[Tig] New "Look" or not?

Simon Brazzalotto brazzalotto.simon at gmail.com
Thu May 3 17:14:11 BST 2012

My HBO (Humble Biased Opinion),

Not being familiar with any of the programs mentioned I can't pass judgement on them, but here in Australia I've also noticed that we are being shown an increasingly flat, beige world.  This excludes the endless parade of studio based talent quests that are manically colourful, fast-cut and hyped.

I think it may have something to do with more affordable raw format cameras recording log-c.  Budgets in the industry here are so tight that it wouldn't surprise me if people are spending weeks off-lining with flat pictures, hence any improvement in contrast and colour seems dramatic to them in the grade, even if it isn't.  Many factual reality shows in Australia don't go to a grade, they're just tweaked in the edit suite.

I don't have much knowledge of the situation outside the sheltered workshop of the national broadcaster, but the other factor could be the decimation of experienced craftspeople.  I'm now the ABC's only colourist and I still do editing as well.  I've been with the ABC longer than many of our itinerant freelance editors and producers have been alive.  A recent young visitor to the grading suite couldn't believe the duration of long-form material I had to get through in an 8 hour shift.  Nor could he believe the less than desirable camera work and lack of lighting on the project I happened to be grading that day.  His experience was all TVCs, music videos and ego maintenance with clients in the room.  I usually grade unattended and sometimes refer to the grading suite as ER.

As far as intentional looks go I have noticed that clipped highlights and green blacks seem to be popular in music videos.

We buy a lot of British content and, after decades of insipid colour, the digital era has allowed the Brits to diversify their look.  British police, forensic and particularly spy dramas have now had a lengthy flirtation with strong colour castes - blues, greens and sometimes yellows, almost to the exclusion of any other hue.  There seems to be a colour code for different scenes, locations or protagonists.  It's a bit like the colour dye process employed in some films from the silent era.  I've also noticed that their factual reality programs are sometimes over-saturated with crushed blacks.  Someone surmised that a recently purchased program may have been graded on an LCD monitor and this may explain why it looked black-crushed on our ageing CRTs, but I pointed out that the waveform monitor doesn't lie and it showed the dark regions pressed quite firmly onto blanking.

Unfortunately I don't get to work on drama because the little we produce is not finished in house, except for some audio work.  Probably just as well really.  At least this way my exposure to critique on the TIG from curmudgeonly practitioners such as myself will be limited.

I'd also be interested to hear the rationale behind the flat, dull look you describe.  I'd rather believe it's a creative decision than a lack of experience, skill or vision.

Simon Brazzalotto
Senior (only) Colourist and Editor
Australian Broadcasting Corporation

On 02/05/2012, at 12:57 PM, Robert Lovejoy wrote:

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> Hi everyone,
>     I hope I am not out of line asking this question, but my wife was
> watching some programs on HBO recently, and when I saw them, I was
> reverse stunned.  I've been around for a boatload of trends, from
> 6fps, letting one color through, cyan-orange, and so on, but am I
> seeing a new trend in looks?
>     The new shows "Girls" and "Veep" look just plain flat and dull.
> It's not that far from what we called a "flat grade", with milky
> blacks and dull highlights, made so that a "real" color correction
> could be made later.  Or perhaps there is a LUT missing or incorrect.
> And it's barely a grade.  White balance is a bit loose.  The overall
> effect is dull and monochromatic.
>     I know it's not my TV - "Game of Thrones" on the same network
> still looks rich and bold, as do most commercial network shows.  If
> this is a new trend, I guess I can understand it.  Perhaps they are
> going for a documentary feel.  If a client was to tell me to go in
> that direction, I surely would.  But I just have to say I don't really
> think very highly of this look.
>     Are we seeing the new shaky-cam for the mid-early 2010's, or is
> this possibly the result of not putting much thought into the grade?
> Is this new and cutting edge, or a mistake?  I just can't bring myself
> to watch these two shows, old coot that I am.  I like looks, but this
> is almost the antithesis of a look!
>      I wonder if others have noticed this, and perhaps if the
> colorist(s) who work on these programs are here, they might care to
> shed some light as to why these two new programs have such a flat,
> dull look to them.
>      No offense meant to anyone!  I have simply never seen such flat
> grades on a scripted network program, and am curious why this look was
> chosen.
> Bob Lovejoy
> _______________________________________________
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