Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference

  • Joshua Yumibe (Chair)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organising a conference


From Excess to Adaptation: Color’s Emergence in the Moving Image

Color has long been a facet of the moving image, yet the ways in which it first appeared in these images has only recently become of interest in cinema and new media scholarship. In part this is because color presents a series of problems and paradoxes, vexing any theory or practice that attempts to pin it down. Evading efforts to control it, color––and especially color deriving from new technologies––often performs as a transgressive surplus: it spills over formal boundaries and stifles the systems that attempt to control it. Yet despite this excessive behavior, without color the moving image would be dim and incomplete; a kingdom of shadows, as Maxim Gorky once protested when the cinema was itself a new medium. This panel will examine the aesthetic, historical, and ideological role of new color technologies in the history of the moving image from the 1890s through contemporary cinema and new media.

On the one hand, the history of color in film and new media is grounded in technology and processes of standardization, but on the other hand, this history is also shaped by politics, aesthetics, industrial mandates, and economic infrastructures. Generally speaking, new color technologies first appear through wild and excessive visual experiments, proceed through a phase of standardization and integration, and eventually reach a period of stylistic and industrial naturalization where color images are mass-produced. If such broad patterns suggest a classical process of normalization for new color technologies, equally important are the experiments that don’t make it, that are not standardized: the paths not taken by industry or commerce; the color systems that fade away. This panel turns to such lost and abandoned color techniques, and questions what makes new color technologies innovative, sustainable, or failures?

Through a mixture of historical, formal, and aesthetic analyses, this panel enriches our understanding of color in the moving image, from early applied and natural color techniques in silent cinema, through Eastmancolor, and video synthesis. The panel will question previous assumptions about “newness” of color technologies in cinema and media studies, investigate how the theoretical concepts informing new and emerging color technologies have developed over time, and suggest new critical and analytic directions for the future of color in moving image studies.

Panel sponsored by the CinemArts Scholarly Interest Group
Period21 Mar 201225 Mar 2012
Event typeConference
LocationBoston, United StatesShow on map