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Black-and-white is a broad adjectival term used to describe a number of forms of visual technology. Most forms of visual technology start out in black and white, then slowly evolve into color as technology progresses.

The term is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, with full-color being regarded as more desirable.

"Black-and-white" as a description is also something of a misnomer, for in addition to black and white most of these media included varying shades of grey. Further, the original stock of many early photographic and film formats were in sepia, which gave a richer, more subtle shading than reproductions in plain black-and-white, although less so than color.

Some popular black-and-white media forms of the past include:

Today black-and-white media often has a "nostalgic," historic, or anachronistic feel to it. Some modern film directors will occasionally shoot movies in black-and-white because they believe it captures their vision better. For example, the 1998 Woody Allen film Celebrity was shot entirely in black-and-white. Other films, such as Pleasantville and The Wizard of Oz play with the concept of the black-and-white anachronism, using it to selectively portray scenes and characters who are either more outdated or dull than the characters and scenes shot in full-color.

Some television commercials have used the splash of color effect, in which the entire advertisement except for the scenes of the product, is shot in black and white. In some ads, this format is taken a step further in which persons who have not used the product appear that way, as if they were 'drab and lifeless,' and then, upon using the product, they then appear in colour as if their entire existence has changed.

In computing terminology black-and-white is often used to refer to an image consisting solely of black or white pixels; what would normally be called a black-and-white image is more accurately referred to in this context as grayscale or greyscale, ie an image containing shades of grey.

The phrase, "to see things in black-and-white" means to disregard the moral complexities of an issue and seek simplistic solutions.