Cinematic Chromatics

Dumbo (1941) copy

I confess to knowing next to nothing about filmmaking in the technical sense (honestly, “nothing” is probably more accurate than “next to nothing”), but I am a keen observer while watching movies, and one thing I do tend to notice is the use of color and color filters.

So, I found this project, called Movie Barcodes, highly fascinating. The concept is this: using data compression, each frame of the film is reduced to its mean color, and that color is represented by one vertical sliver in the barcode. When all the slivers are lined up sequentially, you see the whole movie in order in terms of its colors.

Most of them are fairly monochromatic, with the exceptions usually being animated and children’s movies, which makes sense! At top is Dumbo, which I thought was a rather pretty one.


Above is the barcode for the Matrix, which is a fun one because you can see when they are in and out of the system! Another one I liked was the Amelie barcode because that movie was so noticeably greeeen with punches of other colors, and that is exactly what the barcode reflects (see gallery).

Oddly, on the tumblr that presents and indexes all of these “movie barcodes,” there is no information or credit as to who is creating these, and I hunted around on various blogs that mention it, and none of them mention the creator either!

They do mention that this is not an entirely new concept, as Jason Salavon first did this about 10 years ago with the top ten music videos in MTVs history. His use the same idea, but his “slivers” are little bars that were laid horizontally and stacked end-to-end and meant to be read left to right and top to bottom. Interestingly, the music videos seem even more intensely monochromatic, which makes sense as soon as you think about it.

Below is the Express Yourself video:


Check out the full index of movie barcodes here.

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  1. [...] and Common. Retro and spare with a seriously consistent color palette. I would love to see what the barcode would look like for the colors in [...]

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