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#1 Jim Nelson

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 10:12 PM

Hi,

I learned that our eyes first go to the brightest colors in a photo. I also read somewhere that our eyes first go to the warmest areas of the photo. I'm a bit confused because you can have bright yellow and also bright green (which is not a warm color). And you can have pastel yellow (which is not bright) and pastel green too. Can someone please help me clear this up?


Thanks
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#2 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 03:33 AM

Visual language is a complex interaction. Our response to colour and tone is dependent on their context - in other words, how they interact with what's around them.

So our eye is usually drawn to strong tonal contrasts, like the horizon line when there is a dark landscape and a bright sky. We're not always drawn just to brightness, for example a small dark figure surrounded by snow will draw us to the figure.

Colours are the same - the strongest pull is exerted by the interaction of two complimentary colours, which are colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel. Blue and orange, yellow and purple, green and red. Have a look at some paintings to see how artists have used this to good effect.

Warm colours tend to give the impression of coming forward, while cooler ones recede. But again, it depends on their context.

You might find art books on colour theory of interest. John Berger's Ways of Seeing is a great book about visual language in general.
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#3 Jim Nelson

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 01:20 PM

Hi, thanks for your reply :) However, I'm still a bit confused.

Are our eyes first drawn to the warmest colors or to the brightest colors?

Because warm colors can be soft. And cool colors can be bright. So that's why I'm a bit confused.

Thanks so much :)
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 02:13 PM

Well, depends on the background -- in a warm-toned room, another warm tone is not going to stand-out, whereas a saturated blue object will. In a blue-grey toned room, a red dress is going to stand out. We see differences, contrast, more than anything else. Tan is a warm color but it is not necessarily going to stand out in a shot. There is no absolute rule about what audiences are going to look at in the shot, it's all based on context and the design of the shot, even the depth of field.

I mean, look at the design of this shot in "Vertigo" -- normally red would dominate, but here, the green dress does:
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#5 Jim Nelson

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 02:46 PM

Thank you very much for your help :)

But in this shot, what if the woman in green wasn't there. We would be drawn to the red wall right. But why wouldn't we be drawn to the man dressed in black?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 03:09 PM

Thank you very much for your help :)

But in this shot, what if the woman in green wasn't there. We would be drawn to the red wall right. But why wouldn't we be drawn to the man dressed in black?


That would be a different shot and probably designed and composed differently, so it's not really a useful way of thinking about this example.

But since the red is dark-ish, we'd probably be drawn to the brightest face in the center of the frame, or the largest bright face that was in focus in the frame.

You can use your own judgement (and common sense) as to what you'd look at in the shot. What do YOU think your eyes tend to go to?

In a dark room, we tend to look at what's in the light, don't we?

Yes, red walls are distinctive and catch your eye, but that may be deliberate on the part of the filmmaker. A sea of men in black tuxedoes may also be the point of the shot, but if your eye has to go to the lead actor, then either put him in the brightest light, make him bigger in frame... or cast a famous actor and surround him with a lot of similar bland faces of opposite coloration, hair style, whatever. Again, what we notice is CONTRAST... we notice the young person in a room of old people, or vice-versa, we notice the lone woman in a sea of men, we notice the green dress in a room of black & white clothing, we notice the guy with the flashlight in a dark basement, we notice the pink shirt in a room full of people wearing olive shirts, etc.
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#7 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 09:21 AM

Color harmony is what a lot of great artists (be they painters, filmmakers, designers, etc.) aim for. It is not an easy thing to achieve, but you kind of know when it's been done effectively. Just as you know when colors clash.

I'm reading a few color theory books right now and it definitely is a complex visual language. Check out this still from Michale Mann's The Insider (1999,) photographed by Dante Spinotti. For some reason, it's not letting me post the image here, so here's the link...

http://www.imdb.com/...36416/tt0140352

I would say that the brightest spot in the frame is the blown-out background. But notice how that level of exposure is almost equivalent to the middle of Russel Crowe's shirt. So the lighting is kind of designed to lead our eyes from one spot to another, eventually landing on one of the two main characters in the scene. Also, there is a preponderence of blue (actually it's more cyanotic) in this image. Bluish colors supposedly recede from the viewer while the warmer colors (or hues) move towards the viewer. But cyan can also be considered an emotionally calming hue. Again, the context in which colors and hues are used is everything (especially in narrative film.)

Picking up a book or two on this subject would answer a lot of your questions.
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#8 Jim Nelson

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 07:04 PM

Thank you very much for your help :)

So I understand now that we see contrasts/differences. So for example if we had a shot of bright green hills and there are also light yellow flowers in the shot. Everything is in focus. Would we look at the light yellow flowers since they are different from the bright green hills?

Edited by Jim Nelson, 15 August 2010 - 07:04 PM.

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