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A Visual History of Colour in Movie Posters

A Visual History of Colour in Movie Posters


Do you love movie posters, data, and visualizations? Well then you're in for a real treat.

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A couple months ago, Vijay Pandurangan posted the Colours in movie posters since 1914 -- an interactive data visualization that shows the way colours have evolved in the fine art of the movie poster throughout the years.

One of first things you'll probably notice is the prevalence of orange and how the increased use of blue has been a steady trend over the last 100 years. Is this due to printing processes evolving? The shift from hand-painting to photography to computers? Shifts in genre popularity? Or perhaps Hollywood has some sort of fine-tuned scientific process they're using (doubt it ;). Unfortunately those are big questions and this was a side project, but regardless, the information Vijay was able to put together is fantastic.


How did he do it?

"I downloaded ~ 35k thumbnailed-size images...from a site that has a lot of movie posters online. I then grouped the movie posters by the year in which the movie they promoted was released. For each year, I counted the total number of pixels for each colour in the year. After normalizing and converting to HSL coordinates, I generated the visualizations."

As great as the overall trends look, what's really cool is when you dig into the yearly data and start moving that handy slider around. The shifts in orange blue seem much more dramatic when broken down and viewed in pie chart form.

Even if the data and the circumstances around it are a little rough, this is an incredibly cool idea. Be sure to check out Vijay's blog for more details about this project, and be careful, it can be a bit of a time sucker.

For more reading on orange and blue in movie posters, there are a couple of good posts (rants?) on the topic. Cheers!


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14 Comments
Showing 1 - 14 of 14 Comments

praxicalidocious

Fascinating stuff, Lesley! Thanks for sharing! :)

trinilie

I am currently re-decorating my bedroom and I choose the vintage Hollywood theme because I love old movies.

huege

From this, it seems that black and gray weren't used very much in the early portion of the 100 years in coloured posters. I would guess that since black and white posters were still in use, people didn't need it in their coloured posters. The use of black and grey was probably seen as "old-school." Later, as the use of exclusively black and white posters declined, it was added more into the coloured posters.
Team

sprouticus

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

praxicalidocious wrote:
Fascinating stuff, Lesley! Thanks for sharing! :)
Team

sprouticus

That sounds like an awesome project! Have you chosen any particular posters yet?

trinilie wrote:
I am currently re-decorating my bedroom and I choose the vintage Hollywood theme because I love old movies.
Team

sprouticus

Based on his original post, it looks like both black and white were excluded from this project, but it would definitely be interesting to see that data integrated.

huege wrote:
From this, it seems that black and gray weren't used very much in the early portion of the 100 years in coloured posters. I would guess that since black and white posters were still in use, people didn't need it in their coloured posters. The use of black and grey was probably seen as "old-school." Later, as the use of exclusively black and white posters declined, it was added more into the coloured posters.

huege

I was looking at the sliding pie chart graphic....
black/white/grey content:
1922 about 8%
2011 about 32%
But I'm not sure if the sample size is big enough to draw too many conclusions...for the 1920 data there was only one poster :)

sprouticus wrote:
Based on his original post, it looks like both black and white were excluded from this project, but it would definitely be interesting to see that data integrated.

huege wrote:
From this, it seems that black and gray weren't used very much in the early portion of the 100 years in coloured posters. I would guess that since black and white posters were still in use, people didn't need it in their coloured posters. The use of black and grey was probably seen as "old-school." Later, as the use of exclusively black and white posters declined, it was added more into the coloured posters.
Team

sprouticus

Ohhh, you are correct and now I'm on the same page. :) Black & white were excluded from the overall visualizations.

huege wrote:
I was looking at the sliding pie chart graphic....
black/white/grey content:
1922 about 8%
2011 about 32%
But I'm not sure if the sample size is big enough to draw too many conclusions...for the 1920 data there was only one poster :)

sprouticus wrote:
Based on his original post, it looks like both black and white were excluded from this project, but it would definitely be interesting to see that data integrated.

huege wrote:
From this, it seems that black and gray weren't used very much in the early portion of the 100 years in coloured posters. I would guess that since black and white posters were still in use, people didn't need it in their coloured posters. The use of black and grey was probably seen as "old-school." Later, as the use of exclusively black and white posters declined, it was added more into the coloured posters.
Team

mollybermea

Amazing. Great topic/post Lesley! I can't believe some peoples brains and how they work.....

toniktaber

You know the movie posters that some theaters still post outside each theater at a movie theater.

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