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

… continuing Color.

Movies essentially based or situated in the past, also have this chromatic influence, but they go the extreme way, by completely making the image desaturated and dying it down to its bare essentials (tone, light/shadows, etc), making it look like the movie is a Black and White representative of the era it is based on (mimicking the movies from that era and how people perceived them).

Taking Black and White as a chromatic pattern (and not the absence or existence of the reflection of light – which by definition denominate the two values as achromatic representatives of the visual spectrum), gives us some leeway in expressing its influence in film and its power over the audience.

Such films like Schindler’s List, Good Night and Good Luck, City of Life and Death, Tetro, The White Ribbon, Control, The Good German and Devil’s on the Doorstep are important examples of this, and most of them, even though being Black and White in their entirety, still enjoy subtle details of the power of Color Correction (the Red Windbreaker from Schindler’s List, the tinting of the image to red in the end of Devil’s on the Doorstep, the filming of The Good German in extremely poppy image, just to have it turned Black and White in Post to accentuate the blacks over the Whites in the film giving us a sensation of actually watching color – a psychologically manipulative trick created by our tuning to the shades in the image and interpreting them as color).

Shades of Grey, sometimes communicate more than a dégradé of colors can. Black, with its unforgiving depth, makes the audience become uneasy over its presence in the screen. White with its purity and flow of peacefulness, the opposite. But, putting them together on the screen creates something different. It creates a sense of nostalgia, of memory, of remembrance and adversely, of reality in the image.

The audience then, when watching a recent film shot/color corrected in Black and White is visually taken to the past, not only by the story or the time that the image/characters represent but, by their memory of what the past presented – Black and White images. The movies selected above could all have been shot in color, some more or less saturated, each having its meaning in the film but, the filmmakers chose to make them Black and White. This choice sometimes boils down to artistic integrity, other times, by complete control over the message.

People don’t remember the past because they lived it and further in life remember that specific moment as a momentary “flash of self memory logging”. They see an image from that time and they “travel” to their past memories.

Black and White creates this sensation in the audience, and even though most haven’t lived through or even seen examples of what had happened in the reality now portrayed in the movie they’re seeing the image, it makes it dawn on them, that what they’re watching must have happened, must be true.

In Black and White, the power of Color, is in reverse (objectively).


But these are all, mostly, examples of films created, studied and developed in the United States, the worlds most prolific and influential creator of cinema, since its studio system of the 1920’s.

With its strength over the distribution, marketing and developing of film, in their country and their biggest and sometimes direct competitors (Europe till the 70’s, Japan through to the 90’s and now the counter-cinema of Asia and South America/Europe), the US has slowly created a sense of homogeneity in what Color Correction has become.

The United States has created a language in what color is concerned, but that language has been backed by decades of studies, tests and programing/counter-programing strategies. The rest of the world though, have been influenced by the US’s ability to manipulate through color, but, most countries, haven’t had the backing/funding, to actually further develop their own language in the realm of the image (color, etc).

Just as a quick and basic example, the French and the Italian have always been great fans of color, updating their films with Technicolor, Kodachrome, Cinecolor, the Eastman profile, color schemes, saturating (or even over saturating) whenever it is/was possible, their images but, their approach on the color they use, is more connected to their relationship with paintings and the color studies of mood, attitude, etc, not trying to ad color to the frame, to transmit/influence the audience into, for example, buying a Coca-Cola bottle at the end of the movies (The Coca Cola case being one of the World’s most famous cases, where by using subliminal manipulation throughout the movies at theater houses, Coca-Cola increased their sales immensely, sometimes upwards of 50%, by simply incorporating fractional – subliminal – images of bottles at specific times of the movies, and increasing the saturation of red afterwards).

I’m not saying that countries other than the United States have always (or ever) treated color as a simple tool of furthering just the image of the film, and not use it as a tool to sell movies/products (there are certainly examples to prove the contrary like the Taxi film series in France or the Asterix in France/Italy), but it has been the US’s fine tuning of the technology that develops the Color Correction and its embracing of the Color Gamut Manipulation that has brought such aberrations as Orange faces and Blue trees (Transformers).

To further exemplify how these changes in movie creation have surpassed barriers and through each culture’s inefficiency of actually developing their own symbolic and color interpretation techniques, have been distorted even further, I’ll talk a bit about the existence of good and bad examples of color correction, and examples that simply show how the technology shouldn’t even be used in some circles.

Color Continued…

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