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Colors in movies and TV: What happened to them? (vox.com)
339 points by JaimeThompson 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 281 comments

Just another fad.

Visual artists are very fashion driven. As technology creates new possibilities, they get abused.

In the 80/90s music videos had fade/dissolve effects. Then in early 2000s a lot of them played with the aspect ratio "black bands" (like when you play 4:3 on 16:10), making them white, pink, or textured, with border lines and other effects.

In 2010s slow-motion (high FPS played back at regular speed) was the thing. So every other video had the slow motion "water/colored dust hitting something" scene.

Since 2015, color grading is the new fad. Also unnatural weird (LED) lighting, like the left half of the frame in strong red light and the right half in strong blue light.

Color grading is also infecting instagram. For example in city photography, there is quite a trend of grading them orange/teal.

There is also a lot of social pressure to color grade. If you don't, fellow artists will say something like "look at that peasant, he didn't grade his stuff, what a noob, putting out real colors, he probably doesn't even know what a LUT is".

And then you have the honest noob who tries to improve his skill, and he sees all the pros doing it, so he concludes that he should too, since all the pros can't be wrong, even if to his eyes the strongly color graded video kind of looks like shit, but he's just probably wrong and just needs to educate his aesthetics.

There will come a point when color grading will fell out of fashion, just like you rarely see a fade/dissolve or slow-motion effect today, and when they are used it's because they make sense, not because you must do it no matter what.

> there is quite a trend of grading them orange/teal

I could swear I read in essence the same article about movies being all orange/teal a couple or three years ago.

EDIT: oh, that was 2013 actually. Ironically O'Brother gets the blame for that too.



How very kind of you to format that un-clicky (not sarcasm)

Making you think twice before opening tv tropes is probably for the better. Do you really want to go down that path right now?

Oh man is that site a rabbit hole.

Reminds me of Every Frame a Painting on YouTube - another fascinating place where hours can fly by.

though it's quicker to go through the whole Every Frame a Painting series on YT that dig back up to the surface from a good old tvtrope rabbit hole.

"You are in a maze of little twisty TVTropes links. It is very distracting. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."

The understated comment ^

Consider it a warning before you visit the site.

Here's a discussion about it in HN from 2010: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1193657

Sounds very much like what happens in other industries (such as software development). "Look at that peasant, he didn't use Rust, ..."

Rounded corners! Radius on buttons (“Pills”) started its journey in 2018 and it spread like a plague.

Not every change is based on stylistic fads alone. Rounded corners on elements can increase the ability of users to recognize them and separate them from other elements, because visually the borders are less likely to be confused with other UI elements (lower cognitive load).

This article quotes a researcher on this topic:

> A rectangle with sharp edges takes indeed a little bit more cognitive visible effort than for example an ellipse of the same size. Our ‘fovea-eye’ is even faster in recording a circle. Edges involve additional neuronal image tools. The process is therefore slowed down.¹

1: https://designmodo.com/rounded-corners/

Mark my words - there is going to be a reverse trend, say 5-10 years from now. Same with color gradients, it will become uncool. It's all fashion.

> sharp edges takes indeed a little bit more cognitive visible effort

I have my doubts about this. It is 100% fad IMO.

Like how Windows slowly removed colors from it's icons, until they almost became black and white, only to reintroduce color back in Windows 11.

And how Windows 11 lists rounded windows and corners as a "signature feature"!


And they still managed to get the round corners wrong, apparently. According to that page, the radius values are hardcoded in pixels, so they don't scale with the display's DPI setting.

That's at least a decade after the W3C had a well-developed concept of relative units for use with the CSS:

https://www.w3.org/Style/Examples/007/units.html#future (2010)

Thus, with a sufficiently high DPI display, you're going to miss out on one of Windows 11's "signature experiences" and end up with "legacy" squarish corners instead.

They use "effective pixels", just like CSS pixels are not actual pixels:

> Because of how the scaling system works, when you design your UWP app, you're designing in effective pixels, not actual physical pixels. Effective pixels (epx) are a virtual unit of measurement, and they're used to express layout dimensions and spacing, independent of screen density. (In our guidelines, epx, ep, and px are used interchangeably.)


Also, Windows scales the pixel size when you use a legacy application (non DPI aware) on high DPI displays.

I just updated to Android 12 and the new border-radius on nearly every UI element is beyond absurd. It actually looks like someone just discovered that CSS property, and instead of being told by a designer "that looks goofy and childlike, tone it down," they doubled the value and put it on even more elements.

My notifications pull-down fits about 3 useful notifications. The rest is whitespace and rounded corners 4 layers deep. It's horrible.

Pill-shaped buttons were part of the Aqua theme in the original release of OS X. For a long time after that, UIs aped Aqua with pinstripes and jelly-shaded pills and while the pinstripes and jelly have gone, I think the pills are here to stay for some styles.

Yeah but there was a huge push just last year, basically every single SaaS app to Firefox, everyone folded. During the Aqua days, every company had their own unique take on design. Today, it is a design monoculture driven by the types of Stripe and Apple.

Design used to be a differentiating feature. Everything looks the same today. Kind of a Big Tech dystopia, even in design.

As the owner of an ultrawide...so much whitespace.

My point was, a lot of UI followed or was heavily inspired by whatever Apple was doing even then. These days, there's more Google in the mix.

Before pill buttons, they were gray beveled rounded rectangles, be it native or web, on every platform.

I don't view now as being especially dominated by sameness versus the past.

Aqua - the "lickable" theme. I miss it, I prefer it to the current washed out MacOS where I cant tell what is what.

It was already there 10 years earlier in OpenLook.

Don’t forget gradients for everything.

Going even further back, the tacky wild fractal wallpaper backgrounds on websites with animated gif “under construction” banners on top.

Give it 5 years and iOS and android will get some visual refresh that makes the current stuff look very dated.

Fashion is constantly changing and being revisited. It’s just the way it is. Something about it is what makes humans what they are. We love it…

Corporate Memphis!

> Since 2015, color grading is the new fad. Also unnatural weird (LED) lighting, like the left half of the frame in strong red light and the right half in strong blue light.

I recently learned this specific combo is called “bisexual lighting”:


> In 2010s slow-motion (high FPS played back at regular speed) was the thing. So every other video had the slow motion "water/colored dust hitting something" scene.

Probably more late-00s than 2010s, but IIRC, the optical-flow slowdown effect was created (and cheaply) distributed.

Older slow-mo effects required high FPS cameras. But with 00s technology, you could optical-flow time warp to any slowdown you desired, with mostly good looking results. 300 (released in 2006) was the first popular film that did this, but IIRC the effect was being used in a lot of action films all over the place.

Slow-motion was definitely the "Oh wow, that looks cool, and it costs so cheap. Lets do it" effect of the 00s.

>300 (released in 2006) was the first popular film that did this

Does Spider-Man count in 2002?


That's definitely not the optical-flow slowdown trick I'm talking about. That spiderman slow-motion was some combination of 3d effects and maybe real-life cameras ("Matrix" style: https://beforesandafters.com/2021/07/15/vfx-artifacts-the-bu...)


This scene from 300 is very clearly just a wide-angle shot (initially), with someone playing with the Optical Flow timewarp effect (sliding it up and down). Its incredibly cheap.

See this demo in Premier Pro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErOc_LkZaIk


That's the thing. 300's main innovation was using _cheap_ effects. Optical flow time-warp didn't appear on Premier for another few years, but the algorithm was popular and was just a custom filter / program that was getting passed around at that time.

Upon rewatch, im not even convinced its bullet time and not just a bunch of people standing very still. Which worked for the most part in Anna Karenina and that one video of kids playing basketball.

Your point makes sense though, the commonization of frame interpolation is a landmark moment.

And all this time we've had star wipe. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, why are we eating hamburger when we can have steak?

Happens to games too, i often spend good time modifying the game to get rid of the screen filter effects that ruin the whole render.

I don't think this is a fad. Artists have been purposefully using limited palettes or limited gamuts for a long time. Often, painting the color that you actually see ends up looking garish, amateurish, or at best, out of place. The film industry is just doing what traditional representative Western Art has been doing for hundreds of years; even after artists had access to cheap, vibrant colors.

Gated reverb on snare drum. Looking at you, Hugh Padgham.

It's also way easier to have "good colors" (in a color theoretical sense) this way, and achieve a coherent and consistent look throughout the movie. It's thus one of the best ways to keep budget down, as it will hide a lot of issues you'd have while filming, while generally requiring less work. I believe it to be an important factor since full 3D movies have excellent color comps --see for instance Nathan Fowkes' works. (as an side, in the opposite direction, I remember Kung-fu Panda having pretty good colours, yet I found it a bit tiring to watch.)

probably not another fad, it jus stems from color theory, which have been incorporated in film one way or another for a really long time. Even before these digital color grading took place, scenes in movies are carefully planned out, from set to costumes to lighting, so they fit within a certain range in the color space such it's pleasant for viewers.

The orange and teal look is just a very widely used combination that utilizes complementary colors. Even though it's been used a lot i personally still find it quite appealing.

Yup. Eventually someone's gonna re-discover that color is a few more bits to flip to aid in your story telling and the fad's gonna go in the trash.

> In the 80/90s music videos had fade/dissolve effects.

See "Be in my Video" song by Frank Zappa, Them or Us album [1984].

"Requiem for a Dream" is a peak fad, notorious for using "MTV Editing": it has over 1500 cuts. Completely unheard of.

Reminds me of the lens flares of the mid 90s and ring explosions of the late 90s. Think Babylon 5 and the Star Wars reissue.

There's a strange but wonderful little film called Avalon [0], directed by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame, for which i will now give spoilers.

The film concerns a virtual-reality game, with scenes shot in both the real world and the game. The game world is absolutely drenched in what that article calls "intangible sludge" - everything is a murky brown, and settings are usually fairly spartan, containing little other than the player characters and enemies. The real world, on the other hand, looks naturalistic, albeit shabby, given that this is set in crapsack cyberpunk Eastern European city.

Or at least, you think it is. Until the final act of the film, when the protagonist gains access to a "Class Special A" level in the game - which is simply modern-day Warsaw, shot straight, like a documentary, and as such is crammed with life and colour. After an hour and a half of the various shades of beige in the earlier levels and the real world, your brain has recalibrated itself to that, and so this perfectly normal scene assaults you with its hyperreality. It's a trick, and a simple trick, but it's amazingly effective!

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon_(2001_film)

I‘ve been fascinated by this film for years now and highly recommend it for anyone who likes artistic and a bit surreal sci-fi films. It‘s one of the few films that somehow deeply touches me, where I can fully immerse.

It's an amazing film, and I adore the soundtrack.

The Lord of the Rings theory appeals to me, not because I think it's right, but because those movies set much else in motion that has plagued film since. For one: fight scenes. The constant cuts from close-up to close-up of the faces of those fighting did an absolutely terrible job of getting the combat across, whether the scale, the difficulty, or what was even logically happening. Many of the fight scenes in movies since have focused on the up-close, refusing to use the vast expanse of the movie screen to do what it's built to do — show large-scale action, give a sense of where this is happening in the world, and showing the characters as being a small part of that world instead of, well, giant faces grimly emoting.

I’ve always assumed it’s cheaper to have an editor quick-cut footage into fake combat than to have a choreographer create realistic combat.

Also, combat in general is incredibly boring in modern films. Punch, punch, grunt, grimace - without any consequence. Maybe someone has a cut lip which is gone in the next scene. Superhero movies are the worst for this, where characters routinely throw each other through walls and none of it matters because they are as good as invincible.

Wider shots would require so much more CGI work.

Many movies these days are simply a formula that as a middle aged person I've seen so many times I just can't watch action or superhero movies, I have zero interest. I am not the target audience though. Even movies aimed at my demographic are laden with tropes, little interesting or creative storyline.

Long form TV is generally much more creative story based and does not reboot old TV so much (Bell Air is more of an exception than a rule).

Early in the pandemic my wife and I started a small virtual film club with a remit of "old, bad, B, or unheard-of films". It's been hugely entertaining, far more so than the modern repetitiveness of superhero movies. And a lot of them make great use of colour, such as the Hammer/Amicus horror movies. Those tend to do fun things with red/green lighting, side or underlighting, or splashes of light across the eyes of an otherwise in darkness character.

Re: Bel Air reboot, "dark reboot of light comedy series" is such a ridiculous cliche that I can't believe they've actually done it. Very 2020s.

Do you have any film recommendations?

My wife has an entire blog of them: https://lockdowntransmissions.wordpress.com/2022/01/03/the-c... ; my faves of that list are The Silencers (Dean Martin does a Bond spoof), and Robo-Vampire (low budget knockoff Robocop fights Chinese vampires, incredible nonsense ensues)

I'd add Theater of Blood (Vincent Price thespian camp horror with a large number of cameos from British character actors of the 1970s), Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up And Scald Myself With Tea (Soviet time-travel twin-swap comedy), and White Sun Of The Desert, which is traditionally watched by astronauts in their last night of pre-launch quarantine at Baikonur. https://24htech.asia/i-was-bored-so-i-watched-the-movie-that... ; that has some legitimately great shots in it.

To the original question, if you like technicolor you owe it to yourself to see Singin' In The Rain, not just for the title dance sequence but several other big numbers.

> Long form TV is generally much more creative story based

Agree with the rest, but I'm afraid that i find 99.95% of the current TV series as boring as superhero movies. At least a movie finishes in (up to) 3 hours...

> Maybe someone has a cut lip which is gone in the next scene

Agree in general. Atomic Blonde is one of the rare films that doesn't fall into this trap. The lead character gets cuts and bruises that persist between scenes and even changes her hair style at one point to hide a black eye picked up in a fight.

I think marvel has actually gotten fairly good at fights and making them interesting to watch as a function of why the hero is unique tbh.

Throwing huge punches is bad. Firing arbitrary laser blasts is even worse. Especially when the consequences of being hit seem so trivial. But it can be done well. I think Thor Ragnarok is a good example of this.

This is the first movie in which both Thor and Hulk were actually shown as extremely strong with little more than just physical blows. What’s noteworthy is that most of the fights they’re in are very easy for them, and frankly it’s much more fun to watch them stylishly stomp 100 goons and look strong rather than incomprehensibly struggle to fend off 10 nobodies. Filmmakers tend to be afraid of having a fight scene without tension.

Avengers infinity war fight v. Thanos also comes to mind as a quick little highlight reel of each of a dozen characters special contributions. It comes across as competent and unique.

Off the top of my head, black panther, iron man 1,2,3, guardians of the galaxy 1,2, Shang chi, wandavision, earlier avengers, all felt particularly bad at this.

While I respect your opinion I urge you to watch any early Jackie Chan movie to see how magnificent cinematic fighting can be. The Marvel fights are amateur hour! Please exit my lawn, stage right.

This episode of "Every Frame a Painting" does an excellent job of explaining why Jackie Chan's way of doing action is awesome and why contemporary Hollywood (generally) sucks:


Jackie is a genius, no doubt.

There’s a big difference in movies though. Jackie is basically always a human fighting humans. He is always either fighting an extremely competent opponent and it will be fairly serious martial arts; or it will be him comedically fighting a ton of goons which you know are way weaker than him but he’s got some sort of hilarious disadvantage. But it’s always somewhat grounded.

Superhero movies tend to have weird matchups where the balance is already heavily skewed.

Shitty movies do this dance where the bad guy is slightly stronger and does irrelevant damage to the protagonist before being one shotted by a dumb trick, which is probably a call back to something earlier in the film.

Better films actually have this implication that in a fight, if an opponent does their thing, you’re going to die.

Marvel is starting to do more of the latter. It’s just much more rewarding when protagonists win by virtue of competence and their own abilities.


This fight contains no particularly good martial arts, has a lot of cuts, and has a lot of big blasty attacks but they’re all very juicy and you do believe the threat is real. It’s especially good because everything both characters are doing are somewhat novel to them. It’s on the fly improv and physical character development.

Very different from Jackie’s stuff but I think very good.

hell yeah, you will see sequences that boil down to "Jackie found this weird prop and spent two days figuring out interesting ways to use it to beat the shit out of people" and they will be amazing.

I couldn't disagree with that more. The 'MCU' Marvel films seem to be filled with massive fights between two effectively invincible forces with no consequences. Added to that all the characters in many of the scenes are completely CGI so they don't carry any visual weight to them.

Compared to Sam Raimi's Spiderman films, which has a lot of less CGI and smaller set pieces in general but the fight scenes look more impactful because of it.

"Ghost in a Shell" is 100% CGI / Anime, but the fights absolutely had consequences and weight.

I actually hate Attack on Titan as a show, but damn the action scenes actually have weight and logic to them, far superior to the Marvel stuff despite being 100% cartoon.


That being said: Marvel seems to be going with more of a "Dragonball Z" or "RWBY" approach to combat. Which is fine as long as the writing is good enough. Its a different style for sure...

Except ya know. Dragonball Z / RWBY largely does it better.


Its less about action shots and more about demonstrating superpowers. Everyone knows Goku will try to end the fight with a Kamehameha wave. At some point, Goku will go Super Saiyan or beyond, etc. etc.

Similarly: Capt. America will throw his shield, Iron Man shoots some lasers, Hulk will grab, punch, and grapple something.

I think it varies tremendously by film and director. I guess I wouldn’t say the median marvel film is good at this.

I also happen to think that the best Spider-Man fight scenes were by far the Andrew Garfield ones. Those scenes were incredibly juicy, especially the second, for all its terrible writing and worldbuilding.

> Shang chi

Shang Chi had some good long-shot Wuxia-style scenes.

It wasn't as good as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" but unlike the rest of the Marvel films, Shang Chi actually had proper fight scenes in them.

But you're right in that most Marvel scenes make no damn sense from an action perspective. I'm constantly annoyed by their cuts personally. I'm just surprised that you threw Shang Chi into the same boat, because Shang Chi had more proper action shots than I can remember.

I'm not talking about the CGI-dragon fight at the end (which went back into the Marvel mold of CGI + jump cuts). I'm talking about like, the first scene between Ying Li and Weng Wu (Shang-Chi's mother and father). Or the Bus-fight, which was pretty good IMO. At least, good by Marvel standards (which are pretty bad).

It doesn't hold a candle compared to a good Jackie Chan scene, but at least they kept the camera still _SOMETIMES_ in Shang-Chi, rather than never keeping the damn camera still.


That being said, I enjoy Marvel films. I just wish they shot the action better.

I thought Shang chi was very disappointing as a martial arts film. The choreography seemed weak. The bus fight was decent. Jackie Chan portrays himself as an incredible fighter but always very human. Shang chi, in my opinion, portrayed himself as a… pretty good fighter but weirdly powerful.

Marvel’s best raw martial arts fights were probably on the likes of Daredevil (Netflix), Winter Soldier, and the Falcon Series. But I don’t feel they’ve gotten Kung fu or traditional Chinese stuff down well ever.

I bring up "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" because its also on the same fantasy scale as Shang Chi and other Marvel films. The feats are fully superhuman, and super-physical. Physics just don't work like that.

> Marvel’s best raw martial arts fights were probably on the likes of Daredevil (Netflix), Winter Soldier, and the Falcon Series.

That's called "Street Level" superheroes. There are superpowers, but they're much toned down. Its a different genre.

> It wasn't as good as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

I saw it, it was all people swinging around on wires with the wires painted out. By the arc of their movement, I knew where the wires were, anyway. The whole thing just looked silly.

Wuxia theater is older than film... deriving from a culture that's thousands of years old. Ancient theater, literary prose, philosophy, martial arts, and yes... swinging around on wires on stage.

EDIT: I distinctly remember some of the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" weapon-scenes to be incredible katas that formed a cohesive story. Its an element of dance and martial arts, less practical and less pragmatic but beautiful nonetheless. A lot of them didn't involve wires at all.

I'm not necessarily saying you should like Wuxia, but perhaps you should try to understand it? Its definitely not about being believable, any more so than Odysseus's voyage was believable. (Or perhaps: an opera about a princess who falls asleep because of a sewing needle, and a prince who fights a dragon so that he could wake her up by kissing her).


Shang-Chi had an element of Wuxia in it. Not a lot, but enough for me to get what they were going for.

Sorry, I'd never heard of Wuxia, but the use of wires was common in the movies. The reviews of the movie at the time were all about the flying around, which just didn't look like much to me.

The original matrix films did this much better imo. They had the Wuxia floatiness but it felt more… constrained with a modern vibe?


The Matrix had no kata that was anywhere near as good as this duel from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Like, Keanu Reeves studied Kung Fu. These actresses are king Fu, and the difference is huge.


Matrix 2 had a weapons kata demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXGE0vuuaDo

Its not quite as good.

Watch Gangs of London and The Punisher. Fighting scenes are much better choreographed and are more realistic and brutal.

Heck, even Daredevil had some fantastic scenes too. Particularly the staircase scene.

It's a double win, because it's not only cheaper, it's also more "like being there". Because unless the battle happens to be commanded by an AI embodied as a flock of observation drones, nobody would have that generous wide shot view, not even the highest ranking commanders.

I agree with the boring nature of most "superhuman" fight scenes (of both "declared" kind, superheeoes, and the "undeclared" kind, regular mortals who just happen to be over the top for cheap awe effects).

But there have also been some recent examples (ca this century) that I found quite impressive, usually characterized by a short violent burst of crazyness and then everybody is dead, heavily inured or routing, and maybe slowly beginning to consider that perhaps they haven't actually lost.

>But there have also been some recent examples (ca this century) that I found quite impressive, usually characterized by a short violent burst of crazyness and then everybody is dead, heavily inured or routing, and maybe slowly beginning to consider that perhaps they haven't actually lost.

I enjoyed the fighting scenes in the animated show _Invincible_ much more than any fight scenes I've seen in a Marvel film for this reason.

Explosive and (usually) consequential.

Wouldn't "being there" also include observers not directly involved in a fight? Like all the people supplying us with mobile phone footage of real life happenings. Usually real life shots are shakey and not that generous, but the kind would feel natural to moviegoers.

> because it's not only cheaper, it's also more "like being there".

"Being there" is an excuse Hollywood has used for ages for not training actors properly, not doing any fight choreography etc.

Marvel now spends millions of dollars on boring CGI fights because they couldn't be bothered to spend the same (or actually less) money on filming actual fights. Just look at what John Wick did with a 54-57-year old actor and Nobody did with a 57-year old actor for the fraction of the price of most modern action movies.

With Dragon Ball you saw actual brushes and injuries. Nowdays, with Dragon Ball Super...

At least the manga it's still respecting the original artwork.

> combat in general is incredibly boring in modern films. Punch, punch, grunt, grimace - without any consequence

I mean this kind of stuff has been around forever. The A-Team pioneered “punch punch grimace, get up and walk away” to the point where it was comical.

> to the point where it was comical

So much so that I was actually shocked to see characters actually dying in the most recent film.

Yes, why can't all fight scenes be brutal and brilliant like the prison scene in the Punisher? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MHJHkA6LMk

That's a perfect example of the extreme orange+blue color grading.

There’s a great quote from Jackie Chan about fight scenes: “I never move my camera. Always steady. Wide angle.”

Most action scenes in movies have moving cameras with fast cuts and zoomed in faces. Makes it impossible to actually track what’s happening. I didn’t realize this until I saw this※ YT video specifically about his action comedy style.

※ - https://youtu.be/Z1PCtIaM_GQ

Similar thing with Fred Astaire dance sequences (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxPgplMujzQ), or kpop dance practice videos (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovztfpWPo5M). The actual dancing provides all the excitement you could ever need.

Jackie Chan can do that because he has the talent to choreograph and perform fights.

Now that most stunts are performed by computer generated humans instead of talented actors/stuntmen, it does seem a lot of this is to avoid the uncanny valley. The Neo v. 10k Smiths fight from Matrix Reloaded used wide angles and avoided quick cuts if I remember correctly and looked like a cartoon even when it was cutting edge in 2003. I wonder if it was tried again in 2022 the technology would have advanced enough to make it look real.

I remember many people saying that that was a great scene, but to me it immediately looked horrible -> big mistery... .

I hate that scene - the idea is great, but the quality of the <textures?> is in my opinion horrible... . Weird.

The technology wasn't far enough along to accomplish the directors' vision imo, maybe it's there now. It was a cutting edge technological advance (I think it took a year to render or something) just like Jar Jar Binks and the CGI backgrounds in Episode I, but because it was cutting edge mistakes were made in implementing it. The weird colors affecting films and quick cuts I think are just tricks used now to make it work given so much of modern film involves blending live action and CGI.

That theory doesn't convince me too much.

Jurassic Park (mentioned as well by the author), maybe as well Terminator 2, maybe something else had some reaaally well done rendered scenes, in my opinion done a lot better than the one of Neo vs Smiths, therefore a movie done a few years later should be able to at least reach the same level of quality... .

In my opinion it's more related about the company doing the CGI and their technical capabilities/know-how/experience of employees than the overall level of technology being available. Mmmhh... .

And a willingness to retake every shot hundreds of times until it reaches an acceptable level of perfection.

Not to mention the will to get himself almost killed on set — along with the rest of his stunt crew.

Yes, but also he's not trying to make films that have to be suitable for eight year olds.

Armour of God II: Operation Condor - basically kung fu Raiders of the Lost Ark

Which is the same thing you'll see in dance movies. Which is why Fred Astaire was a legend for doing his dances with a full body view, and no cuts.

I think he meant he doesn’t cut away. He moves the camera all over the place because he is moving all over the place, and it works really well.

I’d also attribute some of this to the superhero glut: they’re generally not very good plots stretched out to many hours and the combat is supposed to be a big draw but since they’ve removed the limits of realism (the audience usually knows who’s going to win, and that the writers can always cancel out the consequences in the next episode either way) there isn’t much left but posturing iconically and visual effects.

> the audience usually knows who’s going to win

I just watched The Eternals, and spoiler: they’re not all eternal. It added an excellent real sense of risk to the film.

Oh, yeah, that’s why I said usually. It’s just that when you remove the usual constraints on what people can do, how much damage they can handle (“plot armor”), and set the precedent that almost anything can be changed retroactively as desired for the next movie, the writers have a lot less to keep the audience’s interest with.

Absolutely agreed. I read an article years back that criticized superhero films where the stakes are world-ending, or similarly large-scale, because that actually lowers the stakes, since you know the world isn’t ending. With smaller stakes, it’s actually possible for the protagonist to lose, at least in some ways.

That’s much more succinctly expressed

The Eternals is also fantastic for not using slow motion at all for the speedster. Although she doesn't have a lot of screen time, the little action that is there feels great.

Absolutely agreed, that was awesome.

It’s unlikely, but if you haven’t seen it, check out Dash’s 100-mile run from The Incredibles: https://youtu.be/t5v2qBBD-gE

I also watched an unhealthy amount of behind-the-scenes for lotr.

Peter Jackson mentioned that there is a thing called „Battle fatigue“. Battles should focus on the the main characters and their journey through a battle. Otherwise battle scenes could get boring or repetitive really quickly.

Also it‘s cheaper, as someone else said.

Funny that he knew this, and yet somehow the first LoTR was still 2 hours of battle scenes and 1 hour of interesting stuff happening.

I never had this feeling. Especially in the first one. You basically have the Balin‘s tomb scene and Amon Hen at the end. It never felt drawn out to me.

Grimly emoting is cheap and easy -- convincingly animating large-scale action is difficult and expensive. LARPing it out is difficult and expensive too. I don't think it's a LoTR thing, I think it's an economics thing.

I recall seeing that hyperkinetic cutting in Gladiator a few years before Lord of the Rings. I didn't like it then, either. It conveys the feeling of confusion in a battle, which is realistic, but I don't find it a very interesting feeling.

I'd much rather see something with stakes. It doesn't even have to be that large-scale. Two actors hitting each other -- showing their whole bodies, for at least a few seconds between cuts -- gives me a chance to sense how they feel each other out, what risks they're taking, how a blow actually hurts and has consequences.

If the only emotion I'm getting is "confused", then I'm just marking time until somebody tells me who won and who lost.

I think the battle scene [0] from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe did a pretty good job of balancing up-close chaos with big-picture clarity.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FixGtngBdhE&ab_channel=EdenK...

I think Saving Private Ryan is an early example of close-ups and jump-cuts in a battle; particularly the opening sequence, where it could get away with it because it's assumed that the audience already knows the story of the Normandy landing "in the large" so showing it "in the small" was an effective story-telling tool to move the audience away from "famous historical battle" to "oh shit all my friends just had their limbs blown off"

Your comment is making me want to watch a bunch of old movies with the opposite. For example, Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone sword fight:


>show large-scale action

There are many large panning/sweeping shots in this series, such as when the ents attack Isengard, orcs besiege Helms Deep, when the fellowship runs through Moria...

Sure there are some quick cuts happening in some swordfighting scenes. And I agree it could have been better if these scenes were shot in a different format.

LoTR for some reason has a "make the detail hard to see with fast camera motion" problem.

I just watched the latest episode of Boba Fett and it had a great fight and a great chase scene. It's like everything was slowed down and you could see the details.

I was just thinking that the Boba Felt chase scene was too slow. I could practically 'feel' the weight of the mopeds, and some of the movement made it obvious these were wheeled devices with CG trickery applied after. The general speed of the chase made me feel like I was watching Mitchel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOCqlKNW9rU

Are you 100% certain the mopeds were wheeled? I think these days it's also possible to just have a moped on a rotating stilt in front of a blue screen, and that's a lot easier for interior shooting/stunts.

That certainly might have been it too, but if they're going that direction I would have expected everything to just feel more weightless/frictionless.

I think this is a core part of the aesthetic of Star Wars as originally created by Lucas. In particular, those characters were amalgams of 50s greasers, 70s punks and 80s mods. If you haven't seen American Grafitti, it's worth watching as a reference, but basically, they're going for landspeeder physics and landspeeders kind of hover a constant distance over the ground.

This is so true, I get really bored of combat scenes these days for many reasons, this is a big one.

I remember the first time I really noticed this was when trying to watch batman (can't remember which one), at an "imax" cinema, ya know, those ones where you sit very close to a huge screen designed for films that intentionally fill that extra space with peripheral vision information... But for an already annoyingly close cut series of fight scenes it made it so much worse, unwatchable, I had to just close my eyes for half of the film because it was so physically hard to look at.

I remember listening to the DVD commentary on one of the LOTR films many years ago. One of the things that struck me was the amount of "Oh, and we changed this in post production." Obviously there are limits but CGI, color correction, etc. must lead to a degree of not worrying too much about getting it right in the camera because you can (sorta) fix things later.

I don't think all movies do up-close quick-cut camera shots during fights. I'm fairly certain the reasons they do that are not because it's trendy, but because of other constraints. Things like a lack of actor training, time for practice or reshoots, or good choreography in general. It's what they can use to get away with these things.

I think this was a thing for a while before Lord of the Rings. I remember talking about it in grad school in 1999. I think it is a combination of things: digital editing makes it easy to have a million edits compared to when they used to do edits on actual film, and by cutting a lot they can put in the actor's face more.

Agreed. This has always been a weakness of mainstream western films. Filming fights is hard, especially if actors don’t know how to fight. LoTR doesn’t seem noteworthy in this respect.

Transformers movies took that to a very extreme, where every fight scene is just a constant motion blur (zoomed).

You can take this back to at least Saving Private Ryan or even Star Wars, right? I remember more close-ups of the beach scene in SPR vs an "overall" zoom-out. And similarly, in ROTJ, there was a giant space battle around the Death Star, that we saw from the perspective of just a few ships.

I don't think showing the grand scale - with tiny pawns moving around in different parts - would be very visually or narratively interesting, unless I'm misunderstanding you.

Totally. My issue with the LoTR fight scenes is that they don't look natural. The lighting is all off because they want to show everyone's face all the time. It ended up feeling very ... flat. (Putting aside the constant banter of Legolas/Gimli keeping score that made it seem like a joke, and every monster having to scream into the camera that also made if feel corny.)

? The one thing I loved about the films was the sweeping grandeur of many of its shots, including the battle scenes.

I always though Gladiator was what really kicked this off.

Star Trek demonstrates the changing times pretty well.

For the Original Series, the producers were just starting to explore color television and they used the whole pallette.

1990s Star Trek feels more "natural" to me: warm where you expect warmth (ship's crew quarters, hot planets), cool where you expect cool (Borg ship), fairly neutral otherwise, though some of the sets did have an office-park vibe to them.

Current Star Trek, specifically Discovery and Picard, are about as gray-blue and washed-out as ever.

The pictures in this tweet show it perfectly: https://twitter.com/ShelfNerds/status/1481452739754405889

It is sort of funny to read over that and think that the best (filmed) shot in the whole set is the first McCoy from the 1960s. Though the 90s Trek fares well too, certainly. One might call the 90s Trek "dull" or "perfunctory", but it works.

It occurs to me I'm watching Stargate SG-1 right now, which also has a color grading similar to 90s Trek, and now that I think about it, it's almost a relief. Here I've got this HDR 4K OLED display and it seems like everybody's all like "Hey let's use half-ish of the color gamut of NTSC". I've rejected monitors and laptops for having only the capability of displaying that color gamut and here professionals are using it voluntarily. As a valid choice every so often, sure, like someone else mentions Young Frankenstein in out-and-out black and white, but all the time, everywhere, as the solution to every problem? Come on!

I think McCoy also benefits from the first shot being exterior. The contrast between him and Crusher is less if you compare the #4 and #5 shot. Some of the difference in character there is due to very different depth-of-field 90s TV didn't seem to use much narrow depth-of-field for some reason (maybe narrow DoF on faces had become associated with soap-operas at that point? Just a wild guess).

> For the Original Series, the producers were just starting to explore color television and they used the whole pallette.

More that the producers had to deal with that fact a significant chunk of the audience only had black and white TVs. Even on color TVs the broadcast would crush colors. So they had to use bright colors that would differentiate characters despite being the same "uniform".

Look at The Cage, all the characters had the same color uniform so everyone sort of blended together except Number One. Shatner and crew were much easier to differentiate in black and white, especially when red shirts beamed down with the principal cast.

Haven't seen Picard, but Discovery is the absolute worst I've seen for "modern" color. Everything is slammed to orange or blue/teal. It's like smiley-face EQ for colors.

God, I fucking hate the current color grading trend of killing every color except for two opposing ones (usually amber and blue) and then pushing almost everything else into a chiarscuro of inky shadows.

Watch a 90s movie sometime and it will make you weep for how beautiful today's movies could be.

For superhero movies in particular, I think a big part of this is a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from the stigma that comics are for kids. They want to sell to an adult audience but adults feel foolish if they consume something too clearly sanitized and kid friendly.

The last thing any Hollywood director wants to do is make their superhero movie look like 1990's "Dick Tracy", or something in the Spy Kids franchise because it will drive adult audiences away. So they slather the whole fucking thing in grimdark so it looks like serious grown-up stuff who are too insecure in their maturity to watch a silly movie about dudes in spandex doing magical acrobatics and punching each other.

(This is also why so much YA fiction which is heavily read by adults is dystopian. And it's why modern superhero movies so rarely have characters use their actual superhero titles, which sounds corny.)

I think a lot of really beautiful films will have many if not most scenes lean heavily on two colors, maybe 3. I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with that, and it's actually really great for creating moods and drawing attention to certain things. But here's the thing: it's not the same two for every scene!

Films that are in teal and orange the whole time drive me absolutely nuts. That combination has a place, but there are others! Two similar hues to create a sense of stuffiness and formality. A neutral tone plus a vibrant one (yellow or something) to create an intensity and focus on the vibrant elements. Green and red to really force the feeling of lushness in a natural scene. Monochromatic scenes have a place as well.

Like I understand that a two toned scene can create a very striking atmosphere, but lets use a _little_ bit of creativity in how we apply that.

Agree about superhero movies though. The color grading does always seem like an intentional choice to create feelings of maturity and grittiness.

Dick Tracy might have been the best comic book film of the 90s; I thought it was quite well done, and where it failed it mostly failed by being true to its source material.

What is its competition; Judge Dredd? Captain America(1990)? The 90s Batman sequels? Now that I wrote this, I realize Blade was also a comic originally, but I liked Tracy better.

This trend is not really new, and it actually goes both ways: when you want a darker tone, you desaturate the colors and go for a "colder" color palette, when you want to get all warm and fuzzy (think romance movies, soap operas etc.) you use a "warmer" palette and crank up the saturation a bit. But this already annoyed me back in the early 2000s: CSI New York had a "cold" color palette, CSI Miami a warmer one, although (or more likely because) they were both mostly filmed in and around L.A.

I like to see a return to technicolor vibrancy in some media IP. Some directors, like PTA, still use it to great effect, but when you watch some old Powell and Pressburger films, or Bad Day at Blackrock, or even Purple Noon, you see these beautiful colours that don't assault your eyes in neon brightness; instead, you get these beautiful rich tones that seem solid and deep. It seems like now a lot of colourists just go for overwrought colourgrading, insanely crushed blacks, or slamming a movie into blue-orange land.

HBO’s brand new “Station Eleven” makes excellent use of color IMO. Lots of beautiful nature shots, no conspicuously digital color correction. Color is an important narrative element through cinematography and production design rather than “let’s slather blue here in post to make it dramatic”. (Excellent acting too. Really love this show.)

Bad Day at Blackrock is just a tremendous film. A social justice Western from 1955 starring Spencer Tracey?

For more technicolour scenery (albeit mostly painted!) I enjoyed Black Narcissus https://www.imdb.com/video/vi3210478105?playlistId=tt0039192...

I second this. Technicolor was amazing and I miss it. It made watching old classic movies from the 60's and 70's more enjoyable. Nothing today compares to the vibrant, rich tones technicolor brings.

Disney animation is now the home of color, where every frame has every color and a good chance of featuring a literal rainbow.

Also, everything in Mexico has yellowish tint.

The great film "Traffic" (explores drug use and trafficking and implications from many angles) used a similar strategy ... US scenes brightly colored and clear, Latin America scenes washed out and grainy.

The US scenes were more than just brightly colored and clear, they also had a very blueish tint to them. It all felt very clean, clinical, sanitized, to the yellows of Mexico and further south.

Decades before that I used to be able to tell whether a show was on NBC, ABC, or CBS by the brightness and color balance. Now everything is murky because the networks don't really have their signature looks anymore and there are so many of them.

Reminds me of an unusual and short-lived sci-fi series called Space Above and Beyond; it predates the current trend significantly.

“The series featured a very dark and desaturated color grading, apparently inherited from the cinematography of series such as The X-Files and Millennium, co-produced by the same team, but taken to a greater extreme. The strength of desaturation employed in many scenes reaches the level that makes them almost black and white (quantitatively, the saturation in CIE xy color subspace of a typical scene in Space: Above and Beyond is in the range 0.03–0.15, approximately 1/4 of a typical contemporary film or television program).”


This article and many of the comments here are mistaking color grading for being the culprit, when it is mostly production design. Grading is obviously the post processing of images, but production design is how the colors are organized to be shot.

Within this current fad, production designers have taken color theory and color symmetry to the extreme and bled all of the primary colors out of what is shot on set. Of course there are accent primaries left in, but they have this down to a science right now and it is why everything looks so perfect these days.

Cinematographers even will gloat about capturing "everything in camera, man" and only having only tweaked minor things in post. Roger Deakins supposedly shot the last Bladerunner like this, where there was little to no grading in the organic scenes.

While I think it's definitely better to get stuff in camera from a craft perspective, this obsession with applying the extreme uses of color theory and winnowing everything down to lifelessness is just so, so boring.

In the 90s things were a little more random and films had a range of colors that lacked symmetry. It felt real! But after the whole teal and orange phase of the 2000s (vomit), people took that same kind of reductionist thinking and broadened the palette ever so slightly.

Deakins has also said the same thing about Skyfall — that for the most part what we see on screen is what he saw from behind the camera. And Skyfall also has scenes of super bright colours, although those bright saturated scenes do have a limited palette.

There was a recent comparison of the very different look between Deakins’ Skyfall and Van Hoytema’s Spectre.


The video embedded in the Vox article is worth watching. I didn't realize the sepia tones in O' Brother, Where Art Thou were a digital effect using techniques that were very new at the time. The film was digitized, color altered and then printed back to film for distribution.

I've uploaded a before and after shot of the baptism scene here: https://imgur.com/a/yAugAV0

Painting With Pixels (O' Brother, Where Art Thou)


Description: This short video about the Coen brother's film 'O Brother, Where Art Thou', the first feature film to employ a full digital colour grade.

> One truism of computer effects is that it’s easier to hide their seams if you are placing them in a dark or rainy environment.

I don't own the best TVs in the world, but for the last 5 years (maybe), I have to turn all the lights off when watching movies and series, otherwise I can't see a thing. And if the movie has CG they always happen to be in dark scenes, ergo some movies fully loaded of CG are dark, flat and I have to make an effort to see them (also happens to series/movies for TV only, like those on Netflix).

This, or my forties are hitting hard.

The relentless post-GoT grimdark is at least part of why new media shows more or less don’t appeal to me.

I have enough of that in my daily life, lately; i don’t need more.

I find it ironic that Game of Thrones was one of the shows with the biggest budgets, and still, especially in the last season, they mostly showed black screens.

Add to that, how your typical flat display fails to create any contrast in dark scenes and the bad streaming quality... Ouch.

It's really amazing that GoT didn't go from "okay" to "terrible", or from "outstanding" to "meh", which is the most common thing. No, it really went from "outstanding" to "terrible".

GoT is my case study in why I just simply cannot stand 99% of action movies. They're all so very formulaic.

In the first seasons, working off of GRRM's writing, the seasons literally subverted expectations, just as the books. Then Hollywood had to get involved, because source material didn't exist, yet. At that point, 'subverting expectations' became the meme it is today.

(Nearly) Every action movie seems just so formulaic. Action movie - hero doesn't want to be the hero for (insert dark/dramatic reason 1). Hero soon finds that being the hero is better for the world than not, regardless of personal consequence. World warps around hero to make sure s/he doesn't die. Bonus points for cool car chase, gun fight, or explosion. Nudity that doesn't move the story forward except to show that Hero likes to have sex isn't required, but will add to the box office, because people like boobies and butts.

"the hero's journey, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed."

Hero stories have been following the same template since the dawn of mankind.


The Hero's journey is a quite infamous concept between more serious literary scholars, particularly folklorists, as the Wikipedia article mentions. Its grand claims of psychological universality are built out of cherry picking. Its huge applicability is also built out of very vague concepts and quite manual fitting.

For an example, try to fit the Epic of Gilgamesh (as an extremely old conserved folklore tale) or Don Quixote (as one of the oldest and most famous literary works) to this framework - you will either fail or need to contort them quite a bit, or ignore large chunks.

Everyone reacts badly to this when they first hear of the concept. Then at some point you realize, that you actually don't like the scripts that won't fit too well to this. It's like a fashion sense, hard to describe the thing.

A friend of mine, when he heard about this in the class, argued "but I want to create something unique that doesn't fit to this or anything else, like... the Matrix!". The professor was speechless for a moment but could keep his calm :)

I think a good example of a subversion of the classic "hero's journey" is Blade Runner 2049. (I won't go into exactly why to avoid spoilers)

2020/21 has had quite a few movies that ended with the hero dying or negatively impacted. They follow the “hero’s journey trope” and then subvert. I guess they match the pandemic mood. I’m not sure if I was just made more aware of this due to COVID, or there really just has been a glut of them.

The two most recent off the top of my head:

* Don’t look up

* James Bond No Time to Die

Thanks for the insight, I really appreciate it but it'd be nice for others if you don't give unexpected spoilers :)

IMO just an example of what happens when a crutch is taken away. I’ve never read the books but you could tell the early seasons told a deeply thought out and plotted story. The show creators were great at adopting that work. But once they were left to do their own thing… turns out they couldn’t do that well at all.

Of course the books still aren’t done so if they waited we’d still not have anything to watch. IMO from what I’ve read about the books it sounds like they could have cut out less and made the early seasons last longer without it dragging too much.

In addition to losing the crutch, they allegedly were also in a rush to wrap things up so they could get to the Star Wars property they were set to work on. But seemingly in the process they did so badly at their rushed ending that they lost that too.

Also their ill-fated Confederate show. From a purely outsider perspective it felt like they got bored of GoT… I don’t really blame them for that, they’d been working on it for many years. But much better to hand off to some new showrunners if you’re feeling that way.

I think they mostly cut the right stuff, lady stoneheart excepted. The books aren't among my favorites, but the show took all the good and left the filler. But recognizing the good bits is a different skillset than being able to create more.

It's truly interesting. Think of how much it dominated cultural talk for a decade, then just dropped off the face of the earth after Season 8. Man D&D really screwed it up.

Like Lost

Personally I feel like the decline was more progressive, starting with season 5 rather than just the last seasons falling off a cliff

Oh absolutely, throwing off all pretense of a believable story for fan favourites Jamie and Bronn to go on an action romp was the first sign of things to come. Only on that season it was that storyline only, on the last two it was the entire thing x)

Isn't that about where the showrunners began te write the story instead of GRRM?

Seemed to me they ran out of characters to kill, made some filler to get to the last season and then rushed a bunch of stuff badly.

I find it beyond hilarious that there is an active subreddit dedicated to complaining about this decline which still gets dozens of posts a day.

I dropped Netflix because everything on there it suggests seems to be ‘dystopian dark sci fi/fantasy’ to the point where I wonder if they even understand that not everyone wants to see this as ‘entertainment’.

I didn’t watch a bunch of dystopian stuff so why is it pushing on me? Because that’s the movies they made/bought.

There doesn’t seem to be any interesting non grim dark stuff left I haven’t seen already.

Good old Piss Filter, also popular with games. From 'Ross's Game Dungeon: Deus Ex - Human Revolution' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYLEuQrvND0&t=350s conclusion - art directors are Lizard People.

>The first movie to use digital color manipulation in the way we’d think of it today — i.e., shifting the colors within a film image to meet a digitally achieved palette — is generally considered to be the 2000 Coen brothers’ Great Depression picaresque O Brother, Where Art Thou?

and not 1999 green tint Matrix?

The first Matrix originally only used practical effects for the green tint (including physically green-washing all clothes).

This too shall pass.

And we'll laugh about it some day.

Like the "hand held shot" that became popular a decade or so back — in every serious drama the director seemingly gave a GoPro to someone with tremors. A number of TV series were comically unwatchable (well, for me at least).

Oh man, 24FPS shakey cam was rough. Glad it's mostly gone away, it was a good way to get motion sick.

To date, Cloverfield remains the only movie I've walked out of

I thought it was more because of green screen or blue screen dominating production now a days. They had to turn one color off. The side effect.

I was wondering why no one was noticing the lack of color and details in post 2010 films. Watch any 80 or 90s film and see how sharp and details those looked.

Color correction choices being discussed are not related to chroma keying. They are all "artistic" choices being decided between the Direction, DP, Colorists, and maybe Producer. The only color choices are in wardrobe so that nobody wears the same color as the color of the backdrop.

Games went through this during the PS3-360 generation. I'm sure it'll pull back over time.

Haven't you heard? Real is brown.


My partner plays . Some games are so bright and colorful in contrast to others it is almost a defining characteristic. Horizon zero dawn and assasins creed odyssey come to mind.

I think games have swung from one end to the other on this. Initially you had limited color palettes (decided by how far apart the numbers were on a RGB scale as much as any color theory) and a lot of bright colors for mascot games and similar. Then as a reaction to that we had the brown/gray phase as they began to market to teenagers "This game is so gritty and real and for adults unlike those kids games", which then gave the room for colourful games to stand out again whether they were rgb rainbow particle vomit, or orange and teal, or lush outdoor scenes. Then dystopian settings came back in in a big way and so games followed suit.

I think games may also be somewhat of an influence of it in movies. When colour grading became big in movies, video games was really the place that had been enjoying that level of control and may have set the standards for some of the people getting into it.

Is this why Mafia 3 is so dark? I mean game is unplayable on Stadia because you can’t see anything.


In contrast, for Station Eleven they made the colors of the post apocalyptic scenes more vibrant and muted them in the pre apocalyptic scenes to give the idea that the post-apocalyptic world isn't actually so bad.


On the other end of the spectrum (ha) you have over-the-top saturation on shows like The Great British Bake Off. I know it's a food show, but people's skin and eyes sometimes look so bright when shots are overcompensated for food.

For comparison to the desaturated things on TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kMICkmW8r8

The OP really applies to "serious/drama", not "happy/comedy".

Yawn. Prior rant from 2010 which circulated at the time:

[1] https://theabyssgazes.blogspot.com/2010/03/teal-and-orange-h...

Spoiler: Its almost always an artistic choice. However, In some rare cases, its to make up for shit cameras: I'm looking at you RED/Hobbit trilogy. But nowadays its a choice to give the film a certain feel.

There was a while when all action movies were graded to look teal and blue: http://theabyssgazes.blogspot.com/2010/03/teal-and-orange-ho... However when cheaper cameras, better grading tools seeped into the masses, that style was felt to have been played out.

DI, the stage where the colour "grade" is tweaked, crafted and perfected is now an integral part of the edit/VFX stage. Colour is used to push emotion, just like sound and music design.

The bit about LUTs is mostly distraction. LUTs are normally used as a reference, to make sure that all the footage has roughly the same colour (important when you have different cameras for different scenes) They are static colour offsets, so are great for techincal colouring, but not overly useful for making an artistic grade.

TLDR: Its a fashion, just like the pricks who removed the obvious on/off indicators from slider buttons.

EDIT: If you want to see some interesting grading, look up "day for night" https://noamkroll.com/color-grading-tutorial-creating-a-day-... where they take normal footage and make it look like it was shot at night

>Spoiler: Its almost always an artistic choice.

If you mean, a choice by the team making the movie, and not something imposed upon them by technology or otherwise, then yes.

But I'd say it's usually not very artistic as in artful, as it's neither well done, nor necessary for the story/mood, and is not even about a genuine vision from the director, but rather following the fad.

> If you mean, a choice by the team making the movie

thats art darling! exaggerated arm movements

I kid, but agree completely.

> not even about a genuine vision from the director, but rather following the fad.

I once heard about a monthly, where the exec producer's current shag was spit balling changes, expensive changes. It was great to see the faces of the VFX producer mentally totting up the cost.

Also when filming the prince of persia, the production team realised that they had a massive plot hole linking two parts of the movie, so they asked the VFX company to figure something out. From what I recall, this is the origin of this scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfVu52tZxd0

In clash of the titans(remake), they spent a boat load of cash on a real set for mount olympus, but then decided that they wanted to make it more "google maps-y" so scrapped it and redid it in VFX.

Some films are Art, others less so. None of them are as artistic as film theory dictates.

My favorite thing about modern, more-sensitive camera sensors is that "day-for-night" blue fake night scenes are much less common and there's more actual night shooting. Or maybe just more convincing VFX, I dunno. Either way, it looks better!

Old-style day-for-night is one of the biggest things that jumps out to me and makes a movie feel very dated now.

> take normal footage and make it look like it was shot at night

You can do that in reverse too, shoot at night with a super sensitive camera and make it look like day:


While this is possible (I have done and still do this as well), but it is absolutely not the norm.

Shooting day-for-night is much more common. It has less to do with the ability of a camera shooting at night. We have these things called lights that helps things.

The main reason for day-for-night is that it is much more expensive to shoot at night. Shooting off-hours is much more expensive. Shooting more than a certain number of hours away from home is also more expensive. There are a lot of things going into the decision of why a shoot is done the way it is, but you can pretty much always assume that it was done the way it was done because it was the cheaper option.

> It has less to do with the ability of a camera shooting at night. We have these things called lights that helps things.

Did you watch the video? It's shot in total darkness, with zero lights. As in night vision. It's not about shooting at night under film lights.

I'm not saying it will replace day shooting, it's just another technique available if you want to go for a weird unreal look.

Yes, I clicked the link. I've shot this style several times, only you have to do it on a full moon. Full motion video with no lights. Even got the laurel wreaths for one of the videos. I've shot WFO at T/1.5 and ISO32000 on a Sony a7sii. One interesting thing that we noticed was catching lens flares from the moon. When stepping through the footage frame by frame, you can see the lunar surface details in the lens flares. Most peole never notice, but it's one of those things you get to enjoy once you know about it.

I've also taken that same camera to use as prime photography attached to my telescope. Cranked up the ISO, and it was the first time I was actually able to view the heavens as the scope slewed to its target. No more adjust position, take single long exposure test shot, adjust focus/position/etc. You can do it all in real time.

Yes, I'm fully aware of some of these camera types

Guardians of the galaxy 2 - RED cameras has color. Captain America: Civil War - ARRI Alexa no color.

I should be more specific.

The RED Epics used on the Hobbit (they used other REDs later on, but I can't remember what they were) were running at 48FPS. The set had to be painted in hilarious day glow colours for it to be picked up properly. Part of is was the 3d, a lot of it was the cameras. REDs were not very good for a long time. Sure had huge resolution, but that was literally it.

They were/are expensive. ".r3d" was a proper cock to deal with (Hurrah for cheap GPUs!) and the fan base utterly toxic.

What? Shooting at 48fps would not effect the color rendition ability of the camera. Nor would shooting 3D. Shooting a higher framerate just means more light required than shooting at 24fps. Shooting 3D also doesn't affect color. Where are you getting your information?

Debayering r3d was not an issue for professionals as they more than likely had a Red Rocket level card to deal with the footage.

> Shooting at 48fps would not effect the color rendition

doubles the amount of light you need. got to adjust the shutter angle to control motion blur. need to bump the ISO, which means more noise, which mean less optical resolution....

> Shooting 3D also doesn't affect color

Half mirrored camera rigs completely fuck your colour, well half of it...

> Debayering r3d was not an issue for professionals as they more than likely had a Red Rocket

They cost £4k, were fucking fragile, We broke two of them on one job. Debayering is simple, uncompressing the jpeg2000 at any speed was the main challenge in 2012.

It helps with CG integration.

It’s changing now with color spaces like ACES becoming the standard (wider color gamut).

I Work in the industry.

Not sure if this yt video was referenced, but it offers a good overview:

Why are modern films underexposed? https://youtu.be/ctXc6YHIyac

To echo one of the possible reasons for desaturatuon trend is a curiuos widespread of badly configured screens out there. Same problem as was back in time in a random hotel an image on a room TV set would be way overly saturated and often the contrast/brightness balance would be off too.

These days the default profiles on TVs are better, but perhaps people's expectations may be off from the past experiences. Just the other day, by chance witnessed a neighbor's gigantic TV wall with a pronounced orange cast and almost toxic spill of overly saturated colors showing something as mundane as news broadcast... No need for any dramatic enhancement here. Well, perhaps the warmed tones are deliberately set for some other primary content ...I don't need to know.

So, aesthetic may be at play, but simple lack of a technical ability to configure the screens may still be the factor, so directors may be compensating for the target medium, which in this day is prevalently a TV/device screen.

I remember when Serenity came out. It was one of the first movies (that I had seen) that had bright, colorful, sunshiny days, with lots of visual effects.

I know that it wasn't the first, but I hadn't really seen much, before that. Star Wars had effects in color, but there wasn't any actual CGI involved.

It actually did. During the briefing for the attack on the Death Star, the wireframe image of the DS was CGI.

TIL; I assumed all of the wireframes were hand-drawn.

Ah. That makes sense. That was about the extent of CGI, back then.

I know they added a bunch of CGI, when they remastered the series, some years ago.

One theory I’ve seen put forward on YouTube is that this is because modern digital cameras use a linear LUT when recording, which means that images displayed to everyone during the production process are naturally very washed out compared to how they would look colour-corrected to sRGB. As a result, production staff have become so used to the washed out colours of the linear colourspace that they’ve become accustomed to it, sub-consciously viewing a true colour-corrected version as being wildly over-saturated. The end result is that the films they’re delivering are desaturated because that seems normal to them!

It’s a plausible story if nothing else, but I would also guess that a large part of the reason is just fashion & trends in film making. A more saturated look will return in time no doubt.

I am a colorist, and you would be wrong. We transcode with a color spacae tranform applied, but even if the footage ends up in log space (not common anymore as most have learned what log is) it doesn’t inform he final grade. And big budget productions certainly have a color managed pipeline.

Here’s the video I was probably remembering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpWYtXtmEFQ

It must be because I watch sci-fi more than anything else, but things have gotten more colorful for me. Compare Babylon 5's CRT-targeting colors with the vibrant lights and colors of Foundation or The Expanse. Though even Babylon 5 is brighter than the examples in the article.

Babylon 5 looks a lot better in the recent HD remaster, which (IIRC) worked from different masters than those used for the DVD set. The remaster's colors look like I remember from my initial viewing of the show on VHS taped from broadcast - lively, saturated, not at all the muddy muted mess you get on the DVDs.

counterpoint: B&W was all we had for almost half a century and many of the greatest works of (B&W) cinema came out after that -- notably Film Noir. Maybe B&W is good, and muting color in "color" movies is a recognition of that fact.

I doubt it. A film with a muted color palette doesn't come across the same as a black and white film--even if works well, it doesn't work the same way. And the characteristics that made film noir work so well visually--dramatic, unnatural lighting and inventive composition--just aren't present in these new movies.

There are some interesting visualizations of color in movies. It’s not up to date (last movie 2019) but shows color over time


And this one. (Done in processing)


Of course it makes more sense to look at each scene by itself, but it’s less fun


Mel Brooks made Young Frankenstein in black and white because he wanted to pay tribute to the original picture. It was a complete success, and he had to fight to get his way. Modern directors are pulling the same stunt, however their movies don't have a special reason to do it. The end result is experience detraction instead of additional charm.



One show: X Files.

1990s Vancouver. Rain. Grey. Science fiction changed from the bright colors of LA (Star Trek) to Vancouver's rain forests (X Files, Stargate, Outer Limits). Why were Star Trek's colors so bright? Desi Loe Studios paid extra for the color film and wanted to use it. X files was on a tight budget and couldn't afford to brighten Vancouver enough to make it look like California. So the backgrounds become dark and grey.

Similar things happened in many film. Alien had budget problems and difficult creature effects. Net result: hide everything in darkness. The color has as much to do with budget as art.

See also "Why Is Every Movie Poster Orange and Blue?"

Another overused (imo) coloring technique is different color sources, often used in youtube videos and game interiors, like cyberpunk.

And sound tracks. Many soundtracks are made by the directors saying “make something that sounds like {scene from other movie}” and you get similar outcomes. Especially for trailers.

Video games used to have this problem really bad as well as so much overuse of bloom. There was a few years where every big budget game looked like it had a brown filter on the screen. People have speculated it was used to much to try and hide bad graphics but I get the feeling it was more of a fashion thing. Luckily it seems to be going away recently.

I always attritbuted this style to one music video director whose career started in the 90s and who had perfected the washed saturation and goth look. She was the originator of Marylin Manson's video aethetic in the 90s, and after she landed David Bowie's "little wonders," that's when I think the style really took off:


While I don't know if she knew the Watchowskis then, the original Matrix movie was absolutely a stylistic homage to her videos, and that they would have been familiar with her work via Bowie and Manson videos, makes it more plausible. If you look up Floria Signismondi's work, it's so distinct and often emmulated or copied, and once you've seen it, you can't unsee it.

Grayscale is easier to composite than color so if the lighting is off in one layer it isn't as noticeable or can easily be compensated for. Shots can be matched up with a common tone.

I had also wondered if streaming was driving some of these changes, by reducing noise and providing better compression reducing the image to simple gradients.

Weird that they call it "color timing" because "color correction" isn't all that accurate. But "timing"? That applies to film, like real, chemical film.

Surely there is a better word? "Optimizing"?

(of course "grading" is also used, but "timing" really needs to be dispensed with)

Interesting article, and all this time I've been blaming the streaming services for their incompetence with transcoding making everything dull, muddy, washed out with the wrong gamma, etc.

And it turns out it was actually the incompetent movie/tv producers themselves the whole time? WOW.

Crazy to me that someone can watch The Matrix and think "wow this is really dark and muddy". I suppose the on-ship scenes are a blueish gray, but they contrast so nicely against the progressively greener tint inside the matrix, it's nothing like Dexter or the HBO shows.

That probably shows just how dark and muddy things have become! The Matrix is very dark, mostly taking place at night or in dark, artificially lit rooms. A lot of it is almost monochromatic. This seems to mostly for stylish effect. As you say, the monochrome is used to distinguish Matrix from real world.

Two other very dark films at around the same time: Dark City and Fight Club. Dark City is dark because it's night time, but it doesn't appear to be desaturated. Fight Club is intentionally underexposed for the whole film for stylistic effect.

Kevin Can F*k Himself makes this really noticeable. The show alternates between cheesy sitcom with happy music and bright colors to dark drama with muted colors.

It's been interesting to see the same room go from one style to the other, really highlights how much influence these things have.

Haven't seen that, but another example is Dancer in the Dark, which contrasts not just with color. It has primary narrative sequences that are cinéma-vérité style with dull colors, spoken dialog, handheld cameras and no background music. Then it has musical sequences that gradually transition from that style into choreographed, boom-camera, saturated color. The transformations are very well done and the contrast is really effective.

1. They credit/blame “The Matrix”, but let’s also note David Fincher’s work, especially “Fight Club”. (https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/movie-color-palette-david-...)

2. We still aren’t there yet on CGI. CGI humans are still in that uncanny valley. And what helps cover that up? Well, muddy up the color palette, and decrease brightness and contrast. I’ve certainly done that in my still photography work, where I was on a deadline for a volunteer project, and I thought to myself “you know, dialing up that vignette slider is really going to cover that up.”

Se7en is mentioned as well.

The author makes the point that it’s somewhat ironic that the Marvel movies, having originated in the vibrant world of comic books, are one of the most prominent examples of drab coloring. But I wonder if this isn’t perhaps an intentional contrast. An attempt to recast what is often considered a childish genre as a more adult art form targeted towards a more mainstream audience, with a more somber color grading to match. Similar to how modern retelling of Batman have leaned to darker imagery, contrasting with the kitschy colorful 60s version.

Dark colors are an easy way to present your work as more dramatic and serious, and not “for the kids”.

Darker scenes can save on CG budget and time as well as set design. It can also be a stylistic choice.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. The last season of GoT was particularly agregious as was The Justice League movie.

As an optometrist, I'd be careful with backlight fiddling. High intensity backlight can cause eyesight strain. Backlight shouldn't be turned up to unreasonable levels to compensate for lack of saturation or poor black/white points.

Backlight should only be used to adjust the contrast between the screen and your environment, and not in an extreme fashion either. That is, don't sit in the dark or in a very sunny place, and use backlight to try to fight unreasonable environmental lighting.

Backlight level is just an overall brightness adjustment (i.e. it is a factor of the light output*). It is entirely reasonable to crank the backlight up to make up for an overly dark picture; the effect is the same as increasing the brightness of the image at the pixel level. This is already done automatically, in the opposite direction, by many modern screens and projectors, to save power.

* modulo black levels, but you aren't going to get eye strain from backlight bleed.

PWM is done by modern phone displays (iPhone and Android) but is terrible for eyes and the nervous system at large. Its only advantage is cheapness. In layman's terms, PWM is when instead of lowering the brightness of the display, it is instead flickered to lower perceptible brightness. Please don't try to purport popular with healthy. That ship has long sailed.

[1] https://medium.com/@moe.zainal/screens-monitors-headaches-mi...

PWM is only a problem if the frequency is low. If the frequency is higher than the frequency response of the light sensitive molecules in your retina, it is no different from DC from a biological point of view. Claiming otherwise would be on the same level as audiophiles claiming to hear ultrasound.

Please don't try to paint entire classes of technology as unhealthy just because some low quality implementations are. PWM is a fundamental technique in electronics and displays and there is nothing wrong with it at that level. Nobody gets migraines from > 1kHz PWM. If your backlight is doing 60Hz PWM then you might want to get a better display.

The major flagship manufacturers are all doing PWM < 250hz, some like Google Pixel variably hitting close to 100hz.

Duly Noted. "noko-auto-brit-with-bounds" is designed just to avoid sudden flashes of bright screens. Depends on the machine, some adjust brightness quite slowly already.

Some better machines and displays have also light sensor built in, it is quite possible to include that input with the "ddcutil"-program.

And I completely disagree with the complaint and his examples. Too saturated makes things look unrealistic and plastic. I prefer scenes that make me think "holy shit, this looks like real life" instead of "yawn, another movie turned into a comic book".

There are ML-efforts underway to make games look more realistic. And they do that by reducing colors and reducing contrast. Because Caucasian people don't look orange in real life, we look a pale beige with a hint of pink.

These movies don’t look even vaguely realistic though. It’s winter in North America right now, but walk outside even vaguely close to noon and colors pop in a way they just don’t in these films.

The article brings up a great point, it’s just lower effort to make dull films which minimize how much people notice digital effects and mistakes in general. In full sunlight you notice where shadows are which stands out if you want to stitch together shots across hours. Makeup and wardrobe mistakes similarly standout when things aren’t simply a big blur.

I see what you're saying, but I don't think it's talking about other extreme of hyper-saturaed sitcom rainbows. While agreeing overly saturated is unrealistic, so is undersaturated or colour tinted. My 'real world' experience is frequently nice and bright and contrasty and colourful. My wife has a bright red xmas sweater on right now, I'm wearing blue, my daughter's toys are... every colour of every gamut. Kitchen is white with lime green accents. Our car is a very bright orange. Even in winter, the evergreens around us are reasonably green.

And then we go to Maritimes and the North east where every house is a beautiful vibrant colour, and yet movies always try to make them look bleak through desaturation.

I'm very fortunate not to live in the deserts of the US (like new Dexter) and to actually live somewhere, where trees will be green in summer and new cars and houses have color. Just for your point that everything is unsaturated; in fact, real-life colors in the greens are seldomly represented in a "realistic way": https://tftcentral.co.uk/articles/pointers_gamut

Modern TVs are much better at it than an article from 2014 would suggest. Though computer monitors aren't; you shouldn't watch a movie on a computer anyway since it has to fit 24fps into a typically 60fps display.

Lots of complaints about the new Dexter, but if you live in the Pacific NW and you look out the window in the winter, that's pretty much what you see.

They are being raked over the coals for getting the look too right.

The big part of the modern approach to art in general is to replace content with form. In film in particular, "Let's shake the camera to create an illusion of action! Let's show more facial expressions to create an illusion of suspense! Let's insert a lot of talking to create an illusion of... watching a movie in the first place?" (One could go on and on: fancy intro sequences etc.)

There seems to be a “standard palette“ or standard colour-template in use when creating modern video-content.

I mean, when my kids are seeing children's programming on Netflix I can very rarely tell what show they are watching, because they all look alike.

Maybe reusing a good template is a cost-saving/production-optimizing strategy?

I don’t know, but I can tell it’s being done deliberately purely by observing.

Counterpoint: Bridgerton. What amazing eye candy that is, not just because of the Victorian sets and costumes but the rich vibrant colors.

in general, why complain about popular music these days when you could just listen to other music?* I play mostly older and indie games, and am unaffected by industry trends like microtransactions, style-less photorealism, always online and shudder NFTs

*because you want to watch a new superman with your friends. you got me there

Smaller color spaces compress better per unit of time. Perhaps it's all a ploy to save on S3 egress charges. /s

it's the film equivalent of midcentury-Scandinavian design in architecture really. Explosive colors, maximalism and so on have been out of fashion for quite a while, and TV shows and movies opt for a more serious, colder, functional look. Funnily enough I think also inspired by a lot of Scandinavian media. The Bridge which was quite popular internationally is a very muted, grey show as is a lot of British television, Luther comes to mind, which has a lot of success internationally.

I don't really think one needs to go for technical explanations at all because that modernist aesthetic of black and white colors is pretty much everywhere. Inside Apple Stores, in the clothing you see in offices or even at fashion events. If you see something extremely colorful or extravagant today it almost automatically stands out.

I think this can be pretty much summed up along the lines of: way back when colour was introduced into film people wanted to show it off more, it was something magical whereas now everyone wants to be all edgy and gritty.

Or.... it's the lizard people controlling the world and making everyone miserable by using only dark grim colours?!

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