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Who made the first Colour movie?


The first color motion picture was made by Edward Raymond Turner in 1902. Turner was a British pioneer of filmmaking and applied for a patent for his three-color additive color film process in 1899. He successfully filmed the first color motion pictures in 1902 using his patent process. So Edward Raymond Turner is credited with creating the world’s first color motion picture in 1902, over 30 years before the introduction of Technicolor.

When was the first color movie made?

The first color movie was made in 1902 by Edward Raymond Turner. He filmed test reels of motion pictures in color using his patented three-color additive color process that same year. This was over 30 years before the introduction of Technicolor in the 1930s, which is often credited as the first color film process. So the first color motion pictures were successfully filmed and projected in 1902.

What was the first color film process called?

The first color film process was Edward Raymond Turner’s three-color additive color process that he patented in 1899 and first used to make motion pictures in color in 1902. Turner’s process involved filming three strips of black-and-white negatives each through a different color filter – red, green and blue. The three color records were then projected through filters of the same colors and superimposed on the projection screen, synthesizing the original colors by additive color mixing. This pioneering color process predated Technicolor by over 30 years.

How did Turner’s color film process work?

Turner’s three-color additive color process worked by:

  1. Filming three separate records (strips of negatives) of a scene through three filters – red, green and blue.
  2. Processing each negative record separately in black-and-white.
  3. Projecting the three records through the same color filters used for filming and superimposing the projected images accurately on a screen.
  4. The red, green and blue light mixes additively to synthesize the original colors of the scene.

So by analyzing and reconstructing color using red, green and blue records, Turner’s process was an early example of color photography and cinematography.

Why was Turner’s color process revolutionary?

Turner’s three-color process was revolutionary and a major breakthrough because:

  • It was the first color film process that recorded color photographs and motion pictures.
  • It predated Technicolor by over 30 years and pioneered color cinematography.
  • It was the foundation for future color films and processes using color analysis and synthesis.
  • It successfully reproduced a wide spectrum of colors by additive mixing of primary red, green and blue colors.
  • It proved that accurate color motion pictures were possible, paving the way for their commercial development.

Turner’s three-color technique was the genesis for all future color film and video processes right through to digital color today.

Why is Turner’s first color film not well known?

Despite his pioneering breakthrough, Turner’s first color film is not well known for a couple of reasons:

  • Turner was not able to successfully screen the film for audiences at the time, as he died in 1903 at a young age.
  • The primitive process had technical challenges with successfully aligning the three color records in projection.
  • It was another 30 years before color films became commercially viable with Technicolor in the 1930s.
  • Technicolor became associated with the first major color films, overshadowing Turner’s early achievements.

So while Turner designed the first color film process and filmed test reels, he was never able to showcase it to audiences due to his untimely death and the limitations of the period.

What happened to Turner’s first color film footage?

Unfortunately, Turner’s original color film footage from 1902 no longer exists. Some key points:

  • Only short test films were produced as demonstrations of the color process.
  • Turner died in 1903 shortly after filming them.
  • The primitive process made preserving and copying the films difficult.
  • The three color records were on separate negatives which degraded at different rates.
  • Some black-and-white prints may have survived till the 1940s but have since been lost.

So despite its historical significance, no copies of Turner’s pioneering color film have survived. Only written reports and patents document his breakthrough invention.

When did Technicolor become the first commercial color film?

While Turner experimented with color film in 1902, the first commercial color film process was Technicolor, which emerged in the early 1930s.

  • 1922 – Technicolor developed a 2-color process but it had limitations.
  • 1932 – First full-length Technicolor film “Becky Sharp” released.
  • 1935 – Improved 3-strip Technicolor eliminated color fringing problems.
  • Late 1930s – Technicolor became widely used for major Hollywood productions.

So while Turner pioneered color film, Technicolor made the first commercially viable color films widely seen by audiences in the 1930s.

How did Technicolor improve upon Turner’s process?

Technicolor improved upon Turner’s early color process in a few key ways:

  • Used special beam-splitter cameras to record red, green and blue records simultaneously on three strips of film.
  • Developed color matrices and filters that improved color rendition.
  • Implemented dye transfer printing to better align color records for projection.
  • Refined color analysis and calibration to standardize color reproduction.
  • Had advanced projection filters and mechanisms for registration.

So Technicolor built upon Turner’s concepts but overcame many of the technical limitations to make high quality color films practical.


While Edward Raymond Turner developed the pioneering idea of photographic color analysis and synthesis, his untimely death prevented him from screening the first full color films for audiences. The Technicolor company later overcame the significant technical obstacles and successfully brought commercially viable color films to theaters in the 1930s. So Turner deserves the credit for inventing the concepts behind color motion pictures, even though his work remained obscure for decades until Technicolor’s achievements. His overlooked accomplishments are now rightly recognized for their visionary role in founding the field of color cinematography as we know it today.