For most of the 20th century, amateur films were shot in black-and-white and without sound. This gradually changed from the 1960s and 1970s onwards, when new possibilities for making colour and sound films emerged.
While both colour photography and filmmaking were available for amateurs in the early 1900s, they were rarely used because of their high cost and complicated production processes. Black-and-white photography and film persisted as the norm well into the 1960s.
Technically, colour photography and film involved either an additive or subtractive process. In the additive process, colour was reproduced by adding several colour filters to both the recorded and projected images. In the subtractive process, introduced in the 1930s, colours were not added but subtracted from light by using cyan, magenta and yellow dyes or pigments.
A roll of Kodacolor film, ca. 1931.
An ad from The Illustrated London News, June 8, 1929 issue, for the early color home movie process called Kodacolor. Source: Internet Archive
'Vondelpark', a 16mm Dufaycolor film made by amateur filmmaker Dick Laan. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
Kodacolor was one of the first colour films for amateur users, introduced by Kodak as a 16mm filmstock in 1928. It used an additive colour process, unlike the Kodachrome film introduced in 1935, which used a subtractive colour process. Even though Kodachrome was first released for 16mm film, it soon became available for 8mm film and 35mm slide photography as well. Other early colour films used by amateurs include the Agfacolor, Pathécolor and Fujichrome direct reversal films.
Amsterdam in colour ('Amsterdam in kleuren'), a portrait of Amsterdam city life in 1940, filmed in Agfacolor by the Dutch amateur filmmaker Piet Schendstok. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
In 1961, Kodak introduced Kodachrome II: an improved version of the earlier Kodachrome colour film. It featured a higher film speed and improved image quality. Kodachrome II, used later also in Super 8 filmmaking, developed into one of the most popular colour films of the 20th century.
A Kodachrome 40 colour film in a Super 8 cartridge.
'Schaatsen', Super 8 Kodachrome II colour film, made by Dutch amateur filmmaker Frits Huyse. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
With Super 8 film, the recording of colour films eventually became the norm. Super 8 film cartridges were initially even available in colour film only. Also, the arrival of colour television in 1967 and further advances in colour amateur photography contributed to the transition from black-and-white to colour in amateur film recording and screening practices.
Colour filmmaking resulted in new amateur recording practices and genres, such as the increased recording of flowers, gardens and other colourful objects and sceneries. The holiday film, a popular home movie genre, began to be increasingly shot in colour.
'Keukenhof', recordings of the Dutch flower fields, made by amateur filmmaker Hans Bartels in the 1950s. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
'Burfield', a film compilation of various scenes of flowers and gardens, the seaside, children at play, a school summer fete and 'still life' compositions, ca. 1936. Source: Screen Archive South East, United Kingdom
Advertisement for a 'Brownie Movie Camera', ca. 1961. Source: Internet Archive
As with the making of colour films, amateurs were already making films with sound in the early 20th century.
The first amateur sound film systems specifically designed for home use emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, for example the DeVry Cine-Ton projector (1928), Western Electronic Sound-on-Disc recording system (1930) and the RCA-Victor 16mm sound-on-film camera (1935). The RCA-Victor 16mm optical sound recording system was made to record the voice of the person behind the camera in particular. (See and hear an American 16mm sound home movie from 1936-1937 here.)
These early electrical and optical sound film systems were rather expensive, complicated to use, and technologically limited. Only a few amateur filmmakers experimented with making sound films during these years.
Early sound family film made by the Dutch amateur filmmaker Henk van den Bussche around 1928-1934. Source: Collectie Eye Filmmuseum
'De Manderslootjes', a film with sound made by amateur filmmaker Cor Mandersloot in 1934. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
'Uitleg systeem filmvertoning Emile Timan', in which the Dutch amateur filmmaker Emile Timan (1917-2011) explains how he made his 8mm sound films, including screening them accompanied by a 78 rpm record player. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
With the development of magnetic sound recording technologies in the 1950s and 1960s, it became easier for amateurs to make sound films. The first magnetic sound film systems allowed for adding a magnetic stripe to the 16mm film in post-production, so after the film was recorded, developed and edited.
Magnetic sound film recording and screening practices, advertisement published in the Dutch amateur magazine Het Veerwerk in the 1950s.
The release of various Super 8 sound film cameras boosted the practice of recording sound films even further. Kodak's Ektasound recording and synchronisation system, introduced in 1973, allowed amateurs to make direct sound recordings by means of a so-called "pre-striped" Super 8 film: a small piece of magnetic stripe attached to the non-perforated side of the film.
Kodak Ektasound 140 film camera, ca. 1974-1977.
'De Kleuterschool', a Super 8 direct sound film made by amateur filmmaker G. Sanders in the 1970s. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
'Cheeseroll', amateur film made by Vladimir Murtin about the cheese rolling event on Cooper's Hill in Gloucester, England. Source: Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision
Super 8 sound film projector, 1974-1975.
Despite the new opportunities for amateurs and families to create their own sound films, most amateur films and home movies remained silent until the late 1970s and 1980s, when consumer video technologies expanded the possibilities for synchronous recording and screening of sounds and moving images.