There are two methods of creating color: The Additive system is where primary colored lights are added together - when equally mixed, they create white light. This is the process used right now as you are watching this video - your screen is made up of tiny red green and blue pixels that when seen from afar, combine to create color.
The other system is the Subtractive system where primary colors (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow) are subtracted from white light to create colors and when all equally and fully subtracted create black.
Both additive and subtractive color were used to create color photography.
The first major venture into capturing color naturally in motion picture came in 1908 with Charles Urban and the Natural Color Kinematograph Company. The Kinemacolor system, invented by George Albert Smith was a sequential two color additive process
In the camera, one frame would be captured with a red filter and the next frame with a green filter and back and forth. When played back with a projector with a red green filter fly wheel, the red and green sequential images would “add” together because of our persistence of vision. The result was a surprising good color image despite being only a two color system.
Kinemacolor first big hit was The Dehli Durbar - a 2 and a half hour documentary on the coronation held in Dehli for the newly crowned King George V as the imperial emperor of colonial India.
But there were some major issues. Notice the registration problems in the marching soldiers legs - recording color sequentially meant each frame would be off slightly. And since only red and green filters were used, blue skies were impossible to reproduce. In fact it would be this inability to create blue which would spell the downfall of Kinemacolor.
Charles Urban, like any good industrialist, wanted to monopolize color film and crush all other 2 color processes. This created an enemy in William Friese-Greene, producer of a rival red-green color system, Biocolour.
Friese-Greene sued Urban’s Kinemacolor to invalidate their patent. The first court upheld the Kinemacolor patent, but on appeal, the judge sided with Friese-Green basing his decision on fact that Kinemacolor’s patent claimed it would reproduce natural colors and yet it failed to produce blue. Because of vague wording the technological limitations of the system spelled its downfall- Kinemacolor’'s patent was revoked and Urban’s company was liquidated soon after.But Kinemacolor proved there was a market color film. Other additive techniques including Chronochrome, Cinechrome and British Raycol tried to establish a following but additive color systems for film proved to be too technically challenging to implement. They would find use in TV and electronics.
But the first truly successful color system for film would come the two-strip subtractive Technicolor.