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Total novice here preparing to shoot a short film on S16...


Quickly looking at these film grabs of Christopher Doyle's work makes me wonder how he controls the two color palette across almost the entire film... int/ext shots.



Fallen Angels (green/red)

Happy Together (cyan/yellow)

Days of Being Wild (blue/green)

In the Mood for Love (blue/red)

2046 (blue/red)


I think he uses Tungsten so my amateur question is whether he is mainly controlling color by gels, set design, or color grading in post. Or all three. I'm wanting to have similar control of color in my film and not sure how to achieve it.


Here are some more specific examples/questions/curiosities:


1) green clock with red lights coming in through window?





2) how does he flood everything with green, the stock? post? but the red helmet and light seem unaffected, how?





3) red/orange hair with surrounding green? is that just a gel on her hair with barn doors or flags to not get the curtain? (her hair is a blonde wig)





4) how is there so much green in this image? post?




5) yellow light coming through window? green light in background? warm light on face? are these all gels?




6) In Happy Together is has the cyan/yellow look and I understand it is much more possible to control this with all the interiors... but how does he do it with the day exteriors, obviously that is not natural color. Is this just post color grading?






I could go on and on... but I think this shows the lack of knowledge at hand and what I am trying to learn about.


Thanks ahead to all those who chime in!



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A lot of it may be grading. Some of that green looks like the sort of green cast you get from certain kinds of fluorescent lighting, but enhanced rather by grading. The overall look is rather reversal-ish, or even cross-processed reversal, but that can be simulated in grading.


The exteriors simply seem to rely on using blue sky and tinting everything that isn't blue yellow, which is pretty much a pushbutton technique. Mainly it's about the weather conditions at that point, though I do notice that a lot of it uses wide-angle lenses, which has a fairly specific effect. If you pull some of those into Photoshop and adjust the contrast and saturation to a more normal level, and trim the midpoints to the point where grey is actually grey, you'll find they're nice photography, as opposed to nice photography with strange colour palettes going on.




Don't overlook the simple solution, either. The clock may be green because someone put some green gel behind it. Part of the reason upscale productions look good is that they have the time, people and resources to do that sort of thing. If you want a scene to look (say) purple, the easiest way to do that is to find a location which is purple, and pay the owners whatever exorbitant fee they want for it (and insurance, and a location manager's fee, and transport fees for the cast and crew, and... and...). If you want it to look green, shoot green objects.


Low budget filmmaking is often crippled by the fact that everything ends up being shot in someone's apartment or office, and those environments are almost all painted some variety of white or pale brown (cream, tan, magnolia, call it what you will). There's only so many things you can do with that.



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All of the above, and also lens filtration. Remember that all of those films were finished on film. 2046 is the only film that has any significant digital effects in it.


The day exterior from Happy Together looks like it might have used a heavy warming filter like Antique Suede (but more saturated yellow-green) plus a Polarizer to saturate the blue skies.


The green practicals could be from using normal greenish household fluorescent tubes like warm-whites and cool-whites (as well as neons), which you can boost by wrapping the tubes with green gel. Or you can use movie lights off camera with green gel on it to add colored fill light. For adding green overall, you can use colored filters, or time the print by subtracting magenta (the complement of green).


Same with adding colored windows, just gel the windows themselves or gel the lights that you aim thru the windows. The nice thing about gels and filters are that they're cheap! I've shot several low budget films this way, it's a lot of fun to design a color palette and start camera testing gels and filters to find the look you want. I did one once where we wanted to emulate the smoky look of Fallen Angels, exactly this frame you posted:


We shot low contrast stock, 5229 underexposed one stop, Zeiss Super Speeds with a black net stretched over the front of the lens. Added smoke, used Red China Hat lamp shades with tungsten bulbs, and gelled bare 4' tungsten Kino tubes with sleeves of plus green gel. We got very close to this look.

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Keep in mind that these Chris Doyle movies were made before D.I.'s and the look was done photochemically, even though it's hard to tell what the original image looked like when you are looking at video transfer which was color-timed again electronically, and many of those HK movies don't use the best source material for the transfers.


Doyle played a lot with push-processing, sometimes pull-processing, at different exposures to tweak the color and contrast. I believe most of "Fallen Angels" was shot on Fuji 250T stock, probably push-processed. But he also shot Agfa and Kodak stocks on other movies from that time period.


Many cities around the world use cheaper Cool White fluorescent tubes in public spaces with a very poor CRI, hence the strong green spike, no doubt augmented rather than diminished in timing -- underexposing and push-processing would probably increase the amount of green bias in those shots.


I think a lot of the mixed colors in lights and art direction is a combination of what existed on location plus art direction, like taking a cheap hotel room and painting it green and then sticking a red blanket draped over a chair, for example.

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