Colour in Film Making 5

July 19, 2018 | Author: Pedro Moura | Category: Magenta, Color, Cyan, Cinematography, Red
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Designing Colour in Film The control of colour as a collaborative process

 By Pedro Moura

Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process



2.The Filmmaking Team

a.Production Design  b.Cinematog  b.Cinematographer  rapher  c.Director  d.Digital Post-Production

3.Film Colour Theory

a.Light  b.The Colour Colour Systems Systems c.The Basic Components of Colour  d.Contrast And Affinity e.Colour Schemes

4. Film Study

a. Hotel a. Hotel 66 by 66 by Anthony Chen (2009) Fabuleux destin d’Amelie d’Amelie Poulin Poulin by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)  b. Le  b. Le Fabuleux c. Trois couleurs: Bleu by Krzysztof Kieslowski (1993)

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process



2.The Filmmaking Team

a.Production Design  b.Cinematog  b.Cinematographer  rapher  c.Director  d.Digital Post-Production

3.Film Colour Theory

a.Light  b.The Colour Colour Systems Systems c.The Basic Components of Colour  d.Contrast And Affinity e.Colour Schemes

4. Film Study

a. Hotel a. Hotel 66 by 66 by Anthony Chen (2009) Fabuleux destin d’Amelie d’Amelie Poulin Poulin by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)  b. Le  b. Le Fabuleux c. Trois couleurs: Bleu by Krzysztof Kieslowski (1993)

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process


In this dissertation I will make an investigative investigative study of own to design colour in the filmmak filmmaking ing process. process.

This This study study will revolve revolve mainly mainly around around produc production tion design, design,

cinematography and digital post-production. I want to explore the process that dictates the colour in the finished film. Early concept ideas, paints used on the set, the chosen chosen film stock and ultimately ultimately the digital colour grade; I am interested in exploring all this and the process that goes  between  between the major major creative creative players in the filmmakin filmmaking g team. team. I’ll start with a general description of which the key players are, their responsibilities and resources. After After I’ll state the principle principless of colour colour theory. theory. Even Even though though this will be a rather  technical part of this dissertation, it is paramount for the discussion and understanding of the control of colour in film. With this acquired knowledge, knowledge, a review of different films will be made. These films are all different in the way they manipulate manipulate colour. They shouldn’t shouldn’t stand stand out by only one one tech techni niq que and and I’ll I’ll try try to demo demons nstr trat atee how how the the diff differ ereent are areas (de (desig sign, cinematography and digital post) have collaborated on manipulating colours to create the wanted film. The first reviewed film is my own project at the NFTS; it was the first year film called Hotel 66 (2008), and I believe it was an exceptional collaboration between directing, directing, cinematography cinematography and production production design. design. Even tough tough for now we haven’t haven’t colour graded, graded, the final result was spot spot on what we wanted wanted to achieve. I will try to make a report on all the process and collaboration that we went trough to make this film. The second review is  Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001). (2001). This was and exceptional exceptional film, especially especially by its control of colour colour in the digi  post. I’ll do research on this subject subject and find out how and why they chose that  particular  particular look. The The third third and and final final revie review w is one one of the the Thre Threee Colo Colour urss Trilo Trilogy gy by Krzy Krzysz szto tof  f  Kieslowski. Kieslowski. The first film on this trilogy trilogy Blue,  Blue, uses the symbolism of the colours colours that compose compose the French flag to express express different themes: themes: liberty, equality equality and fraternity, fraternity, in

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

this case liberty. Even though the references to the French ideals are quite tenuous, I want to understand understand why and how this this masterpiece masterpiece was created. How does does the colour  symbolism pass through to the story and why these specific colours were chosen? My goal is at the end of this dissertation is to have a better understanding on how to control colour in the filmmaking process to achieve a specific purpose and look for a film.

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

2.The Filmmaking Team

a.Production Design

The term “Production Design” was defined in 1939 when, for respect to the amazing work of William Cameron Menzies, on the film Gone with the Wind  by Victor Fleming (1939) , David O. Selznick(Producer) recognized that Menzies did much more that just set design; through storyboards and blueprints he structured each scene, thought about camera movements, framing and composition for each shot. Menzies expanded the function of the art director beyond the creation of sets and scenery, to include the responsibility for visualizing a motion picture. Production Design is one of the key creative roles when creating an overall “look” of  a film, a Tv programme, music videos or adverts. The responsibilities of this job are to select the setting and the style to visually communicate the story. To achieve the visual feel and the aesthetics wanted, collaboration inside and outside the art department is  paramount. In the art department the production designer guides concept artists, draughtsmen, and model makers. Eventually he also leads painters, carpenters, plasterers and set dressers. Also the costume designer, the key hair and make-up stylists, the special effects director and the location manager report and take the production designers vision to establish a unified visual appearance to the film. Its main requirements are the ability to share ideas by sketches, have an understanding of colour, line, form, composition and perspective, have some knowledge of history and a sense of the appropriate. Production designers use sketches, illustrations, photographs, models and storyboards to plan every shot of the film. Imagination, technique, illusion and reality are cornerstones of the job. Even though it’s mostly considered to be only an artistic job, there’s a lot of finance and planning involved. Production Designers are responsible for the selection, creation, and construction of the sets, locations and environments for a movie. They are fiscally responsible to the producer for the design and construction of sets. They are artistically responsible to the director. In terms of the control of colour, the best and first way to do it is to control the

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colours of the set and the props in the shot. The production designer has to be aware of  the great impact the colours have on the mood of the audience. Keeping the colour   palette simple and limiting the colour choices will allow to give the film a more visual meaning to the audience. Production Designers can manipulate the hue, brightness and saturation of an object’s colour from scene to scene or from sequence to sequence. The designers have the ability to control colour to a great extent.


examples are The Red Desert by Michelangelo Antonioni (1964) where everything on a street scene, including fruits and vegetables on a cart, was painted grey, or in  Peggy Sue Got Married  by Francis Ford Coppola(1986) where the art department painted grass with an unusually saturated green and also painted the sidewalks purple.


To most, cinematographer and director of photography (DP) are interchangeable terms. Usually in England the system of camera department hierarchy separates the duties of the DP from the camera operator. The DP is consulted for lighting and filtration, and the camera operator for framing and lens choices. In this case the DP is often called lighting cameramen.  Nowadays, almost everywhere the most commonly used American system has been adopted; all the rest of the camera department is subordinated to the DP, who, along with the director has a final word on all decisions related to both lighting and framing. The DP is responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image; he selects the film stock, lens, filters and lights to realize a scene in accordance with the intensions of the director. The domain of the cinematographer is the camera, composition, light, and movement. The choices of lenses is abundant, and have a profound impact, they define the frame and the perspective. The film stock and the laboratory processes have a great impact on the colour and the visual texture. In terms of filters, there are two ways of using them to control colour; The cinematographer can use filters in front of the camera or in front of the light source. Even though adding colour filters to the camera lens can be tricky, both methods are an effective way to control colour, and there are a number of standard filters called gels

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that can be used and are a reliable way to change colours in specific ways. What we see with our eyes is not what the film will capture, so the best way to  predict is to test gels, light and film stock. The chosen film stock and the method it is exposed will also have a profound impact on the colours; The stocks will differ hugely, mainly on their ASA( sensitivity to light) and their manufacturer. The stock can look warmer or cooler, more or less saturated, have better shadow detail, or appear more contrasty. For the control of colour in camera, the cinematographer can also use the time and the location. The time of day and the whether condition will influence colour in a very  particular way, so sunrise will appear more lavender, noon is more blue, and sunset is more red. There is also the called “magic hour”, when there is still light but the sun is  below the horizon, where the light is very unusual and it has no shadows. When the weather is overcast, the light is more blue because the direct rays from the sun (which are more red than the skylight) are held back by the clouds. The chosen location will also have an impact on the outdoor light colour; when shooting near a read brick wall, the overall colour of the light reflected will be more red than the light coming directly from the sky; in a forest the reflective light will be more green. Taking all this is consideration, the cinematographer has a lot in his power to chance the colour in a film; but because there are so many there variables, testing is paramount.


A movie director is the central creative force. He decides on how the movie should look, what tone it should have, and what an audience should gain from the cinematic experience. He is responsible for telling a story visually with a point of view. He must have a firm idea on how to translate the script cinematically. He makes decisions about the story, motivation, technical and aesthetic issues. They must have a strong previsualization ability, and work with all the departments to achieve this vision. At the end of the day, directors make all the final decisions on design and photographic matters. “Film directors are responsible for approving camera angles, lens effects, lighting, and set design, and will often take part in hiring key crew members. They coordinate

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the actors' moves and also may be involved in the writing, financing, and editing of a film.”1 The director is one of the few key players who oversee the film from pre-production to post, including the final colour grade.

d.Digital Post-Production

As defined by its name Digital Post Production (DPP) is only involved in the  postproduction stage of a film. DPP receive the film footage and try to enhance it according to the directors’ vision. Their functions vary, but I’m interested especially in the colour grade. The colour grade is the enhancement, tone down or even changing the colours of a film. With the advent of digital cameras, the process of colour grading can be done almost automatically; if film is used it has to be telecined first. Telecine is the process that converts film to digital, basically by projecting the film and recording it digitally. In Hollywood the first film to be completely digitally colour graded was O  Brother, Where Art Thou? by Joel Coen (2000) - The film was first telecined, then digitally colour graded for several weeks, and finally the digital master was output to film again with a Kodak laser recorder to create a master internegative. “Colour grading is often done to ensure that the recorded colours match those of the set design. In music videos however, the goal may instead be to establish a stylized

look. Traditionally, colour grading was done towards technical goals. Features like secondary colour correction was originally used to establish colour continuity. The trend today is increasingly moving towards creative goals- improving the aesthetics of  an image, establishing stylized looks, and setting the mood of a scene through colour. Because of this trend, some colourists suggest the phrase "colour enhancement" over  1

Karl French. "Seeing the director’s point of view", Financial Times, 2006-08-27

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"colour correction".”2 Some examples of films who took this stylized digital colour grading approach are: O Brother, Where Art Thou? by Joel Coen (2000), Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain  by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001), 300 by Zack Snyder (2006), Sin City by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez (2005) and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Tim Burton (2005) amongst others… The Digital Post Production can change the hue, brightness and contrast of every frame of a film, but all this incredible flexibility shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ignore colour control during production.

3.Film Colour Theory


To understand colour, we must first understand light. Colours we see are mere light reflecting on an object. If we take a glass prism and shine light trough it we obtain a rainbow, or, in another words, the visible spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. This spectrum is conditioned by the type of light we shine trough it; a candle is 2

Color grading from Wíkipedia. ©2006 by Wíkipedia

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

different from a 60-watt bulb, from the lights used on film sets, from a sunset and from daylight. In the graph below we can see that “a candle produces a reddish light, a 60watt bulb an orangish light, and a daylight is very blue in comparison.” 3

b.The Colour Systems

There are 2 different colour systems we use: the additive and the subtractive system. The additive colour system is used in lighting. If you shine two different colour  lights into one common surface, you’ll get a third colour. Example: if you shine red and a blue spotlight on a subject, it will appear magenta.

In the additive system colour wheel, the primary colours are red, green and blue. Combining two primary colour will result in one secondary colour, so if we mix red and  blue, we’ll get magenta, green and blue we’ll get cyan, and red and green we’ll get yellow. If we mix all the primary colours we’ll get white. 3

Bruce Block. The Visual Story, Seeing The Structure of Film, Tv, and New Media.  New York: Focal Press, 2001

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

Colours that are opposite to another on the colour wheel are called complementary colours; in the additive system these colours are, cyan and red, green and magenta, and  blue and yellow.

The subtractive system is the most commonly used, mainly used in paints and dyes. The colour wheel looks similar to the additive wheel, but the primary colours are different.

The primary colours




colour system are magenta, yellow, and cyan. Again, mixing the primary colours will gives us secondary colours, thus, magenta and yellow makes red, yellow and cyan makes green, and cyan and magenta makes blue. If we mix all the colours together we get black. As with paints, lighting gels also work with the subtractive system.

c.The Basic Components of Colour 

Colours can be classified by three components: hue, brightness and saturation. Hue very simply tells us the position of the colour in the colour wheel: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, violet or magenta.

Brightness is the addition of white or black to the hue. It’s basicly the position of  the colour on the grey scale.

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Saturation is a bit more difficult to explain; saturation refers to the degree of purity of the hue. For example, a fully saturated red is a red that hasn’t been contaminated by any other hue. A desaturated colour is a colour that has been contaminated by it’s complementary colour. For example “ let’s take the hue of red as it appears on the colour wheel. (…) This red is the purest, most vivid, saturated colour possible. If we add a small amount of  cyan (red’s complement) to the red hue, it begins to change. The saturated red becomes less vivid. The saturated red begins to turn grey. This is called desaturation. The more cyan we add, the greyer the red will become. When we mix equal amounts of red and cyan together, we’ll end up without a trace of either hue. We will be left with grey. We can make any colour desaturated by adding its complementary colour. When a hue is extremely pure or vivid we call it saturated.” 4

d.Contrast and Affinity

Contrast and affinity is the best way to play with the control of colour in film. We can produce contrast or affinity by changing the hue, brightness and saturation of the 4

Bruce Block. The Visual Story, Seeing The Structure of Film, Tv, and New Media.  New York: Focal Press, 2001

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

colour or colours. We can use contrast or affinity within the shot, from shot to shot and from sequence to sequence.

With the hue, we can have contrast in a shot when we have, for example, a blue sky, a green field and a red car. We’ll have affinity of hues when we have, for example, a  blue night sky, a blue car, and a actor wearing a blue top and dark blue pants. The hue is the same, but the brightness and saturation can vary. Two film examples of hue affinity are The Shinning  by Stanley Kubrick (1980) and Cries and Whispers by Ingmar  Bergman (1972).

With the brightness of the colours, we can also create contrast or affinity; contrast using very bright and very dark colours in a shot or sequence, and affinity by utilizing colours that are close in contrast levels.

Again, with saturation, the control is the same; we use affinity using, for example,  just saturated colours, and thus giving the hole film a colour unity, or we can chose by contrasting, and, for example, alternating between saturated and desaturated shot sequences.

Colour contrast and affinity can also be achieved by using warm or cold colours. We can have colour contrast in the same shot, where an actor is favoured with warm colours, and the background cold , affinity where there’s no distinction, or between shoots or sequences; one shoot is warm, and the other is cold. You can also use colour  contrast and affinity to dramatise characters or locations; one group can be warm, and the other cold.

Complementary colours are also a great way to achieve contrast. We cannot achieve affinity because complementary really means opposite (in the colour wheel). We can use contrasting complementary hues to define, for example night and day scenes; the night is bluish, and the day is yellowish.

The last resource that contrast and affinity has to offer to the control of colour is extension. This is probably the most difficult resource to use, and even tough its scientific, most filmmakers use an empiric, rather than theoretical approach.

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Extension deals with the brightness and size of the area a colour occupies in relations to other colours. So, even tough colours have different hues and saturations, what matters here is the  brightness. A fully saturated yellow is brighter than a fully saturated blue, so, if in a frame we put them together in similar sizes, the audience will be attracted firste to the yellow, simply because it’s brightest.

In this scenario we achieved contrast of 

extension. In order to achieve affinity, we would need to reduce the area of yellow, so the larger area of blue could balance it. “ The key to understanding extension is to examine the colours brightness in relation to the size of the area that the colour occupies. The brighter the colour, the less area it needs to attract the viewer’s attention or balance other dark colours. Contrast of extension can be used to draw the viewer’s attention to a particular area of the screen or to give a scene balance (…) By creating affinity of extension, a scene will have low visual intensity.” 5

e.Colour Schemes

A colour scheme is a plan from all the colours and its variables, in this case, for the  production of a film. The colours can be saturated, desaturated, bright, dark, warm or  cold. The first and easiest way to start defining a colour scheme is the hues; Having, or  not having specific hues in a film is a good way to control the mood, or the tell a story in a dramatic way. Taking the colour wheel as a starting point we can have five different ways of selecting hues. The first option is to use just one hue in the entire production.  Reds  by Warren Beatty(1981) and Cries and Whispers by Ingmar Bergman (1972) stand out for using  just one hue of red. The second option is to have complementary hues.

In the colour wheel

complementary colours are defined by being opposite to each other.


complementary pair can be used, in many different ways; you assign one colour (ex. Red) for the all the foreground, and its complementary colour (ex. Cyan) for all the 5

Bruce Block. The Visual Story, Seeing The Structure of Film, Tv, and New Media.  New York: Focal Press, 2001

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

 backgrounds. One group of characters or locations can be one colour, and the others its complementary colour. The third option is to split complementary hues. You take a pair of complementary hues, and split one of them into another pair of almost complementary colours. This will mean that you’ll have three hues to work with. An example would be cyan and a split complementary of orange and red-magenta.

The forth way is called a three-way split. It means basically choosing three different hues from the colour wheel, usually equidistant from each other. So you could have, for example, green, blue and red. You can assign on hue to one group of characters, another hue to the other group of characters, and the third hue to the locations. Or  maybe two hues to a location and the third from another location.

The fifth and last way to successfully make a colour scheme using the colour wheel, is also probably also the most difficult to achieve. This option is to have a four way spit, meaning choosing four different hues, all equidistant in the colour wheel. One of  the best examples of the four way split is the animation Sleeping Beauty by Clyde Geronimi (1959) where magenta and green are assigned to the evil characthers, and orange and blue-cyan to the good characters..

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After deciding the hues, the next step is the brightness and saturation. Because it’s easier to discuss hues than brightness and saturation, it comes to a point where a  physical colour script is needed. This is like a storyboard, but instead of images, you’ll have different colours. Colour scripts can be specific to each act of the story.

They can also illustrate all the colours of the entire film.

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

And they can even be more complex and illustrate each sequence of the film in a colour panel. These allow studying complex changes in colour as a story unfolds.

Another powerful and yet somewhat simpler tool in the control of colour are graphics; these give you an reference for the colours hue saturation and brightness throughout the film. They can be simpler and just focussed on one of the elements, ore more complex.

The one below is only focused on the contrast or affinity of tone during the film; Instead of only being black or white, it will actually give a grey scale. This specific graphic shows an affinity of middle greys until the climax, where the tonal structure changes to contrast, and then changes back to affinity during the stories resolution.

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

This next graph shows the hue, brightness and saturation in relation to the story; According to this one, the colours change from warm to cool at the climax, it begins with contrast of brightness that shifts to affinity for the climax and resolution, and all the colours are desaturated throughout the film.

Colour graphics are a great way to plan and control colour in a film, but they should be only utilized as a general guide, giving more emphasis to the colour scripts, which, because you can actually see the colours, are more specific.

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

4. Film Study

a. Hotel 66 by Anthony Chen (2009)

 Hotel 66 was a first year fiction short film made at the NFTS. Anthony Chen was the writer/director, John Lee was the DP and I was the production designer.

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I chose to include this film in this dissertation to further realize what we accomplished as a team, and to share what I believe was a very good exercise of control of colour as a collaborative process. This film was, from the start, understood as one of the toughest 1 st year films at the  NFTS for a long time; most of it due to a very ambitious set build and to a very special story. As such, a big emphasis was put in the pre-production; we all had the same starting  point; the script. It was a story about two immigrant workers who met in a seedy hotel in London. One is a male prostitute and the other is a security guard. They have a voyage through this magical space where they find themselves. It is a very subtle story, where everything happens under the surface of the characters. The hotel is almost their hiding place, where they mostly never leave, so it’s treated as a character.

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After each of us had gone our separate ways and interpreted the script by ourselves, we came together and discussed it. The next step was to storyboard it. I sat down with Anthony and we went through every shot. At the end of it I had a clear idea on how to  build a set that would accommodate the shots and the story we wanted to achieve. Of  course we had a limited budget and compromises had to be made, so I made six or  seven design proposals; some more ambitious, some more compromise aware. After  making a rough budget, and with the different designs, we opted for one. It was always clear that a seedy hotel in Soho would have to stand out more for its colour and texture than for its architecture.. The three of us went through references I’d putted together in a mood board, and some films that Anthony had prepared for us. These films included: The Hand  by Wong Kar Wai (2004) (segment, original title  Eros), Lust, Caution by Ang Lee (2008), and In The Mood For Love by Wong Kar Wai (2000). These films have all a particular  aesthetics; they stand out for their refrain but lush design. Its all about the colours and magnificent wallpapers. It’s a hard compromise; on the one hand they are deeply “designer” movies, but on the other hand you don’t want to distract the viewer. You don’t want the viewer to look at the wallpaper and the design instead of the action. After careful consideration, I started to put together a couple of different colour   palettes. My intuition told me that dirty and toned down browns would be a good

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solution, but this was the time to experiment and to try different things. After putting together these colour palettes I took them to the director and the DP. Anthony was a bit confused with all the choices, but he agreed that toned down browns was a good option. John was more wary; as he suggested that it was to close to the skin tone and that we risked “losing” the actors in the background.

The colour scheme we were trying to achieve was mainly a contrast of warm and cold hues, mainly reds/browns and green/blues, affinity of brightness and desaturated colours. In terms of the colour change in relation to the story we wanted to achieve an

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constant hue brightness and saturation throughout the entire film, trying to match as close as possible the set build with the chosen exterior locations.

At this time I’d already started to search prop houses for possible props.

I found

one item that I said: “ this is it!”. It had everything I wanted: It was old, very “funky” in the terms that it’s definitely a “designers” item, and it fitted the colour scheme that I’d envisioned. I showed this to both the director and the DP and they both agreed that it was a “Hotel 66” prop..

Because we



well  planned

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

and prepared pre-production so far, we had time to do something that we always wanted to do: experiment. I set up a couple of scenic flats on which we could experiment with different wallpapers and colours.

The set up was basically the following: a person in the

foreground, a flat with different wallpapers in the middle ground and a flat with different colours in the background. We also experimented with different lights and lampshades. John was changing his film stock, so we experimented with Fuji and Kodak: 100T, 200T, 500T.

Basically we tried to shoot every single different

combination of paint, wallpaper, light and film stock. This process took one entire afternoon, but the results were excellent. The next day we sat in the cinema and watched as all the colours changed, mainly because of film stock and lighting. We realized that there was no risk of loosing the actors in the toned down light brown, and that wallpaper with big patterns worked much better than small  patterned ones. We also saw a great difference from Fuji to Kodak: the first one seemed too saturated, especially in the reds and pinks, while Kodak seemed much more “smooth”. We opted for the last one. So we had chosen the film stock, roughly the lighting method, a colour pallet and some wallpaper; the fight was long from being finished. Even though now we had all the confidence in the world that we were going to achieve what we wanted, there are always things that we were not able to foresee; the result was a very colour controlled film that achieved exactly what was though in pre-production.

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 b. Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulin by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)

Amélie is a story about a girl who was a bit over protected while growing up. Her  father always told her she suffered from a weak heart. This is a film about a strange and cute girl in a quest to do good and to find the meaning of life. Growing up in the suburbs of Paris, Amelie was always a bit of an odd ball with a lot of imagination. She grows up and moves to Paris where she works as a waitress in a Monmartre café staffed and frequented by dysfunctional individuals (a jealous man, a writer who can't get published, a hypochondriac cigar stand matron, and an embittered former circus performer).

When Amélie discovers a box of someones chieldhood keepsakes in her apartment, her life takes a new direction. She decides to track down the now middle-aged man whom the box of mementos belong, and seeing his joy at the return of his childhood, Amélie discoveres her purpose in life and begins secretly conspiring to make the people around her happy

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During her adventures as a self-appointed good samaritan, she comes across another  lonely soul, Nino, a young man who collects photographs of strangers discarded at  public photo booths and eventually their strange relationship blossoms into love. In this film Jean-Pierre Jeunet, made an effort to do something different from his  previous works ( Delicatessen by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1991) and The City of Lost  Children by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1995), all of them with somewhat of dark gothic design, with muted colours and low contrast. In this film the aesthetics are cleaner and  brighter than reality (in the disc's commentary, Jeunet observers Paris is nothing like what you see in the movie, that "there's dog shit in the streets").

The exuberant colour scheme is mainly a combination of two hues, red and green,

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witch are not complementary in the colour wheel. It terms of hues, brightness and saturation, the film excels by having an unified affinity throughout the shoots. In this colourful and carefully mastered film, one of the best achievements is the affinity of  extension, meaning that even tough it has very contrasting hues, the size they occupy on the screen is very well balanced, making the brightest and lighter colours smaller in relation to the heavier and darker colours.

The design is committed to this enhanced world with rich greens and reds with dark   pastel colours.

It tries to give an exaggerated expression of reality by making

everything look busy but perfect. Its just spot on in the way that it makes you go in the  journey of the film without questioning its audacity or veracity. The cinematography is also good, with mainly soft yellow highlights, and just enough contrast.

The reason I decided to include this particular film in this dissertation is that, apart

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from the design, almost all of the control of colour is done in digital post production. Jérôme Arthuis was the grading coordinator and he had in his team, compositors, matte painters and colourists. Didier le Fouest is both credited as colourist and digital grader. The digital post production facility was the French Duboicolor. Started in 2001 Duboicolor was one of the first companies in Europe to design its own in-house digital grading system for motion pictures. Their process, in this case, consisted of digitalizing the 35mm negative, colour  enhance & correction in the, back then, brand new, da Vinci Renaissance 888 also call the GUI-Graphical User Interface, and finally the result tranfered back to a 35mm film. With this process “Jeunet used digital colour grading to achieve the rich visuals and added a green bias to most scenes, and while at times the saturation threatens to overwhelm, this simply adds to the feeling of make-believe propagated the movie.” 6

“Amélie's colour scheme is vivid to say the least, glowing in saturated reds and greens with accents of blue and yellow. It's beautifully executed and works hand-inhand with plot and tone, putting us in a warm world when appropriate, then shifting to a cooler look as the emotional emphasis shifts. Jeunet and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (The Cat's Meow by Peter Bogdanovich (2001)) used digital technology to underpin the film's visceral and emotional impact. The film presents their work   beautifully in a 2.35:1 transfer that's been anamorphically enhanced, with little sign of  6

DVD Review of Amelie by Michael Mackenzie, 10/17/05

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edge enhancement, digital artefacts, or source flaws.” 7

c. Trois couleurs: Bleu by Krzysztof Kieslowski (1993)


(DVD Review of Amelie by Dan Mancini, Dvd Verdict, 4/22/03

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Blue is the first film of the colours trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski. The colours of  the French flag inspire the films.

Blue represents liberty, white, equality and red

fraternity. In this film we are confronted by Julie (Juliette Binoche), a woman who lost her husband and daughter to a terrible car crash. The meaning of "liberty" takes on a very different meaning for Julie in this film. She tries to gain liberty from her memories and her emotions only to find that it is an impossible task. Filled with amazing subtleties, like the two occasions in which we see someone free falling on a tv (symbolizing our heroine’s journey), I want to concentrate purely on the use of colour. The look of this film and its colour is done almost all in camera. The exceptional cinematography work by Slawomir Idziak, made use of filters to enhance and to light the sets, mainly blue.

All shoot on locarion, the production

designer Claude Lenoir also used props and sets to create a “bluish” mood.

As the title indicates, the colour blue is used extensively during the film, there is a trace of it in practically every shot of the film, everything from people's clothes, the colour of ink, the paint on walls and arches, the tint of the street and the water, etc. In relation to the story, the brightness and saturation stay the same during the entire film, and even though the powerful blue hue is always present, towards the climax, we see more hues being used, for example, when Julie goes to the strip club to help her  friend, or when she confronts her dead husband’s former mistress in the toilet.

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An affinity of blue hue is used throughout the film, and in some small specific shots, a contrast of complementary hues is also used, in this case, blue, and it’s complementary, yellow.

In the first scene we see a child playing with a blue candy wrapper in a car. The scene is of dubious meaning, but it all has a blue tone to it.

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When Julie comes back to the house after the accident we discover that her  daughter’s room was all painted blue.

In the room there’s a prop used extensively throughout the film and in the last shot  before the final montage: a pendant made with blue spheres. She decides to sell the house and get rid of all her possessions; the only thing she keeps is this pendant. As later in the film a deadbeat flute player tells her: “we all have to hang on to something”.

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The scenes with this blue pendant are exceptionally beautiful. As a prop, its shape is exquisite and elegant, filling the screen in a very satisfying way. But more, the blue spheres are semi transparent, which provides the DP amazing shots where we see blue light coming from the spheres and softly hitting Julie’s delicate face. The scenes in the pool are some of most powerful moments in the film; the location is all blue, including the tiles and the door off the pool. This is, off course, even more accentuated by the blue lighting.

The blue represents the emotion of sadness and also melancholy. “The colour blue resonates for its associations with depression and coldness that are well demonstrated in the film.”8 8

B446-DES379 DVD Review Of Blue Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 10/28/06

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I believe this film was well thought through by Kieslowski in the sense that he knew what he wanted in terms of colour. The DP and the PD used their respective fields to  bring the director’s vision to life. Even though it is somewhat a “stylized” film in the sense that the colours presented are not “realistic”, and that the light is not completely explained, this I consider to be an invalid point since all films are art; films are a form of storytelling that has no limits or boundaries, the colours are just a resource that the film-makers have to tell a story. This is a masterpiece from a director in full grasp of his powers and from his team that coped with the challenge of collaborating in order to achieve a meaningful and truly colour oriented film. There are at least two references of the other two films of the trilogy: the first is Julie carrying a box which, as a close-up shows, has prominently written across it the word "blanco", Spanish for white; in the next shot we are looking at her from behind, and she  pauses in the street as a man in blue passes her on her left and a woman in red passes her on her right. The other reference is in the pool scene where children in red and white swim suits run out and jump in the water.

The other two films on the trilogy, White by Krzysztof Kieslowski (1994) and  Red   by Krzysztof Kieslowski (1994), aren’t so colour orientated; there’s no specific colour  associated to them, and, apart from cast and some plot, there’s no apparent connection  between them. Even though they are great films, in my view, it’s a shame that these

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which were Kieslowski’s last films didn’t maintain the colour connection between the film and it’s title, and between the films as a trilogy.

5. Conclusion

After all the different film reviews, and after careful examination on how the process of control of colour in modern filmmaking evolves, I can conclude that it is, in fact, a

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 process, and that all the players involved have their own tools, that combined, give the creative and technical control needed for the director. Also, all the elements of control, respectively production design, cinematography and digital post production have their own specific tools, but cannot exist without each other; it’s all a creative process where, to achieve a common goal, they all have to work  with each other. The production design have to bear in mind the film stock and lights and gels the cinematographer is going to use, and vice versa, the cinematographer has to take into account the vision and the colours used by the designer on set. One of the great questions that I was posed is if, nowadays with all the control given  by digital post production, the cinematographer was tempted to do less work in camera, shooting everything “flatter”, with all the exposure values as broad as possible, to give more opportunities in post. The answer is not as straightforward as it seams; the fact is that before the digital  post production as we know it, the cinematographer had to do almost all the work of  control of colour in camera, utilizing the telecine just to minimally “correct” the colours, and make sure all the shots transitions where smooth. Nowadays, he knows he can “get away” with a lot more, and that if exposed correctly, the options in post are immense. So yes, there is a big temptation to do less work in camera, leaving a lot to  post.

But a good cinematographer, working with a good team, knows what it is

expected, so, he will try to get as much of work in camera as possible, not limiting his options on post. There are, of course exceptions to this; films like 300 by Zack Snyder  (2006) or  Sin City  by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez (2005) are created, having from the start the knowledge that the digital post production is going to be immense. As Rodriguez's recalled during production of Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams: "This is the future! You don't wait six hours for a scene to be lighted. You want a light over here, you grab a light and put it over here. You want a nuclear submarine, you make one out of thin air and put your characters into it." 9. This opinion is, of course, debatable, but in nevertheless, both the production designer  and the cinematographer have to be prepared for this kind of shooting procedure, where more emphasis is directed for post, and less for in camera work. The conclusion is that no mater what the film is, there must be a clear vision on what is wanted to be achieved from the start, and all the key players must submit to that 9 entry for Sin City, Trivia notes

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ideal, and use their tools accordingly. Filmmaking in general, and the control of colours in particular, is a process of  collaboration between different departments with different competences, that if  carefully mastered, and if properly directed to achieve a common goal, allow us to put into reality our all our wildest dreams, as colourful as they may be..

6. Bibliography


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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

Luigina De Grandis. Theory and Use of Colour . Dorset: Blandford Press, 1986.

Ward Preston.

What an Art Director Does: An Introduction to Motion Picture

 Production Design. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1994

Vincent LoBrutto. The Filmmaker's Guide to Production Design. New York: Allworth Press, 2002.

Johannes Itten. The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective  Rationale of Color . Hoboken: Wiley, 1997.

Bruce Block. The Visual Story, Seeing The Structure of Film, Tv, and New Media.  New York: Focal Press, 2001.

Articles From Magazines

Holben, Jay May. " From Film to Tape" American Cinematographer Magazine, 1999.

Karl French. "Seeing the director’s point of view", Financial Times, 2006-08-27.

Web Pages

B446-DES379 DVD Review Of Blue Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 10/28/06

DVD Review of Amelie by Dan Mancini, Dvd Verdict, 4/22/03

DVD Review of Amelie by Michael Mackenzie, 10/17/05

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Designing Colour in Film - The control of colour as a collaborative process

Color grading from Wíkipedia. ©2006 by Wíkipedia

Color motion picture film. ©2009 by Wíkipedia

Sin City ©2009 by Wíkipedia entry for Sin City, Trivia notes


300 by Zack Snyder (2006)

Cries and Whispers by Ingmar Bergman (1972)

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Tim Burton (2005)

 Delicatessen by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1991)

 Hotel 66 by Anthony Chen (2009)

 Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulin by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)

O Brother, Where Art Thou? by Joel Coen (2000)

Sin City by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez (2005)

Trois couleurs: Bleu by Krzysztof Kieslowski (1993)

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