Colors/Tone/Contrasts alternation along a movie

Posted on by

Home Forums Lighting Colors/Tone/Contrasts alternation along a movie

  • Creator
  • #190854
    Max A.

      Hello Mr. Deakins and all the DP over this fantastic forum. I hope you Mr. Deakins and Mrs. James are well.

      In the “older” forum I asked a similar question once, today I would like to expand the concept and know your way to think.
      When you read a script, maybe you think about tones/contrasts/color for scenes and for the whole “world” that you want to create for the movie, but when you have to “choose” your light patterns for each scene (including contrasts/tone/colors, etc.) do you ever think about the entire flow of scenes and how they will alternate and “blend”?
      For instance, do you consciously alternate cold tones scenes with warm tones scenes or maybe high-contrast scenes with low-contrast scenes that cut together in order to create a “conscious alternation” of colors and contrasts during the movie? Or it’s something that happens “by itself” as the result and sum of your considerations about the story that you want visually tell scene by scene?

      If I were to think, I would be interested to find a visual strategy with a “right” alternation that helps the narrative context, but what could happen if what I thought could somewhat generate a “monotone” flow of colors and contrasts through scenes? It is something that I have to “accept” and “trust,” in order to create the whole mood of the movie, or do I have to think “photographically” and so I have to change some atmospheres in order to be more “technically right” and maybe more “captivating”?
      I would like to ask you what is your thought and consideration about this maybe silly question.

      To mention an example, in ‘Empire of Light’, I, as an audience, had a “slap” when there was the cut from the scene with the totally black screen after the “projectionist” closed the projection-cabin door and the next scene that starts with an establishing shot on the beach in a full sunny high-key scenario.
      Is this kind of visual contrast/juxtaposition something that you consider when you break down the script and think about your narrative way to tell the story?

      I hope to be clear with my question, my English is not very good and I hope I managed to make myself understood.
      As usual, I want to thank you so much for your time and your availability. There is always to learn from your words.

      I wish you a peaceful day.

    Viewing 4 replies - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
    • Author
    • #190931
      Roger Deakins

        There are films, such as ‘The Assassination of Jesse James…’, on which we created a ‘mood board’ of visual references for every scene, which is something a production designer will almost always do with regard to set design. When it comes to lighting and the choice of color and contrast in camera, I don’t often have specific references in mind but I will, nonetheless, have a pretty clear idea of what I will do on every scene before the first day of shooting. And yes, I am very conscious of the edit and the relationship between each scene and the overall flow of the visuals as the story develops.

        You ask when the choice of lighting takes place and the answer to that differs from film to film. On ‘BR 2049’ I had lighting concepts and plans drawn out well before shooting began, whereas, on a film like ‘Empire’, there is much more of a day to day approach. That’s because of there is such a difference between a film with complex sets that demands a lot of pre-rigging and lighting and another that is often lit from the truck on the day. And, on a film such as ‘Empire’, most of the lighting balance is made on the day and when looking through the camera. Even when lighting is built into a set the final balance depends on the way the scene evolves and, as in the case of ‘Empire’ can only be done with regard to the daylight conditions.


          In my experience it’s very rare to think all of this alone. Film making is a collaborative process, so people bring different ideas and there are different stages. From prep to shooting to post. You will have to coordinate, talk and share with lots of people at these stages. So yes, you can bring a head full of ideas but at the end is a collaboration between everyone.
          Maybe I’m shooting my own feet but too much value is given to DPs when what is seen on screen is a global effort from the whole crew. Yes, we do have certain weight on decision making. But I would like to emphasis the certain word.

          About the flow of the whole film… I don’t think you can treat a film as a sum of different scenes put together. You must consider it as a whole story, where it’s important the Flow, the rhythm, the atmosphere it has as a full big piece. So a scene it’s just a part of that. So it’s important how you arrive to that scene and where are you going after. That doesn’t mean you can’t change drastically if it’s story motivated. And that’s the whole key. Everything must be motivated by the story. Any question you have will have its answer on the script.

          It’s quite easy to find big movies scripts online, my advice for you is to read those, analyze them, also watch a film at the same time you read the script. Analyze how they bring those words on paper to images on the screen, what they choose to show and how they show it. Write down your own analysis and findings. Because at the end you should trust your own thoughts not someone else’s. So put time forming your thoughts around other peoples works. We are dealing with art and feelings here. So there is no wrong or bad. Just opinions. But it’s important you have your own.

          Max A.

            Thank you very very much for your detailed answer, Mr. Deakins. Means really a lot for me to read from you and know that you take your time to answer a mine question. It’s something priceless.

            I think it is an incredible experience to see you at work, I would be there in a corner to watch you and study for hours..

            I wish you a peaceful day.

            Max A.

              Thank you very much for your reply Quijotesco!

              Your pieces of advice are really great, I agree with you about the entire flow and rhythm as a full big piece. It is really important to have this point of view.
              Really inspiring.

              I for sure will try to read a script and see the realization in order to see their own choices and then my analysis and findings.

              Thank you again for your inspiring pieces of advice.

              I wish you a great day.


            Viewing 4 replies - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
            • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.