World’s First Moving Colour Pictures

Lee and Turner Display

The Kodak Gallery on the Lower Ground Floor plays host to one of our most amazing discoveries – the earliest moving colour film.

In 1899, just five years after British audiences first saw moving pictures, Edward Turner, a photographer and, and Frederick Marshall Lee, his financial backer, patented the first colour moving picture process in Britain.

A complicated process, it involved photographing successive frames of black-and-white film through blue, green and red filters. Using a special projector (which you can see in the gallery) these were combined on a screen to produce full-colour images.

Turner died in 1903 and Charles Urban turned to early film pioneer, George Albert Smith, to perfect the process. After working on it for a year, Smith deemed Turner's process unworkable and it was abandoned in favour of his own, simpler, colour process. Marketed by Urban as Kinemacolor, this became the first commercially successful colour moving picture process and made a fortune.

Between 1901 and 1903 Turner had created a number of short test films which Urban kept. By using digital technology and following Turner's method exactly, we have been able to reveal the full-colour moving images on these films so that they can be seen for the first time in 110 years. You can watch the full footage in the Kodak Gallery or see edited highlights in the video above.

Download our Lee & Turner Timeline

To license the use of images or clips, please contact Science and Society Picture Library.

Thanks to

The National Media Museum thanks the following for their help and support in realising this project:

Brian Pritchard
David Cleveland
Roger Mortimer
Madeline Weller
Prime Focus

Special thanks to:
Yorkshire Film Archive and Screen Yorkshire - project partners for the restoration of the Lee and Turner collection.

Funded by Screen Heritage UK Programme:
A partnership between the British Film Institute, Screen Yorkshire and English Regional Film Archives, to safeguard the future of the UK's National and Regional Film Archives. Funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Screen Yorkshire, Yorkshire Film Archive, BFI