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The colorization process is essentially akin to painting by
numbers, only with computer sophistication. A computer artist initially colors a single frame of a film, assigning one of some. 50,000 available hues to each of the 525,000 pixels, or dots,
which may comprise any given frame.
Once this frame has been
colored, the computer keeps track of the object as it moves from
frame to frame, but only until the scene changes.
When a new
In spite of the steep initial cost, colorization means big
bucks for the owner of the revised film.
have a low market value, especially to a younger generation which has known almost nothing but color in its lifetime. In contrast, it is estimated that a typical colorized movie could be worth
over $2,000,000 from television and video cassette sales alone.
Recent experience has supported such an estimate:
television broadcast of the colorized version of The Maltese
Falcon resulted in almost a 65% increase in market-share rating. 6 Accordingly, advertising time slotted to future colorized
broadcasts is now sold out months, even years, in advance.
over 1/3 of all movies made to date were filmed in black-and
white, the available supply and potential market for colorized
films is staggering.
Today's foremost vehicle for colorized films is Ted Turner's "Color Classic Network".
Recently, Turner paid $1.2 billion for
MGM's collection of over 3000 old movies, which includes pre-1948
Warner Brothers and RKO films.
Subsequently, Turner contracted
with CST to colorize 100 of these films.
Already colorized are
Yankee Doodle Dandy, Miracle on 34th Street, Casablanca, and The
Films still to be colorized include Father of
the Bride, They Drive by Night, and The Bad and the Beautiful.
Hal Roach Studios, which owns
50% of Colorization, Inc., has
already reached an agreement with Otto Preminger Films to
colorize The Moon is Blue, The Man With the Golden Arm, Saint Joan, and Advise and consent.7 In addition, Colorization, Inc.
has already completed public domain films such as Topper, Way Out West and It's a Wonderful Life. 8
Technical results of the colorization process have been
On early conversions like Topper, the colors have a
tendency to follow the objects around the screen imperfectly.
For instance, the color representing Cary Grant's hands often strays from his limbs and into midair, creating a flickering
A common criticism is that the colors produced are by no
means what we associate with those of contemporary color films,
but are rather pale, pastel colors. Vivid colors such as red are difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce. Frank Sinatra's eyes and Humphrey Bogart's hair have also proven especially troublesome. Nonetheless, the results obtained in such conversions as Way Out West and Yankee Doodle Dandy have been
viewed by some as technically very good.
CST and Colorization, Inc., while using essentially similar
technology, take different approaches toward their respective
Before assigning color values to film, CST performs
often extensive research in an effort to "authenticate" its work.
First, it tries to locate someone who was actually involved in
the production of the original black-and-white work, in an
attempt to match actual set and costume colors.
If this fails,
CST's research department attempts to determine these actual
colors through alternate means. In contrast, Colorization, Inc. makes no attempt to match its assigned colors with actual colors.
Says chairman Earl Glick, "We give the pictures the modern look
we think the audience would like to see fit today's times".
"Authentic" colors or not, Hollywood directors are virtually
Hiller and Peter Bogdanovich have all taken vocal public stands
against the process.
Recently, an ailing John Huston appeared at
news conference in wheelchair and oxygen mask to denounce the
colorization of his Maltese Falcon. The American Film Institute recently joined the fray by holding a meeting at which actor Jimmy Stewart spoke critically of the conversion of It's a Wonderful Life.9 Additionally, a host of other professional and arts organizations have come out against colorization. 10
The crux of the controversy is essentially one of ownership
versus creative rights.
As directors are quick to point out,
black-and-white is not merely the absence of color, but rather
constitutes an array of creative choices.
were conceived, designed and photographed to be black-and-white films.
The medium has its own set of rules and effects in regard
to lighting, contrast, framing and camera
recent black-and-white movies such as The Wild Child and Elephant
Man, shot in an era when directors clearly have a well developed
color alternative, attest to the fact black-and-white films have
a unique mood and aesthetic character. It is easy for directors to argue that artistic intent justifies preservation of the
integrity of their black-and-white works.
It is a different
question indeed as to whether they have an equally compelling
Essentially, it is a monopolistic right, generally limited in duration, which was first conferred upon publishers and later
upon authors. 11
Without copyright, an author would have little,
if any, incentive to ever publish or make known his work.
first revelation of the work, anyone would be free to duplicate the work and sell it. The work would become essentially a
commodity item of little remaining value to the author.
granting a copyright holder, usually the author or artist, the
right to commercially exploit a work for at least a limited time,
development, revelation and dissemination of creative works is
Historically, there are two dominant theories which have been used to legitimize this limited monopoly on literary and artistic works. The first is copyright or literally, the right to copy :
Copyright is an exclusive right to perform specified, essentially commercial, acts in relation to a work. By granting
the right to do such things as make and sell copies of a literary
or artistic work, copyright recognizes and protects the economic or pecuniary rights of the copyright owner.
The second dominant theory justifying protection of creative works is the droit d'auteur or author's right. In contrast to copyright, which only recognizes pecuniary rights, droit d'auteur additionally recognizes moral or personal rights of the author or
artist, distinct from his economic rights and interests. Under this theory, the droit d'auteur is vested personally in a work's
creator in recognition of the unique relationship he shares with
it. While almost universally recognized in continental European countries, the notion of author's right has never become imbedded
in Anglo-American law. 12
Our 1976 Copyright Act, promulgated pursuant to Congress' constitutional authority, continues our country's heritage of safeguarding only the pecuniary interests of copyright owners. 13
Thus, the Act focuses on the economic value of copyright by. granting the copyright owner the exclusive right to produce and
distribute the original work, prepare and distribute derivative
works, and to perform or display publicly most types of
copyrighted works. 14
Most pertinent to the colorization of existing black-and- .
white movies is this second exclusive right
the right to