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I hate orange and teal. And by that I mean the way that every modern movie is dominated by those two colors. In recent years the movie studios have gotten it in their heads that all movies must be color corrected in this way. Just like they're convinced of the viability of 3D and, for that matter, $15 ticket prices.

The basic idea is that colors from opposite ends of the color wheel tend to contrast against each other in a way that catches your eye. To use what appears to be the technical color contrast term, they make each other 'pop'. Flesh tones nearly always reside somewhere in the orange section of the color wheel which covers the range from peach to spray-tan to Jay-Z. On the opposite side of the color wheel is blue or, more specifically, teal. As with flesh tones, teal is a very common color in movies by simple virtue of the fact that both the sky and water lie in its range.

Filmmakers have known about this for a long time and often consciously chose to emphasize it with lighting, costuming, and and film processing. Blade Runner, for instance, uses orange and teal fairly obviously if you're looking for it. Yet the entire film is also somewhat desaturated, keeping with the dystopic tone of the film. But, as anyone who has developed color film knows, the process is time consuming and labor intensive and so it remained fairly uncommon.

But the last 20 years has seen the rise of digital film making and an increasing role of computers in cinematography. First was the digital intermediate process where film is scanned into a computer, processed, composited, and then printed back onto film for distribution. Even more recently, some directors have moved towards eliminating film entirely, using digital tools from the beginning to the end of production. Since it's now orders of magnitude easier and cheaper, the temptation to color correct has since become irresistible to directors. In essence, they grabbed the saturation knob on every frame of the film and turned it up to eleven with all the highlights shifted towards gold and all the shadows towards blue. Take a look at any night scene in a recent film to see what I mean.

In some cases, however, it can add to the movie rather than detract from it. Tron: Legacy for instance, uses orange and teal heavily as motifs. However, the entire premise of the film is that it takes place inside a computer so I'm not expecting things to look realistic. In fact, I'm actively expecting them to be abstract and unrealistic. On the other hand, you have movies like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in which the majority of the film is spent outdoors. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what the outdoors looks like so when all the characters are so orange that they look like they've just walked off the set of Jersey Shore, it tends to break my suspension of disbelief. Contrasting it with the previous Lord of the Rings movies which featured beautifully and realistically shot landscapes makes The Hobbit's transgressions particularly heinous.

For some nice infographics on the phenomenon, check out the Wired link below.
http://theabyssgazes.blogspot.com/2010/03/teal-and-orange-hollywood-please-stop.html
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/01/orange-teal-infographics/

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