Colour Film for the Common Man

Ansco Color Film 1946

Toronto. George Dunbar is fascinated by LIFE magazine during 1945. Contrary to my earlier post, actual colour was occasionally used in LIFE ads.

In its issue of October 16, 1944, for example, Ansco announced and demonstrated its colour sheet film to a NYC audience. Called “The 90 minutes that made Color Film history“, Ansco showed that anyone could produce beautiful color transparencies using their new product. The ad included a full colour picture of actress June Havoc.

The tricolor film was based on Agfa’s process which used large molecule colour dyes to keep the dyes within the correct layer. This approach (vs. Kodachrome) traded off colour fidelity and stability for ease of processing. The critical time/temperature demands were eased so a home darkroom and a bit of care would work fine. And the 22 or so steps needed to process Kodachrome were reduced to about half that number. The film was first available as cut film sheets and 16mm. The announcement George found was for the release of 35mm transparency film during 1946. Cut and 120 roll film was already available.

In the later 1950s, I used Anscochrome, as it was called by then. The film was also sold in bulk with empty 35mm spools and a chemistry kit for processing. Cardboard slide mounts could be used to project the results. Even in the Labrador bush, I could develop the film. The 90 minute process of 1944 was improved and had dropped to an hour by the time I used the film with my Exakta and processed it on site.

Decent colour printing came along later. In the early 1960s, you spent a whole night just calibrating your enlarger and processing one or two decent prints. By the 1970s the process and quality was much faster, but still the best you could do was create a balanced colour print. No wonder the one hour processing like Black’s and Japan Camera took off.

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