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January 31, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

The Grand Scheme

By Dayton from SLN More Blogs by This Author

In a previous entry that I wrote, I talked about how different camera placements affect the viewer. That blog was just scratching the surface though! A director has an incredible palate of tool to choose from to get his point across. Every blockbuster film takes advantage of camera angle, camera movement, the type of camera, frame rate, and so much more! 

A good movie draws us in so much that it is almost impossible to notice everything that is going on, but our brains subconsciously pick up even the minute details that add to the experience. A big one that is taken for granted a lot is the color grading of films, that is the overall color scheme of a shot. Here are a few examples...

Black and White

Black and white is typically used very sparingly unless it was literally shot before color film. In modern film, it is used to enhance to the feel of a scene as opposed to a mainstay throughout a flick. In the realm of storytelling through cinema, you will observe that black and white is most commonly seen during flashbacks. Though having a black and white flashback isn't a rule by any means, it does add to the effect of "remembering" a scene. Other effects that are used in conjunction are typically a heavy film grain and sometimes the footage seems blurry to add to the effect of recollection. Instead of making it completely black and white many films are highly desaturated to add to the dramatic effect of the situation.

Some directors film with black and white in mind for larger portions of the script than is typical for the artistic look. Done properly, a black and white film can look very elegant and even draw out features of certain actors that otherwise would go unnoticed. Take for example this girl with blue eyes, in color her eyes and bright hair are the things that really stick out, but in black and white she lacks the contrast they once had in color.

Now look at this model to the left, she has much darker features causing a higher level of contrast against her light skin. When you look at her in color there is absolutely nothing wrong with her, but her features don't "pop" like the blonde's. In black and white though, she looks still very defined even though she has no color. This is a technique used by photographers as well, if the subject has more contrasting features the better they will probably look in black and white. 

Dramatic Effects

There are other times where filmmakers have created a color scheme all their own and stuck with it through an entire flick. Films like this typically are more artistic than "real world" movies. Take for example this frame from a music video I made for a friend. We made the color scheme a heavy yellow to add to the "grittyness" of the environment and also to give it a tinge of vintage/indie/hipsterness.The colors have been exaggerated to make you feel what I was feeling when I heard this song.

The color grading of a scene can make you subconsciously imply where the movie is taking place. Take for example this picture from the movie "300." The far left of the picture looks very cold, almost like we should be seeing the soldiers breath. If someone is trying to make a scene look like Russia in the winter but it is actually inside a studio, color grading can do wonders to make that effect more convincing. The far right however makes it look like the ancient days of copper and iron clad warfare where everything is dirty and every red garment seemed to glow. Even if you didn't immediately notice color grading (which a lot of times you will not) it will have its intended effect on your movie watching experience making you more convinced about what is going on. 

Bend Time and Space...WITH COLOR!

As mentioned earlier, a different color scheme can produce a subtle cue of changing time or location. Look at this example taken from Zack Snyder's "Suckerpunch." This first picture is taken from the "real world" of the film. The color grading isn't over-the-top by any means, but it is definitely there. Notice how dull everything looks. All the color is taken down a few notches and there looks like just a little bit of a green overtone. When you see this in conjunction to what is going on in the story you get the feeling that everything is looking very bleak, and that is exactly what we are supposed to think.

Now look at this picture from the same movie. This is Emily Browning's character's view of the world when she tucks herself away inside her imagination. The color scheme has completely changed from a cold and desaturated green to a bright, bold yellow with very strong saturation. This is especially important when we start flipping between what is "reality" and the first level of the character's mind, it helps us tell which world we are watching. 

In Conclusion...

Color is pretty neat! It's effect on us can be much more than we realize, making us feel a certain way, or maybe making us more convinced of an on-screen environment. Next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the color and how it changes. If you do, you can pick up even more on what emotion the director is trying to convey.

Happy movie-ing :D

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1 Comment

  • I'm loving these tips!

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