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Unique Color Palettes

Old 04-02-06, 12:25 PM
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Unique Color Palettes

I was watching The Aviator last night, and had completely forgotten about what Scorcese did with the colors in this movie. It's really a wonderful technique of altering nearly every color in the film, but in particular the blues and reds. The only way that I can describe it, is that a color palette resembling the vibrant red and cyans of old 3D movies is prominent in most of the movie. I know there was a thread recently discussing black and white films with a splash of color added, but I would like the discuss movies where a deliberately unique color palette was used.

Sometimes, particularly today, the color will be digitally altered for an effect. I believe this is how The Aviator was done, also some scenes in Lord of the Rings are famously digitally manipulated, but not to nearly this kind of effect where the colors take on something unreal but beautiful. Hero also comes to mind, where different tellings of the same events are painted in a different color scheme.

Some older films rely simply on set design and lighting achieve this sort of effect. Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow has a blue tint the entire movie, and while some of this might have been achieved digitally, I'm sure a lot of what was going on during shooting had just as much to do here. Creepshow is another one of these films that comes to mind, where the colors in many scenes bring to mind the comics from which this pulp film was based. These older ones are lovely, because it's just so surreal to watch. I also think there's something nostalgic here, even though I only saw Creepshow within the last two years. Perhaps I'm reminded of the similar hell scenes from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, which I loved as a kid.

I'm hard pressed to think of any others now, which is why I'd like you all to talk about them, if I think of any more, I'll try to bring them up as we go along. Sometimes I think this is a purely artistic impulse of certain directors, particularly ones whose inspiration in film beforehand is rooted in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy pictures, even if these techniques are then applied to more serious fare. Tim Burton and Peter Jackson in particular come to mind, but I'm sure there are plenty of other current filmmakers putting this kind of technique to use. Other times, I'm sure there is a specific meaning to the different colors. I believe that in my example of The Aviator, the cyans (which often would replace greens as well as blues) and reds were most vibrant when Howard Hughes was riding success in work and love, whereas when he was most uncomfortable and seeping deep into his mental troubles, the colors would root deeper into reality bringing yellows and greens back to the palette. This was really a great effect, and really made me enjoy the look of this already fantastic film even more.
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Old 04-02-06, 12:27 PM
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O Brother, Where Art Thou?
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Old 04-02-06, 12:37 PM
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According to IMDB, the color changes in The Aviator were to imitate the way a color film of the period would look. As the movie went on, they were making it look like later films with more realistic color. Then again, I suppose attributing it to Howard's mental state is more interesting, so if that works for you, great!

The Matrix has a green tint for scenes that take place in the matrix.
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Old 04-02-06, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Drexl
According to IMDB, the color changes in The Aviator were to imitate the way a color film of the period would look. As the movie went on, they were making it look like later films with more realistic color.
Actually, that's an interesting thought. Although if that's how it was going, I wonder why the beginning of the film was not in black and white. That would have been interesting as well. It would be hard to tell the difference between the film and the film within the film (try saying that ten times fast!), though. It did resemble the tinting done to black and white films at the time, so I suppose that's a likely reason. The main thing that made me feel it was based on his comfort is that when he visits the Hepbourne family, greens make their appearence quite vividly. However, a few scenes later the cyans are present again. So to me, it jumped back and forth a bit.

Originally Posted by Drexl
The Matrix has a green tint for scenes that take place in the matrix.
This is one I didn't think of, oddly. Also, of note, didn't the original release of The Matrix not feature as significant tinting? I believe the dvd rerelease after the sequels were released was retooled to better match the look of those two films. It's been a while since I've seen either version of the original, so I can't remember if there was any green tint at all, or if it was something more mundane for the matrix scenes.
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Old 04-02-06, 01:09 PM
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2046
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Old 04-02-06, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Raffurar
This is one I didn't think of, oddly. Also, of note, didn't the original release of The Matrix not feature as significant tinting? I believe the dvd rerelease after the sequels were released was retooled to better match the look of those two films. It's been a while since I've seen either version of the original, so I can't remember if there was any green tint at all, or if it was something more mundane for the matrix scenes.
That is correct. The green was extremely subtle in the original release. I actually prefer it over the rerelease. The whole marketing of the first film was actually geared toward a blue theme, but a shift was made to green for the sequels.
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Old 04-02-06, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by GrimTangent
That is correct. The green was extremely subtle in the original release. I actually prefer it over the rerelease. The whole marketing of the first film was actually geared toward a blue theme, but a shift was made to green for the sequels.
The green/blue juxapostion was in the original movie, it was on overdrive for the sequels, but the tint was definately their and noticeable in the theaterical release.
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Old 04-02-06, 03:22 PM
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Suspiria comes to mind.
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Old 04-02-06, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by clemente
The green/blue juxapostion was in the original movie, it was on overdrive for the sequels, but the tint was definately their and noticeable in the theaterical release.
I wonder if it was always intended to be as stark as in the sequels, but was toned down as it could possibly remove much doubt in if Morpheus was speaking the truth about the world. After the popularity blitz of the first movie and the sequels, perhaps then they figured: well, everyone knows the matrix is real, so the mystery is no longer necessary. Either way, I'm not sure which I prefer. I haven't actually seen the new dvd release, so don't know how much it changes the film. But I definitely feel there's a different feeling I get between watching the original unified story and watching the trilogy as a whole. Perhaps it is due in part to this color change, and I actually prefer it as a standalone film, even while I appreciate the extended mythos a great deal.

Originally Posted by FinkPish
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This is actually a great example. The overexposed color palette definitely adds to some authenticity here. It feels like it's from the thirties. Perhaps a moving collection of worn photographs. Great movie too!

I haven't seen either Suspiria or 2046, but have been interested in the latter for some time. Will definitely have to check these out, do they feature a unique tone for the entire film, or just parts?

Also, this has been creeping into television of late. I know this isn't the tv forum, but CSI: Miami has always been painted with an orange, sunset, hue to bring it a feeling of Southern Florida (I'm from Miami, and can tell you it doesn't look like that all the time, but can certainly feel that orange, if you get my drift). But it certainly makes it stand on its own from other shows. CSI: New York attempted to be similar, adopting a pale blueish tone. I guess it was to make you feel the grimey darkness of NY's underbelly, but it didn't go over so well, and I've noticed this last season they've slowly done away with it. Interesting how this sort of color treatment can either make or break something. Although I didn't like the color for CSI: NY, I admire their attempt to be original in a sea overpopulated by crime dramas (even though admittedly CSI is probably the prime suspect to blame for this).
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Old 04-03-06, 12:42 AM
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O Brother was taken, so I'll go with the Asian examples. You mentioned Hero, and somebody said 2046. House of Flying Daggers is another, and there are some scenes with Hero-like saturation in "Dolls."

Thirteen also has some subtle color change. As the situation of the lead goes downhill, the film's colors progressively become more washed out, darker and get a blue/gray tint. It's most obvious if you fast forward from beginning to end on 4x or 8x (I did this with a friend to find a specific scene that he wanted to show me, and the change in colors is extremely noticible this way, so it's always stuck out in my memory).

I think "What Dreams May Come" counts, and if not it should.

Edit to add visual examples from "Thirteen." Early/middle/end.







-JP

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Old 04-03-06, 12:50 AM
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Different stories in different settings have very different color pallettes. The Drug Czar's story is very blue, Mexico is very orange and high-contrast, La Jolla is very vibrant and soft.

Clerks 2

The film used a digital intermediate to desaturate many colors.
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Old 04-03-06, 01:37 AM
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Seven used a bleach bypass process to desaturate the film to nearly black and white.
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Old 04-03-06, 10:18 AM
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There was huge thread on this topic some time ago.

Anyway,"Far from Heaven" had an interesting color scheme and it's discussed in the commentary. According to imdb, and probably the commentary but I can't remember, the guy who shot the movie used 50's style lighting and filters to get the feel of the Era.

"Event Horizon" used the color Green on the ship to give a "sickening", "ghostly" feel.

Last edited by Giantrobo; 04-03-06 at 07:31 PM.
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Old 04-03-06, 10:50 AM
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For the matrix trilogy: the matrix is green, zion is red, the real world is blue.
minority report is blue
saving private ryan is powder white and military green
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Old 04-03-06, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Giantrobo
Anyway,"Far from Heaven" had an interesting color scheme and it's discussed in the commentary. According to imdb, and probably the commentary but I can't remember, the guy who shot the movie used 50's style lighting and filters to et the feel of the Era.
Yes, the filmmaker intend to made the movie as a homage to Douglas Sirk (All that Heaven Allows, Inherit the Wind) by imitating not only the lighting and filters but also the camera works (movement and editing) of the time. It was a beautiful movie.

And while we're in topics, I'm quite surprised that The Three Colors Trilogy haven't been mentioned yet.
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Old 04-03-06, 05:37 PM
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If we're talking about dominant colors now, I'll throw in the films of Sam Mendes.

-JP
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Old 04-03-06, 06:56 PM
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Old 04-03-06, 07:28 PM
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The majority of Tim Burton films are blue.

Pitch black was yellow and washed out blue until it turned black.

Spielberg likes sepia tones and blues.

Donnie Darko also had a blue hue.
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Old 04-04-06, 02:10 AM
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Avalon is a fairly obvious one. Most of the movie is set in the future and looks sepia, but the climax takes place in our current time and has normal coloring.
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Old 04-04-06, 09:29 AM
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Do the Right Thing was orangish for the day shots and blue in the night shots.
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Old 04-04-06, 10:48 AM
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Peter Greenway always plays with color schemes in his films. Look at "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" - moving from the red of the dining room, to the white of the bathroom, to the green of the kitchen and the pitch black of everything "outside."
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Old 04-04-06, 11:00 AM
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I'll mention right away the "artistic" use of color by von Trier in Element of Crime and by Brakhage in his films. I say "artistic" because I want to like Element of Crime, I really do, but I can't, and I've tried watching it numerous times and it ends up being more of a gimmick than anything well thought-out.

Soderbergh is pretty good at this stuff. Traffic of course immediately comes to mind, but Ocean's Twelve is another good example. The color and lighting is absolutely phenomenal.

I think the movie that's made Miami look the most vibrant is Bad Boys II. I still don't know how Amir Mokri got those ridiculous cone-searing colors right before the first big car-chase scene. But it makes the rest of the movie look light-hearted and tropical, even with all the deep, crisp shadows. (Or what I like to call the "Simpson & Bruckheimer" look).

I think Training Day also made good use of colors, as the movie gets murkier and murkier as the day goes on. Notice how clean and fresh the air seems as their day begins, and slowly gets worse. By the time they're meeting with the PD big-shots everything is in an orange haze, by night-time, browns are used almost exclusively.

Another good candidate would be Collateral. The colors in that movie, some of which last entire scenes, are so gorgeous it's almost distracting.
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Old 04-04-06, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by The Bus
I'll mention right away the "artistic" use of color by von Trier in Element of Crime
Reminds me alot of Tarkovsky's STALKER
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Old 04-04-06, 11:54 AM
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all this talk of green tinting and no mention of David Fincher yet?
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Old 04-05-06, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by The Bus
Soderbergh is pretty good at this stuff. Traffic of course immediately comes to mind, but Ocean's Twelve is another good example. The color and lighting is absolutely phenomenal.
He used color really well in Eros too.

-JP
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