadmium red with cadmium yellow (the reddest and yellowest pigments) and you get bright orange. Mix cadmium red and cobalt blue and you get a deep purple. Mix cobalt blue and cadmium yellow and you get bright green.

        • Re:Incredible (Score:4, Informative)

          by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday September 13, 2012 @11:41AM (#41324557) Homepage Journal
          Cyan/magenta/yellow is for subtractive systems, like print. This would use RGB because it is being effectively projected.
        • Re:Incredible (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Skapare (16644) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @12:44PM (#41325235) Homepage

          If projecting three colors, even if in different time phases, you use red, green, and blue. Since those are primaries, this does give the best color saturation. But it also has the downside of reducing exposure more than secondaries (a problem that still exists even for today's digital camera through the tiny array of color filters).

          • by mug funky (910186)

            you can squeeze extra dynamic range by reducing the density of the filter. you can correct for it with channel subtraction or in LAB space (so you can banish the noise to the chroma planes and keep a clean luma plane, where the detail is).

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      Well, the basic principle of separating red, green and blue, using filters and black and white film had been known about for a few decades by that point. Mainly this was used for still images though. Quite easy to do if you have a fixed camera and a fixed scene. Simply swap the filters around and take three shots.

      this is a way to automate the process to speed it up to film speed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        There are stunning turn of the 20C images of Russia done by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii at the Library of Congress using this process. He used three lantern projectors to display the pictures. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/gorskii.html [loc.gov] Of course the great thing is we don't have the fading of color dyes like modern color film, so the color is as good now as it was when captured.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:25AM (#41322779) Journal
    They have digitized it for the computer. They might have also fixed the transition and jerkiness. They should digitize the old black and white footage and apply the same techniques to see if the (relative) smoothness is a side effect of the digitization or not.
    • They have digitized it for the computer. They might have also fixed the transition and jerkiness

      All they published is a still image. Easy to remove the jerkiness in that case...

    • They might have also fixed the transition and jerkiness.

      They haven't. It's possibly slightly (though barely noticeably) smoother than the sort of pictures we're used to from that era, but I don't think it was worth commenting on if that happens to be the case.

      • by Animats (122034)

        They haven't.

        They're trying to show the film in its original form, not cleaned up as much as possible. The film was taken one frame at a time through a color wheel, but the projector was supposed to show three RGB frames at a time through a color wheel. At each frame advance, three frames are shown, but they were not all taken at the same time. So the R, G, and B frames don't line up if there's any action. That's why the weird color jitter.

        It's possible to do far more cleanup. See "Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs", by

    • And if that works, can they use the developed technique to fix the waving back and forth from every single release of the 1980 Heavy Metal movie?

      • by mug funky (910186)

        linky?

        if it's loud music and video, then it was the vidicon sensor physically shuddering as it resonated with the sound.

    • by mug funky (910186)

      smoothness comes from being pin-registered. and being careful to deal with film shrinkage (while making sure it doesn't catch fire as it was undoubtedly Nitrate base film - which is probably why they copied it to bog standard 35mm first).

  • by eric2hill (33085) <[ten.kcaji] [ta] [cire]> on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:32AM (#41322861) Homepage

    YouTube has a much better video than the one linked in the article that contains the process they went through and talks about the capture and projection [youtu.be] intended by the inventor.

    • by Tapewolf (1639955) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:53AM (#41323071)

      YouTube has a much better video than the one linked in the article that contains the process they went through and talks about the capture and projection [youtu.be] intended by the inventor.

      I was going to provide the original link to the National Media Museum (which for the curious is here: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/PlanAVisit/Exhibitions/LeeAndTurner.aspx [nationalme...eum.org.uk] ) ...but it's the same video anyway.

      What intrigues me is that they apparently blew it to 35mm first instead of going straight to digital.

      • by eric2hill (33085)

        I thought the same thing. I would imagine they already had equipment to deal with 35mm film, and it was easier to transfer it to 35mm to feed that equipment rather than retrofitting the equipment to take a larger source.

        I'm surprised they MANUALLY advanced each frame through the little shutter contraption. Don't any of these guys have a bag of Legos they could automate that process with???

      • by Tore S B (711705)

        If they had been able to scan the originals, that might yield a quality improvement - but there are so many things I'd love to try out with the raw materials.

        I would be very interested in seeing what digital image processing might be possible to use - if one could mangle the three temporally separate frames into a luminance signal and a chrominance signal which interpolates using motion-compensation derived from luminance, that might temper the rainbow effect somewhat - and triple the temporal resolution!

        • by mug funky (910186)

          modern print stock is about as good as it gets. even better if they can find black and white print stock.

          but yeah, they could have done the scan with a fancy lightbox (integration sphere), that gate contraption and a really good digital camera and got more precision than the 10-bit you get from a film scanner (at most 16-bit linear with dual-flash scanning on a 12-bit sensor). they could even adapt the film scanner lenses to fit a DSLR...

          but archivists make film based copies as a matter of procedure i thi

      • What intrigues me is that they apparently blew it to 35mm first instead of going straight to digital.

        They explain that in the video, his film was not 35mm but 35mm equipment is standard and common. Thus it was cheaper and easier to transfer it to 35mm and then perform the restoration/digitization rather than building/adapting equipment and software for a one-off project.

        • by Skapare (16644)

          Maybe, maybe not. If they were thinking inside the box and shooting frame by frame, then sure, they would benefit from doing a 35mm conversion, first. But, it might have been easier to just rig up a LINE SCANNER and pull the film across that scanner slowly. Then software can convert the line scan into frames and figure out the color sync. In later talkies, the software could also convert the optical audio side tracks, too. Full line scan would include everything out to the sprocket holes which would be

          • by Skapare (16644)

            Oh, and the color film can also be the original color negative. Just get an extra LED at the color masking wavelength(s) and you'd have more accurate conversion of color to positive than even the original film printing process. Most motion picture films were shot on negative film with a process similar to photo films of the day.

      • by Skapare (16644)

        I'm still looking for a genuine movie FILE, not some flashy thingy meant to frustrate people from saving it.

  • copyright? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:37AM (#41322907)

    Wait its only been 113 years? Can I view that content without worrying about being sued by MPAA?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Disney's team of lawyers says no...

    • by Skapare (16644)

      Worry more about the bots doing automated take downs now days.

  • by lurvdrum (456070) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @09:44AM (#41322981)

    if this had been in 2012, he wouldn't have patented a film process but instead followed Apple (and others) by patenting "The idea of colour moving pictures displayed to an audience" and his descendents would now be suing Hollywood for 15 gazillion dollars.

  • Often silent movies look "jerky" because of how they are shown ( [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_film#Projection_speed [wikipedia.org] ). In particular, video for TV has a fixed frame rate, and transferring the movies to a different frame rate while maintaining smooth action is not trivial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecine [wikipedia.org]).
  • "Hey, I got an idea: let's film some sugar-induced brats destroying table decorations!"

    "Brilliant!"

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @01:22PM (#41325591)
    He made one even earlier of a mouse piloting a steamboat, but that one was lost in a mysterious fire...
  • "World's First Color Moving Pictures Discovered"

    "...who patented his colour process on 22 March 1899..."

    Moving pictures predated film by decades or millenia. The zoetrope was invented in 1833 according to Wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoetrope [wikipedia.org] -- which also mentions a similar device in China in 180 AD.

  • Modern films seem to have a lot of jerks in them too.

Put your Nose to the Grindstone! -- Amalgamated Plastic Surgeons and Toolmakers, Ltd.

Working...