July 30, 2014
National Archives Receives Prestigious Film Preservation Grant
Grant to fund preservation of early Kodacolor footage of Yellowstone National Park
Washington, DC…The National Film Preservation Foundation has awarded the National Archives a grant to preserve rare early Kodacolor motion picture footage of Yellowstone National Park—what could be the first-ever color footage of the Park and is quite likely the first color home movies of Yellowstone.
In fall 2012, the National Park Service in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, sent hundreds of boxes of records – including film reels -- to the National Archives. When the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab received the film for processing, staff discovered Yellowstone footage from 1930 that appeared to be black and white, but the words on the edge of the reel said, "KODACOLOR."
Kodacolor is black and white to the eye, but is color when projected through the proper filter. Kodacolor requires specialized technology to access the color hidden in the film. The Film Preservation Lab can photochemically preserve and/or digitally transfer Kodacolor in black and white, but cannot preserve it in the long-obsolete Kodacolor. Lab staff hoped to save the color information captured in the film using the best method possible – printing it back onto film – but it was not technically possible at the National Archives. Thanks to a National Film Preservation Foundation grant, a film copy will be generated directly from the decoded color file, and will be preserved and secured on film for posterity. For more information and a "before and after" Kodacolor example, read Lab supervisor Criss Kovac's blog post [http://blogs.archives.gov/unwritten-record/2014/07/24/kodacolor-decoded-early-color-footage-of-yellowstone-national-park].
An early reversal color home movie format produced by Kodak, Kodacolor only existed from 1928 until 1935, when it was replaced by the more successful Kodachrome. Kodacolor appears to the human eye as black and white images, but the base side of the film is embossed with hundreds of tiny lenses (called lenticules) that look like minuscule ridges on the surface of the film base. The lenticules captured the color information from the scene while it was filmed through a color filter with red, green, and blue-violet stripes. In order to see the color, the film had to be projected back through a similar color filter. Kodachrome had many advantages over Kodacolor because it was possible to create duplicates, did not require extra filters, and did not have vertical lines (lenticules) running through the image. (See more about how Kodacolor works and see pictures of the camera and projectors.)
The National Archives is an independent Federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of our nation, government, and the American people. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives, as the nation's record keeper, holds one of the world's largest moving image repositories, with more than 360,000 reels of motion picture film titles. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and online at www.archives.gov
The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America's film heritage. The NFPF is the charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. As of December 2013, the NFPF has supported film preservation in cultural institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico—efforts that are making available to the public more than 2,135 historically and culturally significant films. Films preserved through our programs range from one-reelers by Thomas Edison to avant-garde animation. Online at www.filmpreservation.org See a full list of 2014 awardees [www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/2014-federal-grant-winners].
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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.