This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss is the supervisor of the National Archives’ Motion Picture Preservation Lab.
You might remember a fun little post last summer about the Yellowstone Kodacolor discovered within a National Park Accession deposited with NARA in 2012.
The Yellowstone Kodacolor is one 453’ reel of 16mm “reversal.” An early reversal color home movie format produced by Kodak, Kodacolor only existed for a handful of years, beginning in 1928, until it was replaced by the much more successful Kodachrome in 1935. 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 then had to be projected back through a similar color filter. In the case of the “Yellowstone Kodacolor” we believe it may be the first color home movie footage of Yellowstone National Park.
The National Archives worked with Video Film Solutions using a software program that was able to decode the color information hidden within Kodacolor. The software that was developed at VFS specifically to decode the color from Kodacolor has amazing registration and reflects the scene as it was originally photographed. Tests completed with the process showed improved results in saturation and color channel registration over traditional photochemical methods. Now that the final rendering has been delivered we see that the results are astounding. The colors are vibrant and the characteristics of the original Kodacolor, such as the vertical lenticular lines and slight ghosting of residual colors, within film is also retained.
You can see the fully restored film here as well as a side by side clip comparison of the before/ after.
Once again, NARA would like to thank the National Film Preservation Foundation for awarding NARA a grant for the preservation of this film. We would also like to thank Tommy Aschenbach of Video Film Solutions for developing the software and putting in all of the time and effort to preserve the content of this film.