Technicolor Camera

Technicolor Camera

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In "The Wizard of Oz", Dorothy's journey from Kansas to Oz is symbolized by a shift from black and white to Technicolor. This camera was one of several used to film the Oz scenes.
Invented in 1932, the Technicolor camera recorded on three separate negatives--red, blue and green--which were then combined to develop a full-color positive print. The box encasing the camera, a "blimp," muffled the machine's sound during filming.
The Early Color Cinema Equipment Collection [COLL.PHOTOS.000039] includes equipment, media and ephemera related to color motion pictures from the birth of the cinema to the mid twentieth century. This collection is comprised of 5 motion picture cameras, 3 movie projectors, more than 34 pieces of editing and other apparatus, more than 60 pieces of early color film and two notebooks illustrating the Technicolor process.
Reproducing natural color on film had been an industry goal since the earliest days of motion picture production, but it took several decades to perfect a technology for making movies in color. Motion picture directors often toned or hand-tinted monochromatic film in the industry’s early days to add life and emotion to their productions. Though movie producers continued to use toning and tinting, these costly and inefficient processes could never produce the full range of color that movie cameras failed to record. Therefore, innovators increasingly focused on the use of color filters during capture and projection to reproduce color detail.
Danish-American inventor August Plahn built and patented a camera and projector that split motion picture images through three color lenses using 70mm film. When the film, with three images printed across its width, was projected through the same colored filters, movies’ natural color was restored. The collection includes forty five short lengths of processed film and documents related to Plahn’s work as well as one camera, three projector heads and over seventy-five pieces of apparatus used by the engineer.
While Plahn had little success marketing his inventions, the Boston-based Technicolor Corporation effectively marketed their similar technology to become the industry standard. The color cinema collection includes four Technicolor cameras as well as over twenty-five pieces of equipment related to the Technicolor process and a book of photographs illustrating Technicolor film processing in a train car.
The Society of Motion Picture Engineers, the industry’s leading trade group, donated examples of a number of other early color film technologies, including Prizma, Kelley-line screen, Krayn Screen, Naturalcolor, Multicolor and Morgana color processes.
This finding aid is one in a series documenting the PHC’s Early Cinema Collection [COLL.PHOTOS.000018]. The cinema-related objects cover the range of technological innovation and popular appeal that defined the motion picture industry during a period in which it became the premier form of mass communication in American life, roughly 1885-1930. See also finding aids for Early Sound Cinema [COLL.PHOTOS.000040], Early Cinema Equipment [COLL.PHOTOS.000037], Early Cinema Film and Ephemera [COLL.PHOTOS.000038] and the Gatewood Dunston Collection [COLL.PHOTOS.000021].
Currently not on view (running boards)
Object Name
35mm technicolor Df-24
motion picture camera
date made
Technicolor Corporation
place made
United States: California, Los Angeles, Hollywood
Physical Description
asbestos insulation (inside blimp material)
steel (camera and blimp material)
blue (camera and blimp color)
steel (camera dolly material)
black (camer dolly color)
aluminum (matt box material)
leather (matt box trim material)
black (matt box and trim color)
handmade (overall production method/technique)
overall: 68 in x 106 in x 31 in; 172.72 cm x 269.24 cm x 78.74 cm
ID Number
catalog number
maker number
Patent No: 2,000,058
accession number
Credit Line
Technicolor Corporation
See more items in
Work and Industry: Photographic History
National Treasures exhibit
Popular Entertainment
Early Color Cinema Equipment Collection
Photo History Collection
Places of Invention
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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