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…

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

The next series of articles, are a collection of thoughts and recollections of how the evolution of color correction/color study as led us, as an audience, critics, filmmakers, to discern one style of movie from another, to further enhance and comprehend the message that is being portrayed in the art-form and, in some cases, where that movie is coming from or even going to.

As an introduction, I will write about the beginning of color correction, some human principles of communication, the advent of digital color grading and, in the present, the complete and utter corruption and adulteration of filmic and artistic representations of reality.

We, as a species, can distinguish an enormous gamut of different colors, tones, etc.

That ability is determined by our extreme sensitivity to a certain part of the electromagnetic field (the visible spectrum), and its variation, the reflection, refraction, blending or bending of light that is captured by the world and registered by our eyes.

This innate ability to distinguish certain parts of reality through its visual pigment makes us, in our planet, a rare breed, and lets us communicate between ourselves, by simply combining, adulterating or even sequencing color to deliver our messages (as a part of vastly different types of communication).

Since there’s been communication, there’s been coloring.

From the different shades of black, brown, red and silver, existing in the prehistoric caves to the beautiful blending of water colors in paintings, the disturbing printings of color in propaganda posters and the corruption of realistic color palettes in modern film, Man has always put color to its vision/representation of its world.

Since there’s been a representation of reality nonetheless, there’s also been color correction, rather coloring over the visualised reality.

Color grading, or color correction as it is known to the public, is a process where by means of a digital work-flow, or analog one, the native color of an image, situation, place is adulterated into something composed.

Film, like any higher art form, has always been keen on collecting and decomposing its influences, undermining and sometimes completely ignoring, where and why they have come to be.

In film, Color Grading started when the tinting of the frame was first introduced (a process that began in the 1890’s), and later established, where by means of different emulsions of film, certain acids/bases gave the frame different color variations.

When it all started, color grading/correction, was a means to create a more realistic view of reality.

With the evolution of the art-form, grading helped propel cinema to hights of a meta art, something that as art represented not only the art and the reality itself, but another layer of interpretation of reality that made audiences infatuated with it. But, with the advent of the nickelodeon and the necessity of profit over the art, an industry was created.

That industry, like any industry after the industrial revolution, had to be as profitable, and as effective in its exhibition of message as possible. By itself, the industry needed to survive by the flow of funds, and by the ability to exhibit the product to as many people as possible, as many times as possible.

Other sophisticated tools have been created and adapted to further propel cinema as a worldwide billion dollar making industry, but color grading, being so subtle and unnoticeable, has been a tool, that can easily demonstrate the evolution of the art-form, and objectively dissect our ability to manipulate each other as a species.

Psychoanalysis and psychological manipulation through electrical currents, image shifting, color aberration theories and other scientific methods have been used since the beginning of the 20th century to study human beings, and our ability to communicate with each other.

This level of scientific research and its possible use in studying our innate reactions to centuries and centuries of patterned communication, has given filmmakers immense power over what they show, how they show and to whom they show their movies.

Color study, in labs, and later in film (controlled crowd testing, advertisement testing, etc), gives the creator an immense ability to communicate to the audience subliminally, most of the time, without the audience knowing about it.

If you have the patience, tell me or think about it.

How did the colors influence you while reading the text?
Slow start, “interesting” and “aggressive” middle and calm ending was it?
Or didn’t you even notice the colors?

Color continues…