Is it inherently wrong to colourise the past?
At the moment I know how Ted Turner felt when his approach to film colourisation was lampooned in the mid '80's. Technology and advances in this field have moved on and I am please to say that I have played my small part here.
But not everyone I have spoken to have been interested in 'recolouring the past'. This is in part to a 'rose tinted glassess' view on archive film footage but also a feeling that adding colour and thereby realism to the footage somehow takes away from the effect, not adding to it.
There is only one instance where I agree with this - that is 'Film Noir', where it was always the intention of the Director to show the work in black and white, for effect. My interest was peaked with work done in the 1960s and 1970s by the BBC and also ATV in their dramas, where cost was the deciding factor - a rollout to colour did not occur with BBC material until 1970 and even then due to recycling of videotape not every film or episode of a series shot exists as it was aired in the archives.
Colourisation is a tool and it is my view that it should be used as such to rectify any faults. For example, there are several "Doctor Who" stories shot and aired in colour which are retained in black and white. There have been offers to the BBC to support a colourisation / restoration of material for the DVD releases where there is a market for this. To a degree there has been some compliance - footage originally aired in mono has been 'audio cleaned', converted to stereo, film framerates changed to videotape field-based and essentially ropey 16mm film has been touched up to look just as a modern videotape recording just without the colour.
And that it my point - colourisation could be a profitable tool and used for restoration only then there could be some merit.
But why stop there? Why not team up with historians and not only patch up material where small parts are not in colour? Why not do whole swathes of archives across the world? If there's a market for it, who's to stop us from relaunching old gems to a modern audience 'switched off' to black and white film for the very fact that it is just that - black and white film.
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