Multicolor

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Multicolor scene from Animal Crackers
This article is about the use of multiple colors in cinema. For multicolor in textiles, see Pied (multicolor).

Multicolor is a subtractive natural color process for motion pictures. Multicolor, introduced to the motion picture industry in 1929, was based on the earlier Prizma Color process, and was the forerunner of Cinecolor.

For a Multicolor film, a scene is shot with a normal camera capable of bipacking film. Two black-and-white 35 mm film negatives are threaded bipack in the camera. One records the color red (via a dyed panchromatic film), and the other, blue (orthochromatic). In printing, duplitized stock is exposed and processed with one record on each side. In a tank of toning solution, the film is floated upon the top of the solution with the appropriate chemical. The cyan record is toned a complementary red with a copper ferrocyanide solution, and the red being toned blue/cyan with ferric ferrocyanide solution. The effect is a duotone color system, lacking the primary color of green. However, to most, the lacking colors do not seem to leave unnatural color, largely due to optical illusion.

Multicolor enjoyed brief success in early sound pictures. The following features included sequences in Multicolor: This Thing Called Love (1929), His First Command (1929), Red Hot Rhythm (1929), Sunny Side Up (1929), Married In Hollywood (1929), Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 (1929), The Great Gabbo (1929), New Movietone Follies of 1930 (1930) and Delicious (1931). All of these features were produced by Fox Film Corporation except for The Great Gabbo.

A sequence in Hell's Angels (1930) was filmed in Multicolor, but printed by Technicolor, as Multicolor could not yet supply as large a demand of printings in such a short amount of time. Multicolor was also utilized in several cartoons of the era.

A 15-second, behind-the-scenes clip in Multicolor of the Marx Brothers filmed on the set of Animal Crackers (1930) exists as part of a Cinecolor short subject entitled Wonderland of California. The first feature filmed entirely in Multicolor was The Hawk (1931), which was re-released five years later in Cinecolor as Phantom of Santa Fe. In 1932, the next (and final) all Multicolor feature, Tex Takes A Holiday (1932), was released.

The Multicolor plant closed in 1932 and their equipment was bought by Cinecolor in 1933.

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