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Don't get why iPhone movies don't look like the real thing? Look at the film coloring.

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

When you think "visual effects," big-budget action movies with complex CGI probably come to mind before small indie movies.

But the above reel from film colorist Taylre Jones, drawn from his work on the indie horror film The House on Pine Street, is a beautiful illustration of how essential digital retouching is even in more naturalistic projects without giant robots or monsters. (Jones works at the Kansas City post-production company Grade.)

The reel contrasts the initial washed-out digital footage with manipulated versions in which colors have been darkened or brightened or otherwise altered, all with a profound effect on the look and emotional valence of the shots. Jones' edits can turn a scene from inviting to ominous, from dull to vibrant. It's a powerful testament to filmmaking as a collaborative art, and to the importance of technical contributions that are often overlooked. I certainly couldn't have told you what film colorists did before I saw this, but Jones makes their handiwork hard to ignore.

Many thanks to the AV Club's Dan Selcke for the pointer. Robert Hardy at No Film School has more background on why the initial shots look so washed out (it's to preserve more information for edits). This 2006 piece by CGSociety's Barbara Robertson is a great (if perhaps slightly dated) look at how colorists work, and this video from the International Colorist Academy provides a bit more context on specific techniques colorists use.

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