Escaping the Color Crutch - Black and White

May 31, 2017

There has been a trend in Hollywood film making that, for the last decade or so, has steadily changed the look of our blockbusters. It’s a pervasive change, but one that has happened gradually enough that many people aren’t even aware that it has been happening, quite literally in front of their eyes. So then, a warning: If you haven’t noticed, and don’t want the way you look at movies to be changed forever, skip the next paragraph.

The change I’m thinking of is the move to digital color grading, and in particular the Hollywood penchant for grading movies — especially those big-budget blockbusters — so that their colors are concentrated within an orange-and-blue palette (think of it like a giant Instagram filter for movies). The reasoning makes sense on paper: contrasting and complementary colors pop onscreen, creating vivid images that make our fast-cutting films go down like simple syrup. Look at a color wheel, and you’ll see that orange and blue lie directly across from each other, and for most movies — but especially anything that might have, oh, say, lots of explosions against a blue sky — the orange and blue scheme can be easily applied across a range of subjects. It’s a way to help give a film a cohesive visual look, but like so many good things in Hollywood it has been pushed to absurd degree (see — if you can bear it — any five minutes from Michael Bay’s series of Transformers pictures). When director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic Mad Max: Fury Road arrived in 2015, it too was draped in oranges, teals, and cool blues — although in this case, the scheme actually felt fresh. We were so used to imagining the end of the world as bleached out and lifeless (a look that harkens back to Miller’s own 1979 Mad Max film) that such vibrant colors gave this dying world a hint of throbbing life. But now that film is undergoing a major change in its appearance.

This week, Mad Max: Fury Road ditches its rich colors in a special show of a “Black & Chrome” edition of the action favorite. Screening at the Amherst Cinema this Friday at 9:45 p.m., this return to the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max — the shattered ex-cop whose life as a family man was destroyed in the original series — finds Max (Tom Hardy) getting swept up in the escape of warrior guard Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and the Five Wives, who are on the run from the tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played a different villain in the original Mad Max film over 30 years ago).

LookLabs has always loved the look of Black and White film. Many colorists simply turn down the saturation to achieve the effect. Sadly, that gives you a flat image without the personality of actual Black and White film. Our SpeedLooks Artistic collection contains a set of 7 Noir LUTs that were derived from multiple Black and White negative film stocks. If you own SpeedLooks, and haven't used Noir yet for a project, be sure to try-out any or all of the seven Noir variants to see what you can easily achieve…you won’t be disappointed!!!

To read the full article from Valley Advocate by Jack Brown entitled Cinemadope: Escaping the Color Crutch, click on this link:

To view the Mad Max: Fury Road "Black & Chrome" trailer, check it out below.

Check out to learn more about SpeedLooks and how you can easily achieve a great color finish on your next project.