Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Teal and Orange - Part 2

Wow, my last post started a little wildfire... who knew?

In an effort to clarify and distill my argument down to it's purest form I will ask just one question (and I will even eliminate Transformers 2 from my debate since it's such an easy target).

Can ANYONE justify the aesthetic choice behind the color grading in this image:

Does it help to convey the key aspects of these characters, or their relationship?  Does it elucidate the major themes of the movie?  Does it support the mise en scĂ©ne of the image?

Or perhaps, since this is a comedy after all, you may say that it simply makes the scene funnier.


Does it make it funnier than say, this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or how about this?

Now you may say, "Well, that look doesn't need any justification, any more than the looks of the scenes you chose - it is just a pleasing look that makes the actors "pop" from the background."

The problem with that argument is that all these other scenes have a very naturalistic look (except Young Frankenstien of course) that does nothing to distract the viewer from the key elements of the scene - namely, the actors, the delivery of their lines, and their comic actions.  To me, the preternaturally vibrant orange and teal of the scene from Hot Tub Time Machine completely distracts me from anything else going on.

And that is simply bad filmmaking.


  1. Instead of "popping," Chevy actually blends in with the curtains.

  2. Great argument.

    AND you chose my favorite films.

  3. Well-said.

    And Thomas is right. Chevy is totally curtain-colored.

  4. Yeah, he's curtain-colored because the set designer only had two color choices - and if he chose teal, then the curtains would've looked just like the windows!

  5. LMAO!

    Somehow, I find your teal & orange argument similar to my 3D argument; it doesn't add anything to the film, except that it attracts a bigger audience (all they want is you money and 3D sells) and gives you a headache.

    Check this article out:,5362,0,0,1,0&highlight=Hollywood%20sick

  6. This is very interesting. It reminds me of the Loudness War on the audio side. Before CDs were introduced, music could only be so loud before the needle jumped out of the groove on the record -- there is no such limitation with CDs, so record companies started compressing the dynamic range of recorded music to make the music sound "louder" without actually increasing the volume (the same effect is used in TV commercials to make them stand out from the programming). Ironically, the great technological promise of CDs was the *increased* dynamic range they offered! Instead, the producers went the other way, and music today sounds like sludge compared to the recordings of the sixties and seventies. There's a growing controversy over this practice, so maybe a similar controversy is now stirring in the "Color War." One can only hope!

    I'll also note that the first thing I do when I buy a new TV is adjust the color so it looks natural, but from what I've seen, very few people do this. The factory settings on televisions are so red it hurts my eyes, but it doesn't seem to bother others... At least, whenever I'm over at someone's house, I notice how ridiculously saturated their TVs are -- the colors are practically bleeding out onto the floor! :)

    So your post leaves me wondering what these orange and teal movies look like on a TV at its factory settings. I'm afraid to test this -- maybe I don't want to know!

  7. Yarrow, I've also thought this is very similar to the compression debate with music. I've seen the blogposts with the audio waveforms comparing music produced in the 70s or 80s vs music today - it's quite sickening. The levels are pinned the whole time. Any artform needs negative space (or silence) to be truly expressive - otherwise all subtlety and nuance is lost.

    And yes, most new tv sets are set on "Torch" mode as factory default - high contrast and super-rich chroma - as if we were all blind!

  8. It's important to note that teal isn't blue and orange isn't yellow. A lose definition of this trend can quickly be expanded it to include the contrast of warm and cool colors (purple to yellow, red to green, etc).

    Which begs the question, when does teal becoming green and orange becoming red or even just red-orange.

    The colorist shouldn't just execute a look for the director but actively advising them as an expert in color theory. Colors are used to augment the VISUAL storytelling.

  9. I don't quite notice things like this unless I'm really looking for it, which I usually don't do on a first watch. I kind of just sit back and take in the film. The second time I begin to inspect and analyze, though it only took one viewing of Transformers 2(the main culprit in the teal/orange crime) to notice how absolutely atrocious it was on the visual and narrative fronts.

  10. first off let me say that these post have ruined me. I went to the movies and saw this all over the trailers. A nightmare on elm street seemed to be the biggest offender and low and behold its produced by michael bay. Teal and blue in Every. Single. Shot.

  11. It may be just the way they were screenshotted (is that a word?) but I don't think most of those examples look too great to be honest. Washed out, blown out and murky.

    I never really noticed the orange and teal thing in movies (but probably will now... thanks). In TV however some shows make the skin look so red, it hurts my eyes. NCIS is a prime culprit, it's not just the TV either check out these pics I found on google images:

  12. You are talking about Production Design not Color grading.
    The stills you have taken in this post are made before digital grading was possible. In traditional photochemical grading one only has 3 controls. Red Offset, Green Offset and Blue Offset. There is not much even a colorist can do to the images you posted. With these controls there is no adjustment for saturation. Just Balance.

    1. And that’s the point. Movies looked better when they couldn’t tamper with the colours except by physical, optical means.

  13. @grADE: I think his point is that the power of digital color grading is being abused in the first still. The subsequent stills aren't there for their aesthetic appeal -- just to show a contrast with the first.

    In the pre-digital era, it would have been entirely possible to choose or develop film stocks that emphasize (or de-emphasize) a particular quality, such as saturation or color cast. But that is a laborious process, and it's not likely that anyone (other than an experimentalist) would have spent money back in the day to make their film stock achieve the "look" in the first still.

    With digital grading, you can mess around to your heart's content, and if you're not careful, that can easily lead to strangeness... The production design didn't much matter in the first still, as regards color, because the color grader pretty much blasted away the original color scheme.

  14. Yarrow ,
    I agree with you about the look of the first still but it is just a still taken out of context. Are you aware of that stills color history? If its from a trailer then then its probably been 'doubly' graded by the trailer house. This usually means 'suping' up the deliverable to make it stand out more on the web and at the cinema as a trailer. (this is usually done by another company). Its then gone through a generic conversion process to make it Web ready, suddenly limiting it to 256 colors, which destroys all the other subtle colors that may have existed in the original.Then add compression and wow it suddenly looks pretty shit. No wonder. By the Way, look at this still I found on the web
    and here.....

  15. Just watched Transporter 2. Absolutely horrible teal & orange color scheme all through the film. It really bothered me and didn't like it at all. And it's kind of your fault Todd 'cause you planted this concept in my brain a while ago when I read your post. Now I can't enjoy teal & orange movies anymore 'cause I just keep spotting those teal & orange elements in the scenes.

  16. I can't stop noticing this thanks to you. I hope you're happy XD. I just saw a commercial for Pirates of the Caribbean 4... Teal... Orange and teal everywhere!!!

  17. If there was one thing that irritated me about the last Harry Potter film, it was all the bloody teal and orange. It ruined it for me.

  18. Just the opening credits of Hobo With A Shotgun are enough to make me hate teal and orange forever.

  19. Inside the pre-digital era, it would are actually possible to pick as well as produce motion picture stocks and shares that stress (or perhaps de-emphasize) a specific top quality, like saturation as well as color throw. That is the mind-numbing course of action, and not likely in which any person (apart from the experimentalist) might have put in cash back inside day to create their particular motion picture investment get the "look" in the very first still.

    Along with electronic grading, you are able to fool around for a heart's articles, so if you are not really cautious, that may easily result in strangeness... The development design don't much issue in the very first even now, in regards to colour, because the shade grader virtually blasted aside the first coloration plan.!/discover-in-oneself-to-buy-cheapest-wow-gold-a26746814

  20. Brilliant observation. Now, can you do two more:

    1. How computer-generated graphics are ruining the film industry and

    2. Can someone, anyone, please stop the shaking, quivering camera?

    Take a look at the films of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and see gorgeous color and beautifully filmed scenes. Imagine -- movies with no pore-exploring close-ups. Where's that time machine?

  21. haha, very good post (i especially talk about the first part) but you should also add some good example to help people understand why that is wrong. For me the movies The Road and The Others are good examples

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