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steve2470

(37,461 posts)
Wed Dec 28, 2022, 03:10 PM Dec 2022

Sincere ignorant, admittedly, question about black and white film and still photos 1939 to 1945

Hello all,

I put this question here because it is related to American History, specifically American involvement in World War Two.

As most (or all) of you know, still photographs and movies taken in World War Two are overwhelmingly in black and white. I would put a rough estimate at 99%.

There are color still photos and films, of course. I have seen some of them.

Question: Was color "still photo" film and movie film too expensive and/or scarce during that time period ? I admit, I have not done an exhaustive internet search for the answer. I figured someone here would know the answer instantly. That is a wonderful thing about DU. We have so many highly intelligent and well-educated patrons here.

Thank you for your responses !

Steve

7 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Sincere ignorant, admittedly, question about black and white film and still photos 1939 to 1945 (Original Post) steve2470 Dec 2022 OP
I have no answer for you.. but hope that there are DU folks out there who can help! secondwind Dec 2022 #1
Well, this fact re: color broadcasts and tv should give you a start: hlthe2b Dec 2022 #2
Color was expensive and slow. mahatmakanejeeves Dec 2022 #3
Cost was a factor... but it was more than that FBaggins Dec 2022 #4
Color film was slow, as in needed a LOT of light, and the process was cumbersome. AndyS Dec 2022 #5
I watch old Ozzie and Harriet tv shows from the early 50s..they were sponsered by KODAK samnsara Dec 2022 #6
Color film was difficult to process. - ADD Grumpy Old Guy Dec 2022 #7

hlthe2b

(103,678 posts)
2. Well, this fact re: color broadcasts and tv should give you a start:
Wed Dec 28, 2022, 03:21 PM
Dec 2022

Television broadcasting stations and networks in most parts of the world upgraded from black-and-white to color transmission between the 1960s and the 1980s. The invention of color television standards was an important part of the history and technology of television. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_television


Likewise, color photography did not really take hold until the 1970s. The color pigmentation in early film photography was not very stable, so black and white persisted even beyond the time you might expect.

mahatmakanejeeves

(58,823 posts)
3. Color was expensive and slow.
Wed Dec 28, 2022, 03:23 PM
Dec 2022
Kodachrome

{snip}

Launch and later history



Ciné-Kodak Kodachrome 8mm movie film (expired: May 1946).

Kodachrome was first sold in 1935 as 16 mm movie film with an ASA speed of 10 and the following year it was made available as 8 mm movie film, and in 35mm and 828 formats for still cameras.

{snip}

FBaggins

(27,339 posts)
4. Cost was a factor... but it was more than that
Wed Dec 28, 2022, 03:28 PM
Dec 2022

Consider how long we've had reasonable-quality 3D motion picture technology.

Sure... it adds to the production expense. But there's also a limited audience for it (and a limited genre of films for which it fits). Would an archivist/historian use it much today?

AndyS

(14,559 posts)
5. Color film was slow, as in needed a LOT of light, and the process was cumbersome.
Wed Dec 28, 2022, 06:15 PM
Dec 2022

Kodachrome and Agfachrome were essentially B&W film in three layers. Each layer was exposed to a different color light, ie, red green and blue. The silver grains were then bleached out and replaced with a dye. The upside was the dye was almost as permanent as silver, the downside was that the film had to be developed three times. The process was expensive as you can imagine.

B&W film was much faster, as in could capture images in poor conditions, and permanent. Properly processed a B&W print will yield useful information after 2000 years. If Jesus was a real person and if we had a B&W snapshot of him his likeness would still be recognizable.

Later color processes were terrible for permanence, only lasting a few years before losing color and fading.

Modern digital imaging is about as permanent as it gets as it's just ones and zeros that can be stored in a myriad of ways. The actual pictures printed for display will last about 30-50 years depending on how they are displayed BUT the 1s & 0s will last to infinity and can be reproduced without degradation.

samnsara

(17,882 posts)
6. I watch old Ozzie and Harriet tv shows from the early 50s..they were sponsered by KODAK
Wed Dec 28, 2022, 07:16 PM
Dec 2022

.....and they advertise the new color film.... and the new movie cameras. The cameras back then were quite expensive if you adjust for inflation. So maybe it as the camera and not the film that people couldnt afford. I personally enjoy the b/w old photos the most. Color seemed to wash out after awhile

Grumpy Old Guy

(3,338 posts)
7. Color film was difficult to process. - ADD
Thu Dec 29, 2022, 01:16 PM
Dec 2022

As Andy stated above, the processing was very difficult. Chemical temperatures had to be about plus or minus 1°. It remained that way well into the 80s, until Cibachrome came along for color printing. B&W was a lot more tolerant of temperature variations.

That was the beauty of those one hour photo processing machines that were developed in the early eighties. They automatically controlled the process so that anyone could run them and get good results. I spent a fortune in those places. Getting color photos back in an hour seemed like a miracle to me.

B&W was a lot less expensive. I used to buy it in 100 ft. Rolls and load it into the 35mm film cannisters myself. I figured that it cost me about one cent a frame to purchase, develop and print proof sheets.

An interesting side note: 35mm cameras were developed to use the same film stock that was produced for the motion picture industry. Prior to that most photos were shot with 4x5 and 8x10 film sheets, 120 film (6x6 cm), or similar formats. 35mm SLRs really became popular in the U.S. during the Korean War when G.I.s brought them home from Japan. I believe Leica rangefinder cameras were in use during WWII. I think Robert Capa was using a Leica at Normandy Beach, but I could be wrong.

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