World's first colour film from 110 years ago viewed for first time

Film Colour Cleveland Pritchard
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"It's very significant indeed, it's the world's first natural colour film and the fact that it's a Brit who invented it is fantastic."

Bryony Dixon, curator of silent film at the British Film Institute (BFI) National Archives, said the 1902 footage was of international significance for the cinema world.

"There's something about watching film in colour that deceives you into believing it's more real, so to see this from 110 years ago adds something very substantial.

"It's really quite beautiful."

The films were made by Edward Raymond Turner from London who patented his colour process on 22 March, 1899. Some of the footage features Mr Turner's children in the garden of their home in Hounslow.

'Strange format'

Miss Dixon said the footage itself had been known about for some time, but the ability to now watch it was groundbreaking.

She said: "This is the earliest natural colour film in the world, not just the UK.

"There were colour films but they are not what we call 'natural colour' - producers were painting on the surface of the film from a very early time.

"This is definitely the first example of trying to get colour photographically or naturally, so it's very significant."

The reason it has taken so long to actually view it is the film's "strange" format.

Brian Pritchard and David Cleveland Brian Pritchard and David Cleveland built a special gate through which to project the film

Miss Dixon said: "It's 38 and a bit millimetres, which is larger than the standard 35mm, and it wouldn't work on any of the 35mm machines.

"You project it through spinning wheels, that's what creates the colour effect using a successive frame system."

It was so unusual that a specially-made gate, a mechanical device in projectors, had to be built, Miss Dixon added.

It was made by Brian Pritchard and David Cleveland, experts in early cinema apparatus.

"Because it was a non-standard size we couldn't just take it somewhere and have it printed, so we decided to make our own gate," Mr Pritchard said.

"The idea was that we would move the frame by hand one at a time and just copy each frame separately."

Mr Cleveland added that the process had been very difficult as it had to be held in the right position so that the frames matched each time.

"It took a long while, there was a lot of leaning over," he said ( via ).