Moviebarcodes reveal the mood of a film at a glance

In a related vein to my post for Mountains + Hills about the abstract beauty of cathode-ray tube decays, there is the anonymous genius at the site moviebarcode who takes the average color value of each frame in a film and condenses it into a one-pixel column to create barcode-like representations of a film’s overall mood or palette.  The results are so artistic you can order prints, but they also reveal something meaningful about a film’s content and open up new ways to compare genres or films in a series.  Consider, for example, how much darker The Terminator was in its 1984 original (below) than the almost pastel 1991 sequel.  Most interesting of all, perhaps, is how different the color range is for animated films versus live action.  At first, it surprised me that animated films like The Lion King (above) should be so much more colorful, given that drawings contain substantially less visual information than filmed scenes; then I thought, well, traditionally animation is for children so maybe it makes sense that the palette would be as bright as a cereal box.  Indeed, among live action directors only Stanley Kubrick comes close to using the range of colors in animated films.  But it is notable that animated films also make more sophisticated use of the progression of color over the course of a film, revealing the variation in the underlying story.  So, comparing the Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona with its nearly uniform beige hue to the intense blue-red oscillation of Walt Disney’s Aladdin (both below) it is a wonder parents haven’t started showing their kids Woody Allen films just before bedtime.

Click images to enlarge and see movie titles.


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