“The Language of Music and Color”

The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction — Steve Hullfish

As someone who has hung out and performed with musicians most of his life and who has had the chance to hear the unique language of colorists as well, I have noticed that the languages of these two groups of artists are remarkably similar.
The example of the word “bottom” is used in both worlds. In music, it refers to having bass tones or low frequencies. To a colorist, it means blacks and deep shadows. Musicians and colorists also refer to images and music as being “warm” or “cool.”
“Tone,” “color,” “midrange,” “high end,” “low end,” and “shading” are often discussed by musicians. These words are obviously important to colorists as well. Adding “sparkle” or “depth” are things desired by both groups. “Spreading the tonal range” and “creating defi nition” are common goals. Having something that sounds or looks “thin” is bad for either group, while having an image or a sound that is “fat” is usually desirable (and I don’t mean “phat”). Other common words include “tension,” “con-trast,” “texture,” and “brightness.”
To both groups, these are words that cross the artistic divide between the aural arts and the visual arts. What connects them is emotion. Both color and music have a profound affect on our emotions. That is why they are both so important to storytellers and others who use media to influence and affect an audience.
Also, since collaboration and creative communication are important to both groups, it is important to learn to speak and understand a common language with your col-leagues. The language used for creative communications is constantly evolving and is also varied by geography and by specific types of fi lm and video professionals, so the exploration of these terms will need to be a personal one.
When you encounter a new word that is tossed at you by another creative professional, you can either ask what it means, if your ego will allow it, or “mirror” the phrase back with the meaning you think that the speaker intended. So if someone says, “The bottom seems a little thin,” you can say, “So you want me to pull down the shadows to beef it up a little?” If you get an affirmative response, then you know you’ve trans-lated it correctly.

Steve Hullfish