Nowadays, it feels like a novelty to see a movie in black and white. We are so used to watching movies in color that it's become second nature. But when was the first color movie ever made? And when did that happen, after color photography was invented?
The history of color film goes back over 100 years in motion pictures and used some interesting chemical processes to produce the images. Right up top, I'll dispel the rumor that The Wizard of Oz was the first color movie. It was not. Not even close.
The film color palette you choose in your film matters. So why not learn more about the way we got this process?
Today, we're going to look at the first movie to use color. We'll dig deep into color photography and even look at when the first color TV came out. We're going to race through history and cover color film in every aspect.
Ready? Let's learn a little film history.
'West Side Story'Credit: 20th Century Studios
When Was Color Photography Invented?
If it feels like color photography has been around for a long time, you're right. The three-color method was first suggested in an 1855 paper by a Scottish physicist named James Clerk Maxwell.
That built the foundation for color photography, which officially came about when Thomas Sutton produced a color photo for Maxwell's lecture in 1861.
Of course, the process for color photography changed over the years, but it has become the dominant force in photography. As color photography took over, people were clamoring for it to appear in film. But first, they had to invent some coloring techniques.
Physicist James Clerk Maxwell's 'The Color Tartan Ribbon'Credit: OpenCulture
What Are Color Movies?
Color movies are so ubiquitous they can be hard to define. But the best way to think of them is the fulfillment of film entertainment. Back in the day, making film into color was expensive, but as technology got better it became the standard process.
In the present, it's hard to imagine releasing a movie in black and white without some sort of larger artistic motion behind doing it. And with the rise in shooting digitally, many things are shot in color and then turned black and white in post.
'Frances Ha'Credit: IFC Films
The History of Film Color in Movies
When it comes to commercially produced color films, A Visit to the Seaside (1908) was the first commercially produced film in natural color. It was an eight-minute British short film that used the Kinemacolor process to capture seafront shots.
Aside from that, we have to take into account the hand-colored scenes. These were painted frames that were in early movies, like La Vie et la passion de Jésus Christ (1903).
With Our King and Queen Through India (1912) is the first full-length natural color documentary. And The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1914) represented the first feature-length narrative film in natural color to date.
When Was Color Film Invented?
The truth is, we had color film shortly after film was invented, but it was a rudimentary and very expensive process. The first color cinematography was accomplished by additive color systems.
This was scaled up and commercialized in 1909 as Kinemacolor. These early systems used black-and-white film to photograph and project two or more component images through different color filters.
The first movie ever made in natural process color was The World, the Flesh and the Devil, produced in 1914. The feature-length is now considered a lost film. It was also the first feature-length film to use the Kinemacolor process.
Circling back to the beginning, when it comes to the first full-color movie ever made, The Wizard of Oz actually does rank as the first movie to be filmed in color using Technicolor.
What Was the First Movie with Color?
The first color film is generally believed to be made by Thomas Edison in 1903. It was called The Great Train Robbery, but only a few scenes actually contained color images.
The first movie ever made in color was the famous French short film called A Trip to the Moon from 1902. It was directed by Georges Méliès, got a full-color update, and was reshot and remade many times.
So how did A Trip to the Moon use color? Well, it employed the “Photokinema” process, where a series of photographs are shown over a short period to create an animation effect on screen. It was basically stop motion, with individual colored frames.
When Did Color TV Come Out?
The world's first public color TV service began in the USA in 1954, but it was slow to be adopted. In fact, it took nearly a decade for homes in the USA to make the switch to color TVs. Television broadcasting stations and networks upgraded from black-and-white to color transmission between the 1960s and the 1980s across the world.
For a while, the only place to see media in color was at the movies, but as color TVs became the rage, that war was won in the long run by television.
When was color TV invented?Credit: Lithub
Summing Up "What Was the First Color Movie Ever Made?"
The color process in color motion pictures has been a long and complicated one. What grew from the photography of flowers and trees became red and green filters on slides and, eventually, digitized color images.
Want to learn more? Check out the difference between color grading and color correction.
The motion picture film industry now makes color the standard by which it measures new releases. We've seen what so many directors and cinematographers can do with the color process as technology advances. Where will this industry go next?
Let us know what you think in the comments.