Digital Color Techniques Adoption


Modern technologies never stop developing, and it is why human society keeps moving on the road of progress. Continuous improvement of digital techniques and their application has been able to provide modern people with an opportunity to change their everyday lives. Nowadays, we tend to see nothing unusual in various digital techniques, but at least twenty years ago the use of digital format was an experience changing the views of those people who had never seen something like this. Digital color techniques are adopted in different fields that include television broadcasting, video games development, and video recording. Due to the development of various techniques providing the opportunity to create images that would have the same colors that the depicted objects have in the real life, the transmission of information was able to move to a new level in a relatively short distance of time.

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First of all, speaking about digital techniques for the purposes of increasing the level of color rendering, it is necessary to give definitions to the notions that are critical for the sphere of imaging technology. By imaging technology, people usually mean a collection of different ways to apply materials and the results of scientific research in order to create or copy the images and hold this digital data. The methods of imaging technologies are numerous, they are used in the fields of photography, camera shooting, painting, video hardware development, and the development of medical and laboratory equipment such as an electron microscope. The development and application of various digital color techniques are closely connected to the growing desire of the users of different digital devices to see the world depicted on the screen as it is.

What is more, these techniques are developed to increase the quality of images created by architects and engineers with the help of software for computer design. Besides, the use of modern digital color techniques is critical for the development of computer graphics that is aimed at creating images of objects that would be indistinguishable from the real ones. In fact, the quality of an image created with help of computer graphics depends upon many factors, but the likeness of the colors of the depicted object to the real ones helps to significantly increase the quality of the digital image. In general, digital color techniques are used for different purposes but they are usually aimed at increasing the color gamut of a digital device.

Color gamut is the variety of colors that can be reproduced on a display of a particular digital device. This notion also has the second meaning; in some cases, it may denote the variety of colors that are reproduced on a particular digital image. Our world is a very beautiful place, and the number of colors and shades that exist is definitely enormous. Specialists in the field develop and apply newer color rendering techniques in order to increase color gamut of modern television sets, computer displays, and other devices that help people to receive and transmit the information. The volume of an image presents the feature that is very important for the amusement industry together with the sound.1

The entire goal of digital color techniques development is creating a digital device that would be able to express all the colors that exist in the real world. It is worth noting that their number is really enormous, and it is hard to believe as the human eye is not able to distinguish all of them.2 Unfortunately, the creation of such a color-sensitive device is regarded as an impossible task; when color gamut is increased, the degree of complexity of a color rendering system increases, too. If specialists managed to create such a high-powered system, its enormous degree of complexity would cause significant problems to its practical application. Various digital color techniques are developed because enhancing the quality of an image involves increasing the color depth of a display. If its level is high, the image appears to be brought into proximity with the real object that it depicts.

The History of Color Television

The history of the development of various digital color techniques is believed to have started with the growth of technical progress at the beginning of the twentieth century. When the television had been already invented, and the images could be broadcasted properly, the engineers were encharged with a task to find a way to transmit chromatic images. The majority of the stations all over the world have started to broadcast the images in color more than fifty years ago, and nowadays, the specialists in this field are reflecting on other issues. The transmission of color images is based on broadcasting images in one of the basic colors (blue, green, or red). These three images can be shown either simultaneously or in a very fast sequence. When the viewer perceives these images, basic colors blend in his eye, and he sees as only one image showing different colors.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many researchers from different countries were developing their theories on creating the color television but none of the models created in that period was able to demonstrate proper color broadcast. As for the first transmission of a color image in history, it was demonstrated in the summer of 1928. The successful experiment was conducted by the inventor from Scotland named John Baird. During the experiment, he was applying sequential transmission of three images having one of the basic colors. 3 Ten years later, Baird performed another successful demonstration of his path-breaking system. At that point in time, he managed to send a chromatic image from his studio to a screen at the theatre in London. The transmitted image consisted of more than one hundred lines, and it was a real development in the sphere of television broadcasting of that time. The second breakthrough is believed to have happened just after the Second World War ended.

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As there was no more necessity to spend the resources on military defense, American specialists in electronic engineering were able to pay enough attention to the development of non-military technologies including television. To propel television broadcasting to the next level, they applied scientific discoveries that had been used earlier in order to improve military hardware. Besides, electronic engineers were apt to work with an ultra-high frequency that significantly increased the opportunities for television technologies. After the war, they had to solve two major problems concerning color television. At first, it was not clear how to ensure the compatibility of black-and-white receivers with the color television signal. What is more, it was necessary to develop a technology that would help to synthesize the images displayed in color with the help of electronic tubes. It was hard to get a color image as cathode ray tubes used in television receivers were able to produce only monochrome pictures. To solve this problem, the pioneers of color television decided to use the system that was very similar to that of a television camera. In the middle of the twentieth century, the color television system was developed enough, and a few television stations in the United States started regular color television broadcasting.

Unfortunately, the threat of the Korean War urged the United States Department of Defense to impose a ban on the production of color television receivers in order to save resources. More importantly, such a decision was caused by numerous complaints from the companies that were producing monochrome television receivers and did not want to lose income and influence on the international market. In addition to the problem of color image synthesis, the way to ensure compatibility of color television with the existing systems of monochrome television had not been found yet. Then, many development engineers decided to experiment with new technology. According to that, the information about the color and its brightness level had to be transmitted separately. The method turned out to be effective, and in 1953 NBC conducted the first color television broadcast using this system. Sometime after that, the developers made a series of corrections, and the system was accepted by the committee on television standards.

Color television signals that could be transmitted with the help of this method, could also be received by a monochrome television set, and it was a significant advantage of the system. Cuba was the second country that adopted this system as a national broadcasting standard. After that, it became a standard in Mexico, Japan, and Canada. That period, the system was widely used, and it appeared to be imperfect. Its main disadvantage was connected to the peculiarities of quadrature modulation. On the back of this, the color tone of an image was slightly changing from time to time, and it had to be controlled with the help of regulating device. Later, specialists from other countries made a series of attempts to modify the system so that it would become a more appropriate tool to conduct the color television broadcasts in Europe.

Unfortunately, their efforts failed in most of the cases. Thus, it took European specialists a long time to develop their own color television systems. It was more difficult to start color television broadcasting in European countries because they were still experiencing terrible consequences of the Second World War. Nevertheless, when the standards were introduced in European countries, the sphere of television broadcasting experienced rapid growth. It did not require additional efforts because major problems concerning the production of television receivers had been already solved in other countries. As for monochrome television broadcasting, it was stopped all over the world in the middle of the 1970s.

Colorization Techniques

Digital color techniques can be also used to change the images that were created when it was impossible to take color photos and screen color films. By colorization, we mean technology that is used to make color images out of the ones that are monochrome. Colorization may be aimed at making monochrome film or photo look more modern but sometimes the technique is also applied to color films in order to make them brighter or make the skin colors look more natural. The technique became very popular at the beginning of the twentieth century when the processing of digital images became available. At the very end of the nineteenth century, the films were colorized by hand with the help of aniline colors. Colorization was done by hand up to the end of the 1930s, and then the technology that was more progressive substituted this one. The primary disadvantage of the colorization by hand was connected to the great amount of work; all the film frames had to be painted separately and this is why it took a lot of time. With the growth of technology, it became possible to colorize the films faster.

Thus, in the middle of the twentieth century, many black-and-white cartoons were reproduced in color. The technology became easier; it was possible to choose a color for each object that appeared in the film instead of coloring each film frame separately. Unfortunately, such an approach to film colorization also caused certain problems as it was able to decrease the quality of the films. In 1970 the technology was applied for the first time. It was used to demonstrate the moon landing film in color. To apply this technology, it was necessary to have a monochrome film of a very good quality. Then, the high-quality digital reproduction of the film was made with help of an image scanner. To start performing colorization, the specialists needed to choose a color for every single object in the film. They were not required to choose the colors for the objects that we see every day such as grass, trees, and sky. In order to save time, the colors for these objects were chosen automatically by the system. Nevertheless, there were also things with unknown colors such as clothes that the characters were wearing, various articles of daily use, and similar objects.

To choose the right color for them, the specialists in colorization should use all the information about the film that was available such as color photos made at the location where the film had been shot. If there was a lack of information on the real colors of the film, the specialist had to suppose which colors could have been chosen by the director. During the colorization process, it was also very important to take into consideration a brightness level of an original film. In general, the colorized film had to possess the same image characteristics that the original did. In the very beginning, the use of this technique was not able to provide a perfect result. Instead, the colors were faded and quiet. Nevertheless, with the development of the method it became able to produce brighter colors that were looking more natural. A significant problem concerning the colorization was connected to the great labor intensity that the process involved.

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During the preparatory stage, it was necessary to single out various sectors of each frame that would have different colors. This process was not fully computerized in the twentieth century, and this is why it required so many human efforts. Even now colorization is sometimes performed in a manual way as various mistakes may occur during the work of special software. Colorization can be used for different purposes but the most common one is making the film more expressive. Moreover, there are also different ways to add colors to the film and one of them is colorization that is performed partially. In such a situation, only a few objects that appear in the film are colored. The method of colorization of certain parts is used in order to highlight some objects or key characters of the film.

Such an approach acts as one of the means of visual expressiveness that help to focus the viewers’ attention on certain detail. Thus, the technique was used in the film “Phantom of the Opera” where the mantle of the primary character was red whereas other objects had no color. The method of colorization can be also applied to the monochrome photographs. In the same manner as movies, monochrome images had been painted in a manual way before the color film was invented. Printed photos were colored with help of watercolors, oil colors, and crayons. Nowadays, the digital images can be processed with help of popular graphics programs that help not only to color monochrome photos but also to make modern picture look very old. Despite having all the computer programs for image processing, there are still people who prefer coloring printed pictures in a manual way as they consider it to be a separate art form.

Modern Color Management

Color management is another set of techniques used to work with color rendering ability of different digital devices. Color management techniques are applied in order to make various devices display certain image in the same colors. If these techniques are used successfully, the image would look the same when it is displayed on different monitors or seen in the real world. Sometimes there is a need to change some properties of an image produced by certain device, and the technique of color calibration appears to be a very useful tool for that. It is used to make a display of a device show brighter or clearer colors. During the process of calibration, the colors on the display are compared to the ones that have been taken as a standard. Being one of the most common techniques used to work with color on digital device, color calibration helps to make the colors on the screen look more natural, and it helps user to enjoy using the device more.

Color balance was very important during the color television development; in the beginning, the devices were unable to show the images of people with different skin colors properly.4 The technique is successfully applied in many spheres of human activity. For instance, color calibration is used in game production, television industry, and even medicine.5 Within the frame of color management process, the digital devices are to be compared to the standard color scheme in order to spot the divergence. During the color management process, the color rendering ability may be changed in different ways. For instance, the digital device can be calibrated to produce the same colors that the standard prescribes. Besides, the variety of the colors displayed by certain device can be changed in order to make the colors look more natural. In some cases there is an opportunity to choose one of these methods that would be the best to improve the colors of the device considering the purpose that it is used for; thus, the preferences of the clients would be different.


LaFollette, Marcel. Science on American Television: A History. London: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Leydon, Rebecca. Off the Planet: Music, Sound and Science Fiction Cinema. Eastleign: John Libbey, 2004.

Newcomb, Horace, Encyclopedia of Television. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Powers, Matt. “A Brief History of Video Games Development.” Gamasutra. Web.

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Roth, Lorna. “Looking at Shirley, the Ultimate Norm: Colour Balance, Image Technologies, and Cognitive Equity.” Canadian Journal of Communication 34, no.1 (2009): 111-136.


  1. Rebecca Leydon, Off the Planet: Music, Sound, and Science Fiction Cinema. (Eastleigh: John Libbey, 2004), 61.
  2. Marcel LaFollette, Science on American Television: A History (London: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 3.
  3. Horace Newcomb, Encyclopedia of Television (New York: Routledge, 2014), 201.
  4. Lorna Roth, “Looking at Shirley, the Ultimate Norm: Colour Balance, Image Technologies, and Cognitive Equity.” Canadian Journal of Communication 34, no.1 (2009): 111.
  5. Matt Powers, “A Brief History of Video Games Development.” Gamasutra, Web.
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