The co-founder of Vitagraph, J. Stuart Blackton, often expressed his interest in new developments in coloring techniques for film, as is demonstrated late in his career with the films he produced in the United Kingdom such as The Glorious Adventure Many copies of this film exist. An original nitrate print is preserved in the film collections of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House. In: Abel, Richard ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, pp. Through the techniques of tinting and toning, color was designed primarily to work not at the liminal edge between screen and viewer but unobtrusively in the background of the image.
With these processes, color tended to be used less to illuminate specific foregrounded objects than to craft a radiant world that harmonized the mood of the scene with the emotional engagement of the spectator. This harmonic approach to tinting and toning is often invoked in the trade press at the end of the first decade of the s. For instance, in an editorial on tinting and toning found in the Moving Picture World, the trade journal discusses the aesthetic potential of these processes:.
Toning or tinting, or a combination of both, produces nice color effects which are always appreciated by audiences, especially when those effects harmonize with the colors of the original subject. In other words, though the indexical bond between a color and its object is severed when reproduced in black and white, its harmonic sensation can be re-created—translated with nice effect—through these applied color processes. A cluster of aesthetic assumptions about color are invoked in this seemingly simple statement about tinting and toning, and it is worth tracing their implications on color design during the emergence of narrative cinema in the first decade of the s.
From various accounts and from the evidence of surviving prints, tinting and toning were first deployed in the cinema in the late s as a quicker and cheaper means of coloring films than the processes of hand coloring and stenciling.
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One of the earliest descriptions of film tinting can be found in C. Color sensuously corresponded to music and could harmonize with the moods and emotions of a scene. Blending and dissolving effects could be produced with these colored gels to create a variety of effects, such as the gradual alterations of light throughout the course of a day, or shifting color schemes within or between scenes. A very light blue tint slide will brighten a yellow film considerably, but the tint must be very light , just a bare tint.
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Griffith, for example, patented a gel-lighting system for Broken Blossoms that double-projected color tints onto the film, and various filmmakers such as Harry Smith have experimented with such effects. Since early cinema their primary use in film has not been for projection, but rather on film cameras during shoots, when tinted color filters are used to balance color temperatures—warming outdoor, natural lighting with yellowish-orange filters when shooting on indoor tungsten film stock, or conversely cooling indoor lighting with bluish filters when shooting on daylight stock.
In its more standardized form, film tinting works by coloring the emulsion of black-and-white film prints with translucent dyes. As detailed in chapter 1, synthetic aniline dyes were the main colorants used for tinting throughout the silent era. One early method of applying these dyes onto films grew out of hand-coloring techniques and simply entailed using a wider brush than the single-camel hair ones used for selective hand-coloring work and broadly applying the dye over a swath of frames.
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Though quicker than selective hand coloring, this method tends to produce uneven irregularities in the color to create a pulsating, fringing effect when projected. Due to fringing and also to the labor that was still involved with hand-brushing every release print, this method of tinting was not a widely adopted industrial practice.
Color produces a uniformly tinted world, in reds, greens, or blues in this process, for example. The simplest means of achieving this for short lengths of film was running the exposed and developed section of film to be tinted back and forth through a bowl of aniline dye. In the late s, companies such as Kodak, Gevaert, and Agfa simplified tinting further by producing pre-tinted, positive film stocks on which producers could print their films and avoid manually tinting each release print in the lab.
Italics in the original. It is not possible to say with precision when tinting started to be used on film, but since the process was one of relative simplicity it was certainly very early. We have an example in BFI Collections of tinted film from There is a strong relation between tinting and the chemistry of synthesis-producing synthetic dyes directed towards the textile market. The same dyes were used for tinting films, and in the abundant literature produced by the film manufacturers to describe this process, complete with formulas and instructions, it is possible to observe the parallel evolution of the tinting process and the dye industry.
For example, in the period during and immediately after World War I, the European dye industry was perhaps more developed than the American. The Kodak tinting and toning manual for contains a reference to difficulties in obtaining certain dyes for tinting and mentions the disappointing results produced by the locally-available alternative dyes. By the next edition of this manual, in , the problem had apparently been overcome — new dyes had been developed and good alternatives were available in America. The principle of tinting is similar to dye toning, but in tinting the technician uses acid dyes instead of basic ones, because gelatine is normally positively charged.
These acidic dyes will be attracted, and if the electrical condition of the dye is sufficiently neutralised the dye will precipitate as insoluble coloured matter, becoming trapped and staining the gelatine. Oliveira, Joao S. In Roger Smither ed. Brussels: FIAF, pp. The work on a film of this character must be of great precision and the coloring must be done with consummate care. It is one of the triumphs of motion picture art to be able to accomplish such beautiful things.
These magic pictures are always attractive and are watched with a greater interest perhaps than almost any other variety of pictures which can be shown. Such pictures are none too plentiful and the addition of another successful one to the list should be hailed with pleasure by lovers of motion pictures. Hand coloring was the predominant technique used to color films during the pre-nickelodeon era. When production companies began to increase the length and complexity of their films during the early s, the method became unfeasible on an industrial basis, and other techniques of coloring films—specifically, tinting, toning, and stenciling—grew more prevalent.
The current chapter tracks these developments into the early s: through the nickelodeon period and into the single-reel era ca. From the fairy and trick genres to melodrama, color was integrated systematically into narrative and nonfiction films during the first decade of the s.
An issue central to this change is how the sensual and affective qualities of color usage during the dominant era of the cinema of attractions ca. Even though a change in coloring style is evident, there is in fact not a fundamental transformation in how color was thought of aesthetically during this period.
An essential continuity remains pertaining to how color was conceived of in affective and physiological terms, and the stylistic transition that does occur pertains to the restructuring of the sensual address of color for new ends. Specifically, color became relatively less obtrusive, pushed to the background of the image, but from this position its sensuality remained and was to a degree even enhanced by its potential to immerse the image and viewer, unobtrusively, into a world of carefully gradated tints and tones. Rather than evolving toward a classical cinema that aims only at telling stories efficiently and unobtrusively, this history recovers the ways in which these very norms were conceived aesthetically at the level of the senses.
The history traced here through color theory and practice is not in opposition to narrative developments in the cinema; rather, it reframes cinematic narration in terms of its sensory appeals. The use of single color tints and tones has paralleled and intermixed with the so-called natural color processes since the introduction of color to motion pictures.
Tinting, the earliest means of bringing color to the screen, was in use prior to The first attempts were handpainted films that tried to produce natural color pictures. In some films only one or two scenes were colored; in others the whole picture was toned a single color. Griffith used toned sequences in Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. Erich Von Stroheim used a yellow tone for his symbolic gold sequences in Greed. The popularity of the monochrome prints became so great that the film manufacturers offered Black and White positive film on tinted support in several colors.
Tinted Nitrate Base 1. Red 2. Pink 3. Orange 4. Amber 5. Light amber 6. Yellow 7. Green 8. Blue 9. The same colors were also offered in tinted acetate safety base.
However, these tints were slightly lighter than the corresponding tints on nitrate base. By the early s it was estimated that during some periods 80 to 90 per cent of the total production was printed on tinted positive film. Unfortunately, the majority of the dyes used in tinting absorbed the wavelengths of radiation to which the sound reproducer cells are most sensitive.
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The dyes reduced the response of the cell to such a great extent that high amplification of the photoelectric currents was required to obtain sufficient volume of sound. This high amplification increased the inherent cell noises and microphonic disturbances in the amplifier so that the reproduced sound was of intolerably poor quality.
For this reason, the use of tinted film was discontinued entirely in the production of positives carrying a photographic sound record. Some viewers thought that this was a serious loss and that the absence of color impaired the beauty and dramatic power of the screen production. The producers and creative men in the studios agreed with them and requested help from the film manufacturers. Tinting usually means immersing the film in a solution of dye which colors the gelatin causing the whole picture to have a uniform veil of color on the screen.
Toning consists in either wholly or partially replacing the silver image of the positive film by some colored compound so that the clear portions or highlights remain uncolored. The dye should not bleed when the film was washed and the rate of dye removal due to washing should be slow. The dye should be fast to light even under the heat of projection so that local fading would not take place. The dye should not attack the gelatin coating of the film even after 24 hours incubation at degrees F.
The following table gives a list of the dyes used, prior to the introduction of sound on film, for tinting or colouring film by stenciling or by hand. The time in solution varied from one minute to three minutes at 65 degrees depending on the shade desired. Approximately 20, feet of film could be dyed per 50 gallons of dye solution. As the rate of dyeing slowed down, the solution would be replenished with concentrated dye solution. The amount of light cut off from the screen as a result of tinting depended on the nature of the particular dye used, the concentration of dye in the film and on the purity of color of the dye.
Tests made of tinted films indicated that screen brightness was reduced from 25 per cent to 95 per cent as a result of tinting. After the introduction of sound it was necessary to replace many of the dyes formerly used 18 for tinting with dyes that were more compatible with the sound reproduction system.
The dyes and concentrations listed in the table below were successfully used with the black and white films used for sound-on-film motion pictures. The time in solution was normally three minutes at a temperature of 65 degrees to 70 degrees F. After tinting the film would be rinsed, squeegeed and dried.
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Approximately 40, feet of film could be dyed per 50 gallons of dye solution. As the rate of dyeing slowed down the bath would be replenished with concentrated dye solution, not by adding acid. When the bath became muddy it would have to be replaced. Ryan, Roderick T. London: Focal Press, pp. The expense of detailed hand coloring encouraged pioneer filmmakers to seek a less costly and easier method of achieving color in their productions. As films grew in length, the added cost of applying tints by hand, coupled with the scarcity of skilled artisans, forced most producers to employ tinting, toning, or a combination of these methods to produce the desired effect.