Handschiegl color process

The Handschiegl color process (U.S. Patent 1,303,836, U.S. Patent 1,303,837, App: Nov 20, 1916, Iss: May 13, 1919) produced motion picture film prints with color artificially added to selected areas of the image. Aniline dyes were applied to a black-and-white print using gelatin imbibition matrices.

History of the process

The process was invented in 1916 for Cecil B. DeMille's production of Joan the Woman (1917) by engraver Max Handschiegl and partner Alvin W. Wyckoff, with assistance from Loren Taylor. All three were technicians at the studio where the film was shot, Famous Players-Lasky, later Paramount Studios. The system was originally advertised as the "Wyckoff" process, and later referred to in publicity as the "DeMille-Wyckoff" process.

For a time, the process was strictly used for Paramount releases only, but when Handschiegl and Wyckoff left Famous Players-Lasky, the process became known as the Handschiegl Color Process. Aside from Pathé's stencil process Pathéchrome, the Handschiegl process was the most widely used form of artificial coloring in motion pictures of the 1920s.

Overview of how the process worked

Handschiegl described the invention thus: A separate, black-and-white print for each color to be applied was made. Using an opaque paint, portions of the image where color was to be applied were blocked out. A duplicate negative was made from the painted print and developed in a tanning developer, which hardened the gelatin layer where it had been exposed and developed. Those areas corresponding to the blocked out areas on the print remained relatively soft and capable of taking up dye. This dyed matrix film was brought into contact, in accurate register, with a positive print, to which the dye transferred in the appropriate areas. The print made several passes through the dye transfer machines, in contact with a separate matrix for each color. Usually, three colors were applied at the most.

Surviving examples of the process show that this technique was not always used. In some examples, stencils or simple hand coloring were employed. The process used most likely depended on variables such as speed and budget.

Later years

The Handschiegl process was incorporated as part of Kelley Color in 1927 when Handschiegl and William Van Doren Kelley (inventor of Prizma) formed the company. In 1928, Kelley Color was, in turn, bought by Harriscolor.

Known examples of Handschiegl color

See also


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