Welcome to the Teal and Orange Age

by Ian Ridley

Some of you may have noticed the trend already. Maybe some of you, like me, had noticed something was different in recent films, but couldn’t quite put your finger on it. Well, the other day I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Todd Miro’s excellent blog entry which makes the whole thing clear.

To summarize, ever since Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, filmmakers have had a revolutionary level of control over the image they were producing, as films were scanned in their entirety into computers. The result: complimentary color theory gone mad. Almost every film these days uses a complimentary palette on every shot, and since almost every shot has people in it, and people are mostly orange, what does the rest of the shot have to be? Teal.

Now, I have a little more sympathy for this trend and those that started it than Miro, who maintains Into The Abyss. For one thing, I find it almost endearing that Hollywood’s reaction to an unprecedented breakthrough in visual technology is exactly the same as my reaction to discovering photoshop. Yes, for years all I did to anything was over-saturate and ramp up the contrast. I’ve also always been a sucker for complimentary colors, especially orange and teal. And the palette actually does work for some movies, though there’s no denying how much it didn’t for Transformers 2. Of course, most things didn’t work for that movie.

However. While the apparently all-powerful Teal And Orange color scheme is not the worst thing ever, there is so much more that could be done with this technology. Hollywood is seriously squandering what could be an amazing breakthrough. There are so many possibilities beyond Teal And Orange, and while I’ve been enjoying the Teal and Orange Age so far, I’m more than ready for us to move into an Age of Untold Visual Possibility, in which filmmakers explore the entire color spectrum, using all kinds of new palettes to best frame their story.

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