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Film Studies

This guide is an introduction to the resources for Film Studies at Dartmouth. If you are interested in Television, see the separate research guide for Television.

Definition of color on film

Colour - An attribute of things, whether objects in the world or images on screen, that results from the light they reflect or emit: this light causes a visual sensation that varies according to electromagnetic wavelength. Human eyesight is responsive to particular wavelengths, which we label red, green, and blue, and which, in various combinations produce the wide variety of colours we see (see also colour film). Within film studies, writing on colour has sought to describe how physiological, optical, chemical, and technological processes form the basis for the development of colour film and the viewer’s visual cognition of colour. Discussion of colour is an integral part of film analysis, examined in relation to mise-en-scene, cinematography, production design, and so on (see textual analysis). Where cinematographers use colour temperature as a technical measure of colour, for the sake of film analysis the following terms are preferred: hue—which part of the colour spectrum is predominant; saturation—how pale or intense the colour is; brightness (sometimes lightness, or value, is the preferred term here)—how dull or bright the colour is. These terms are sometimes abbreviated to HSB, HSL, or HSV.   ...

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). Colour. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 Apr. 2022

Colour film - A film that is made using colour cinematography; a film that is not black and white. Cinemagoers at the turn of the 20th century would have experienced a vivid mixture of black-and-white and colour cinematography (see early cinema); indeed, a clear distinction between the two was not established until the 1920s. Early colour processes included the hand painting of each frame: this was expensive and time-consuming—a silent film ten minutes in length and running at 16fps (see frames per second) would require 9,600 separate frames to be painted. The films of French filmmaker Georges Méliès are renowned for the use of this technique, though the practice was relatively widespread. Colour was added also by tinting or dyeing the film. These processes allowed filmmakers to append a single colour to either the lighter or the darker areas of the film, and the technique was often used to mark difference between night and day or to establish a particular mood or tone. From 1905, the French film company Pathé developed a stencilling process that made tinting and dyeing more straightforward. A number of companies, including Kinemacolour in Britain and Dufaycolor in France, developed more refined additive colour processes. These worked with black-and-white film stock and used colour filters during filming and projection to create colour. However, they were not widely adopted.  ...

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). Colour film. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 Apr. 2022

In the Library's Collection

Most of the books on color films are located in the call number range PN 1995.9 .C546 on Baker Level 4. There are also books in the Sherman Art Library.

This page not only looks at color films, the change from Black & White to color, but also the use of color in films.

Introductory reading(s)

A short list of books about movies

Other library resource(s)

Finding scholarly articles and journal titles