Teal and Orange in Film - The Apartheid of Colour


What was once only reserved for painters, graphic designers and visual artist (including your most avant-garde of cinematographers) has, with the help of computer post-production, overwhelmed the film industry since the year 2000. I am of course talking about the rarely talked about rapid dominance of Teal and Orange colour grading in the 21st century.

Blues and oranges are opposites on the colour spectrum, so they clash when used along side each other. This duality is striking however and while it is an ancient talent perfected by film posters, among other things, it has seeped through the paper and now haunts our perception of reality. 

Here are just a handful of examples:


Iron Man 3

Les Miserables


Man of Steel

Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon

The Amazing Spider-Man


World War Z

Believe it or not, the film 'Super Mario Bros' is directly responsible for this change. Now while the film itself wasn’t riddled with teal and orange; the technology used to scan parts of the film, known as Digital Intermediate (DI), went on to become one of the most popular forms of post production for features shot on film as it could scan at 2K resolution. Then in 1998, the film 'Pleasantville' became the first film to be entirely edited using DI – even though most of the film is in black and white...

The origin of Teals and Oranges used in films started with the Coen brothers and their film 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' in 2000. It used DI to give the film a sepia tinted look and the Teals and Oranges thrived. Even though the colour correction was used to help set the mid-30's era it was based in, film-makers only saw it as an opportunity and with the precession of Photoshop, but for film, you can understand how power mad we've all become.

The reason I write about this, not only because it's something that should be pointed out more often, but because of the new Die Hard film. Now, I haven’t seen it, and wouldn’t even care enough to torrent it on a disenchanted Saturday night. I hear it's really bad though. I guess they try to hide that fact by making it entirely duotone.

I understand that we are going through some sort of 80s revival: the hair, the clothes, the art etc. Instagram, hipster music videos and reminiscing about 8mm film is helping bring artificial colours back in a big way, the blockbuster world is, once again, stagnant in its ways and continues to reproduce its decade old colour grading DI ideas over and over.

Let's hope it ends soon, we would all miss our good friends purple, green and maybe even red.