Are you a fan of classic movies? If so, you might have heard of films being colorized. But what is film colorization?

Film colorization is the process of adding color to a movie that was originally shot in black and white.

Colorization began in the early 1930s with films such as The Wizard of Oz.

Film colorization is a process of taking an old, black and white film and adding color to it.

Film colorization can make old films more appealing to modern audiences, especially in the case of movies that are considered classics.

One common misconception about film colorization is that it is only for movies that are “too boring” in black and white.

Actually, many movies that were shot in black and white were produced that way for artistic reasons and should remain that way.

Whether or not a movie can be successfully colorized depends on a number of factors.

film colorization

What is film colorization?

Film colorization is the process of adding color to a black-and-white film. This process is also referred to as “colorisation” or “the digital restoration of old black and white films”.

Film colorization is the process of adding color to a previously black-and-white film.

This process can be performed on films that have been shot in black and white as well as on films that were originally shot in color but are now only available in black and white.

Film colorization existed almost from the beginning of cinema as we know it in the early 20th century, but became more widespread and popular towards the end of the 20th century.


What Is Film Colorization?

Colorization can add depth and clarity to a picture. It also allows people who were born long after the release of a particular film to appreciate it in its original glory.

Film colorization can be done on many types of media, but it is most often associated with movies or television shows, where audio tracks are included but there is no video footage. 

This feature makes the process of colorizing films relatively simple.

Colorization isn’t always done for aesthetic reasons; sometimes it’s done to comply with copyright laws.

For example, movies shown on television are often aired in black and white rather than in their original form because colorized versions may infringe on copyright laws.

Other films have been altered to make them more marketable, especially if they were released before modern technology.


How Are Black And White Films Colorized?

Have you ever wondered how black and white films are colorized? This article will answer your question in details. Enjoy!

For years, people have been re-touching black and white photographs to colorize them. But how exactly is it done? Is it some sort of computer magic that completely turns the gray scale into full color?

The technique is relatively simple, although there are some difficulties involved with getting the look just right.

While I won’t go into great detail with this tutorial, I do want to give you a brief overview of the process so you can understand it better before trying to do it. 

To begin with, you need to scan your photo and import it into Photoshop or GIMP. Then, you need to use the levels function in Photoshop or adjust the values in GIMP to lighten up all your shadows without making them white (except for where they should be).

Next, use the curves function (or curves tool in GIMP) and push up all your highlights without making them blow out completely. 

You should have an image that looks like this:

Ted Turner Colorized Movies

Ted Turner is an American media mogul and philanthropist. He is a former business magnate and was once the largest private landowner in the United States. 

Turner began his career in entertainment through a movie theater he built in Atlanta, Georgia and he eventually owned several theaters across the country.

In 1976, he founded the Cable News Network (CNN) with his father. Turner served as president of CNN from its launch until 1983 when he sold it to Time Warner.

In 1996, Turner launched the cable television channel Cartoon Network which became a major success and its assets were eventually sold to media conglomerate Time Warner in 2001. 


In 2001, he merged those assets with Time Warner to create Turner Broadcasting System, which included CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), TruTV and others.

Turner has also been active in politics. In 1975, he founded the Goodwill Games as well as serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. From 1986 to 1993, he served as chairman of the board of trustees for 4 years before becoming chairman of the board for the Ted Turner Foundation.

He donated $1 billion to support UN causes and established the UN Foundation which is now part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Colorized Movies History

Movie colorization is the process of changing and enhancing the color of a movie. This process can be applied to black and white movies, or even color movies, using digital technology. 

Movies from the earliest days of film are in black and white only and studios feel that re-releasing them in a new medium such as DVD or television would benefit from colorization.

In some cases colorization has been used to create more profit from an old film.

The public’s perception is that colorized movies are “new” when in fact they are the original old movie re-released with color added.

In recent years there has been a backlash against colorized movies, particularly against efforts to add color to classic movies. 


One such film is The Wizard of Oz (1939), which was released on video by CBS/Fox Video in 1990 with a new soundtrack and scenes tinted sepia tone to simulate a black-and-white movie (a practice also used by Turner Classic Movies).

This was done without any attempt at cleaning up the picture, so it looked muddy. The result was widely criticized, and later CBS/Fox produced a second edition in which the film was restored to its original condition, with no tinting or any other changes.

Digital Colorization in Film

Although computer technology is widely used in film colorization, it was initially done by hand.

For nearly 70 years, colorization has been performed by artists who meticulously painted each frame or scene in totality. This painstaking process typically takes several weeks or even months to complete. 

The most recognizable example of this is the work of artist Sally Farnhamon the television series Roots.

Colorization is most often associated with archival footage and published photographs of historical importance. However, the trend in colorizing classic films began in 1998 when The Walt Disney Company spent $3 million to add color to their animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

This practice has since become an industry standard among movie studios who are capable of generating billions of dollars through re-releases as well as sales and distribution on home video, cable TV, and DVD.

The Criticism Of Colorization in Film

Over the past few years there have been articles, TV shows and documentaries on the subject of colorization. 

The people who criticize colorization usually say things like, “Why add in color when it wasn’t originally filmed in color?” Or, “You should just watch the black and white version.”

Since I am an artist I feel that I am qualified to speak on this subject. As we advance into a digital age, more and more movies are being colorized and if we don’t have a voice in this debate we could lose something very special to us as artists.

Colorization has been around since the 80’s but it has become a hot button issue ever since Michael Eisner started coloring old black & white Disney classics. The most notable of these was Snow White which was released in 1987.

I remember seeing the trailer for that movie when I was 10 years old, which was only 2 years after I saw it in black & white at my elementary school.

Film Colorization Process Explained

No matter how many 3D movies you see, or how much CGI you watch, that doesn’t change the fact that traditional black & white films are still made. Remember those?

Tinting, toning and hand coloring were all methods to colorize movies before the modern colorization process was invented. Even though we’re talking about a digital process here, you might be surprised to learn that it’s closely related to the hand coloring method.

The Film Colorization Process Explained:

The first step is to scan the original film. This is done with a scanner which captures the frames of 24-frames per second from each movie. 

To complete the scanning phase, 26000 frames need to be captured from the film negatice.

The scanned frames are then used to create a digital file for each frame by using image editing software. A layer is created for each frame and then filled with colors according to each frame’s content for color correction.

After creating digital files of all frames, they are imported into an advanced color grading software program where they can be adjusted further and then exported as video files in whatever format is needed (MP4, MKV, etc).


Explaining Archival Colorization Of Films

The most common reasons for colorizing film include:

Restoration of films whose color has faded over the years.

This was done in the case of the 1925 film, The Phantom of the Opera, which was believed lost until a copy was discovered in 1993. The restoration team chose to add an amber tone to the color for dramatic effect and to match what they thought was the original intent of the filmmakers.

To provide a color version of a black-and-white movie as an alternative to an existing colorized version. 

Sometimes black-and-white films are colored for television broadcast or cable transmission, but later someone may want to restore it to its original form.

For artistic purposes, like making a film more closely resemble another work composed in color. 

An example of this is the 1995 production of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, where director Kevin Reynolds wanted his adaptation to look like a comic book. 

Another example is  Disney’s Song of the South, where the producers wanted it to resemble their animated feature Alice in Wonderland (1951).

Colorization In Hollywood Created War

In the 1980s, colorizing black and white films became  big business. It wasn’t long before Hollywood studios started to get worried about their films being colorized.

Toward the end of the decade, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) filed a lawsuit against Color Systems Technology, Inc. for its colorization of the 1939 film Wizard of Oz, but lost on appeal.

“MGM feared that other black and white films would be altered and that the public would believe that MGM had authorized these alterations,” says Daniel Mandil, partner at Mandil & Silverman LLP in Beverly Hills, CA.


At this time, some filmmakers were trying to stop the colorization trend. Steven Spielberg spoke of his displeasure toward the process during an interview with The New York Times in 1988.

He said if he was “king for a day,” he would ban any colorized version of black and white films released without the original studio’s approval. To combat this, Spielberg formed a new company called Amblin Entertainment and bought the rights to all of MGM’s pre-1968 library.

Manual Film Colorization Was Too Tricky

I’ve experimented with a number of different approaches to colorizing black and white film. I’ve tried everything from Photoshop plugins to GIMP, but nothing really worked.

Tinting is a very tedious process, and while the results can be quite good, they always look a bit artificial.

In some ways it’s harder to get good results when you’re working with footage that has been scanned from an actual film negative. 

The problem with most scans is that they are often not very well aligned, causing a loss of resolution combined with an overall softness of the image.