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Jun 05

Sometimes, Color Matters

For this week’s Flashforward Friday post, I’m looking at the future of speculative fiction in terms of film, especially the use of color, because sometimes, color matters.


In film, color sets the mood of the scene. It transforms the plot and impacts our emotional ties to the both the events and the characters. All colors have meaning. Warm colors might make us feel energized whereas cool colors tend to have a calming or somber effect on the viewer. Directors and producers think about color (or they should!) as they determine which processing effects to apply to a film.

Unfortunately, film makers have decided that overusing sepia tones or other effects is somehow in-vogue or cool, giving us washed out films devoid of any emotion beyond that of emo Spiderman.

Done well, you get something like The Wizard of Oz. Done poorly, you get movies like Man of Steel.

If you watch the video below, the makers have done a great side-by-side comparison of why the muted effect doesn’t work for this Superman film and how much better the film would look without it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du-eYiD9OfM

While writers must choose their words carefully to paint a picture in a book, directors and producers must be equally cautious about their over-dependence on coloration effects (or all special effects for that matter). It’s not that we can’t watch a film with an overall color tint, but it’s draining on the viewer. Done poorly, it’s a cheap trick that doesn’t fool anyone.

(TV Tropes has a great discussion on this, which you can check out here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealIsBrown.)

As our technology improves, so should our ability to bring works of speculative fiction to the big screen. For example, Gibson’s Neuromancer novel could become more than concept art for a film that never was. The tech is there to make rich SF/F films with diversity and uniqueness, rather than the 20th reboot of Spiderman or yet another tired interpretation of Cinderella.

3D printing could allow for cheaper set design, ridding us of our over-dependence on computer effects, and when needed, powerful computers could render animations as real life. As we look forward, I hope to see a shift in film from the mundane to the extraordinary…

…as long as it isn’t in the same muted sepia of the past decade.

(Image from Spiderman 2 is Copyright Columbia Pictures and used under Fair Use in order to review/criticize and educate.)


Click here to read other Flashforward Friday posts by other authors including Jean Walker, GG Silverman, and more.

About the author

Raven Oak

Bestselling science fiction & fantasy author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood, Class-M Exile, and the collection Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays.

She spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet. When she’s not writing, she’s getting her game on, enjoying cartography, or staring at the ocean.

She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.

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