A few years ago we used to get a lot of questions about "how to make it green, like The Matrix".
The way it looks starts in front of the lens; at that stage it's nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with the simple fact of what is in front of the camera. How do you make it green? Well, your first port of call is to shoot green objects.
Some films take this to extremes; others don't. One that always sticks in my mind (perhaps because it was photographed by a regular poster here, Mr David Mullen, ASC) is Twin Falls Idaho
. I'm not sure there is any object in a scene in that film which is not either magenta or turquoise. The reason it looks like a cohesive visual whole, the reason it looks visually consistent, is, at least to begin with, because it is
consistent, and it was made so very deliberately by the production designer.
This is often what separates decently-funded movies from those with almost no money, because to get your production design in order, you end up having to pick locations very carefully or build sets which you can control completely, fill them with appropriate objects and clothe your actors to match, and doing this often requires that you simply go out and buy a lot of color-coordinated sets of things.
attempt to force things to look a certain way by lighting them with coloured lighting, using filters on the camera, tweaking in postproduction or using film development tricks, but this rarely works quite as well as starting in front of the camera. The best approach is to do all of these things at once: start with good production design, light and shoot it to suit, and finish it off in postproduction. In this way the amount of tweaking required at each stage is minimised and things start to look decent without having to use any one approach to extremes. Everything matters; the best-looking movies are often the most expensive, because they can afford to get it exactly right at each and every one of these stages. This takes time, equipment, skill and buying power.
This sort of thing can be easily analysed by pausing a DVD of a movie you like, and simply looking into the frame, into the background and places your eye doesn't naturally settls, assessing what's actually there. What colour are the objects; where are the lights, and what colour are they; is it a location or a set; what about wardrobe; can you tell whether optical filtration or postproduction grading has been used.
Production design is expensive because it requires you to control everything.