Thursday, March 12, 2009

Flooding the Movie Theatre With Color

Eric Goldberg points out on the DVD commentary for Pinocchio that the famous "They never come back... as boys!" shot is especially scary on a big screen. While I've never seen Pinocchio in a movie theatre, I can believe it: one of the things the shot depends on is the idea that on a big screen in a darkened theatre, a sudden change in color will have an almost physical impact on the audience; you can almost feel the color changing.

Another shot that does that, though it's not meant to be scary, is the bit near the end of "What's Opera, Doc?" where Elmer vows to kill the wabbit, and the entire screen (including Elmer) goes red. On the small screen, especially when the lights are on, this is just a nice shot; on the big screen in a dark theatre, the change in color is startling and, again, almost physical.

I haven't seen a lot of color movies on the big screen that use color in that way, making the audience jump with a sudden color change, but obviously there must be others. I suspect that this effect is easier to achieve in animation, where you can actually change the color of somebody's face as he leans into the shot, than in live action, where color manipulation is harder to do without it looking artificial.


Anonymous said...

The scene remains most effective when on a big screen in its original 1:33 aspect ratio. Many post 1960's theatrical releases of "Pinocchio" featured standard 1:85 cropping for multiplex cinemas, trimming the top and bottom as well as much of the scene's dramatic impact. I do hope the new DVD features decent color. Frame grabs appearing on some blogs that are championed as the greatest DVD color of all time to me look like a three F-stop light loss and a marked Eastmancolor palate compared with how i.b. Tech should look. And I've seen "Pinocchio" in Tech, more than once. Mineral dye saturation did not showcase an overall soft look, nor a dim translucence.

Thad said...

Having seen and actually held an IB Tech print of Pinocchio I'd have to say that the latest DVD does look the best it ever has on home video. That still doesn't mean there's slight imperfections, like the DVNR or weird lighting 'fixes'.

I could have gotten that print too, but I didn't have $2,000 cash.

Thad said...

And as happened was 70 years ago, Shamus Culhane's contributions to the film (this scene, mainly) were not acknowledged in any way on the DVD. A crime.

Anonymous said...

Flooding the theater: the darkroom scene in "Funny Face" has that effect when you see it on the big screen. It's not a shock but it's definitely startling, going from the nearly all-white hallway into the red-lit darkroom. It's not too long before the scene strains the eyes. The closeup of Audrey Hepburn at the end, when she's lit with white light and thus in color, is shocking primarily for the size of the false eyelashes on this supposed beatnik.

Anonymous said...

The obvious example from Disney of a really aggressive use of this technique is in Fantasia when Mickey cuts up the broomstick with the axe: first the screen goes a brilliant crimson, then - as Mickey pauses after his "kill" - it goes almost black and white, before colour slowly leaches back in as the broomstick awakes.