September 13, 2015 at 4:32PM, Edited September 13, 4:33PM


Why Does Everyone Seem to Hate Blacks?

Now that I have your attention, I seriously want to know what some of you guys opinions are on this washed out black look that I've been seeing in indie stuff and especially TV commercials for the past few years. When I see someone here post something that they want opinions on, I always see quite a few responses stating that the blacks are too black. I'm not talking about the ugly crushed black look either, I mean the blacks are just true black, not gray black that seems to be the trend, and it seems like folks 'round here don't take too kindly to black blacks.


There's a bunch of film-makers that feel that washed-out grey-blacks look more "filmic", where I find it reminds me of films shot in the the 1950's when film technology was not an easy thing to master.

For me, the modern "filmic" look should have black tones that look black ( not grainy and middle grey ) and white hilights that are white. ( and don't clip, but rather roll-off smoothly )

I hate grey-blacks as much as I hate the horrible "teal and orange" grading that "LOOKS SO FILMIC!!!" in some peoples eyes. Just one big YUK from me.

September 13, 2015 at 6:14PM, Edited September 13, 6:17PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Oh man, don't get me started on that teal and orange crap. It seems people are doing what's trendy instead of producing the look for the story at hand (Hollywood and indie alike). I'm not totally against the washed out blacks if it fits the tone of the story/scene but people are using it in eeeeeeverything. I recently watched Running Scared and the blacks were really black, actually pretty ugly to me. But it fit the story.

September 15, 2015 at 11:20PM, Edited September 15, 11:20PM

Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography

So just to chime in here as a guy whop still works with film every day.
Films in the 1950 still had deep blacks.
Black and white films from that time and onwards have more density and contrast that anything until the Dolby and Imax cinema.

The density was there in older film prints as well, there was no details there as the acquisition stocks had less lattitude.

Watching an original check print of a classic film and you will see that if blacks were flashed it was a choice and not a limitation.

Additionally film prints have a lower black level than digital cinema.

Do not blame film for people liking milky blacks.

March 20, 2017 at 1:34PM



September 15, 2015 at 1:03AM, Edited September 15, 1:18AM

Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP

I too agree with all of you about those 'Filmic Look'. To add more to this, people shoot noiseless and add noise to it in post! I really don't get it. Some times my clients request me to give a washed look to their history part in their corporate videos! Sometimes I feel that our clients are more 'filmic' than us. :-)

March 20, 2017 at 5:23AM, Edited March 20, 5:25AM

Dibyendu Joardar
Director of Photography

So getting back to the original post, it depends on who you are talking to and the type of film.

Lots of times I see the studio exec and producers , pressuring the directors into less contrast. Many DP's aren't afraid of lettings things go inky.
Studios want to get what they paid for and see all of the details and that means brighter. It can also mean windows all over normal shots. Face and eye lights tracked everywhere.

As well there is a need for images to 'pop' That orange to teal look is part of that it utilizes color contrast to make an image contrast more from the previous ones.

It's also 'safe' since it is the norm. It allows people to look at a bite sized chunk of a film and see a visual style. So a flat looking film has a 'look' that is far from television, all of the actors are clearly visible and the use of color contrast allows for an immediate 'pop'

The best way to combat this is to get everyone on the same page before shooting begins. Get a look book and get the director to back you up and bring the producer on board. Giving the director confidence that you are on their side in creative story telling will mean that each studio note is taking away from their vision of what the story should be. They won't give away as much and back you your decisions when it comes to post color.

March 20, 2017 at 1:48PM


Mister Slomka, sorry for offtop, but when you say "Face and eye lights tracked everywhere" - do you EYELIGHTS literally tracked to the faces in post?
Just curious, because never thought about idea of tracking some eyelights.

March 20, 2017 at 11:44PM


Yep. Eyes selected and tracked in post as if eyelights were used on set.

March 23, 2017 at 9:32PM


Hi Slomka,
with all due respect lets think better ways to differentiate the shots without using those rainbow colour. Should we make the desert shot go red to show how hot it is? Common man lets get creative. To me, color grading, fx, should be invisible to the viewers yet support the story. It is possible with modern tools we are empowered with.

March 21, 2017 at 11:22AM

Dibyendu Joardar
Director of Photography

Oh there are much better ways. I am not advocating for that at all. I am explaining how it happens and what can be done to prevent it.

March 23, 2017 at 9:30PM


I'm gonna toss a theory out here which has no backing whatsoever, but seems to correlate:

The rise of the smart phone means people are exposed to images all the time; they post them, they make them, they share them, etc. Getting good, sharp, images has become "cheap," in the sense that the average viewer doesn't see a good, sharp, image as particularly noteworthy.

Being "filmic," though, THAT (some) producers/directors/editors think, is what will catch their attention. And what is the modern definition of "filmic?" Well, it CAN'T look like something any Joe with smart phone could have created IE- it simply has to look DIFFERENT.

And thus: teal/orange grading and greyish blacks with grainy overlays has become synonymous with "film." Not because film necessarily looks like that, but because it looks very UN-cell phone. It looks doctored, and cared for and, therefore, expensive.

In short, I guess this could be summed up as:

But that's just my personal theory. Thoughts, anyone?

March 23, 2017 at 2:57PM, Edited March 23, 2:57PM

Laura A
Writer :: Director

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