How Technicolor Changed Movies

Nowadays we only know movies in color. The color in the film is so taken for granted that we hardly think about it. Color gives a movie mood and structure. Color amplifies the message of a movie and appeals to our emotions. Vox takes a deep dive into the history and impact of Technicolor.

Technicolor’s story began over a century years ago, when the colors were still hand painted onto the actual film. With this very elaborate technique color was added to films from 1896 to 1905. Technicolor wasn’t a type of color film; instead, it was a process in which a specially modified motion picture camera recorded the same scene through colored filters on three different strips of film. These strips were then processed separately and used to “print” colors onto each finished print of the film sent to theaters. If a movie studio wanted to make a film in Technicolor, it had to lease the company’s unique movie cameras as well as a team of two experts to help operate the complicated machine.

People often say that the thing they remember most about The Wizard of Oz is its bright, vibrant color. The yellow brick road, the ruby slippers, and Emerald City are so richly saturated with color on screen that it is hard to imagine the film without it. Contrary to a common misconception, Oz was not the first film made in color, but it was one of the first to prove that color could add fantasy and draw audiences to theaters.