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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Colour Blind; a Page-Turning Film

An 11-minute short has just opened in London which fulfils the veteran director and theologian Peter Brook's definition of art; to animate the audience, to cause it to reflect, and to have it reconsider established ways of thinking. The film is on its way to Sundance, Cannes, Venice, London, Berlin and Raindance.

Colour Blind, British producer Paul Atherton's latest oeuvre, goes straight for the jugular and tackles racism in a way that no-one else has had the courage to do, to the best of my knowledge.

Two male characters, one white, one black, played by actors Robert Cavanah and Will Johnson, meet in a pub. As they talk and cultural references resonate during the conversation, the audience witnesses a comparable on-screen resonance through a visual technique of lightening and darkening.

I was intrigued by the method at which Atherton arrived at this technique, assuming that it involved many takes for the star of Waking the Dead, Will Johnson. Not so, said Atherton. He explained that it came about through

'An ingenious idea in Post Production by my editor Ralston Humble and my colour correction specialist...The solution came by layering three tracks of film one on top of another - 1. the original footage we shot on the day, 2. the Colour Corrected film allowing Will's skin to be the various colours but which meant the surrounding background looked unusual and then 3. the rotoscope layer which allowed just the colour changes of Will's face to be visible to the audience.

It was an incredibly labour intensive process. We shot in HD at 25 FPS (Frames per second) and it was taking our Rotoscope artists...with Ralston's help 3 hours to Rotoscope just 100 frames (4 seconds of film). In total 2000 Frames were rotoscoped.

( Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame.)

'Rotoscoping is extremely rare in short films and would be unheard of on our budget.
But to my knowledge (and we did considerable research into this) its the first time it has ever been used to create this effect.

Atherton, who owns and runs Simple (TV) Productions, funded the film and as is often the case, was able to make the film mainly because of his determination, skillful negotiation and by garnering goodwill. He told me Ralston Humble, based at Pinewood Studios,

'is the main reason why my films look so good. He's brought huge production values to all my projects from Silent Voices through to The Ballet of Change. He is one of the most generous individuals I know assisting many film-makers with their projects by fitting them around his higher paying ones.'

One of the remarkable aspects of the film industry is its collaborative nature. Serious practitioners support each other in maintaining the highest professional standards yet may often compromise on fees in a high-cost arena. This applies across the board, even in Hollywood.

When a piece of work like Colour Blind is produced, which moves debate forward, it is important to understand how the project is put together.

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