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This is why Marvel films tend to look like mud

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The downsides of color grading

Have you ever noticed that Marvel films all look a bit on the drab side?

Marvel Studios has a standard production pipeline for its films, which means that the image is processed in the same way for each of its film. Every film looks similar, since the guidelines for how that footage and processed are the same for every movie once Marvel moved away from shooting their movies on film.

Marvel even discussed this process a bit back in 2013.

"We are trying to standardize our workflow in particular for color and on set," Bruce Markoe [senior vp feature postproduction at Marvel Studios] told The Hollywood Reporter, noting the overall goal is consistency. "Since our movies are 90 percent VFX shots, having a consistent color pipeline makes a huge difference, especially when shots are coming in from different vendors."

And Marvel does rely on multiple VFX vendors for each film. "Even when we have a primarily vendor, we still have a dozen or so smaller ones," Markoe said.

Steven J. Scott was the supervising digital colorist on most of these Marvel films, and that consistent look is likely part of the appeal of these movies. You know exactly what you’re getting when you walk into the theater, and for better or worse it only takes a few scenes before you know that you’re looking at a Marvel film.

And that includes the selection of the camera, although they claim that the decision is ultimately up to the creative team for each film. "We have used [the Arri Alexa] on our last four movies," Markoe told the Hollywood Reporter in 2013. "We like the Alexa … but we are not forcing anyone to use it."

Patrick Willems, who edited the above video explaining all this, also posted some images of how he would personally improve the color grading of these films. “All I did was adjust the levels a bit, make it a bit warmer, and slightly raise the saturation (effects used: curves and hue/saturation),” he wrote. “It’s that easy. Please tell me why Marvel can’t do this themselves.”

Marvel can, of course, do this themselves. They can make these films look however they’d like. But this is the look that they think works for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the box office receipts seem to agree with them.