Color film was built for white people. Here’s what it did to dark skin.

Color film was built for white people. Here’s what it did to dark skin.


This is a Shirley card. And if you developed color film between the
1940s and the 1990s the accuracy of the colors in your photos
was largely based on this skin-tone. Shirley was probably the the name of the first
person who was pictured on the cards. And Shirley became the subsequent name of
the all of the people pictured on the cards. That’s Lorna Roth, a professor and researcher
at Concordia University in Montreal. She’s been studying race, representation,
and technology for well over 20 years. Usually they were very white women who wore
very colorful dresses. Color film works like this. There are layers of chemicals stacked on each
other that are sensitive to different colors of light and there are a series of different
types of chemical solutions that are used to
develop them once exposed to that light. A combination of all of these chemicals creates
a film’s color balance and for many decades chemicals that would bring out various reddish,
yellow, and brown tones were largely left out. The consumer market that was designated in
the design of film chemistry was that of a lighter skinned market. So, when defining what an idealized skin tone
would be, it turned out to be a lighter skin tone than a darker skin tone. It wasn’t until the 1970s where things started
to change. Companies that were advertising different
kinds of wood furnitures were complaining that Kodak film did not render the difference between
dark grained wood and light grained wood. The other companies that Kodak responded to
were chocolate makers because the film couldn’t render the difference
between dark and milk chocolate. If you want to sell in the global marketplace,
you can’t just have whiteness as the dominant basis for your technologies. As the film and television industries became
more diverse, color balance issues at the professional level
became more apparent and in the 1990s a team of designers at Philips
in Breda, Holland tackled the issue head on by developing a camera system that used two
different computer chips to balance lighter and darker skin tones individually. The first people to buy these cameras, they
were called the LDK series, were Oprah Winfrey and Black Entertainment Television. People who were very aware of these issues. It was around this time that the White Shirley
card was joined by the black Shirley card, the Latino Shirley card, and the multiracial
Shirley card. And Kodak’s Gold Max marketing campaign
emphasized their film’s improved dynamic range. If you were his parents would you trust this
moment to anything other than Kodak Gold Film? No other film in the world gives you truer
color than Kodak Gold. Today color film and digital camera sensors
have a much broader dynamic range, but the default towards lighter skin in technology
still lingers. Digital sensors, for the most part, still
look for the lightest area of the frame and automatically calibrate to that. One of the big mistakes emerged in 2009. I’m
sure you heard about it. My co-worker Wanda and I are sitting in front
of an HP media smart computer. It’s supposed to follow me as I move. I’m
black. I think my blackness is interfering with my
computer’s ability to follow me. So she moved this way, and the camera followed
her. And then he would get into the screen and
it would be completely stable. No face recognition anymore buddy! The
fact is, there is still a cultural bias towards
lighter skin, certainly in how we use technology, and sometimes, still, within the technology
itself. It was when I was talking to Bryan Harris
at the Black Entertainment Television network in the U.S. when he said, ‘You know color film could have been developed
very differently had black people developed it they would’ve taken very different factors
into consideration.’ And of course, he’s right. Technology should be the ultimate equalizer.
It should serve everyone’s needs without an inherent bias. If a child is born into a society where all
of the range of skin tones is the obvious norm, than they could no longer assume that
whiteness is the default.

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    Vulcan Princess

    when commodity matters more than people, whether because the only ones using film were companies, or what

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    Beau Sigmon

    Or maybe the majority of people and consumers in the us are white so it makes sense to market to get group. Or it’s all RACISTTTT whatever 😂

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    sebastien lopez

    This must be the most disliked video on the Vox Channel. But i am still fan of the channel even know that they don't like to be i don't like to be criticized on some of their work. Please vox team sometime, it ok to make mistakes ( especially in the technologie) it worst to denied then to admit a mistake.

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    docakh

    This comment section is a dumpster fire. There’s a reason why white peoples use Kodak Portra today for white skin tones and Kodak Ektar 100 for all other skin tones. The only difference today is there are options for other skin tones.

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    spotsill

    Get a real education in photo chemistry. The gray chart next to her is what you actually use the photo was a generic guideline. Btw Kodachrome was legendary for its overall color accuracy the reference slide you used was under exposed . It comes down to accurate exposure to properly expose darker subjects you need to increase your exposure. If you improperly expose a photo in digital it still happens. This also applies to the photo of the mixed race photo as well it’s called dynamic range google it . Btw color degrades and becomes inaccurate with time and even white people look yellow and magenta in 30 and 40 year old photos. I have a two year arts degree specializing in obsolete film .

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    spotsill

    Btw exposure and skin detail is even an issue in black and white film . If you underexpose you have no detail in your shadows(color) if you over expose you have no details in you highlight. If everything is phots as black, gray and white how can it also be racist .

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    zenokar

    actual video: old cameras had trouble with certain skin types because of their limitations
    title: cAmEraS DeSiGNeD fOR wHiTe PeoPLe

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    UNDERRATEDYELLOWTOAD

    Y’all really need to shut up saying wow cAmerAs aRe raCisT if you actually watched the video instead of just reading the title you would know what the video is really about💀 just your average republican not getting all the info

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    jungle bunny

    everything is racist and if you disagree you are an evil racist, you are probably straight too and have a job. how dare you.

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    ZeroTheHero

    Video technicians: Oprah is black and people at home can barely see her. Time to develop better cameras 🙄.

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    Jody Bruchon

    I made a brutal retort to this. It's called "Light is Racist?" and it is easily found if you search. Can't link to it directly here though.

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    Moses Ukoh

    Why was the problem solved in Holland…? Black people, if you want a problem fixed, don't wait for white people. They created those camera exposure with themselves in mind. As many African engineers as we have, we should have found a solution; and we can find solutions to these problems once we start to focus on developing ourselves and ignoring any negativity about ourselves from the rest of the world.

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    77tubuck

    Yeah, when you took a picture of a black person back them the came out looking like a green martian with antennas.

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    bette davis

    That titel though… Maybe change it to “te limitations of early color camera’s” jeez i study photography, its normal that in some cases black people are a silhouettes, this is pure the limitation of the camera… not a racist camera LOL

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    Shock PC

    vox is racist, it was a lack of technological advances that caused the difference is darker skin tones, it wasn't done like that on purpose.

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    Bokang Phelane

    I've noticed particularly with the iphone. if you autocorrect a photo with fair coloured skin and melanated skin, it autocorrects the colours to better favour the light skin and dims/darkens the melanated skin.

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    Star Gazer

    Idk, it just seems to me like it was because people didn’t try to make the cameras adjust to darker skin or anything dark because cameras were indeed made and usually bought by whites back then so why even try to accommodate anything other? It wasn’t a racist thing, just a money and consumer thing, anyways it’s the past and now we have cameras that do better so why bring this up?

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    Heat Makker

    Lol white people hate facts… everything is racial.. its the reason yall live the peaceful life yall poses.. get a grip

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    Sir Rodrick George McBerry John Henry Johnson of House Quinton Joe

    I don't get it, the only thing that is racist is this video.

    Black or ( Darkness) reflects light, it's an an absence of light. White or (Lightness) adsorbs light. Light is every color put together, darkness is lack of color. That is why we have rainbows, and how TV works. Old Cameras could capture white people better because the Cameras couldn't produce enough light to capture dark skin.

    All skin color is really is an adaption to your surroundings. White people live in Europe where in a lot of northern regions there was lots of winters and little sun. Thus white skin allowed Europeans to adsorb more rays, to generate more heat. Blacks come from Africa where it's almost always sunny and extremely hot. Thus black skin allowed Africans to reflect sunlight so they're LESS hot.

    Stop acting like every little thing is racist, the only thing that is racist is these types of videos.

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    frank cruz

    White American Are Beautiful People Of The European Russian Race All Should Be Separated Permitly Who Care 🇺🇸🇪🇺🇷🇺⚔️👮🏻‍♂️

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    Maddox021 - Comedy and More

    Oh gosh… so now we can only film in B&W or else we will be put in concentration camps, Great. It's more racist to pink people than it is black.

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    willis mckay

    Just a reminder: WHITE PEOPLE CREATED CAMERAS, VIDEO CAMERAS, PROJECTORS and the concept of CINEMA ( as well as the theatre before that ). It is our art. Even if this video was true, which is not, it wouldn’t be a problem at all cause we are allowed to do anything we want. Be proud to be European folks ! We created the modern world 🙂 they hate us because they are not us and only WE can be us!

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    Heather McDermid

    Kinda reminds me how the “peach” coloured crayon used to be called “skin” as if it were the only colour skin could possibly be

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    S Payne

    Well they should never build anything for themselves. White people are so selfish only sharing everything the build not just creating to serve the obviously more important people that cause not bit of crime and hardest working. Have we not discovered yet they invented film making and just did it just for white people.

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    Syed Shahrukh Raza

    Oh boy! I grabbed my popcorn as soon as I saw the title. All this video says is that the audience for movies was originally of a lighter skin and thus film techniques were not well-equipped to deal with non-fair skin. If you see racism or white-hating in that statement then you are a lost cause. Get help.

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    DMTHOTH

    Well I know exactly what this video is saying. I used to pick japanese fuji film over kodak film when I was going to take picture with variety of people. The digital only generation wouldnt understand. There were technology to express all skin tone already but some company like kodak was ignoring poc intentionaly.

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    Evelyn Baith

    Technology does what we tell/program/construct it to do, so if we are only thinking of showing and accommodating “white” people than yes the engineers where living in a world where to them only “whites” existed ergo they are really to deep into a segregated world and “forgot” their other customers or didn’t care/value them enough to even think about accommodating them. But of cause capitalism will cure that fast enough.

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    Toon Holman

    Breda isn't in Holland. It's in the Netherlands, not in Holland ;p

    (kudos on your pronunciation though, for an American it's pretty close)

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    Origami and Cats

    In the United States there are many people who can't accept that there were, and still are social issues without taking it personally or make it about themselves. If you show them evidence they stick their fingers in their ears, deny it, hurl insults or throw a tantrum. A 14 year old boy was lynched for whistling at a white woman in 1955 but they stomp their feet and get angry and accuse you of specious reporting of you dare to imply that film manufacturers ignored minorities when they started developing color film technology even earlier than that.

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    Chris van dijk

    Everything is racist.. You people have no self-esteem. That is why everything is racism. Basically when you look for things you can find almost everything racist. This is actually a more of a mental problem.

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    FiIIerguy

    Hit dogs holler. Vox isnt saying technology is racist. Its saying technology is designed with a particular group of people in mind yet advertised to all.

    Case in point the HP camera… That camera wouldn't be faulty to darker skin if someone asked "what about dark skin" during the design process. If definitely would've have left QA if anyone on the team had dark skin, they would've it wasnt working.

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    Jefo of tha universe

    This didn't illustrate that cameras per se or that the technology, to a certain degree, is racist but that the idea behind the invention might have been racist. History can show the plausibility.

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    Douggie S

    Hattie McDaniel looked beautiful on 1939's 'Gone With the Wind' So did all the black actors in any 1930s and 1940s Technicolor film. The famous dancers The Nicholas Brothers made Technicolor films and they were beautiful in them and so was Lena Horne! Perhaps you're speaking of consumer cheap processes? Kodachrome, 1935, captured all skin tones beautifully. Even the old 1920s two-color Technicolor captured black skin tones beautifully.

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    compwiz101

    ITT: People ignoring the complexities of colour film dye formulations affecting colour tone and contrast in favour of the galaxy brain take of "Dark skin means less light!"

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    Eyre Borne

    The technology had limitations: yes, however, the lack of development in such a wide span on time simply deferred to the lack of interest in developing cameras which addressed the issue.

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