A rainbow of silent film

Regular readers will have noticed that things have been pretty quiet around Silents, Please! for the last year or so. Partly, this was because I channelled a lot of energy into researching, writing and drawing my Feminist Media Histories article: a very absorbing process, about which I’ll write more soon. Another reason was because I was putting a lot of energy into writing code rather than writing about film.

On occasion, these hobbies have intersected. Some months ago, I wrote a Bash/Python script that generates a rainbow grid from a film: it takes regular frame grabs from a video file, determines the dominant colour per image, then outputs a mosaic of images ordered by hue. Of course, I had silent film on my mind as I wrote the script – what better way to showcase the vibrant colours of this era? I revisited my code recently; so, it seems like a good time to present a few of my favourite outputs from the program. Enjoy! (And you can click on each picture to view the full-size image).

The Blue Bird (US 1918) lives up to its picturesque reputation:

Der Student von Prag | The Student of Prague (DE 1913), with Paul Wegener in the title role, is an excellent film that also scores highly in the rainbow stakes.

A range of jewel tones from L’Homme du large | The Man of the Open Sea (FR 1920):

Eye-popping brightness from Filibus (IT 1915); a wonderful film that I’ve written about here.

Some films had a more limited palette that still produced a pleasing effect.

For example, check out this mosaic of Vittoria o morte! | Victory or Death! (IT 1913):

And the output of the remaining parts of Homunculus (DE 1916):

Striking imagery and colourisation in Das Blumenwunder | The Miracle of Flowers (DE 1926):

Some serious style for Die schwarze Kugel oder Die geheimnisvollen Schwestern | The Black Ball; or, The Mysterious Sisters (DE 1913).

Okay, one more for luck. From Spain, here’s Margarita Xirgu vehicle El beso de la muerte | The Kiss of Death (ES 1916):

Those interested can find my code here.

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14 Responses to A rainbow of silent film

  1. ellenupsidedown says:

    This is so cool and creative! Gorgeous mosaics.


  2. Fantastic idea, Katherine, brilliant work!


  3. I have been missing the posts, but this is a great trade off! I am a silent movie addict AND a lifelong (40 year) computer geek. I love what you’ve done and want to learn more about both the Python and the article. I loved the Fluffy Ruffles article, too! THANK YOU!


    • I’m so pleased to hear it! And feel free to get in touch if you have any Python Qs. To be honest, I’m not the strongest Python dev (I don’t code in it in my day job), but I’ll happily help if I can.


  4. Lea S. says:

    Beautiful, what a great idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a fine, interesting article. I enjoyed reading it, and I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future. I really like those bright, vibrant colors.

    By the way, I would like to invite you to join my blogathon, “The Great Breening Blogathon:” https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/extra-the-great-breening-blogathon/. It is celebrating the life and work of Joseph Breen, the enforcer of the Motion Picture Production Code between 1934 and 1954. As we honor his birthday, which is on October 14, we will be discussing and analyzing the Code era, breening films from other eras, and writing about our own ideas for classic movies. One doesn’t have to agree with the Code and Mr. Breen to enjoy that! I hope you will do me the honor of joining. We could really use your talent! I know you would be excellent at breening a silent film!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan


  6. Pingback: Well, whaddaya know—Crime does pay! – Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

  7. Pingback: SEMIA and moving image dataviz in film and media studies: an overview and brief introduction – The Sensory Moving Image Archive

  8. Old Boy says:

    Reblogged this on Movies From The Silent Era and commented:
    Very informative article from some ago


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