Sonochrome, oh Sonochrome, where are you?

July, 1929 ad for the tinted Kodak Sonochrome in the International Photographer

Toronto. Silent movies used colour tints to evoke moods – indoors, outdoors, creepy, fire, etc. When talkies came along, tints affected the sound recording. A solution by Kodak was their Sonochrome black and white film with a tinted base that carefully avoided the sound strip. Negatives copied to this film to create positives for projection were said to be free of any impact on sound.

The website says, “Kodak Sonochrome was a specially prepared tinted film for sound film that did not interfere with the spectral sensitivity of the photo-electric cell for the reading of the optical sound track.

“The 17 Sonochrome tints were dyed in mainly light hues for maximum light transmission, with the exception of purple, blue and green that had transmissions below 40%. The hues were given poetic names to express color-mood associations.

“Eastman Kodak, Agfa, Pathé and others produced pre-tinted film base before the advent of sound. Pre-tinted stock can be identified by scratching the emulsion off in a small area outside the frame revealing the colored film base.”

A big thanks is due to my good friend and retired cinematographer, George Dunbar for sharing this bit of photographic history with us, Note that the ad can be found in the July, 1929 issue of the International Photographer.


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