Cinematographer of New Joaquin Phoenix 'Joker' Film Explains the Impact of Color in Film, Talks Through His Choices

Lawrence Sher, cinematographer for the new “Joker” film starring Joaquin Phoenix, has released a video explaining how he uses hue, saturation, and light to shape the mood, style, and story of a film.

Recorded in conjunction with Vanity Fair, the 15-minute clip sees Sher talking through the process of coloring a film. He begins by explaining how a crew can shoot in LOG, essentially a raw digital negative before the color grading has happened.

Shooting in LOG lets us retain a wide range of color recorded by the sensor, which an editor of colors in post production can grade any way they want.

He explains some of the tricks of the industry, including using complimentary colors to create a contrast that amps up the dramatic effect of a shot. Color choices are always a conscious choice by the cinematographer, as a means of conveying a character’s emotions, or to manipulate the audience into feeling a certain way.

He also makes reference to Ansel Adams’ “Zone System” technique, which was a way to address exposure and tonality on a film image.

Sher’s other credits include “The Hangover,” "Garden State," and "Paul."

Hit play on the video to see Sher talk through a number of the color-related decisions he made on some of his highest-grossing films.

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Daniel Medley's picture

Excellent stuff.

Robert Altman's picture

This is FANTASTIC... Still shooters can lear tons from our cinematography pals - and 'available light' shooters should think of how often the light that just happens to be around can fully tell your story...

Tom Jensen's picture

Amazing video. So many nuggets of information and ideas to tuck into one's left brain. And Lawrence is supremely personable. I could listen to him talk about his craft for days (and the stories that go with it!)

Bernard Price's picture

Check out the fun game about the Joker -

benpearse's picture

This was really great