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Color Blindness

(This is pasted from my April CVmag article found here:
http://www.christianvideomag.com/articles/articles.php?recordID=305)

I am color blind. I’m not talking about the racial color blindness, though that is the case as well. I do believe that our Creator God made one human race with lots of variety in the pigmentation of our skin. That’s really for another article and another magazine. Back to my point, I do suffer from Daltonism or color blindness. I found out in first grade after messing up a math worksheet. We were to color the balloons certain colors according to the sum in the math problem inside each balloon. The teacher’s aid yelled at me and called me sarcastic and I went home crying. I knew all of the right answers but kept saying, “They didn’t have the papers.” meaning the crayons didn’t have labels for me to read what color they were. So my dad quickly got out the ol’ encyclopedia and quizzed me on the color wheel. Then he went to the color blindness entry and confirmed his suspicion when I couldn’t see the hidden image in the test. It runs in my mom’s family, and women are the carriers, so I am officially color blind.

What’s this have to do with this magazine? Well, since you and I dabble in graphic arts and video and other creative outlets, we know how important color is. It is vital that colors be right. What is right? Depends on whether or not you’re colorblind. Maybe what’s right for you is not right for me, or maybe I’m not going to know anyway! What I’ve had to learn to do is either ask my wife (a good general rule for even non-colorblind men, perhaps) or color by numbers.

Paint or color by numbers is very doable with RGB numbers or even easier with Hexadecimal numbers. Just do a google search of hexadecimal numbers and you’ll get a 6 digit code for whatever color you need. Whether it’s a primary yellow or a forest green or even a magenta (I have no idea what that is). What’s even better is a tool in some programs to match any color on the screen. In Adobe software this is known as the eyedropper tool. You can click on any color and the info on that color gets locked in. You can copy the hex numbers and go to town. Also displayed will be the RGB numbers- three sets of numbers. “I used the eyedropper tool in The Bible in Rhyme’s mother’s day video from Proverbs 31- http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/23804/Proverbs-31– to match the text color to the mother’s shirt color in each scene.”

This comes into play, for instance if you want to add text over a video. Use the eyedropper to get colors for your text out of the image or take a screenshot into this site- http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/ and it will give you a palette to work with taking it from out of the picture along with dull and vibrant versions and hexadecimal numbers!

There are some things, though, in which numbers won’t really help you. What if you shot with the wrong white balance setting? What if you want to correct color? What if you want to accomplish a certain look or feel to your footage. This article certainly won’t answer all of those questions, but it raises the issue. It is for you to go out and find the wealth of info out there on finding out how to achieve these goals. For me, I usually have to rely on my wife’s eyes to help me out. She will sometimes get tired of me calling her back in to look at the screen.

She helped me just recently on a little Mother’s Day countdown that I did- http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/countdowns/23520/Crazy-Things-Moms-Say. To have and maintain consistency I used the same project I had for “Crazy Things Dads Say” but obviously used different sayings and had a different ending and music. The only other thing that needed to be different was the color scheme. The “dads” video was sort of manly earth tones and this one need to be more girly and pink even. I was able to take my motion background and manipulate the hues until I had a result that worked well. For this, of course I needed to borrow my wife’s eyes to come and help me out. I scrubbed through until she said, “Stop…no, go back…there it is.”

I also asked for her help on a recent poptent.net spot that I created for Stauffers Animal Crackers. In the creative brief they emphasized that the color palette match the packaging of the product. They wanted an “organic” piece that didn’t feel like an ad using no logos or tag lines. I was pleased that another producer commented on the poptent upload and picked up on the fact that our clothing went well with the brand’s logo. Anyway, I color corrected it using a levels adjustment which I wrote about last month in “Gotta Level With You”. I rendered out a version I thought was pretty good, but then when she came home I requested her expertise and use of her non-colorblind eyes again. We went through and made minor adjustments a couple of times. We checked for overexposure and congruence from scene to scene. Some of the shots that were too yellow were corrected by “color balance” adding some blue mid tones and at times highlights. You can see the whole ad with split screen (half the straight out of camera flat image and half the color corrected display): http://vimeo.com/22127915.

I know there are many studies in color and color palettes and I will be studying some of this. I believe there are plenty of sites out there to help understand the psychology behind colors and which ones go well together. Suffice to say that colors do matter. Interestingly enough, in a “lighting” lecture at Lights Film School the instructor said it’s good to dabble with Black and White before attempting color, so that with your lighting you create and can recognize good contrasts in your shadows, mid tones, and highlights. That’s a challenge; but let’s takes it to heart. Lighting is one area that I really need to work on. The good thing about shooting with a flat setup in HDSLR is the ability to boost those levels and make the colors pop in post. However, it would be best to get all that looking good when shot. As my instructor said, “You can’t fix tonal range in post. You either have tonal range or you’re flat. You can darken your blacks and pop your highlights if they are there in camera, but you can’t invent them in post.” Get it right the first time! Those are good thoughts to consider.

Even though I’m color blind I can see colors. I appreciate colors. Colors can also evoke different emotions if we understand and use them correctly. Watch films and see how there’s a certain tint to different types of films or even scenes. Colors are truly a gift from a creative God. Let’s try to use amazing colors that He has given us and create images that are most interesting.

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