Hollywood Movie Colour Coding

I was linked to this article from cracked.com: –http://www.cracked.com/article_18664_5-annoying-trends-that-make-every-movie-look-same.html

I know Cracked is primarily a humour source, however the information on this article does raise interesting ideas about colour grading techniques. The points from this article “5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look The Same” look at how films are graded according to genre, also the typical ‘Teal & Orange’ look of the hollywood blockbuster. Neither of these grading techniques is a set rule of hollywood, however it is interesting seeing how socially these colours have become associated with specific genres.

Colour-Coded Genres

The article highlights the following genre colours:

  • Horror – Blue
  • Apocalyptic – Grey/Washed Out
  • Broken Reality – Green

Digital colour correction has enabled quicker and easier tools to manipulate films. The Coen Brothers first demonstrated and pioneered this technique with ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Thou’ in 2000, digitally converting and colouring each frame of the film into a sepia colour temperature/tone.

The three examples provided can be broken down as to why the associations are made when you consider each hues cultural associations. Blue is a very cold and dark colour, reflecting the fear in the characters. Grey and washed out colours also work to create a colder feel to the world, the lack of vibrance and colour make the frame feel very depressing to mimic something apocalyptic. Finally as green lies as an intermediate between blue and yellow hues you often find its character and expression changes, thus reflecting the idea of reality constantly changing and being unstable. This are only basic analogies of the colours presented, but demonstrates that even in their simplest form they truly conform and strengthen the characteristics of their designated film genres.

The Hollywood Look

I have come across the Teal and Orange look before, its popularity has definitely increased over the past 10 years and it has become a key symbol of the blockbuster movie. The reason why the colour palette is popular comes down to basic colour theory of the two working as complementary colours due to opposite positions on the colour spectrum.

Orange is similar to a human’s skin tone, so the natural opposite colour to contrast this is blue (or teal). This has always been a desirable aesthetic look and the digital era of colour correction has enabled this to be easily achievable. This look can be explored furthermore in the following grading tutorial:


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