29 Mar 2019

The world is colourful, so why aren't we showing it that way? [Opinion]

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The world is colourful, so why aren't we showing it that way? [Opinion] Shutterstock - Merydolla

Why are all grades seemingly starting to look the same, and why are they almost devoid of colour?

Look at any forum or Facebook page where the conversation falls to talking about different cameras, and the subject of skin tone comes up time and again. From how wonderful a certain camera makes people look, through to disagreements as to whether somebody looks too orange, or magenta, or green. But there's an irony in a lot of discussion I see going on, because a lot of the videos I see posted all seem to aim for what I can only describe as a wishy washy pastel like pallette with colours so subtle that they are barely noticeable.

Look around you right now. Take a look outside the window. Does everything really look that grey and dismal? If it isn't desaturated colours being the 'in' look of today, it's lens flares, which reduces contrast and makes everything look flat. Sometimes the look works. For example a nostalgic summer evening look. But it doesn't need to be used all the time.

The world is an amazing place. Particularly the natural one. Colours are all around us, from the skies through to the plants, and even the way people dress. Yet from the look of a lot of grading that takes place, it seems filmmakers often inhabit a world where the most vibrant colour is 'hint of beige'.

I recently skipped through the Vimeo Staff Picks, and when it came to live action video, with only very few examples, pretty much every film had the flat and grey look. I guess some people would call it the 'vintage' look, in an effort to mimic vintage film. Or even "dramatic".

It seems that strong vibrant colours have become associated with either the video look, or more damning, those overly saturated demos that you see in television sales departments.

I understand that lighting and grading has to suit the mood. You wouldn't want a tense thriller to look like a childrens animation for example. But the world takeover by the tone of grey is becoming all encompassing, from travel videos through to, well, everything else. If it suits the mood, that is fine. But when everything starts to look exactly the same, there's a problem.

Don't be afraid of colours. Embrace them. Allow us to see them. Unless you have a specific reason why something needs to look washed out and like a pastel picture, try to be a bit more creative in your grade. Or at least bold. Colour is your friend, not your enemy. Make your grade a look, not a cliche.

Image: Shutterstock - Merydolla


Simon Wyndham

Simon Wyndham is Deputy Editor of RedShark News, a professional cameraman and video producer of 20 odd years. With a background in indy feature making, he has been writing camera reviews and tech articles for as long as he can remember. When he isn't producing bread and butter corporate videos he can be found hucking the gnar on rivers whitewater kayaking and adventure sports filming.

Website: www.5ep.co.uk

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