The First Colour Moving Pictures at the National Science and Media Museum

The First Colour Moving Pictures at the National Science and Media Museum


It’s just seven years since the public first
experienced cinema in London, but this shot is not black and white, as you might expect;
it’s not been toned, it’s not been tinted, it’s not been hand-coloured. It’s in natural
colour – photographed that way. It comes from the National Media Museum collection
and its recent discovery prompted a programme of restoration and research which enables
you to see this film for the very first time. The National Media Museum had this film in
their collection and it’s the Lee Turner colour process, although the film looks in black
and white. It’s a non-standard size film, so it wouldn’t run on a modern projector,
so it had to be copied, which we did. Each frame is very slightly different to look at
because in those black-and-white pictures is colour. The frames were taken through colour
filters, red, blue and green. You can work out which one was taken through the red filter,
which one through the blue and which one through the green – as long as you know the colours
in the film. We were helped a little bit because Mr Turner had already marked up the film,
as you can see here: there’s a blue frame, a green frame in the middle, and a red frame
there. Our job was to try and restore it with those colours back in.
Because the film is non-standard we had to copy it onto standard 35mm film. Again, because
it was non-standard, we had to build a gate in order to do this. The technique was that
we took the film, it was placed in the gate, and there are some little round pins – called
register pins – which hold the film in position. We would lock the film into the gate, in position,
and then on an optical printer which consists of a camera and a projector, we photographed
that frame. We then had to open the gate, lift the frame, and move it to the next one.
When we were photographing it, we didn’t know what the result was until the film had been
processed. So we might spend a whole day at 25 frames an hour and when it comes back it
might not have been any good. But it’s lovely to see them in colour. It’s
really worth it. Yes, that’s the main thing.
Having scanned the film, we then took the digital files down to a company in London
called Prime Focus, and they took the digital files and used their digital editing software
to take a red frame, a green frame and a blue frame and combine them together to give us
our colour frame. It was important that we used the technique that Turner had used in
his projector – that is taking frames 1, 2 and 3 and then taking 2, 3, 4, then 3, 4,
5 and so on. It was quite important for us to produce the
result and also to verify that Turner’s system did actually work.
Edward Raymond Turner was born in 1873, in Cleveland, Somerset. From the age of 15 he was a photographer,
working in various photographic studios around London. His work with Frederic Ives and the
Photochromoscope Syndicate is absolutely crucial to this because he learns there how to separate
colours into red, green and blue separations. He obviously starts to understand the chemistry
of it. The girl on the swing is, at least we think
she is, Agnes May Turner, who would have been about six at the time. I think it’s probably
taken around the same time as Turner made a shot of his three other children; she’s
wearing the same outfit. It’s most likely that it was shot in the back garden of the
house he lived in in Hounslow. It’s a long, thin garden. In the background you’ve got
a fence, a pretty substantial fence, and if you go there today, there is, again, a substantial
fence. This piece of film has been in our collection
for 75 years and no-one really has done anything with it. It had to wait until now when we
actually had the means to do it. Someone could have thrown it in the bin a hundred years
ago – we would have never known that these films exist. Now we have them, and now we
can see them. A little bit of history has been rewritten.

100 thoughts on “The First Colour Moving Pictures at the National Science and Media Museum

  • September 14, 2012 at 6:36 pm
    Permalink

    This is super cool!

    Reply
  • September 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm
    Permalink

    Awesome! …Looks a bit like the CGI on Star Wars: Episode I.

    Reply
  • September 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm
    Permalink

    Sometimes SSDs die without a reason while magnetic drive will tell you there is a problem by making more noise. Also TRIM makes data recovery in SSD basically impossible.

    Reply
  • September 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm
    Permalink

    oh i didnt know that

    Reply
  • September 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm
    Permalink

    The film es older than one hundred years, even though it has better quality than NASA's videos from Mars.

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 12:32 am
    Permalink

    Not me.

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 12:33 am
    Permalink

    That's what we did.

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 12:47 am
    Permalink

    erm the CBS colour system was progressive scan not interlaced (that was purely a PAL, SCAM system requirement) and was partly mechanical.. this film system appearers to use almost an identical process, with the linear R G B filtered images and spinning colour wheel…. the only major difference being the use of a progressive scan CRT instead of the film negative…. anyway with out getting into an argument …. Fascinating stuff, well done Bradford!

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 1:31 am
    Permalink

    Is there any information on who was the director/cinematographer of the seven clips excerpted here? Presumably Turner filmed his own family. But the rest?

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 2:08 am
    Permalink

    Or maybe you could say, "Everyone in this: film is dead!"

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 4:23 am
    Permalink

    3:25-3:29 Da fuck is he saying?

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 5:45 am
    Permalink

    ★★★WANT FAST AND COMPLETELY FREE MONEY?★★★

    $100-$1000 GIFT CARDS for AMAZON, STARBUCK, XBOX, ITUNES, GAP, TARGET, NORDSTROM, and MANY other gift cards, OR CASH OUT through PayPal!

    1.DOWNLOAD apptrailers from app store or android market for iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Android Phone

    2.GO to VIDEOS and then you'll see a star that says ENTER REFERRAL CODE…click it

    3.THEN put the code: muajtsim

    4.THEN you'll get started with 100 Points!!

    I EARNED $20 IN THREE HOURS!! OVER $500 LAST WEEK!!

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 6:17 am
    Permalink

    wow 110 years ago and they had colour!!!

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 8:47 am
    Permalink

    the quality for that time is better than most youtube videos nowadays

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 10:28 am
    Permalink

    Stupidness overload. Oh wait, Country=United States

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 10:33 am
    Permalink

    Thumbs up if you watched this video from 1902 in 1080p!

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 10:35 am
    Permalink

    Nationalmediamuseum. Can u guys somehow to the exactly same film in St Ann's Well Hove and Brighton Pier to seafront. Surely there are more people who wants to see that different how the places changed in 1902 and 2012.

    Sorry about my English

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 11:26 am
    Permalink

    Great stuff. Although it would have been nice if the Prime Focus London did some more post-processing wizardry to make color separations register bit better..

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 11:39 am
    Permalink

    You can see the places in Google Street View.

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm
    Permalink

    I doubt it. The last one of these kids died in 1994. While there are plenty of people alive now who were alive in 1902 they would have been babies or small children too so the chances of them being on that pier or in that street are pretty much 0.

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm
    Permalink

    Marvelously weird alternative film technology, like a Steampunk fantasy.

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm
    Permalink

    bullshit, besse cooper was 5-7 back then so there is an extremely slight chance that she might be in the panning shot from brighton pier

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm
    Permalink

    I————W……O……W————–I

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm
    Permalink

    1896-1920 ? Why? 🙁

    Reply
  • September 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm
    Permalink

    Fascinating and historically important, but the restoration process, particularly the 35mm optical copy, seems a little backward.

    Here's what I would have done: 2k scans of the original frames. Split into three video feeds, one for each color. Frame interpolation for each feed (at 3x the starting rate, to match the original film's framerate). Combine the result. This would give a smooth image without the heavy color bleeding you can see in anything that's actually moving or panning.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 2:08 am
    Permalink

    No, you are mistaken. There is no possible way that a human being who was alive in 1890 is still living and breathing in 2012. The oldest living person to record lived to 122 years old.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 2:08 am
    Permalink

    I'm not sure how you are calculating this. There are not "plenty of people" who are alive today who were alive in 1902. That would make them over 110 years old!!!

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 3:01 am
    Permalink

    she died so young 🙁

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 7:04 am
    Permalink

    There a a lot of people over the age of 110 you know. A tiny tiny fraction of the population, but still a lot.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 7:23 am
    Permalink

    vsauce said that there are only 37 people from 1800's in the world

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 8:12 am
    Permalink

    I love early film. It's the closest thing we have to time travel.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 9:34 am
    Permalink

    And a whole lot more from 1900, 1901 and 1902.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 10:26 am
    Permalink

    Your example doesn't prove him wrong 🙂 since a person at 122 years born in 1890 would still be alive. You are probably correct though, since the oldest verified living person is 116 years old.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks, captain obvious.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm
    Permalink

    that girl scares me

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm
    Permalink

    true

    Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm
    Permalink

    That is amazing !!!!!
    It was a lot of work to restore the film.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2012 at 6:53 am
    Permalink

    Might have been the richest people at that time. They look so Rose-ish from the Titanic.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm
    Permalink

    uhhhhh, what?

    Nobody has lived 150 years.

    Reply
  • September 18, 2012 at 7:58 am
    Permalink

    Maybe there is this old Tibetian that is 500 years old?

    Reply
  • September 18, 2012 at 10:08 am
    Permalink

    驚いた。1901年~1902年と言えば、「映像」というメディアが作られた最初期だ。この時期で既にカラー映像が存在したとは。

    Reply
  • September 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm
    Permalink

    Thats nothing Turritopsis Nutricula is a jellyfish when it becomes sexual mature its can revert back to its polyp stage making it immortal. It has never been observed dying of old age.

    Reply
  • September 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm
    Permalink

    I don't see the point in the 35mm copy, why not go digital straight away. A good DI & Compositor should be able to fix the colour misalignments as well.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2012 at 9:03 am
    Permalink

    Vcd

    Reply
  • September 19, 2012 at 4:42 pm
    Permalink

    hit 1080p for the best colors!

    Reply
  • September 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm
    Permalink

    Truly amazing.

    Reply
  • September 20, 2012 at 10:21 pm
    Permalink

    I suppose to get the print scanned it would need to be in 35mm? It's a good point though. It would be interesting to see how a proper frame allignment, noise removal and color correction would make it look.

    Reply
  • September 21, 2012 at 1:13 am
    Permalink

    Oh my God.

    There, their, and they're are three different words. They cannot be used interchangeably.

    There – location. "Look over there."
    Their – possessive. "That's their dog."
    They're – THEY ARE. "I see very old film footage of children and knowing THEY'RE gone….joy of THEIR childhood."
    For fucks sake, it isn't difficult.

    on the other hand I understand what you think. Watching that amazing WW2 in HD documentary and seeing that almost all those people are now passed on…crazy.

    Reply
  • September 21, 2012 at 5:45 am
    Permalink

    O.o u smoking to much cush?

    Reply
  • September 21, 2012 at 7:55 am
    Permalink

    Wonderful

    Reply
  • September 22, 2012 at 2:55 am
    Permalink

    It's not a question of belief.. It's still humanly impossible. I'm sure one day it can become possible, but nobody, naturally, has lived that long.

    As you go further back in time, the human life span shortens.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2012 at 8:56 am
    Permalink

    Apparently one of the few left who doesnt.

    It's just plain fucking stupidity – it doesn't take any more characters to correctly spell these words. People are just stupid and refuse to learn.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2012 at 8:21 pm
    Permalink

    but who cares? some people cant spell or dont feel they need to take all this time to spell. lol why is it your concern, are you going to do speech/spelling lessons with them?

    Reply
  • September 23, 2012 at 3:58 am
    Permalink

    it is kinda cool that after hundred years we could shoot with something infinitesimally small

    Reply
  • September 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm
    Permalink

    I agree with you. It's like a separate life from that which we live now. We are privileged to be able to witness this! I was excited to see this. 🙂

    Reply
  • September 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm
    Permalink

    Show us the entire footage

    Reply
  • September 26, 2012 at 1:27 am
    Permalink

    No, people need to not be lazy idiots and take the time to learn how to spell SIMPLE LITTLE WORDS. If you misspell a big word, i couldn't care less as long as it's readable…but something so simple as their, there, and they're being used wrong in EVERY INSTANCE…it's just laziness.

    I have read court documents and medical reports that have used poor grammar and incorrect spelling, and it's a pain in the ass.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm
    Permalink

    The final comment, "A little bit of history has been rewritten" should be "A little bit of history has just been examined for the first time."

    There was no rewriting of history, merely a correction of incorrect knowledge about history. Meta-history has been rewritten… the recording of the events ("history") has not changed.

    Reply
  • September 30, 2012 at 1:49 am
    Permalink

    I find it moving when people spell their, there, and they're correctly.

    Reply
  • September 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm
    Permalink

    I was thinking along similar lines. However, a lot of archiving is done on 35mm as it has been proven to be a stable format for many decades. In the 'digital era' a system can come in to play for a while and then be deemed obsolete in just a short while. Also, no one can say what the shelf life of a digital master will be. Therefore, studios still archive films, even those shot with digital cameras on 35mm negative for this reason.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm
    Permalink

    the film reminds me of a dream i had

    Reply
  • October 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm
    Permalink

    NOBODY BLOODY FUCKING CARES!

    Reply
  • October 15, 2012 at 7:44 am
    Permalink

    Well fuck you. You ruined my day.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2012 at 6:35 am
    Permalink

    How about you learn to fucking spell these simple fucking words? Its NOT THAT DIFFICULT.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm
    Permalink

    Why do you care if someone correctly spells on youtube? you're right its them being lazy because any chump can use auto correct but thats because no one gives a fuck,its the internet.i think its retarded when i see something like medical reports have mistakes because it means something unlike comments on youtube.u jus n anal ass fgt

    Reply
  • October 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm
    Permalink

    sorry bout . was referring to the first person

    Reply
  • November 4, 2012 at 6:39 am
    Permalink

    No, i believe that people are, for the most part, lazy pieces of shit who are doing everything they can to degrade human intelligence and societal values. The things I see people do and say on a daily basis make me embarrassed to call myself a human. If you make a spelling error on accident, all is well. But when you intentionally type errors (and it's not just typing – I've corrected college papers from Masters students who have these errors), you show your stupidity.

    Reply
  • November 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm
    Permalink

    lol this guys says reported

    Reply
  • November 16, 2012 at 2:06 am
    Permalink

    you sir, are awesome. it's very rare nowadays you find an even remotely philisophical or intelligent comment. (srry i cnt spl)

    Reply
  • January 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm
    Permalink

    And did you notice that apparently the little girl died young, in her 25th year in 1920, according to the caption?

    Reply
  • January 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm
    Permalink

    Have you seen the posting on Youtube, "Panoramic View of the Morecambe Sea Front (1901)"? It's incredibly clear and vivid, and with its atmospheric music, and the fact that some of the women are in mourning dress for Queen Victoria who died that year, as well as the frolicking children – I confess I find it almost heartbreaking…

    Reply
  • January 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm
    Permalink

    creepy…:S

    Reply
  • March 3, 2013 at 9:20 am
    Permalink

    Amazing!

    Reply
  • March 6, 2013 at 5:11 pm
    Permalink

    It's because the 35mm is an image of the actual image rather than information of what the image is in an accepted code. It makes the copy into a standard format that is still useable without substantial knowledge of computing (if you're starting from scratch). All you need is a light and a screen. It's like an lp being an actual physical imprint of the noise, if you just have the needle following the grove you can hear the sound when you put your ear near to it.

    Reply
  • March 11, 2013 at 4:42 pm
    Permalink

    Wow! How smart. 3 b/w photos through color filters to produce a color image.

    Reply
  • March 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm
    Permalink

    A lot of work for a film, at least it isn't like that these days.

    Reply
  • March 26, 2013 at 5:44 am
    Permalink

    I think the same thing about everyone in old films, pictures, etc. What were they like? How did they live? Did they have a good life, or not? It's just too much to think that everyone there is dead and gone.

    Reply
  • May 18, 2013 at 8:13 am
    Permalink

    Absolutely unbelievable. Amazing

    Reply
  • May 27, 2013 at 9:58 pm
    Permalink

    Because in another 100 years the digital copy will have crashed and the film will still be around. Preservation is important.

    Reply
  • July 16, 2013 at 8:23 am
    Permalink

    …how did I end up on this part of youtube…
    nevertheless, its pretty interesting.

    Reply
  • August 6, 2013 at 4:14 am
    Permalink

    wizard of Oz brought ME here,

    Reply
  • August 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm
    Permalink

    Because in a few years' time, whatever digital format it is stored in will have been outdated and probably corrupted.
    The 35 mm copy – that you can't see the point of – will survive. And, kept in the right conditions, it could continue to survive for another ten centuries.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm
    Permalink

    You should read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. He discusses something called 'punctum', the overwhelming sense of mortality when looking at a photo or film. It's very moving!

    Reply
  • August 27, 2013 at 11:07 pm
    Permalink

    Tecmundo

    Reply
  • September 1, 2013 at 2:19 am
    Permalink

    Probably it had to be copied to 35mm first to be able to use a proper film scanner to digitalize it. Also, The color could be perfectly corrected, however, it would change the results from the original technology. The raw imperfect material is far more important than the content of the movie.

    Reply
  • September 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm
    Permalink

    Incrível como naquela tempos já existia filme colorido

    Reply
  • October 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm
    Permalink

    All early colour films using an additive RGB process (even really early two colour RG films) suffer from colour fringing.

    Reply
  • November 5, 2013 at 11:46 pm
    Permalink

    The quality is amazing !!!!

    Reply
  • November 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm
    Permalink

    You're totally missing the point. The point is that physical film – that exists in the real world – survives. Digital data is entirely too vulnerable. It's a very, very bad idea to have digital-only archives.

    Reply
  • March 3, 2014 at 10:49 pm
    Permalink

    This is so wonderful, the combination of such an amazing find by and the knowledge and patience of Mr Pritchard and Mr Cleveland lead to a gift for the entire world.  🙂

    Reply
  • April 1, 2014 at 9:38 pm
    Permalink

    Aaah so he placed a color spinning wheel in front of a b&w camera to capture each frame with a red, green and blue filter, HOWEVER any motion will cause rainbow artifacts because of the slow speed camera and color wheel, also projecting the images in real time in full color is NOT easy, because the color filter has to be lined up in sych with fhe same color filter from the  camera, sothat each frame will have it's matched color,but requires more tweaking the color projector in nano seconds to get the job done,some has to try it out.

    Reply
  • July 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm
    Permalink

    The color wheel at 2:57 rotates in the wrong direction…

    Reply
  • January 30, 2015 at 12:28 am
    Permalink

    I guess that when a red filter was placed on the b&w camera, that it causes an chemical reaction on the film diodes,and the same thing with green and blue filters,and once those b&w filtered frames were taken out and scanned in another film at the standard order,with each frame filtered with it's corresponding filter with a light bulb,i guess that it again causes an chemical reaction on the foto diodes of the other film,and that even during digitizing,those shock signal pattern remain in tact,sothat once they were digitally applied with the right filter & combined together,that those colors magically appear to live after 110 years of waiting to be recovered ,but i think his projector could,ve work if he tweaked it in synch with the camera speed.

    Reply
  • January 31, 2015 at 1:08 pm
    Permalink

    I assume that it is an chemical reactionof those foto diodes,once those pictures were recaptured for a modern projector, each foto was taken from the gate with it's corresponding color filter along with a light bulp,my idea is that this may also work with b&w images because each part of those images shut retain some color traces,so what if we shine a light bulp trough those images to force a chemical reaction in those foto diodes along with 3 rgb color filter one after another,then put those 3 filtered images together to get color,my voice say's that all b&w images,video's have traces of color information left.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2016 at 7:01 am
    Permalink

    Surely you could of just wound the tape through at a set speed and get the camera to take a photo at the time the frame is centered or record the film going through and use software to automatically/manually cut out any irrelevant parts. Unless this was done before the 1990's then I guess my point is mute.

    Reply
  • February 26, 2018 at 10:58 am
    Permalink

    I apologize if my question sounds silly or has already been answered, but couldn't we restore and use one of Turner's own projectors and then try the original films on that?

    That would make for a more faithful playback of his recordings, I think.

    Reply
  • March 9, 2018 at 8:08 pm
    Permalink

    So many things changed since 100 years ago it's disheartening

    Reply
  • November 1, 2018 at 10:11 am
    Permalink

    So the first color film isn't from 1902 but 2nd quarter of 1901 and is the knightsbridge of London.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2018 at 8:07 pm
    Permalink

    i loved seeing world war 2 or 1 in color on TV, (thats the shows title i think) it was cool & vibrant!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *