If you are a film buff, then you have probably spent hours analyzing your favorite films. Everything from the dialogue, directing choices, costumes, set design, and color palette. It’s that last one – the colors of our favorite films, that motivated Charlie Clark to create a website that explored the look of film, frame by frame.
The website Colors of Motion is an exploration of the use of color in movies. Each line represents the average color of a single frame. The site designers have stacked the frames from top to bottom, creating a visual timeline of how color was utilized throughout the movie. This allows fans to take a deep dive into their favorite movies in a totally new way, by visualizing the exact frame each color comes from.
For example, if you loved A Clockwork Orange, you can click on the color slices and experience it scene by scene, letting you visualize Kubrick’s masterpiece in a new way.
Clark’s favorite examples include trying to identify certain scenes in the film based just on the colors. He did this with the pink jellyfish scene in Finding Nemo, as well as the blue desert scenes in Mad Max: Fury Road.
What can you do with the site after having fun exploring the films? You can use the colors to buy and make gorgeous prints, that you can get right on the Colors of Motion site.
Technical folks may be interested in exactly how the website extracts these colors from the images. The team takes a movie and extracts “the frames at at a regular interval based on the length of the movie (For a 1h30 movie, it’s around once every 10 seconds). Next, we calculate the average color of each of those frames. Finally we stack those colors as thin bars from top to bottom in chronological order. The result is a color timeline of the movie.” The process is automated using a bunch of node script.
The site is an ongoing project that was originally just meant as a fun data visualization, and a new way to consider color in films. In 2015, the project got so much attention it won a webby award. The site generated so much interest in prints, that they started selling prints on Etsy. The site has proven staying power; now you can play with colors in film and shop for prints right on the site.
Colors of Motion is a prime way to explore color symbolism, which is defined as the use of color as a symbol in various cultures. Many cultures have specific color associations. For example, red is often used for stop signs] or danger, but it’s also used for romance or love. Color symbolism can be said to be context-dependent. That’s where filmmakers come in, using color to create certain associations in the mind of the viewer.
It only takes 3-5 days to make and receive a print from Colors of Motion. Those who are filmmakers or who want prints made from their own projects can also contact the site about getting an analysis done and a custom print. You can filter the existing database by color, director, genre, or year.