Edward Raymond Turner

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Edward Raymond Turner
Edward Raymond Turner (photographer).jpg
Clevedon, Somerset, England
Died9 March 1903(1903-03-09) (aged 29–30)
London, England
OccupationFilm maker, inventor
Known forproducing the first color motion picture film

Edward Raymond Turner (1873 – 9 March 1903) was a pioneering British inventor and cinematographer. He produced the earliest known colour motion picture film footage.[1]


Turner was born in 1873 in Clevedon, North Somerset, UK.[2] In later life, Raymond and his wife Edith lived near the centre of Hounslow in West London. Some of Turner's colour film experiments were carried out in the back garden of this house in Montague Road and showed his three young children, Alfred, Agnes and Wilfrid.[3]

Turner was only 29 when he died suddenly at his workshop on 9 March 1903 of a heart attack.[4] He was buried 3 days later in the churchyard of St Leonard's parish church, Heston, Hounslow.[5] Following his death, film producer, Charles Urban, who had been financing Turner, asked George Albert Smith to continue his work.

Lee–Turner colour process[edit]

Still from footage recorded by Edward Turner in 1902

Turner is noted for his attempts to develop what is believed to be the first actually implemented colour motion picture system, initially with financial backing from Frederick Marshall Lee, then later from Charles Urban.[6][7]

On 22 March 1899, while Turner was employed in the London workshop of colour photography pioneer Frederic E. Ives, Turner and Lee applied for a British patent on a 3-colour additive motion picture process. It was granted on 3 March 1900.[8] In September 1902,[9] Urban bought out Lee's interest and continued funding research and development.

Turner's camera used a rotating disk of three colour filters to photograph colour separations on one roll of black-and-white film. A red, green or blue-filtered image was recorded on each successive frame of film. The finished film print was projected, three frames at a time, through the corresponding colour filters.

The system suffered from two types of colour registration problems.

  • First, because the three frames had not been photographed at the same time, rapidly moving objects in the scene did not match up on the screen and appeared as a blurred jumble of false colours.
  • Second, and apparently much worse, mechanical instabilities in the system caused serious overall registration problems, so that the three superimposed images ceaselessly jittered and wove about relative to each other.[10][11]:42
Turner's three-colour projector, 1902

When Turner died in 1903, Urban passed on the development of the process to George Albert Smith in the hope of creating a commercially viable process. Smith however found the process unworkable, and instead developed Kinemacolor, a greatly simplified two-colour version that enjoyed a moderate commercial success for several years.[11]:118


Turner's role in the development of colour film technology was not widely appreciated until the UK's National Media Museum produced digital colour composites of his then 110-year-old test films and unveiled them publicly on 12 September 2012.[6]

The modern digital restoration allows present-day viewers to see a more successful combination of the three colour elements than was possible with the original mechanical projection system.[12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "World's first colour film footage viewed for first time". BBC News England. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Turner, Edward Raymond". PhotoLondon. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  3. ^ "The Race for Colour". BBC. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Edward Raymond Turner". Who's Who of Victorian Cinema. Retrieved 13 September 2012. Turner died of a heart attack at his workshop on 9 March 1903
  5. ^ St Leonard's parish church burial register | published: 1903. | Retrieved 6 December 2019
  6. ^ a b Hughes, Beth (12 September 2012). "We have discovered the world's first colour moving pictures". National Science and Media Museum blog. National Science and Media Museum. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  7. ^ Carlaw D (2020) Kent County Cricketers A to Z. Part One: 1806–1914 (revised edition), pp.325–326. (Available online at the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. Retrieved 21 December 2020.)
  8. ^ British Patent (B.P.) no. 6,202 (1899), 22 March 1899, 'Means for taking and exhibiting cinematographic pictures'.
  9. ^ Museum, National Science and Media (29 September 2012). "The first colour moving pictures: A timeline". National Science and Media Museum blog. Archived from the original on 13 May 2019. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  10. ^ Pritchard, B. (2012). "Lee-Turner Project with the National Media Museum". Archived at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  11. ^ a b Robert Allen Nowotny (1979). The Way of All Flesh Tones. University of Texas at Austin. ISBN 978-0-8240-5109-9. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  12. ^ Roberts, Christine (13 September 2012). "First-ever color movie found at Britain's National Media Museum in Bradford". NY Daily News. New York.
  13. ^ Martin Scorsese on world's first colour film discovery BBC 22 September 2012
  14. ^ BBC1 Documentary 'Race for Colour' on YouTube

External links[edit]