What is believed to be the world’s first color film footage has been discovered hiding out at the UK’s National Media Museum. The footage was found by curator Michael Harvey and had been in the Museum’s collection for more than half a century, but no one knew the importance of the film that lay sitting inside that dusty tin.
The footage was filmed by Edward Raymond Turner as far back as 1902 and includes images of his children, marching soldiers and some birds. In 1899, Turner patented his 3-color process with support of American entrepreneur Charles Urban. However Turner died just 4 years later of a heart attack at the incredibly young age of 29. He had been working as a photographer since his early teens.
Urban went on to explore Turner’s process and in 1909 he launched the 2-color Kinemacolor system. Prior to Harvey’s discovery of Turner’s test reel, it had been thought that Urban’s Kinemacolor films were the world’s first naturally colored footage.
Because Turner’s reel was shot in a non-standard format larger than 35mm, it took a great deal of effort to restore the film and transfer it into a format that could be viewed on a projector. Harvey worked alongside film archive experts Brian Pritchard and David Cleveland to run the frames through color filters (following Turner’s instructions) and using a custom-built gate, they carefully transferred them to 35mm film. The British Film Institute then digitized the footage.
Those working on the Turner’s footage, hailed it as an amazing find, stating that a little bit of cinema history had been re-written.