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How Visual Styles Evolved Through Technology [Part 1 of 2]

I was giving an in-house color seminar when I mentioned that over the years, many visual styles came about as a result of new technology.  “Nooooo!” said many of our  animators, so I put together a list of technological advances that have made a big impact on how a project looks.


FILM TRANSFER – This allowed you to scan the Negative directly, bypassing the film lab.  During this process, many creatives saw the film falling off the end of a reel and loved the look of the sprockets being revealed and asked, “Can you record that?” It ended up in many music videos of the time.


COLOR CORRECTION – Computerized color correction allowed for scene to scene color correction in real time, starting with “primary color correction” which allowed for color correction to the whites, grays and blacks to control the overall color and contrast of an image.


Then came “secondary color correction” which allowed you to control the hue, brightness and saturation of a fixed yellow, red, magenta, blue, cyan or green. A big fad that started during this time was to shoot outdoors without an 85 filter which gave the film a blue look. Then, in color, we used the “secondaries” to pull skin tones back to  normal instead of magenta.


Over time you had even more control over the “secondaries,” being able to select values of a color.  This allowed you to keep faces pale while having bright red lips or up the red in Santa’s suit without making his face look sunburned.


VIGNETTES – Power Windows from DaVinci allowed users to add vignettes to darken or brighten edges or to split a scene into different areas and have a warmer cast in one section and cooler area in another. You could create a vignette along the entire top of a scene and add blue to the top of an image to create a more intense sky or add more red to simulate a warmer sunset.


RGBY  – The ability to color with the Y or “luminance” control  allowed the user to adjust the brightness and contrast without making the color richer. This worked really well to simulate a “cross process” effect used on film without committing to it in the lab. This was and still is a popular technique.


NOISE REDUCTION – This refers to the ability to apply “noise reduction” to reduce the video noise and film grain in an image.  If you turned it all the way up it would smear anything in motion.  You started seeing cars streaking across the screen.


KEYING IMAGES – Keying images and then adjusting the brightness and contrast and color within the key.  This is very similar to keying a color but with more control. When this came out you saw a lot of whites being blown out and then softness being applied to the edge of the key which created a glow. You also started to see more feature films being colored electronically instead of the lab.  The look of very cyan and blue blacks and warmer whites that you see in many action films was created with the fine isolation tools available in color correction.


That is where it began and now you can do much more!  With non linear color correction you are able to create unlimited color layers, track shapes as well as add external EFX. What shifts in visual styles have you noticed due to emerging technology? Post your thoughts here and watch for part 2 of my blog next week when we’ll explore other technologies that forever changed the look of video as we know it!




CRASH+SUES provides strategic storytelling and video services to ad agencies, businesses and film companies seeking to create meaningful connections with their customers and employees.  We’re masters of ideation, design, live action video production, animation and color, delivering compelling content that engages, entertains and educates. Call us what you want – a hybrid agency, a creative boutique, a production studio, digital daredevils, or… just call us. We’ll help you cut through the noise. visit CRASH+SUES



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