ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors. Bridging the Gap Between Technology and Aesthetics

Summary

Project Leader and Principal Investigator

Research Team

Research Management:

Software Development:

  • BSc Gaudenz Halter, Software Developer film color analysis, video annotation and crowdsourcing platform VIAN, in collaboration with Visualization and MultiMedia Lab of Prof. Dr. Renato Pajarola, University of Zurich, (Enrique G. Paredes, PhD; Rafael Ballester-Ripoll, PhD) since July 2017
  • BSc Noyan Evirgen, also in ollaboration with Visualization and MultiMedia Lab, 03.2017–01.2018

Student Assistants, Film Analyses:
Manuel Joller, Ursina Früh, Valentina Romero

 

Abstract

Film is in essence colored light projected onto a screen. Its aesthetics is thus highly determined by the material properties of film and the optical configuration of the cinematic apparatus. To this day, however, there is no systematic study of the relationship between the technology and aesthetics of film colors, despite the fact that, following the digital turn in film production and distribution, the understanding of this relationship is more essential than ever before. 

Over 200 film color processes were developed since the invention of film. They are presented on the Timeline of Historical Film Colors, which has been an integral part of the project. The groundbreaking nature of this project lies in a truly interdisciplinary research design with a novel methodology to explore the interaction of technological advances and limitations with film color aesthetics, identifying diachronic patterns of stylistic means. To this end the team has been developing tools through recent advancements in digital humanities for crowd-sourcing of color analyses of large groups of films. 

In-depth studies of technical papers and scientific measurements of film colors investigate the technical and material basis of films’ aesthetic appearance. These insights have been applied to the digitization and restoration of historical films to explore and disseminate the results. While every serious art restoration connects scientific analyses with art-historical and aesthetic investigations, a similar approach is rarely applied to film. 

VIAN

 

 

Online Publications

 

Presentations

 

Restoration Case Studies

Completed Restoration Case Studies

Münchhausen (GER 1943, Josef von Báky) is one of the most important films in the then newly invented Agfacolor process, produced in the Third Reich to showcase the superiority of German technology in the framework of highly entertaining film classic.

 

For this restoration, supervised by Anke Wilkening for the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation and executed by ARRI Media in Munich, the PI executed an overall analysis consisting of the documentation of several original Agfacolor prints, surviving black-and-white separation masters and camera negatives to devise the very complex overall workflow for the reconstruction of the heavily faded colors and to establish the color scheme for the color grading, while research scientist Dr. Giorgio Trumpy executed colorimetric measurements and material analyses. The newly restored version premieres at the International Munich Film Festival in June 2017 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the German production company UFA.

Mother Nature Father Time (USA 1965) is a Scopitone Technicolor dye transfer print provided by the Lichtspiel Kinemathek in Berne. The research team executed the full workflow with their newly installed film scanner, software and hardware.

Web of Love (USA 1966) is a Scopitone Technicolor dye transfer print provided by the Lichtspiel Kinemathek in Berne. The research team also executed the full workflow with their newly installed film scanner, software and hardware.

Trouville, la reine des plages (FRA 1923) is a very rare stencil colored Pathé Baby 9.5 mm film provided by the Lichtspiel Kinemathek in Berne. The research team also executed the full digitization and restoration workflow with their newly installed film scanner, software and hardware.

Thüringen, das grüne Herz Deutschlands (GER 1940), early Agfacolor Kulturfilm, from the Collection of Deutsches Filminstititut DIF Frankfurt am Main (scientific analysis and color consulting), executed by Haghefilm Digitaal, Amsterdam under the supervision of Anke Mebold.

Frühling in den Vogesen (GER 1942), early Agfacolor Kulturfilm, from the Collection of Deutsches Filminstititut DIF Frankfurt am Main (scientific analysis and color consulting), executed by Haghefilm Digitaal, Amsterdam under the supervision of Anke Mebold.

Märkische Fahrt (GER 1942, Kurt Rupli) early Agfacolor Kulturfilm, from the Collection of Filminstititut DIF Frankfurt am Main (scientific analysis and color consulting), executed by Haghefilm Digitaal, Amsterdam under the supervision of Anke Mebold.

Grosse Freiheit Nr. 7 (GER 1944, Helmut Käutner) early Agfacolor feature film, color consulting for the restoration supervised by Anke Wilkening for the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation and executed by ARRI Media in Munich.

Maibowle (GDR 1959, Günter Reisch), Agfacolor Safety Print, Filmmuseum Potsdam.

Unfallschutz-Zeichentrickfilm] (ČSSR ), Orwocolor Reversal Print, Filmmuseum Potsdam.

[Berlin Nikolaiviertel] (GDR 1986), Orwochrom UT15 Reversal Print, Filmmuseum Potsdam.

Maschinisten der Kohleveredelung (GDR 1988, Horst Klein), Orwochrom Reversal Print, Filmmuseum Potsdam.

[Neue Turmspitze auf Oberkirche Cottbus] (GDR 1988), Orwochrom UK3 Reversal Print, Filmmuseum Potsdam.

[Pfingsten 1981] (GDR 1981), Orwochrom UT15 and UK 17 Reversal Print, Filmmuseum Potsdam.

Excursion dans la vallée de la Vésubie [Schweizer Bilderbogen] (FRA 1912) stencil colored nitrate film from the collection of the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin.

Lea aus dem Süden (GDR 1963, Gottfried Kolditz) Agfacolor film from the holdings of the Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv in Berlin, copyrights DEFA foundation Berlin. Complete workflow negative and positive, scientific analysis.

[Kestrel og ugler] (no year) tinted and toned nitrate film from the holdings of the National Library of Norway. Complete workflow negative and positive, scientific analysis.

[Pathé forvandlingsakt] (FRA 1905-1909) Pathéchrome film from the holdings of the National Library of Norway. Complete workflow negative and positive, scientific analysis.

Marcantonio e Cleopatra (ITA 1913, Enrico Guazzoni) tinted nitrate film from the holdings of the National Library of Norway.

 Münchhausen (Josef von Báky, Germany 1943)

 

Restoration Case Studies in Progress

[Tänze] (1920s) tinted and toned nitrate compilation film, from the Collection of Deutsches Filminstititut DIF Frankfurt am Main.

Cajus Julius / Cajus Julius Caesar (ITA 1914, Enrico Guazzoni) tinted and toned nitrate film from the holdings of the Norwegian Film Institute.

Un délire hallucinatoire - psychose systématique chronique (FRA 1961, Éric Duvivier; Albert Luzuy). Kodachrome A & Ektachrome. In collaboration with Université de Strasbourg. From the holdings of Image'Est.

Phobie d'impulsion (FRA 1967, Éric Duvivier; Albert Luzuy). Kodachrome II. In collaboration with Université de Strasbourg. From the holdings of Image'Est.

Hallucinations: Images du monde visionnaire (FRA 1963, Éric Duvivier; Henri Michaux). Kodachrome II. In collaboration with Université de Strasbourg. From the holdings of Image'Est.