Category Archives: Color processes


Today at the film conservation center I inspected a 35mm print of the no doubt tedious but beautiful LOVE ISLAND (Bud Pollard, 1952). It’s an original release, Cinecolor print from 1953.loveisland_leader

Cinecolor was a low-cost, two color (red/green) subtractive color process developed in the 1930s and used through the 1950s. It was much less expensive than Technicolor, which was also in wide use at that time. The development of Eastmancolor in the early 1950s eventually put both processes out of business, and left the world with a lot of faded pink prints. Archivists and projectionists curse its name daily.

Poverty Row film production companies such as Monogram were the main customers for Cinecolor. It was inexpensive, but the trade-off was that colors were not as brilliant as Technicolor. The deeper pocketed studios didn’t employ it.

The colors tended toward blue/brown in prints, so were most often used for Westerns. LOVE ISLAND, however, is a B-picture set on a Pacific island, and Eva Gabor’s skin was darkened to make her look like she was born there and not in Hungary! It was passed by the Maryland board of censors.loveisland_couple







To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)


Our colleague Barbara Flueckiger has been working on an extensive project documenting historic color film processes.  She was working at Harvard last year, and took frame enlargements of some of our prints.

Several images taken from IB Technicolor prints at the Harvard Film Archive can be found here. You can read more about the Technicolor process (a lost technology) on Flueckiger’s site, but the image above can give you a very basic idea of how it worked.  The film stock is B&W, and the color dyes were added to the emulsion.   It’s a fascinating system, resulting in beautiful, incomparable film prints.

The stripes to the left of the picture makes up the soundtrack.  In the image above, the soundtrack is called a variable density track.  Below is a variable area track.

Ms Flueckiger’s work also took her to the Fine Arts Library at Harvard, and several images are available in the section on toning.

We encourage you to click through the site to learn more about each process.  The images from early color processes are unlike anything you’ll see in this century.  The section on hand colored films is stunning, especially if you’ve never seen them reproduced.  There is some material in there on 9.5mm (see previous post).

If these images from TO CATCH A THIEF (one of my favorite movies to watch in an air-conditioned theatre on a hot day) and VERTIGO arouse your interest, keep an eye on our calender, as we hope to show this print at the HFA’s cinemateque later this summer!

Related posts: hand-colored lobby cards……



Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)