Color or Black and White?

Do you have a preference in your films? Would you watch a film in black and white, or do you insist on them having to be in color? Does it really matter to you? Would it make a difference if it was an old black and white film or a more recent one like Schindler’s List? Do you watch old, colorized movies and cringe at the lack of tone and depth in the picture or do you like the way it looked?

Well, here are some of my thoughts.

Black and white film was a no-brainerfor early filmmakers, when either color film was unavailable or the process too costly for common use. But some films seemed to take that limitation and elevate it. You don’t even miss the color when it is done properly. For example, in the movie Psycho, you don’t need to color to make that shower scene more scary or believable! I can’t imagine watching a movie like Casablanca and having it in color. There is just something about the black and white that makes it complex, classic, and romantic. Just like the movie itself.

However, color can make a movie magical and more realistic. For many people, The Wizard of Oz was the first time they were seeing a film in color; as a matter of fact, I know people who first saw the movie on a black and white tv and didn’t get the significance of The Horse of a Different Color or some of the other effects in the movie. The colored portions of the film really set the fantasy world apart from that of Kansas. It was almost like a character in its own right.

There was also a phase where older films were colorized. This was a misguided attempt to make them appeal to a larger audience. While I do know people who claim not to like black and white movies, the colorization process seems unnecessary to me. If you aren’t going to be able to appreciate Citizen Kane because it is in black and white, 1) I don’t really want you as a friend, and 2) you probably wouldn’t appreciate it regardless. I am kind of glad that colorization is not really a thing anymore.

Personally, I don’t have much preference, other than to say that I am glad colorization isn’t really a thing anymore. I don’t mind film restorations because that isn’t messing with the original, it is more like an enhancement. I do kind of like technicolor, because of the warm tones it achieved. Although it was a common technique used for many years, it was a difficult process. Studios had to rent the technicolor cameras as well as hire people to operate them. It also required much more lighting, which made filming people in costume and certain makeup difficult. There also had to be a “color supervisor” on set to make sure that everything would look good on the film. In addition, there was a complicated exposure and dye process that took a long time. With all these additions to the film budget, it got quite expensive to use technicolor. Eventually, it gave way to the much more budget friendly Eastman 35 mm film.

Now, color is the norm. You can watch movies on ultra-high definition televisions and see colors that are so true to life, you feel like you are really there. I wonder what old-time movie makers would think of that if they could see how far we have come!