The Open Road is a series of films made in 1924-26 by Claude Friese-Greene using an early colour process partly developed by his father William Friese-Greene; the film documents the progress of a car journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats and offers an extraordinary vision of Britain in the 1920s in colour.
This fascinating early colour process was achieved using colour-sensitive panchromatic negative film that was shot through a red filter on every other frame. This meant that alternate frames were exposed to the red component and then all the light from a scene.
When this negative film was processed and printed, the alternate frames were tinted orange-red and blue-green so that the orange-red exposed frame was projected in orange-red light and the alternate frame in blue-green light.
When the films were projected at sufficient speed the alternating orange-red and blue-green frames combine to trick the eye into seeing an image in naturalistic colour.
This colour process was considered a huge breakthrough at the time and Friese-Greene travelled to American to show his new process to Hollywood studio chiefs who were duly impressed. Although it was a significant step forward, future colour processes provided greater advantages including being able to shoot indoors; better representation of colour and more efficient filmmaking processes.
The film was eventually donated to the BFI National Archive where the challenges of its preservation and restoration proved extremely demanding. –BFI