Beam Me Up, Scottie


Friday, March 2, 2007

Color & the Economy

My film professor had a theory about production design, color and lighting that linked those elements to moods of the people and events in the actual world.
He believed that in times of greatest upheaval, films became brighter, colors more intense and the lighting more artistic to highlight certain aspects of a character's emotion. During times of peace, color and lighting became darker, more intense and more abstract. To check out his theory in color design, I picked 1931 -- two years after the Great Depression; 1971 -- the Vietnam War era; 1994 -- a year of relative peace and prosperity following the years of Desert Storm; and 2002 -- one year after the WTC and Pentagon attacks.

1931 --The Great Depression strangles the United States. the greens, yellows, blues and golden hues serve up a richness you don't see in the bleak world outside.
1971 -- The resistance to war and civil unrest yell from the streets. But inside, it's a bright yellow, hot pink and electric blue world.

2002 -Just months after the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, these two ads speak of blue skies, vibrant colors and life lived in perfection.

Remember when President Bush said we should "go on about our daily lives"?

Apparently George Lucas heard him. The colors are the dark, deep, contrasting reds and blacks. They speak of the darkness of life and the conquest of good over evil.

Week 7 Design

Sundance Institute

I was surprised by this site and chose it after looking at the others. Because of my affinity for film and respect for the directorial work by Robert Redford, I anticipated a beautifully designed site containing multiple layers of information and philosophy created upon a consistent visual theme. I found much more and much less.

First the background design itself. A serene mountain home set against the rocks and orange hues of a Utah sunset. You can almost hear the water swooshing past in the river that runs past the cabin. Let’s see what emotions and thoughts does this bring to mind? A cabin offers serenity, a place of peace and a place to reflect and consider. Ernest Hemmingway went a way to a cabin to write. Thoreau spent two years at Walden Pond to write and reflect. When modern families want to relieve themselves of the pressures of life, they long for the serenity, peace and isolation of a cabin.

Comparison to Other Sites
If you take a look at other film sites, there is no reference to a specific place. For example, look at Tropfest, the Sony Pictures film festival. The graphics are bright – almost carnival colors – and the visual reference is to a sneeze. (the home page is password protected so I couldn’t load it onto this site.) The images evoke comedy and fun rather than a serious, almost isolated venue. The flash animation of text for graphics is jarring and disjointed. They distract from the information on the site and make the user feel that the site does not take its purpose seriously.

Another site that takes itself a bit more seriously, but still is about a film festival is the Tribeca Festival. ( ) More serious intent, but it’s strictly business on this site. There is no effort to emotionally connect one to the site. Both the Tropfest site and the Tribeca site depend upon high contrast, high resolution images to make bold points.
“Hey, look at me!” They seem to be saying. “I’ve got something to show you. I’m important.”

Then you land on the Sundance site with its forest greens of a Utah mountain glade, the burnt orange of a setting sun and the blue of a Western sky. You look at the boulders in front of the perfect cabin and you immediately can picture yourself sitting out on the rocks planning your next scene. The emotional appeal brings you an immediate sense of place and peace.

Then you read the headline in the first box to the right: “Get Inspired.” That changes to “Get Involved”, “Get Inside”, and “Get Connected”. These are coupled with video programs from Sundance principals or participants who speak about the themed topics.

This is where I felt the site disappointed. These videos were the only part of the design that detracted from the overall appeal. That is because of the need to wait for each one to load. Even with a high-speed connection, this seemed to take forever. It allowed my mind to wander off the site. I wanted to look at other things while I waited on the video to load. The second reason the videos were a disappointment was that I could not get them to stop once they loaded. The audio continued despite the attempts to “click off.” This took away the positive emotion brought by the graphic illustrations and continuity of color which appeared on each page.

The overall design and color of the Sundance Institute site supported the image and message. You felt you would be in some very special, richly creative place at the Sundance Institute. The site’s images make you want to sign up for a class -- even it you have no interest in film. You just want to be in that time and that place.

Computer Interface