colour home movies in 1929

An Idea For Colour Home Movies in 1929

Toronto. Even today, we use ways to separate and re-combine primary colours to create realistic viewable colour images, be they prints, computer screens, smartphones, or TV. The concept itself is over a century and a half old. James Clerk Maxwell demonstrated this idea with a tartan ribbon in 1861.

This particular scheme uses a rotating series of filters on the movie camera lens to make each monochrome frame record the intensity of a particular colour. A second rotating filter on the projector lens is synchronized with the correct frame to project the colours as seen (more or less). The process and the need to use filter density to control the light level for the various colours is explained in the article, “HOME MOVIES – How Filters and New Color Attachment Enable You to Capture True Color Values” by Don Bennett in the October 1929 issue of the magazine Science and Invention.

The system may have proven to be impractical, since it seems to have quickly disappeared from the market place. A few years later, Kodachrome burst on to the scene. It was a process that worked and was backed by the mighty Kodak corporation.

My thanks to George Dunbar, a professional videographer, photographer, and member of the PHSC, for sharing this bit of photographic history with me. For much of the last century effort was expended to allow the humble camera to capture colour as we see it –  from the dyed potato starch grains of the Lumière Brothers to the sophisticated Red-Green-Blue pixels of modern day smartphones.

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