Chapter 20 of 30 from Martin Scorsese

Color

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Martin gives you a lesson on the historic use of color in cinema and explains his use of color in his own films.

Topics include: Early Use of Color in Cinema • Color Always Has to Be Designed • The Possibilities of Color Are Endless

Martin gives you a lesson on the historic use of color in cinema and explains his use of color in his own films.

Topics include: Early Use of Color in Cinema • Color Always Has to Be Designed • The Possibilities of Color Are Endless

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking

In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.

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Study with Scorsese

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films—from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street—have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach to filmmaking, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make—and watch—movies.

Watch, listen, and learn as Martin teaches his first-ever online class.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Martin will also answer select student questions.

Reviews

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Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I have learned so much from the greatest mind in cinema. I hope to always remember the wisdom I gained from this class. Thank you Mr. Scorsese!

Gave me desire to work more in videos, really for myself.

I'm not sure if I learned anything new. I feel inspired and moved how Martin has shared his experiences, feelings and wisdom. He explains himself clearly with a nice dose of humor, knows his business and loves his craft. Thank you Martin!

I think with all the classes, I walked away feeling that there's nothing they did that I can't do. I wished for more practical teaching but Martin gave a few good tips that I will carry forward in my career.

Comments

Rowan S.

He is so knowledgeable, so insightful. What a great gift these lessons are!

Robert A.

I love that!!!. Yeah Its true, color is one of the things that effects the film. Thanks again Martin!!!.

Karmen B.

When I hear you speak about creating your film with color and of your inspiration coming from films you have seen, I feel like you are sharing your work like a master painter would - like Rembrandt had to learn how to mix color for his pallet. But here are using a whole new medium for your pallet - technicolor film. And as you say, black and white is also color. But the idea of molding, coloring, building the story with nuances of color, yes, you are a true artist, dear Martin. Thank you for this lesson.

Daniel S.

Freeze Frame Shot From a project I'm working on without any colour correction.

Richard C.

"You have to limit your possibilities." Words for every artist to live by...

Mia S.

"Part of this is beyond me, in terms of I was learning as I was going along on 'Aviator.' It was really an exciting experience because I was able to use pre-visualization for the first time, taking my notes and little drawings and transferring them into the pre-vis. The storyboard came alive in a way, and it was a new way of making pictures in a sense for the action sequences, the flying scenes. We had seen a beautiful show on color and film right before we did 'Aviator' at the Academy in LA, in which they first screened a beautiful black and white nitrate of 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' sections of it - then they screened beautiful examples of tinting and toning from silent films and nitrate prints they had, leading up to full use of color. It was really a revelation - even the beautiful print they had of 'East of Eden' at that time; I recall that color in '53 and '54, Warner Brothers-scope films had more of a brownish-blue feel to them, as opposed to Fox and the films they were making. There was always a slight difference, and it became sort of encoded in my head. We used them as references. But I must say, the use of the DI has increased the possibilities of color. In a way, it's strange because there is no limit. There are so many possibilities now, and that's exciting. But at the same time, you have to force yourself to limit those possibilities - don't let the technology take over. Because you can do it doesn't mean you should do it."

Mia S.

"When a picture is made in color, you also have to design in color - that means the color means something. Color is special. The use of color was something new, in a way - but just to shoot because it's color doesn't quite make sense. So the use of primary colors is important. As I say, 'Color means something; even when you don't want it to, it does.' So you have to be very careful of the colors you allow in the frame. When color became somewhat expected all the time, it lost its special nature for me - that was a different way of using color, too... different lenses then, different film stocks. You really had people utilizing color to tell a story, also - in a different way from the studio films, because they did tell a story there too. All this obsession with color on film found its way into way into one of the reasons why I did 'The Aviator.' I decided that we're going to try to do color in the film that represented the color as it was available in whatever process Technicolor had at the time. So if the film start in 1922 or whatever, the color looks like two-color, or represents two-color of that period. So Sandy Powell had to design costumes that would play in that color. Often - I think there's one scene where they go to the Coconut Grove, and Cate Blanchett's dress, a kind of lamé, a gold color, but in actuality it was green. We tested all of this... the thing about creating that has really been an obsession with color, and slowly the color in 'Aviator' slips into a feeling of a more saturated three-strip Technicolor, and then finally a colder color in the end. But ultimately, that was really one of the reasons for making the picture - that was not possible really until the use of the digital intermediate."

Mia S.

"I really loved color, when I was a child watching these films. I found that as the color process changed, the color changed. Eventually, by the early 50s, the change from three-strip to mono-pack changed the nature of the color; the colors became more muted, I thought. I happened to like the very bright colors of early Technicolor. That doesn't mean I don't like black and white - that's the difference; the black and white was color, and still is. But I was really fascinated by that projection on the screen. It may have been because the first film I saw was 'Duel in the Sun,' three-strip technicolor - the opening credits come up and it's the blazing hot, yellow sun. and the titles come up and you hear gunshots... it was absolutely an overpowering feeling watching that film, or trying to watch it - it actually terrified me. The use of color in that I think set the tone for me, and there's no doubt I respond to the vibrant use of color in that. Or the moment like in 1948, my brother took me to see a re-release of 'Wizard of Oz' - the sepia sequences at the beginning, but she opens the door and it's Technicolor. That moment has always been something that I love, I love when films in the late 40s were in black and white and then there was one sequence in color. The end of 'Portrait of Jennie,' where it's tinted green, the storm, and ultimately the last shot is in color - this made it very special for me. And then seeing the two color films which I felt were magical to me. This all revolved around that technical process - the de-saturation of color, which I tried to do many times, basically coming up with an image that looked so de-saturated it was almost like a colorized daguerreotype, in a way - and had a great sense of almost like looking at paintings, or scrimshaw etchings done on whale bone; quite beautiful, I thought."

Jagger G.

I like that the questionable parenting decision to take a 5 year old to watch Duel in the Sun, and thereby, by Martin's own account terrifying him, helped to sculpt a great filmmaker.

Kristine K.

I like what Martin says at the end...just because you can shoot with it doesn't mean you should. So true!

Transcript

I really loved to color when I was a child watching these films. And I found that as the color process changed, the color changed, you know? And eventually by the early '50s, the change from three-strip to mono pack changed the nature of the color. And colors became more muted I thought. I happen to like the very bright colors of early Technicolor. That doesn't mean I don't like black and white. That's the difference. The black and white was color, and still is. But I was really fascinated by that projection on the screen. Because the first film I saw was Duel in the Sun. It was three-strip Technicolor. And the credits, the opening credits come up, and it's the blazing hot, yellow sun. And the titles come up and you hear gunshots. And it was absolutely overpowering feeling watching that film, or trying to watch it. It actually terrified me. I was about five years old. But the use of color in that I think set the tone for me. And there's no doubt that I respond to the vibrant use of color in that. Or the moment like in 1948 when my brother took me to see a re-release of Wizard of Oz, when the sepia sequences at the beginning when the house lands in Oz, you know, and it's still in sepia, but she opens the door and it's Technicolor. That moment has always been something that I love. I love when films in the late '40s were in black and white and then there was one sequence in color, like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, or the end a Portrait of Jennie where it's tinted green, the storm, and ultimately the last shot is in color of the film. This made it very special for me. And then seeing the two color films, which I felt were magical to me. And so this all revolved around that technical process that Oswell, Mongerson, John Huston used on Moby Dick, the desaturation of the color, which I tried to do many times, basically coming up with an image that looked so desaturated that it was almost like a colorized daguerreotype in a way, and had a great sense of almost like looking at paintings, or, I should say, scrimshaw etchings done on whale bone. It was quite beautiful, I thought. You see, when a picture is made in color, you also have to design in color. That means the color means something. And color is special. And the use of color was something new in a way. But just to shoot because it's color doesn't quite make sense. So the use of primary colors is important. As I say, color means something. Even when you don't want it to, it does. And so you have to be very careful the colors you allow in the frame. When color became somewhat expected all the time, it lost its special nature for me. There was a different way of using color, too. Different lenses then, different film stocks. So you really had people utilizing color to tell a story also in a different way from the studio films. Because they did tell a ...