Color correction is a funny art. When done well, it can either define a distinct new look, or camouflage a serious goof to the point it is invisible.
Tungsten light is a color temperature of 3200 Kelvin, which is yellow. Daylight is a color temperature of 5600 Kelvin, which is blue.
It’s pretty easy to see the difference if you’ve got an outside scene shot with tungsten white balance: it’s totally yellow. But what if the only detail you’ve got to go on is pure white? And even more confusing, what if the whitest white in the scene is actually off white? What if the DP intended for the whitest white not to be white?
That, my friends, is a level of subtlety you have to have a little magic in your veins to see.
For me, it’s after I master the basics, these two colors that include every wavelength in the visible spectrum (or rather scatter and absorb*), that I’ll move on to adding the subtle touches that differentiate that particular look from a plain ol’ properly exposed shot.
Believe it or not, most movies you watch have neutral whites and blacks. Which means that the majority of the look actually occurs in the midtoness. It is often not in fact a huge shift or extremes that create a beautiful color grade: but rather a thoroughly balanced and deliberate use of the mids.
Which is a wonderful metaphor for the type of career I aspire to have: great basics, a deep understanding of black and white principles, but innovation in the mids.
A life of subtlety; a life of grace; a life in the mids.
*I can’t help it. I’m a huge dork and this kind of talk totally grinds my gears. What can I say? I have a hard on for color science.**
**I was so close to ending this on an artsy fartsy note. And then I had to go and use a boner joke. I guess make that two boner jokes.