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Why the delay in colour films?

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  • Why the delay in colour films?

    I keep meaning to google around to try to find the answer to the question as to why many films continued to be made in black/white right up to around the mid-1960's?
    After all, Gone with the Wind was in glorious colour as far back as 1939, so why did it take another 25 years or so for film makers to begin switching more and more to colour?

    Follow-up question- why haven't old b/w films been "colourized" by now with modern computer-enhancing techniques?
    I saw the colourized version of 'The Longest Day' war film on TV several years ago, but nobody seems to have done anything with other b/w films and I just wonder why?
    for example, Casablanca would look good in colour, right Rick?

    "Sure thing kid"
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  • #2
    Cost, mostly, as colour film is much more expensive to purchase and process and all the other associated costs, such as lighting, crew, equipment are much more expensive.

    As for the second question. No, it's not a good idea.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Nick Dando View Post
      Cost, mostly, as colour film is much more expensive to purchase and process and all the other associated costs, such as lighting, crew, equipment are much more expensive.
      As for the second question. No, it's not a good idea.
      Any particular reason why colourizing films is not a good idea?

      PS- when I started dabbling in photography in the mid-60's I always - but always - bought colour film even though it was more expensive, but many other photographers kept using dreary old b/w film.
      For example my schoolteacher Colin Walker was a railway buff and photographer and has had railway books published, but most of the photos in them are in dull b/w, what a waste when they could have been in glorious colour if he'd splashed out more pennies on colour film..

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      Last edited by Eyeball; 20th May 2020, 06:35 PM.

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      • #4
        “Colorizing “ is a terrible thing which should NEVER be done. When a film is made as a B&W film then the director & cinematographer know it’s being made in B&W and so they select the scenes that they film that look good in B&W.

        A B&W film ISN’T the same as a colour film but with all of the colour bled out of it. They are very different things.

        Some people still prefer to shoot film or stills as B&W.

        Steve

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Steve Crook View Post
          “Colorizing “ is a terrible thing which should NEVER be done. When a film is made as a B&W film then the director & cinematographer know it’s being made in B&W and so they select the scenes that they film that look good in B&W.

          A B&W film ISN’T the same as a colour film but with all of the colour bled out of it. They are very different things.

          Some people still prefer to shoot film or stills as B&W.

          Steve
          Thanks, if directors deliberately plump for b/w on "artistic" grounds that's fine even if they'll be hit at the box office by people who'll give it a miss and go to the cinema down the road which is showing a colour film..

          PS- just to digress into audio, I'm dead against the way many youtube vids of old classic pop songs have been "re-mastered" which in my opinion is a disaster because it makes them sound tinny and childish
          The Beatles in particular are hit by this, because their trademark chunky guitar sound has been "remastered" (i.e. removed) and it's sacrilege!
          To me, the 60's is not just a name, I was friggin THERE as a teenager and it's a pity kids today might think the modern remastered rubbish is the genuine article!
          Rant over, cut, print it..

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          • agutterfan
            agutterfan commented
            Editing a comment
            Anyone else spotted the hypocrisy here? B&W films must be colourised using computer techniques, otherwise they're won't be commercially successful, and being in B&W has no intrinsic artistic merit, but OLD songs from the 60s can't be RE-MASTERED using modern computer techniques. As for The Beatles, you do realise you should be listening to them in MONO (even Sgt Pepper, which was mixed in mono with a separate stereo version)? But who would listen to mono when there's a stereo version? You can't have it both ways.

        • #6
          Originally posted by Eyeball View Post

          ...but most of the photos in them are in dull b/w...

          Oh dear! Where do we start?

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          • #7
            Having watched and enjoyed the Howard Hawks western Red River many times in its original format and then watched the colour version it just did not work.

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            • #8
              Originally posted by Eyeball View Post

              Any particular reason why colourizing films is not a good idea?

              PS- when I started dabbling in photography in the mid-60's I always - but always - bought colour film even though it was more expensive, but many other photographers kept using dreary old b/w film.
              Adding colour to a black & white film is terrible. I've seen some Laurel & Hardy films treated in this manner and they looked awful, I've got to say.

              As for still photography, I prefer working with black & white film. Ultimately, it will depend on the subject you're shooting as to whether colour is better suited, but I generally shoot landscapes and architecture, and a well exposed and printed black & white image can look beautiful. Of course, using filters will alter contrast levels, and this can give a more dramatic image.

              As for costs, yes it used to be the case that colour was more expensive, but these days developing and printing your own black & white films is an expensive hobby. And a professional lab can charge you a pretty penny for even a standard 10x8 print.

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              • #9
                Eyeball said- ..but most of the photos in them are in dull b/w...
                -----------------------------------------------------------------------


                Originally posted by narabdela View Post
                Oh dear! Where do we start?
                Sorry if I didn't express myself well enough mate, but suppose you were a trainspotter, would you prefer a book with colour photos showing the different coloured liveries of various rail companies, or in b/w where all you'd get are different shades of grey?




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                • Steve Crook
                  Steve Crook commented
                  Editing a comment
                  How many times do I have to say? B&W in still photography or on film is VERY different to colour. It ISN’T just colour without any colour. You are looking for very different things, mainly for shadows & shading. Things that most people don’t bother with when working in colour.

              • #10
                Originally posted by Carl V View Post

                Adding colour to a black & white film is terrible. I've seen some Laurel & Hardy films treated in this manner and they looked awful, I've got to say.

                As for still photography, I prefer working with black & white film. Ultimately, it will depend on the subject you're shooting as to whether colour is better suited, but I generally shoot landscapes and architecture, and a well exposed and printed black & white image can look beautiful. Of course, using filters will alter contrast levels, and this can give a more dramatic image.

                As for costs, yes it used to be the case that colour was more expensive, but these days developing and printing your own black & white films is an expensive hobby. And a professional lab can charge you a pretty penny for even a standard 10x8 print.
                Agreed, some attempts at colourization are not so hot, but others are much better, for example the recent WW1 TV series in colour really brought trench warfare to life and left audiences open-mouthed in awe.
                As long as b/w original films are kept safe in film vaults for posterity I don't mind colourized versions being done.
                As for Gone With the Wind, if people prefer it in b/w I suppose they can simply twiddle their TV settings to remove the colour..
                Last edited by Eyeball; 20th May 2020, 08:16 PM.

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                • #11
                  Originally posted by Eyeball View Post
                  As for Gone With the Wind, if people prefer it in b/w I suppose they can simply twiddle their TV settings to remove the colour..
                  This would probably look similar to printing a colour negative onto conventional black & white paper - yes, it's a "black & white" image, but it looks very flat and lacking in contrast - more like a muddy grey. Years ago Kodak used to make a paper called Panalure which was designed for black & white printing from a colour negative, but I've seen mixed results with this method.

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                  • #12
                    Originally posted by Eyeball View Post

                    As for Gone With the Wind, if people prefer it in b/w I suppose they can simply twiddle their TV settings to remove the colour..
                    You still don't get it, do you?

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                    • #13
                      Originally posted by Eyeball
                      , for example the recent WW1 TV series in colour really brought trench warfare to life and left audiences open-mouthed in awe.
                      That's a good point. I hadn't thought of that example earlier in the conversation and I was firmly in the "never!" crowd. Perhaps that is where the line should be drawn; artistic works are made with an eye for appearance, whether it is lighting, shadows, colour palette, costumes, etc. Whereas the documentary footage is trying to capture reality with the best image available to them at the time. The colour footage of WW1 and WW2 really brings a new perspective on old footage, bringing things to life and helping to remind the viewer that these were/are real people and that "history" is just as real as now.

                      On a related point, I note that the "Terracotta Warriors" found in the archaeological dig site in China are all originally painted in bright colours, but that the paint has been impossible to preserve - it disintegrates as soon as each figure is exposed to the air. I rather like the monochromatic detailed textures and appearance of the grey ghostly army, but it was intended to be a more realistic and colourful spectacle. So should we paint them all?! I think it has been said that many of the famous Greek and Roman sculptures that we see in white marble were often painted to appear as life.

                      So I will hedge my bets, by saying that "some" things made in B&W, should stay that way, and "some" might benefit from some enhancement. In the end, "I don't know much about Art, but I know what I like"

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                      • #14
                        Hammer Films certainly caused a stir of excitement when in 1957 they came out with The Curse of Frankenstein in glorious colour swiftly followed by Dracula in 1958 starting off a whole new wave of British colour horror films.
                        Last edited by cassidy; 21st May 2020, 05:47 PM.

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                        • #15
                          Originally posted by Eyeball View Post

                          Any particular reason why colourizing films is not a good idea?

                          PS- when I started dabbling in photography in the mid-60's I always - but always - bought colour film even though it was more expensive, but many other photographers kept using dreary old b/w film.
                          For example my schoolteacher Colin Walker was a railway buff and photographer and has had railway books published, but most of the photos in them are in dull b/w, what a waste when they could have been in glorious colour if he'd splashed out more pennies on colour film..

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                          I agree with you there, 'real life' is in colour, so why not take pics on steam trains (then) in colour when it was readily available ?

                          I'm a moderate vintage transport buff, and enjoy a book more when the photos are in colour, I have a few, old trams in colour, etc;

                          Spielberg made 'Schindler's List' in black and white, presumably to add 'atmosphere', I did see it at the Cinema, but again I would have preferred real life colour, it would have been more involving.

                          I didn't bother with whatever that recent musical film was called, made in black and white.

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