America’s Color Grading Mania and its Influence Over the World III

… continuing Color.

I will further develop the Teal and Orange color combination in the next few entries, but would like to continue the idea of Color for Film, as theme, and even a relationship between films, to condense the concept of Color Grading and then advance on their specific differences.

As it has been done for the past 20/30 years, different genres have had different color schemes, all trying to easily create sections of the market/film knowledge, that the audience then can easily distinguish.

There are some incredible variations on the examples I choose, and others can be pointed out that also enlighten and further advance the point I’m trying to make, but, for the sake of summation, regard the following examples as some of the most obvious visual examples selected from the past 5/10 years.

Take the following set of films: The Ring, Saw (the franchise), Nightmare on Elm Street Reboot, 30 Days of Night and The Last Exorcism.

They all are from different sides of the Horror Genre, some have vampires, some have monsters, all have blood and frightening situations on them. But that isn’t the only thing these movies have in common.

The color grading of these films, is extremely stylized.

The whites (color) are balanced to cold blues, sometimes even, a blue with so much purple it becomes hard blue. The skin tones become white, making any human seem pale and sickly, further enhancing the idea that the characters in the movie are in trouble. There are hard shadows with saturated blacks, and, more often than not, almost every other color than white/black/grey/blue/dark soft green, is desaturated. All that is, but the color of blood.

Blood can be over-stylized (becoming scarlet or dark red) or in some cases, even turned down to a vitrified black (a scary, inhuman color for blood) making it seem as something alien to the characters in the movie (making blood look out of place from the situations in the Horror genre, makes the audience more at ease towards the violence portrayed in the films they’re watching).

In Horror films, Color Grading is taken to the extreme, and it becomes an immediate focus point for the audience when selecting or choosing to see films from that genre (even though it is a subconscious, selective point in the decision process).

As it is a niche market, Horror then becomes easy to identify, and its viewers and lovers of the genre, are satisfied when they select certain films to enjoy, knowing that they get what they expect when selecting them.

Now take as another example of this selective Color Grading inside the same realm, the Post-apocalyptic Action/Drama films of late.

As examples we have such films as Children of Men (a blend of the Apocalyptic Color Scheme and the Futuristic Green Tinge), Terminator: Salvation, The Road, The Book of Eli, Death Race, Daybreakers and Priest (in these, a fascinating blend of the Horror Genre Grading and the Apocalyptic one).

For these types of films, the Color scheme tends to be extremely desaturated, sometimes almost bordering with black and white, making everything seem distant and decrepit, the same way has a black and white film from the turn of the 20th century did but in reverse.

Lights are strong and directional, making shadows hard and precisely located (echoes of German expressionism and Chiaroscuro) and this creates a sense of heat and warmth that is further enhanced with some treatments of yellow, and paste colors (essentially earth tones), but with the desaturation of the entire image, these focuses of light become blander and weirder than they should, creating a sense of dislocation to the audience.

Audiences expect a dry, arid, strongly dystopian reality when they want to see Apocalyptic movies and, even though the story gives them these and other innate characteristics of the genre, its the visual scheme and the inherent Color Grading of this type of movies that grounds the audience in the the genre they’re watching.

Futuristic/Alternate reality movies tend to have a more realistic color scheme but, nevertheless, tend to inebriate the image with a mono-chromatic tinge, varying with blues and greens in their visual style.

Such films as The Matrix series, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Minority Report, Soldier, Aeon Flux, all tend to be normal tonally but always have a single, more exuberant color distributed throughout the film, depending on the type of emotional pull the DOP and the Art Director, want to imbue in the audience’s subconscious.

For other types of Genre, the subtle presence of color and sometimes its over saturation, helps the audience locate itself in what type of film they are sitting, not that the creators of the movie think that the audience (or their film critics) don’t see or aren’t smart enough to understand the themes of their movies but, rather, use color as an underlying and sometimes almost invisible tool to bring their ideas home.

Color Continued…

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