Colour Palettes

Liz and I have been able to sit down and talk about the grade in depth and I think we have come to an agreement about the visual style for the film. The entire piece will be split into two colours palettes, one for before the operation, one for after the operation.

The entire documentary itself will be shifting towards a slightly more cinematic style, the best comparison being Channel 4’s “The Paedophile Hunter”. It is too often in documentaries the colour grading simply turns into colour correction for a real world image, the nature of the documentary provides the perfect opportunity to manipulate the palette slightly to invoke the emotional journey of the protagonist. Personally I need to be careful not to manipulate the palette too much that it loses its documentary credentials, but instead subtly make these colour changes for an underlying change in tone.


Before Operation

This aspect of the film uses a darker colour palette, reflecting the mental state of the subject. Billy has been awaiting surgery and this opportunity for 10 years, so the world he currently inhabits he feels out of place and disconnected. It is nowhere near his ideal world, and now he is so close to that opportunity it can only make the modern world appear even more depressing.

Blues are commonly used to create a colder and uninviting colour palette, and at the same time they create a sense of grittiness and realism. The hue can vary the meaning vastly, but I will be dealing with darker shades of blue, slightly desaturating these will further create a depressing tone and outlook on life.

After Operation

Following the operation and his new life I need to reflect how an entirely new world has become available to him. For Billy it will feel like being reborn again, full of energy and feeling true to who he really is. This can instantly be made apparent with brighter and more vibrant imagery. It will be the binary opposite to the previous grade, just like how the male side of him is the binary opposite to the previous female side. The entire image can take on warmness through a subtle shift to orange tones, however I will be careful not to push this too far as I still want to keep a wide range of vibrant colours apparent in the palette.

The emphasis is primarily on creating a brighter image full of colour before I start pumping any warmth into the shot. This alone is a huge contrast to the desaturated, darker, and bluer image prior to the operation.

During Surgery (TBC)

This proposed colour palette is still uncertain as Liz does not know if she can obtain footage during his hospital visit. The idea for this palette is the stereotypical teal which makes continuous appearances in Channel 4’s “Embarrassing Bodies”. This was actually my initial thought when hearing about a documentary centralising around a hospital. The teal palette is great is creating a clinical and clean image.


Furthermore this palette is actually the coming together of the before and after palettes. It combines the blue hues that is associated with coldness together with the brightness and vibrance of the happiness that follows the surgery. Not only does the hospital act as a narrative catalyst, but it also acts as a catalyst for the grade to progress.


I am extremely happy with the proposed grade and feel it works well with the narrative of the documentary. Throughout the documentary the grade will continue to emphasise the content and invoke a suggestible version of Billy’s mental transition in relation to his physical transition.


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