Nothing Comes between Me and My Kelvins: Thoughts on Colour Temperature

White-balancing for daylight (left) and tungsten/incandescent (right) for a donut lit under tungsten/incandescent light.  Mmm….

In the Year 2 context lecture today we looked at colour theory, which included a discussion on colour temperature. Some students were particularly intrigued by the fact that the colour temperature of daylight is around 5500 – 5600K, which gives it a blue tone, while incandescent/tungsten light is between 2700 – 3200K, which gives it a red tone.


As I promised the students, here is a video that demonstrates the difference. Start it at 1:20 to see the really relevant parts. At the 2:00 mark Kris provides a demonstration of how daylight registers (super blue!) on a digital camera white-balanced for tungsten, and an immediate shift to how tungsten registers (super orange!) in tungsten white-balance:
CINEMATIC LIGHTING: Understanding Daylight vs Tungsten (Krisco Art Productions)
For interest’s sake, fluorescent light registers green on both (but especially on tungsten white balance).
All of the above is also true for film, although instead of white-balancing, which you can only do in digital photography, you just use film stock that is either balanced for tungsten or for daylight.
It even works when you’re shooting on black and white film (or in black and white).  No, really!  If you’re shooting a beautiful blue, mostly-sunny sky and you want to enhance the puffy white clouds that fill some of the space, pop on/in an orange filter and that will do the trick.  See?
Thinking so much about all of this made me yearn to shoot something on film again.  I love the complexity of loading the camera in the pitch-dark (or a change-tent that gets unbearably sweaty in seconds), choosing the right lights and setting them up, using the right gels or spun with the right stop-reduction to achieve the right colour and exposure, the precision of measuring the exposure using an old-school Sekonic… It’s both an art and a science — my two favourite things!
As computer-based animators, the NTU Animation BA students don’t need to go through any of this practical to-do, which could be a bit of a loss for some, but is definitely a huge gain for all.  Particularly in 3D software, you can adjust the lighting intensity and position as well as colour temperatures instantaneously and incrementally, which enables you to experiment with all kinds of contrasts, complements, and recreations until you find exactly the right one to fit your vision.  But even if we don’t have to physically apply our own colour filters, thinking about gelling and how it helps to create or recreate certain lighting conditions, moods and associations will be super useful for one’s animation practice.
As we’ll learn in next week’s context lecture, lighting can be a significant conventional factor of genre.  Can’t wait!

The Best TV Show Ever

In a new book titled TV (THE BOOK): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, two motion picture critics make their case for The Simpsons as a list-topper.

While this excerpt from their study isn’t exactly academic (look to Edward J. Fink’s analysis for an example of a rigorous analysis of The Simpsons‘s vast and sustained appeal), Sepinwall and Seitz do a really effective job of justifying the series’ success within through its social, historical, narrative, characterisational (← neologism?), and philosophical contexts in a relatively brief essay.

The authors address several fan concerns, even touching upon (but not by name) the divisive Jerkass Homer concept on which many fans base their proportionately declining interest in the series’ later seasons.  Some fans contend that a particular episode demonstrates a marked, unpleasant shift in Homer’s character in which he goes from lovably stupid and oblivious family man to a selfish and somewhat malicious “jerkass*”. Sepinwall and Seitz (2016) phrase it best when they say, “The Rorschach test episode for this question tends to be ‘Homer’s Enemy’ from season 8, where new plant employee Frank Grimes is driven mad by the realization that Homer is an incompetent drowning in unearned privilege while Frank, a smarter, more hardworking, more ethical person, struggles and suffers.”

Of course, for some, the concept of Jerkass Homer is a contributing factor to the perceived decline in quality following Mike Scully‘s ascension to the series’ showrunner throne.  Referred to as “the Scully Years” or “the Scully Era”, seasons 8 – 12 demonstrate for some fans a marked downturn in the calibre of the writing.  Some fans take an extreme perspective on this, referring to this period as the beginning of the Zombie Simpsons era.  These guys aren’t kidding; they even have a manifesto.  Other fans, however, have reconsidered the Scully Era in light of the Jean Era.  But I digress! This is, as they say, a whole ‘nother conversation (or thesis, as is the case for some).

So, back to the book and the rather bold statement therein!  Naturally, I couldn’t agree with the authors more; in its freshness, brilliant satire, ever-improving animation, and excellent vocal and animated performances, The Simpsons is far and away the best show ever.

This brings me to my second and third questions: do you agree that The Simpsons is the best show ever?  Please elaborate!  Also, if you’re a Simpsons fan, do you agree about the existence/nature of the Jerkass Homer phenomenon?

*This shift also accompanies the introduction of a phrase that Homer exclaims a number of times throughout the 8th and several subsequent seasons, “Outta my way, jerkass!”  The writers, who have followed online fan criticism since the series’ (and before the internet’s) inception, even acknowledged this phenomenon through dialogue.  In the 16th season episode “Mommie Beerest”, Homer sarcastically proclaims “That’s me, Jerkass Homer!”