Monday, June 13, 2011

Filmmaking analysis: The Color Conspiracy

Everyone knows filmmaking is visual storytelling. A book tells a story through words, a movie tells a story through pictures. But you can't just stop there. How the pictures are expressed defines the idea you are trying to get across. Even the smallest things, things you don't even notice, like camera angles, can communicate a different idea with the slightest change. Here's an example from our movie Deliver-e.

Jacob is trying to get home. He's had a long, hard day, he's beat up, he's dirty, and he's hungry. How do we show this on film?

Notice how the camera angle changes throughout Alexander's speech. It starts out with a shot of Alexander approaching Jacob, then it switches to Jacob's reaction and see that he's apparently not looking at Alexander. Then the camera changes the third time to Jacob's P.O.V., and instantly the audience knows what he's thinking. HE WANTS A BITE OF THAT HAMBURGER....

But right now I'm going to be focusing on particular mode of storytelling: color. Color is, in my opinion, the most subtle mode of communication used in movies. However, it is also one of the most powerful. Color can subconsciously portray non-present characters, awaken memories, evoke emotions, all without you noticing.

That's right. It's the Color Conspiracy.

The actual term for it is a "color scheme", but it's pretty much the same thing because if you look it up in the thesaurus you'll find the two words synonymous.

Pixar is probably the most well known for implementing color into their movies to portray a mood, particularly in the movie Up. Carl Fredericksen is a grumpy 72-year old man who promised his wife Ellie at an early age that he would take both of them to the lost world of their childhood dreams: Paradise Falls.  Unfortunately for them, their everyday married life gets in the way, and Carl eventually finds himself heartbroken as his wife dies and his promise is left empty. And you know the rest of the story.

Watch this clip from the movie and see if you can see the changes in the color and how it reflects Carl's mood. Observe closely.

Wow. I love this movie. I could go on and on about the incredible artistry and philosophical insight of it, but back to the color. Did you see it? lets break this down.

At the beginning of the scene, there the color scheme is dreary. It's lifeless. In fact, it's nearly black-and-white. Not just the in the room, but Carl's whole skin-tone seems to be this shade of gray.

But as the scene progresses, Carl discovers pages in the book he didn't know existed. The story of his life. Ellie. His adventure. No dialogue is used. Just pictures.

And slowly, the color begins to wash in.

Side by side, the change is drastic, isn't it? But when you watched Up in theatres (or on DVD, however you watched it) did you notice that before? Me either.

All the same, I knew what he was thinking. I was feeling what he felt. I was with Carl every moment of the way. How, I didn't know why, and I didn't think why. I just was. The color was the dialogue that silently whispered his feelings.

The Color Conspiracy.

And it's not just in Pixar movies. It's in any movie that's worth watching. The next time you watch a movie, look closely and see if you can catch sight of a silent voice. It may be a change color, a change in camera angle, or even a certain tune that plays whenever a particular character is feeling something. Filmmaking conspiracies are everywhere.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Almonds Comic Series

Hello to everybody. As you may or may not have known, I draw a comic series called Almonds. I've actually been drawing them since 2007, but I've never posted them online before. But now I'm starting a blog for the whole world to see, in which you can visit at
No, I'm not becoming a cartoonist. Actually, I'm one already. I've been a filmmaker, writer, and cartoonist for as long as I can remember. I'm planning on writing a book this summer. But now I'm just going on about nothing in particular. Where was I? Cartoonist.

This is a video I made introducing the Almonds characters. Enjoy!