Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Colour Blind Cinematographers

Published : 30th September 2003


Illya Friedman recently wrote that…

>You'll be pleased to know that you're in fact...not colour blind…

I already know that, and in fact I'm damn pleased!

However...today I had an emergency ophthalmic exam, after experiencing light flashes in the right corner of my right eye simultaneous with the appearance of a large "floater" (protein strand inside the eye). A quick Google told me I'd better get examined quickly in case it was a sign of retinal detachment. Turned out it was only a "vitreous detachment" -- where the gooey "vitreous" filling of the eyeball, having shrunk with age, detached itself from the retina. It's evidently a common thing. Annoying but not harmful...but it makes you more susceptible to possible retinal detachment later on. Laser surgery can take care of that, but you've got to catch it very early! So all you geezers and geezerettes out there who value your eyesight, please take notice.

>Rest assured that there are many camera people/photographers have >some sort of color deficiency and it hasn't hampered their work. Who >knows maybe it's improved it?

I'm trying to think of a "black & white viewfinder" joke here but it eludes me at the moment...

Dan "thankful for high-definition 4:4:4 (or at least 4:2:2) eyesight" Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



As someone who has the red-green deficiency and having had to keep my mouth shut for fear of people thinking I wouldn't be very good at my job (the BBC used to require an eye-color vision test for applicants in camera grades), I am very happy this subject has come into the open on CML. I have been aware of my condition since age 14 and have realised that as both lighting designer and cinematographer I have perhaps a heightened awareness of color because I am aware of my "handicap". This makes me pay more attention as I don't take my perception of color for granted. I too have been in situations where I've had to match color and was very quickly correct.

As one in ten males have this condition it stands to reason that one in ten male cinematographers have it too. Just for the record, this condition is passed to the male through the mother. My maternal grandfather had the deficiency, hence mine. My two sons won't pass it on to their kids, but if I had a daughter and she has a son, he would probably have it. (This is beginning to sound like that Tom Lehrer song). One in a million women have it, such is life.

Rodger Simmons
Color deficient but able DP/Operator
France



>As one in ten males have this condition it stands to reason that one in >ten male cinematographers have it too.

It makes me wonder how many of the great classic B&W shooters might have had it ? Got your viewing glass built in so to speak.

(not sure this is very scientific speculation on my part...)

Sam Wells



Mr. Simmons states :

>I have perhaps a heightened awareness of color...


I recall reading somewhere that during WWII color blind men were sought out to crew bombers because of their unique ability to detect camouflage.

Edwin Myers, Atlanta Dp



Sam Wells writes :

>It makes me wonder how many of the great classic B&W shooters might >have had it? Got your viewing glass built in so to speak...

That's a bit overstated. On a scale of ten, his kind of red-green color-vision problem is about a two. And it doesn't increase contrast the way a viewing glass does!

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA