Why all Summer Blockbusters Look the Same

X-Men: Apocalypse movie stills, color grading with orange and teal
Do all summer blockbuster movies look the same? They might if you’re a colorist, and here’s why.

All of our summer blockbusters are guilty of looking very similar – fast cuts and explosions are known to please the masses for sure, but I want to talk about something a little different. I want to talk about the look that is making all of our popular movies feel the same. The Orange and Teal look. Some also call it Orange and blue, or Amber and Teal. This look is created by manipulating the overall tone of the shot to be more of a teal color, selectively boosting the saturation in the oranges or skin tones and desaturating the blacks and shadows. There are many different variations of this look but once you’ve seen it a few times, Orange and Teal is a very easy look to pick out. Let me show you a few quick examples.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

This movie should have been titled Orange V Teal: Dawn of Complementary Colors. There are so many different flavors of the Orange Teal look in this movie it was hard to choose images to share.

Batman V Superman Movie stills, color grading with orange and teal

Captain America: Civil War

This was more of a classic Blue-Gold/Orange grade, and although this look was pretty prominent it was definitely not as in your face as Batman V Superman.

Captain America: Civil War stills, color grading with blue-gold/orange

Deadpool

Sticking with the superhero theme, Deadpool had a few great examples of a more green-toned look while still staying within the Orange Teal family.

Deadpool stills, color grading with orange and teal

X-Men: Apocalypse

Like Batman V Superman, this movie went to the extreme with the Orange Teal look. I can only imagine that Sophie Turner’s beautiful hair made this choice very easy.

X-Men: Apocalypse movie stills, color grading with orange and teal

Edmund Helmer’s 2013 Analysis of Film Trailers

Orange and Teal is by far and above one of the most pervasive color themes in recent cinema. Edmund Helmer did a great job of showing exactly how popular the orange teal look has become in his 2013 analysis of film trailers. This is one of his charts so you can actually see how popular this look is.

Edmund Helmer analysis of movie trailers by hue density


For the big summer blockbusters, it’s pretty obvious why Orange and Teal is such a popular choice. If you want the explosion that you just paid boatloads of money for to look its best, make sure it stands out by using complementary or split complementary colors in the background which just so happen to be Blue and Teal. Most skintones are a shade of orange as well so If you want to highlight your cast, all it takes is a little teal or blue.

So much of this look is carefully planned out ahead of time with the Art Department and wardrobe, and is then enhanced in post by the colorist.  If you are still curious about what a colorist is and why they are important, please check out a few of my other posts on coloring and color grading: 

One Response

  1. Another Excellent article. I have noticed myself that many of the movies that come out have issues with colors. The only one that I can say in the last ten years that has the best color and all even across the spectrum is Avatar. If you watch the Blu-ray version of this movie with a good player, it is just fantastic. You can noticeably see the difference between many other movies compared to Avatar, and I think it is because most of it has to do with a lot of CGI. Which if done correctly will look awesome. Great article. Check out this information on how they made the movie very enjoyable. http://avatarblog.typepad.com/avatar-blog/2010/05/learn-about-the-different-special-effects-used-in-the-making-of-avatar-the-movie-.html

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