A Serpentine Dance

Danse serpentine

Auguste and Louis Lumière, France, 1896


Early film tinting techniques saw colour spread uniformly across all of the shot, as the film was actually dipped in to a bath of colour. The more refined process of tinting by brush, and later stencil, consisted of painting specific areas of the film, image by image, frame by frame. In this film, shot in a single take, the material that the dancer waves in the air is coloured, morphing through the colours as the shot progresses. To colour the film like this was a long and painstaking task. Each frame of the developed film was painted by hand with a very fine brush. A stencil work process saved time in layering the colours on to the film, one after the other, following a stencil cut out with areas to colour.

For this Serpentine Dance, inspired by the a routine of Loie Fuller, a celebrated dancer of the time, the shot was certainly coloured by hand, as the continuous movement of the fabric would not have allowed the use of a stencil.