Autochromes Lumière


Rise and Fall

Filmcolor, Lumicolor, Alticolor: Flexible Support Versions
Over the years, the original Autochrome processes went through many improvements. Sensitivity was improved and the process was adapted to fit new cameras that were built for films of a smaller size. Any changes to the Autochrome system were nevertheless limited by the invariable dimensions of the potato starch particles that were fundamental to the additive system.
Louis Lumière once attempted to apply the Autochrome technique to 35mm movie film, proposing a version designed for the production of multiple copies that could be projected. Many short lengths of footage were produced, but the degree of enlargement required and the problems associated with printing were too difficult to overcome Paradoxically, the history of photography seems ultimately to have favoured the "pointillist" characteristics of the Autochrome, even though the sworn intention of its inventors was to conceal the coloured granules of the image as much as possible. The Lumière brothers had carried out a continous search for a means to meet the requirements of optical colour-mixture that had been defined at the end of the 19th century.

In  1931, the Lumière's launched the Filmcolor, which was meant to replace the Autochrome. Taking advantage of cinematographic developments, the Autochrome's glass plate, heavy and fragile, was replaced by a film support of cellulose nitrate. Though it was initially packaged as flat-film, Filmcolor became available in rolls for medium-sized cameras in 1933, under the name Lumicolor. The release of Alticolor, in 1952, presented a similar version but with even greater sensitivity than the original, ultimately perfecting the additive process that had been first marketed by the company many decades earlier. Unfortunately, his last evolution came too late and was never applied to the 35mm format, which marked a fundamental step in the evolution of photographic equipment.

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