The National Media Museum in the U.K. announced today that it has discovered the world's first color moving pictures. The reels were found inside a museum vault, hidden inside an old tin dating back to 1899. The remarkable discovery is set to re-write the history of early film.
The color film was created by an Edwardian inventor named Edward Raymond Turner. During the 1890s, Turner worked with color photographs — something that in all likelihood inspired him to do the same with moving pictures. It was during this time that he learned about color separation, the process of breaking down images into red, green, and blue.
Initially, museum curator Michael Harvey thought the film was a failed attempt to produce color moving images. But on closer inspection he realized that Turner had stumbled upon a rather unique technique.
While the film appears black and white to the naked eye, each frame looks slightly different. This is because Turner captured each frame through a particular color filter, either red, green, or blue. And lucky for the restoration team, Turner was kind enough to mark the appropriate color on every single frame.
After converting the film to standard size, and applying the appropriate "color gate", the restorers were able to reproduce the color film in the same way intended by Turner.
It's worth noting that all colors which appear on the film have not been tinted, toned, or hand colored in any way.
The researchers suspect that Turner's technique was largely unsuccessful on account of his inability to develop a reliable play-back projector.
As for the content of the film, Turner's reels feature scenes with his family in the backyard waving sunflowers around, a girl on a swing, a rainbow-colored parrot, soliders marching, and a goldfish in a bowl.
Source: National Media Museum.