Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Color of the Hidden Treasures

When you think of old movies do you think of Black & White films? I wanted to share with you some examples of color that I have found in some of our collections. These frames are from the films in the Camp Runoia and Medomak Camp Collections. While I am a great admirer of B&W film, I am a bigger fan of Kodachrome especially from the 1940s and 50s. When stored in proper condition these films still maintain their bright and vivid colors that bring the images to life.

But I have also noticed that the colors of early Kodachrome 16mm film ( which was introduced in 1935) faded and did not last as well as the later Kodachrome (late 30s-50s). On some reels of film that I have inspected, the filmmaker assembled together various films on a reel and sometimes used various film stock (sometimes of lesser quality) and the less superior film did not fare as well (color faded, warped edges, etc.) even though the films were stored on the same reel and film can. I have included a few frames from those films from the same timeframe and part of these collections for comparison.

Before Kodachrome there was Kodacolor for the amateur filmmaker. When I was inspecting the films in the Aurelius Hinds Collection (part of the 50 Hidden Treasures) I’ve found that they had 4 Kodacolor films. What is so interesting about Kodacolor is that at first they look like black and white film but upon closer inspection you can see the texture of the film caused by the cylindrical lenses embossed in the film. The black and white images under magnification look like normal images except they have very fine vertical lines throughout the image. It is very expensive to have a laboratory transfer them to color so these films are often transferred as is in Black and White with the fine lines showing on the images.

Kodacolor was developed in 1928 for 16mm home movie making. Also known as "lenticular" film, Kodacolor used a special panchromatic black and white film stock embossed with tiny "lenticules." The process also used tri-colored lenses (green, red, blue-violet)on the camera and projector. When projected the images transformed into a color film on the screen. Although not from our collection you can see an example of Kodacolor images here at the Living Room Cinema website. This type of film did not last after Kodachrome was introduced and was discontinued in 1935.

Not all old movies are Black and White. I hope that the examples give you a sense of the sharpness and brightness of well preserved color film (as well as what happens when they are not preserved) and the vividness of these treasured memories.

Screen Capture-Top image:Faded 1936 color film of Medomak Camp leader taking boys on hike.
2nd from top: Faded Ansco film ca.1940s-Camp Runoia instructor with girls in rowboat.
3rd:Kodachrome ca.1943-Camp Runoia- campers and Captain of boat.
4th:Kodachrome ca.1946-Medomak Camp instructor with "Cubs."
5th:Kodachrome ca.1939-1941-Medomak swimming instructor and boys.


Post a Comment