All the Color Drained Out
Recorded on August 20th, 2016
I don’t know whether everything new on TV looks like shit these days because it’s shot on digital or because some colorist turned the saturation way down or both. It’s depressing.
We were watching Stranger Things tonight, which is as great as everyone says it is, and it should be positively bursting with color. They did everything else right. The warm, pulsing synthesizers in the original background music evoke that time period perfectly, the opening credits are a masterpiece of old and new visual effects tech, and the makeup on the high school girls is all spot-on perfect. Stuff back then was shot on film, and they didn’t drain the color out. But on this show, the colors (except for some sunny outdoor shots) are this sort of puke beige. I know it’s supposed to be a dark, dreary show, but it’s like they’re pathologically afraid of color, or they want to look hip.
My unscientific theory is that it’s because you still can’t get color right with digital. If you get the greens in the zone, then the magenta is off. Or the other way around. Sometimes you’ll see on Stranger Things that some weird blues pop out and clash with the rest of the frame. See how their skin just doesn’t look right against the other colors? (Except the girl on the right. She somehow looks normal.)
Here’s what people/kids in movies looked like in 1983. Even in the drab NORAD command center in WarGames, there was still color!
Sherlock is one of the worst offenders. Benedict Cumberbatch is pasty enough in real life. He doesn’t need to look any more like a vampire. The lack of color in most of the scenes in this show is a complete affectation and actually distracting.
I don’t know what the solution is. Film is too expensive to shoot with these days, so I don’t expect it to come back, except for the fanatics, God bless them. Digital is bound to get better as the technology matures, someday. Until then, I guess we could just go outside.