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Decade-Themed Filter

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"It was so long ago that I have to remember it in sepiatone..."
Abraham Simpson, The Simpsons Hit & Run

Period pieces from The 20th Century often tint the screen to favor filters because it "evokes the period." Usually, filmmakers and photographers even use the same colors for their respective periods, such as beige and coffee brown for The '90s, dark blue or magenta for the The '80s, bright orange for The '60s, high contrast and shiny for the The '50s, brownish/orange red and sea-foam green for the 1930s, or monochrome and classic for The Roaring '20s.

How these filters "evoke the period" are due to what color schemes were popular to emulate the zeitgeist throughout each decade, how fade-proof and long-lasting the available dyes and pigments were for those colors, and due to the technological advancements of film and camera throughout the past century. Of course, with many recordings of the era inevitably suffering from the passing of time, these imitations usually replicate how said recordings look today in their heavily damaged state, rather than trying to make it look like mint-condition (perhaps out of a fear of invoking Reality Is Unrealistic). To break it down:

  • Silent Era (1880s to mid-1920s): Low resolution, considerable film damage, high contrast values with little to no grayscale, blacked out edge gradient forming an ellipse/round rect or a vignette, occasional film skips, intertitles and piano music. Likely to be undercranked, resulting in manic, jittery motions. Any usage of color from this era would either be tinted and toned with single colors, or be painstakingly hand-painted with muted colors.
  • Talkie Era (late 1920s and 1930s): Same as the above except with improved resolution, a balanced grayscale that now filters all colors, probably no vignette, and of course sound replacing the piano, albeit sounding quite tinny and/or fuzzy. Early color films only filtered red and bluish-green.
  • Golden Era (1940s to mid-1960s): Despite the existence of full-color film, which now use three tones instead of two, is usually represented by black and white or sepia (as color motion pictures were still a rarity at the time due to the high expense of color film stock). Quality is typically crisp with film damage reduced.
  • Color Era (late 1960s to early 1980s): Uses color film but has a yellow/orange color bias with certain hues missing. Film damage is equivalent to Golden Era. Resolution is dropped if imitating the newly emerging cheap personal camcorders of the time, often adding additional film damage and especially additional skips.
  • Video Era (1980s to 1990s): Brighter colors though not quite right, often with biases of green, blue, or magenta. Lower resolution and VCR tracking filters are often a feature. Film damage is no longer included, despite existing until the digital era (and often being reproduced artificially in said era) though glitches simulating a chewed or damaged VHS tape may be included. Camcorder footage is usually just lower resolution and a little washed out.
  • Digital Era (2000s onward): True color, 1080p or higher resolution, though due to streaming bandwidth limitations early 2000s videos may be dropped in resolution or highly compressed to look authentic. Personal recording devices are sporadically differentiated with lower resolution. Early 2000s color filters will often be color washed with blue-gray or orange-brown, while 2010s filters will occasionally be filtered with rosy undertones with faded shadows.

Optionally, audio can also be filtered to mimic the sound quality of the time.

Subtrope of Retraux and Painting the Medium. Compare Monochrome Past. When it switches between film and video mediums due to technical limitations as opposed to style, that is Video Inside, Film Outside.


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    Comic Books 
  • Captain America: Steve Rogers: Flashbacks to the 1940s are black, white, grey and red. Present day scenes, of course, are full color. This allows the reader to easily identify which scenes take place in Steve's rewritten past.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Cars short "Time Travel Mater" features scenes from different eras rendered in sepia, black-and-white, and two-strip Technicolor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Artist completely evoked the film style of the late 1920s from the intertitles to the use of Academy Ratio.
  • The Aviator begins in the 1920s, where the film is colored to look like Two-Tone Technicolor. Once it progresses into the 30s onward it gets a more-vibrant 3-Strip Technicolor look.
  • Invoked in the film Be Kind Rewind, when the community comes together to film a "documentary" about the life of musician Fats Waller. Filming with their camera's black & white mode on, they recreate the visual effect of a silent film with a contraption made of a fan spinning in front of the camera (to mimic the frame rate of early films) and strings (to mimic the striations/ damage on the film stock).
  • On the "News on the March" segment of Citizen Kane, clips such as Kane's first marriage were undercranked and sandpapered to give out an 1890s feel.
  • The Chilean film No based on the successful campaign to vote NO to continue Augusto Pinochet's regime in 1988, was made entirely using 80s cameras and VCR effects to emulate the decade, so the film seems like it was really recorded in The '80s.
  • Waiting For Anya, set in the 1940s, has a low-contrast color treatment that resembles early color photography.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). In "Darkside Tango", there's a sepia-tinted flashback to Jet Black's days as a detective in the ISSP, which has a 1950's style clothing and vehicles. This continues even in contemporary scenes where Jet works with his ex-partner to find out who framed him back then.
  • Life on Mars (2006) begins in the present with everything having a blueish tinge; when he goes back to "1973", however, everything is yellow-shaded.
  • In The Pretender, flashbacks to Parker's childhood in the 1970s have a slightly washed out yellowish color treatment.
  • In WandaVision, each episode plays homage to sitcoms from a specific time period, and is filmed to resemble that specific time period. The first two episodes, for example, are filmed entirely in black-and-white, with the exception of a segment at the end of Episode 2 that transitions to the washed-out colors of the Sixties.

    New Media 
  • Windows Movie Maker has three video effects named Old, Older, and Oldest that gives a video clip an aged feel.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Discussed in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin's father explains that old photographs are always in black and white because the world was black and white at the time. He adds that the world eventually turned color in the 1930s, but it had pretty grainy color for a time.

  • Three of Bruno Mars' music videos such as "Locked Out of Heaven", "Treasure", and "When I Was Your Man" were rendered into late 1970s style videos up to the video quality and all.
  • The backstory of the song "Green Tinted Sixties Mind" by Mr. Big - The liner notes from the songs' parent album suggest the inspiration for the song as follows, "Did you ever notice how old movies from the sixties have sort of a green tint to them? Strange but true."
  • Vaporwave and Synthwave music have usually their music videos and/or images under the VCR filters since both styles reference 80s and 90s eras. In the case of Vaporwave, usually 80s TV ads are used in some of the songs as well western animations or anime scenes from those decades. In the case of Synthwave, the original animations and recordings have a similar VCR filter to emulate these years.
  • Pizzicato Five: As a Retraux group, various of their music videos have filters as if they were recorded in The '60s, The '70s or The '80s, depending of the song.
  • There are plugins for DAW programs that simulate the saturation on reel-to-reel audiotape as well as surface noise on vinyl records.

    Video Games 
  • Cuphead was made entirely as a Retraux video game made in the early Golden Era of animation, in which designs, fashion and even filters remind this era with the first Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop cartoons. You can even unlock a filter reminiscent of two-strip Technicolor films.
  • The original Mass Effect had a special graphics option to apply grain filter over all visuals, specifically to invoke the 1970s movie era.
  • The adventure game AMBER: Journeys Beyond shows this depending on the time period of the ghosts you visit, ranging from a World War 2 widow, a drowned child in the 1920s, and a delusional gardener from the early 1960s. The gameplay window even changes shape to match.
  • One Finger Death Punch has the "Retro Film Rounds", which come with an extra challenge of special enemies not being Color-Coded for Your Convenience: instead, everything is sepia-colored to invoke old Hong Kong martial arts movies.
  • The WWE Video Games from WWE 13 and onwards allows players to create arenas with filters from the 80s, 90s, late 90s and present day.
  • The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, being set in 1962, has a very thick golden/orange filter in certain levels, especially in the HQ.
  • Yandere Simulator's 1980s mode features a VHS-esque filter, and the voiceovers are accompanied by analog-looking text on a blue background.
  • Video footage in Hypnospace Outlaw, set in 2000, is low-resolution and heavily crushed to include the random pixel dithering artefacts of 2000s animated GIFs and RealPlayer videos.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Rabbit Games: All of the videos are in a low resolution to represent the time period (2010-2015) they were supposed to be recorded in. One of them even features the Bandicam watermark.

  • Lackadaisy, alongside the Awesome Art and the well-researched details that goes well with the lives of the anthropomorphic gangster cats in 1920s St. Louis, filter the frames akin to an authentic 1920s photograph.

    Web Original 
  • The appropriately named "1977" Instagram filter, which gives out a 1970s-style Polaroid look.
  • The "100 Years of Exercise" video showcases the different workout routines throughout the decades all the while filtering not only the segments, but also the transitions.
  • A three-part video by a Youtuber named "Aly Art" demonstrates on applying makeup through the decades and how, in theory, camera technology affects the makeup styles, all the while putting filters in each decade.
  • Done quite often in Epic Rap Battles of History; historical figures that often appear in black and white in photos and popular media, like Sigmund Freud, Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King Jr., are depicted in black and white as well. Same thing in "Bruce Lee vs Clint Eastwood" (the entire video has an old timey Lee and/or Eastwood movies filter over it), and "Michael Jackson vs Elvis Presley" (a grainy filter that makes the characters appear as if they're in the '60s-'80s era), to name a few.
  • This video showcasing riffs of Brazilian music has each passing decade reflecting how the image would appear in a television of the time - the 60s is monochrome, the 70s have muted colors, and only the 2000s end the Raster Vision.

    Western Animation 
  • Often when there is a Flashback or time shift to the Western days, everything goes sepia toned.