PDA

View Full Version : Colour grading = movie equivalent of the volume wars?



michael
30-06-2010, 09:17 AM
So there's a common complaint regarding popular music that everything's getting mastered increasingly loud, usually referred to as the volume war (http://www.bdrak.com/other/mastering/examples.htm) or loudness war.

I was thinking the other day that using computers to grade the images in contemporary film seems like a similar complaint / concern / shit thing. The whole orange vs. teal thing (http://theabyssgazes.blogspot.com/2010/03/teal-and-orange-hollywood-please-stop.html) - making "skin tones pop".

In both cases it's irreparably stripping out detail in the hopes of increasing impact, to seem more dramatic than the preceding thing. Well, maybe "irreparably" is an assumption that future generations will happily counter, but in both cases I feel like it's a bit of a one-way street where somewhere down the track people see the mistakes being made and won't be able to do much about it.

On the other hand, we listen to crackly records and watch similarly crackly movies now - although those are the result of limitations in means rather than shit decisions being made. Still, maybe in the future (if people reject the current mode) we'll just accept bullshit colour grading as a given thing for a particular time period that we have to look beyond?

michael
30-06-2010, 09:21 AM
I would also like to submit that the video for Darude's Sandstorm started that orange and teal business. :D Haha.

bobbin
30-06-2010, 12:50 PM
that is a big video though!

grizzleb
30-06-2010, 01:47 PM
I think it's like anything, a tool that can be used well as well as misused. I think some films look great when their colour grading (I don't know the technical terms) fit in nicely with the atmosphere. Grimey/green/cold stuff especially. I still think late 60's/early/mid 70's film stock looks best though. Digital shit looks too clean and overproduced, much like alot of music these days, as you say.

Mr. Tea
30-06-2010, 02:01 PM
Terminator II is very blue. All the Matrix films are just green, green, green. Because computer screens are green, right? Er, or they were in 1982, at any rate.

Anyone else notice this?

Edit: I should add that I think the green works quite well in The Matrix, because it fits the general dystopian cyberpunk vibe nicely and in any case, most of it's set in a supposedly virtual world so it's not as if it should adhere to any particular standards of realism. I guess if you were 'in the matrix' for real you'd never notice how green it was, because that would be all you'd ever known.

muser
30-06-2010, 02:05 PM
I think theres definitely alot of paralells, theres groups of people that swear by super-8's and polaroids much like with analogue synths. I think its a combination between the elements of "randomness" compared to digital, which has none, that is pleasing. Probably nostalgia aswell. They can create some randomness if they are trying to emulate a sound or image quality but it would be impossible to replicate the pure chaotic randomness of real life interactions.

I generally am not a fan of those colour filters, flicked onto the matrix the otherday and hadn't noticed how green it is, looked terrible. They seem to do it alot with those really slow american films about someone trying to find something out that you really dont care about or political dramas with densil washington.

grizzleb
30-06-2010, 02:14 PM
Terminator II is very blue. All the Matrix films are just green, green, green. Because computer screens are green, right? Er, or they were in 1982, at any rate.

Anyone else notice this?
I was going to mention Green and The Matrix. I think I liked it at the time because I was 10 and it made an impression on me - it did fit the vibe very well I thought. Nowadays I'd be more inclined to back off it a little...

mistersloane
30-06-2010, 02:28 PM
In both cases it's irreparably stripping out detail in the hopes of increasing impact, to seem more dramatic than the preceding thing. Well, maybe "irreparably" is an assumption that future generations will happily counter, but in both cases I feel like it's a bit of a one-way street where somewhere down the track people see the mistakes being made and won't be able to do much about it.


Good thread. I'm not sure it's about making impact though, red is a hard colour to use because it shows up the flaws in all of the joins - it's more vivid - of the CGI so they just mute the red, and if you do that then it follows that you increase the blue to make up for it. It's a way of not having just total darkness through the whole film as well - films are so dark nowadays cos they have to in order that, again, the lacklustre CGI techniques don't get shown up, so the black becomes blue by taking out the red.*

My bugbear is that because of codecs you still can't make a film with direct transference, so nothing on domestic equipment looks anywhere near Hollywood quality. It's getting there but it's not there yet. All this crap about 'made for 200 dollar' or whatever is gump.

* I'm postulating here and would like to be corrected if I'm wrong. Spanked, preferably.

mistersloane
30-06-2010, 02:30 PM
And making it blue is better than just blurring it all, which is what Lucas did with the Star Wars sequels. What was that about? Did he think no-one would notice or care?

sufi
30-06-2010, 04:14 PM
this thread needs pictures
i want to see how skin tones pop

i'm also curious how to get that silvery skin tone - like this for e.g.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkpHq3fyImE

(apologies for the earworm)

Woebot
30-06-2010, 05:22 PM
indeed an interesting thread! and actually one which sheds a great deal of light on the idiocy that is the compression argument as well.

-

the thing about movie grading is that in terms of the balance of brightness movies are graded much darker - everything is within the 0-60% band - and here's the key fact - with the exception of the 90-100% band which is used for the illumination/explosion effects.

the way it works is that when you're in the dark you're eyes become accustomed to the gloom and then the bright highlights - when they are used - really burn into your retina (like WOW that's bright)

as a side-note - ever watched a movie on TV and thought: "hmm it seems a bit dark" - that's because the grading is geared for the cinema.

-

so i suppose to say that the image levels are crushed is slightly misleading. i know what you mean about the tinting though. to me i think the colorist/grading thing can produce really lovely results. it's just how it's used isnt it?

BUT yes very much analogous to compression in audio.

-

lots of the best graders are apparently color blind!!!!

-

what i've always liked about julian house's films is that he respects the very bland/broad grey spectrum of old TV. nowadays i always fight the temptation to crush the levels on the photos i take - so perhaps that is the loudness wars impinging on how we handle digital imagery.

-

@sufi. it's called a bleach-bypass. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleach_bypass

Woebot
30-06-2010, 05:37 PM
of course in the eighties it was all about filters on the cameras themselves


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8rZWw9HE7o

Mr. Tea
30-06-2010, 05:51 PM
What's funny is when you see old films (say, '50s/early '60s) with scenes set at 'night' that were clearly shot in broad daylight but with a dark filter over the lens. It just looks so crap, but I guess maybe the film they had in those days wasn't good enough to shoot actual night scenes with? Would audiences back then have been able to suspend disbelief do you think, not having more modern films to compare against?

Sick Boy
30-06-2010, 09:13 PM
I was going to mention Green and The Matrix. I think I liked it at the time because I was 10 and it made an impression on me -

As evidenced by your avatar!

mistersloane
30-06-2010, 11:50 PM
of course in the eighties it was all about filters on the cameras themselves



And may yet be again, have you seen this?

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul10/articles/canoneos550d.htm

Any thoughts would be good cos I think I'm desperately coveting it.

mistersloane
30-06-2010, 11:53 PM
actually one which sheds a great deal of light on the idiocy that is the compression argument as well.


Is compression all rubbish then? Don't quite understand that bit.

Woebot
01-07-2010, 09:22 AM
And may yet be again, have you seen this?

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul10/articles/canoneos550d.htm

Any thoughts would be good cos I think I'm desperately coveting it.

oooh! i really coveted that canon 5d and this is presumably the next thing. ended up getting a dmc-lx3 tho. just not into lugging a big dslr around. for me that is one of the really risible sights, people and their gigantic cameras, up there with people fiddling with their iPhones.

i mean, not to say it's not cool in a "pro" context - or if you're a serious photographer but for the crap that i imagine most of these people shoot with them. squirrels in the park etc then its strictly jokes.

i had to shoot in HD recently and i ended up hiring a "proper" video camera - a canon HD one, and it was a dream. actually sloane, if you just plan out what you want to shoot, then hire a really proper camera (100/day) you're quids in

Woebot
01-07-2010, 09:36 AM
Is compression all rubbish then? Don't quite understand that bit.

oh i was referring to the whole loudness wars things in audio. compression in that sense.

(not directed at sloane specifically but)

i think that is one of the most tedious over-rated arguments ever.

sure there's the whole argument about sloppy re-mastering (i mean if it wasn't intended that way originally then fair enough) but somehow all these twits opening files in waveform editors revealing the truncated levels - that proves precisely nothing. it's got to be as though somehow compression is bad - FULLSTOP?!?!?!?

if you open a beautifully-constructed photoshop image and look at the levels often you'll see the same thing. why this idea that somehow if something is thrown into strong contrast (in audio or image) that thats a bad thing? i mean the "clipping" might be leavened by subtlety elsewhere in the construct - but that's only going to be revealed by listening or looking at the work - by definition that won't be visible on the waveform.

compression in audio is a hugely creative tool. firstly you have things like "pumping" which is one of the key dance music tools (first discovered by the daft punk guy's father in the disco days!!!) where you chain up the channels with a compressor in such a way that sounds disappear under one another - a big bass kick shadows a bassline etc.

then you have the fact that compressors have their own unique sonic fingerprints. i mean all the beatles stuff was compressed to fuck. compressors also have a key, perhaps quintessential, function in separating various elements within a mix into particular regions - thus the drums inhabit one part of the sonic spectrum, the voice elsewhere. it what's makes great mixes.

anyway. old argument innit.

Woebot
01-07-2010, 09:40 AM
What's funny is when you see old films (say, '50s/early '60s) with scenes set at 'night' that were clearly shot in broad daylight but with a dark filter over the lens. It just looks so crap, but I guess maybe the film they had in those days wasn't good enough to shoot actual night scenes with? Would audiences back then have been able to suspend disbelief do you think, not having more modern films to compare against?

shooting "day-for-night" is still standard though the grading has become a bit more sophisticated. ultimately though it's just today's visual language innit. i mean, in thirty years people will read our visuals in a similarly skeptical way.

Woebot
01-07-2010, 09:43 AM
funnily enough though. my wife was watching this cookery show last night, that nadia sawahla in morocco. the graphics were just atrocious and it was really really badly graded - i did think that michael had a point actually. the presenter nadia was just like ORANGE.......:(

mistersloane
01-07-2010, 10:26 AM
oooh! i really coveted that canon 5d and this is presumably the next thing. ended up getting a dmc-lx3 tho. just not into lugging a big dslr around. for me that is one of the really risible sights, people and their gigantic cameras, up there with people fiddling with their iPhones.

i mean, not to say it's not cool in a "pro" context - or if you're a serious photographer but for the crap that i imagine most of these people shoot with them. squirrels in the park etc then its strictly jokes.

i had to shoot in HD recently and i ended up hiring a "proper" video camera - a canon HD one, and it was a dream. actually sloane, if you just plan out what you want to shoot, then hire a really proper camera (100/day) you're quids in

I tend to film stuff on the fly and then heavily process so it would be really handy for me to have around, plus been going to alot of deserts recently and unfortunately my video cameras just won't take the intensity of light, so it'd be really good to have something where I could change lenses and use filters instead of (two weeks ago) standing in the most beautiful desert in the world and my video camera going "uh uh, no way am I doing that".

Ah cool about audio compression, I've been trying to understand video compression (again) recently and it just does my head in. In a good way. I like it. But I know alot of people who just go spare about it, mainly audiophiles.

Is there a fake tan/orange people correlation, do you think? "I wanna look like the people on telly!"

Mr. Tea
01-07-2010, 11:20 AM
shooting "day-for-night" is still standard though the grading has become a bit more sophisticated. ultimately though it's just today's visual language innit. i mean, in thirty years people will read our visuals in a similarly skeptical way.

Must be a good deal more sophisticated, as you can no longer see the actors' short shadows that immediately give away the fact that it was shot at about 3pm!

I think you're right about how people will look back at today's films in a generation's time. CGI especially is going to look awful, but then, I think most of it looks awful anyway (I mean, more people will realise how awful it looks). Oddly, there are films where I think CGI is used to great effect, but I'm talking about Terminator II, The Abyss, Jurassic Park, The Matrix (the first one, anyway) - all films from the '90s. I don't think I can name a single CGI-heavy film from the last ten years, with the exception of the Pixar movies, that I've particularly enjoyed. The Star Wars prequels were the nadir, of course. Eurgh.

Edit: wow, IMDB says The Abyss came out in 1989!

massrock
01-07-2010, 11:28 AM
Yeah it's an old argument, and the proof is always in the listening -

But... I don't think anyone with any understanding of it argues for one moment that dynamic compression is a bad thing full stop. It's the drastic limiting used in mastering to get stuff really 'loud' that bugs people, and I think that's fair enough - it has been over done and in extreme cases the waveform is effectively clipped which means you are losing part of the recording. Often the gripe is with older recordings brutalised in this way - it's certainly not how they were intended and arguably means the 'remaster' is markedly inferior to the old master. This is a very different thing to the use of dynamic compression / expansion on individual tracks in a recording. In effect that sort of heavy handed mastering leads to drastically reduced contrasts (that's the whole complaint basically) as it's all crushed to fuck. Not to say that even this is always necessarily a bad thing mind.

It's funny though, how this stuff is endlessly arguable...

droid
01-07-2010, 12:50 PM
Yeah it's an old argument, and the proof is always in the listening -

But... I don't think anyone with any understanding of it argues for one moment that dynamic compression is a bad thing full stop. It's the drastic limiting used in mastering to get stuff really 'loud' that bugs people, and I think that's fair enough - it has been over done and in extreme cases the waveform is effectively clipped which means you are losing part of the recording. Often the gripe is with older recordings brutalised in this way - it's certainly not how they were intended and arguably means the 'remaster' is markedly inferior to the old master. This is a very different thing to the use of dynamic compression / expansion on individual tracks in a recording. In effect that sort of heavy handed mastering leads to drastically reduced contrasts (that's the whole complaint basically) as it's all crushed to fuck. Not to say that even this is always necessarily a bad thing mind.

It's funny though, how this stuff is endlessly arguable...

Its not really though. As you say, the argument is that over-compressing a finished track for loudness and clipping/losing audio information in the process is bad. Thats why 'people looking at truncated audio files' are basically right. Clipping = distortion as the information is just gone.

There is no credible argument Ive heard against compressing individual tracks or sounds in a tune - it actually enhances dynamics (done correctly). Over-applying blanket compression to finished tunes is bad because you lose information and dynamics.

For example - those King Jammys selectors choice CDs. When they were released on 7" some elements of the tune would have had compression, but nothing is clipping. You can look at the Wavs and see that. When you rip a WAV from the CD's you can see that they have been pushed all the way up and they are missing information through clipping - sounding brighter, louder, harsher and flatter as a result.

massrock
01-07-2010, 01:04 PM
I say it's not necessarily always a bad thing because in some cases it can constitute part of the musical style. Think things like super-overloaded Japanese psych. Have a look at a High Rise or Les Rallizes Denudes recording. There's an argument that the same can be said of some pop styles where the whole thing is recorded and mixed with a view to this kind of treatment anyway. Obv. this doesn't apply in the same way to all music.

massrock
01-07-2010, 01:16 PM
Its not really though. As you say, the argument is that over-compressing a finished track for loudness and clipping/losing audio information in the process is bad.

It is endlessly argued about (hence arguable) even so. It is kind of 'funny'. And I don't just mean the aesthetics of it either.

droid
01-07-2010, 01:37 PM
It is endlessly argued about (hence arguable) even so. It is kind of 'funny'. And I don't just mean the aesthetics of it either.

I guess Id define 'argued about' as different from 'arguable'. ;)

Woebot
01-07-2010, 03:36 PM
But... I don't think anyone with any understanding of it argues for one moment that dynamic compression is a bad thing full stop.

well just the other day i saw the monolake guy say "no compression used on my album" so that's kind of tantamount to the same thing.

i only compress very little, but working with samples most of the time there's not much need (already done for you) - tee hee.

Woebot
01-07-2010, 03:41 PM
I tend to film stuff on the fly and then heavily process so it would be really handy for me to have around, plus been going to alot of deserts recently and unfortunately my video cameras just won't take the intensity of light, so it'd be really good to have something where I could change lenses and use filters instead of (two weeks ago) standing in the most beautiful desert in the world and my video camera going "uh uh, no way am I doing that".

no, of course. and (just me) yum yum what a lovely thing to own.


Ah cool about audio compression, I've been trying to understand video compression (again) recently and it just does my head in. In a good way. I like it. But I know alot of people who just go spare about it, mainly audiophiles.

video compression. you probably know all about it right?

actually got in a heated debate with a fool tv producer. they insisted that the canon 5d's quicktimes were "uncompressed" and i was like, er no, actually it's H264.

in fact with the camera you're looking at it's probably only some variant of mpeg4. that might be worth considering if you're planning on either a) broadcasting it or b) processing it in any way. it might not behave too well in those circumstances. but anyway lots of people are shooting stuff for tv with those cameras.....


Is there a fake tan/orange people correlation, do you think? "I wanna look like the people on telly!"

there's a thought! :)

droid
01-07-2010, 03:41 PM
well just the other day i saw the monolake guy say "no compression used on my album" so that's kind of tantamount to the same thing.

i only compress very little, but working with samples most of the time there's not much need (already done for you) - tee hee.

Maybe he meant no 'mastering' compression?

massrock
01-07-2010, 05:22 PM
No he means no track compression.

But he's simply talking about his choice there. Obviously you don't have to use compressors, and maybe especially not where you are using sources (like synths and samplers) where you can precisely shape the sounds anyway. It's not at all the same as saying that using a compressor is bad all together, which would be absurd, and that's clearly not what he means.

He did once famously claim that nobody needs a vocoder though which is of course completely nuts. ;)

massrock
01-07-2010, 05:32 PM
It's probably true that some might conflate what are really separate cases but I doubt Henke is. Pretty sure he's making an informed decision about how he wants to work. And monolake isn't really about the sidechain rumpy-pumpy either.

massrock
01-07-2010, 05:38 PM
But it is weird with this sort stuff, even if something appears to be a very clear cut technical matter, how it can be (or will be) endlessly argued. Even by people who basically completely agree. It's rather like politics in that respect.

Can be interesting and useful to a point, but also, you know... a diversion. Like internet forums.

grizzleb
01-07-2010, 06:19 PM
It depends on what end you are trying to achieve. No compression used on a disco album would sound terrible. And would be completely pointless. No compression on acoustic recordings of traditional chinese instruments would be probably be a good thing (again depending on your perspective and what you want to hear). Loudness war/heavily limited pop songs sound good when you're drunk as fuck in a pub on a works night out dancing with some girl from admin. I doubt a monolake record would do too well in that environment. It's a tool, and each tool can and should be used if it creates the desired effect by the person on persons who fashion said product in fitting with their overall aesthetic ideas about what they want to do.

gumdrops
02-07-2010, 09:51 PM
what this thread needs is....

the daybreakers
http://lodim.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/daybreakers_5.jpg

not a huge fan of that ultra artificial looking colour grading you get in films like crank 2 either but i think thats a bit less severe with orange and teal, just too heavy on that kind of look.

michael
04-07-2010, 10:22 AM
Oops, was away for a bit, but thanks for the interesting follow-up comments.

I certainly agree it's all about how these tools get used, not about the tools being bad. The thread title probably wasn't helpful in that regard, but in both the example things I linked to in the first post the original authors say they like the technology and don't like how it's being applied.

I thought a particularly bad looking movie for the orange vs teal colour grading was The Lovely Bones. Some pics for Sufi. ;)

http://moviesmedia.ign.com/movies/image/article/105/1051183/the-lovely-bones-20091202004138143_640w.jpg
http://moviesmedia.ign.com/movies/image/article/105/1051183/the-lovely-bones-20091202004142752_640w.jpg
http://moviesmedia.ign.com/movies/image/article/105/1051183/the-lovely-bones-20091202004212345_640w.jpg
http://moviesmedia.ign.com/movies/image/article/101/1011756/the-lovely-bones-20090806045737211_640w.jpg

gumdrops
04-07-2010, 05:12 PM
i hate that sort of artificial colouring you get in most things these days tbh. was just watching wimbledon and even there at the end they went a bit overboard with it! its going to date quite badly i think.

mistersloane
04-07-2010, 05:57 PM
It's all a big conspiracy toward the inevitable redhead dominance of the planet. M.I.A woz rite.