Deciding to Use Black and White While Video Editing

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Using black and white filters, otherwise known as desaturation, is one of the most common video effects used in post-production. This can be for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to express visual simplicity or cause a link to the past. When you are thinking about adding black and white to your video clips during video editing there are a few things to consider.

Image Stability

One of the most important factors in the decision to add black and white to your clips is whether or not the video itself can handle this kind of alteration. Color film can maintain less light at times and often helps people make out the images with greater clarity. Black and white, or desaturation, can cause this to become less clear and therefore make viewing the image laborious. Add the filters to the clips and see if they work out, and take special attention to light, contrast, and motion over the background.


The best choice is to usually use either color or black and white over the whole project. This is a choice that is usually made during video editing, but often if you are already set on this you will film in black and white so you know how the images are going to work out. If you only want to use black and white on some of the images there has to be a clear cause for this, such as a change in time and place as well as perception for these clips. Which ever is in the dominance, whether color or desaturation, that will appear to the audience automatically as the primary video. The other will be secondary and will be taken with less prominence by the viewer.


When you are applying black and white you may want to limit other effects, especially color video effects. They will show up stronger and will make the video clips seem even more obvious in their absence of physical reality. Instead keep the clips simple so that people can pay less attention on the editing techniques and suspend disbelief into the story space. Try not to brighten the image or darken the contrast too much as this will be even more noticeable.

This post is part of the series: Video Editing Functions

Here are articles with tips and guides for specific video editing functions.

  1. Tips for Using Capture Now
  2. Slow Motion Video Editing
  3. Deciding to Use Black and White While Video Editing
  4. Tips for Video Editing Render and Compression
  5. The Best Freeware and Open Source Video Editing Software