Orange Teal Contrast

I’ve read an entertaining rant about the apparent overuse of the orange-teal (warm-cold) contrast in contemporary movies. And once your attention has been called to it it’s really kinda impossible not to notice it wherever you look (here’s an overview of movie posters using that particular look).

Game of Thrones: color gradingAnd here are some screen-shots of what is currently my favorite TV show: Game of Thrones. Color temperature serves a clear purpose here. Not only does it give each of the multiple subplots a distinct look, it also serves as a compass as to where on the map the plot is located. Sometimes, however, the orange faces are overdone and make the actors look like Oompa-Loompas. That’s mostly the case in the North where there’s no “natural” orange tones.

Natural, of course, meaning “put there by the props and costumes crew”. Kings Landing, for example, is bathed in orange light but there are still blue hues in the picture (sky, garments and carefully placed specular highlights). In the North, the only natural warm tones are candles so the faces sometimes seem to have been graded towards orange a little bit too eagerly.

Once you pay attention to light and colors in Game of Thrones, you quickly notice what an awesome job the people involved have been doing. A lot of the show’s high production value stems from the fact that the images look gorgeous throughout each episode. Interior scenes are made to look like they are lit by natural light only which bathes most of the rooms in darkness and helps sell a realistic medieval setting. Color and light also promote specific attributes like poverty/toughness or wealth/decadence: southern cities, it seems, have been blessed by an abundance of sunlight which pushed culture, arts and architecture forward while the northerners seem to fight against mother nature’s cold shoulder each day of their life.

You just can’t imagine portraying the north as a magic-hour landscape while the south is lit by a harsh blue light. Here are some more screengrabs of contrasty, low-key interior scenes:

Game of Thrones: Lighting of interior scenes

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