The following article written by Paul Deuth, provides a unique color perspective, his website is http://www.eyeqsolutions.net/default.htm .
For those who don’t see color in RGB numbers, you may enter the RGB references into the following website for a visual reference, http://rapidtables.com/web/color/RGB_Color.htm.
There are times of the year when color is more important. Here in New England, in the fall, we make a big fuss over the changing color of the foliage, especially our trees. This is a cultural thing, something we hold as a community, something we pass down year to year. Christmas and the Holiday season is another such period. We have, as a culture, designated certain colors to be important, we go to lengths to display and decorate with colors, and we include colors in our songs, songs which are cultural property and icons, repeated every year. As a color geek I will examine a few of these musical references.
The first song that comes to mind is the old Bing Crosby standard, “I’m Dreaming of a RGB (237, 252, 255) Christmas.” Your first reaction, of course, will be, “Why those numbers? Why not (255, 255, 255)?” Good question. That raises a bunch of issues. First, a statement of the obvious, just to establish us with the theory: color has three elements – a light source, a sensor, and an object;
in this case the object is snow and the light source is not specified. Nor is the sensor or observer. I have chosen a bit of a blue light source, something just a bit cool, and something more typical of what we might perceive as a “typical” winter day. Granted that cloudy days are common during the winter, and granted that, here in the upper latitudes where there is snow, there is more time spend in the absence rather than the presence of a light source, I still chose a slight blue color cast to the light source. Choosing another will change our perception of the snow.
I admit to another bias as well. I chose an object, a snow sample, pure and pristine. There is no pollution or chromatic degradation in my snow sample. That, in reality, is not always the case. Indeed, most people live in groups, away from pure and pristine sources of snow samples; their perception of the color of snow will be different, in their native habitats, than if we transport those observers away from the comfort of their homes and apartments. Many, if not most, will decline our invitation to go look as pure and pristine snow far away and out in the cold.
On the other hand, there will be a larger area, a larger sample, of snow-object to perceive, given that more space is available outside urban and suburban areas from which to sample. There is nothing inherently democratic about snow or snowfall, so seeking to define color by the number of observers, rather than the size of the snow sample/population, is a poor argument. Nevertheless, the fact remains that snow, as a colored object, will have different colors, even if only slightly different in the “pure and pristine” state.
Why use the RGB color model? Well, it’s difficult to assign a number to snow and it’s not so easy bringing a sample into my workroom to measure with a spectrophotometer. My best choice of technique is to use a calibrated and characterized digital camera as a sensor or observer. Those devices normally separate the natural spectrum in the RGB color space. This is the basis for this choice. I can convert those numbers, with a particular degree of confidence, into LAB or HSL numbers in those color spaces, but haven’t bothered to do the statistical analysis necessary to create such a confidence interval. Forgive my lapse, please, in the Spirit of the Season.
There is another popular song which comes to mind. It was a play on the Crosby recording, I’m quite sure, some kind of a cultural statement or critique on what the Crosby song, and Crosby
himself, represented. The song was recorded and popularized by Elvis Presley, who, at that time, represented something very different, culturally, from Mr. Crosby. I’m referring, of course, to the hit song, “Lab (31, 51, -99) Christmas”. Again, as before, I chose that particular color. My reasoning is that the color reflects a certain sadness or regret or heartache, and that ought to be reflected (no pun intended) in the choice of color. So cheerful hues and tones were rejected and something more purple was chosen.
I can design a study to more scientifically determine the particular color such an emotional state elicits. The song under examination here specifies a particular condition: the sweetheart of the singer has just ditched him, and he’s aware of not only his sadness and loss, but of how this contrasts with our cultural expectations for the holiday season, highlighting further, one must
assume, such a sensation of sadness and loss. Now, finding such a sample of ditched sweethearts would be difficult and expensive; creating such a sample would be cruel, and contrary to the Spirit of the Season. While I might justify the sacrifice of my subjects in the name of science, at the end of the day the resources necessary for such a study do not exist. Perhaps the reader will contribute their own choices, which we might average in some agreed upon manner. By the way, the Lab color space was chosen to reflect the human commonality of sadness and loss; it’s a “universal” experience, so the “universal” space was adopted.
It was just the day after Thanksgiving, that Friday, when I heard the season’s first (local) broadcast of “Rudolph the RGB (230, 0, 0)-nosed Reindeer”. My first reaction was, “Not already,” in anticipation of a month of such songs. Yet there it was, coming over my car radio as I drove in a yet to be snow-covered landscape (see above). We must be aware that this is a very different color model. That particular nose was an emissive source, making the additive, rather than the subtractive, model the appropriate choice. The particular choice, above, is again mine; you are welcome to make your own. I chose a rather pure hue, totally saturated, but slightly diminished in brightness. I am allowing Rudolph a bit of compassion, earned by his tireless dedication to leadership and the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of children everywhere. Even such an admirable reindeer is permitted a bit of fatigue, I think.
The RGB model or space is the best descriptor or model for emissive, additive color. It’s not device-independent, but in this case we’re examining a very particular, very special, and very valuable light and color source: Rudolph’s wonderful snout. It’s a wonderful image and I can almost hear the jingling bells.
The segue leads me to the old standard, “HSB (0,0, 80) Bells”. This is a tricky one, I think. Are those bells simply grey? What, precisely, in the construction of the bells in question? This deserves a bit of analysis and definition. Bells might be made of silver, but making a bell of pure silver would be a poor choice from both the sound rendering capability and from the durability and reliability specification or requirement. Most are, in fact, made of bronze, a metal certainly not appearing to be any sort of grey or silver. What the song most likely refers to is a chromium-plated bronze bell. Now, this is a bell of a different color, to mix metaphors. We have introduced gloss and specularity into our measurements and equations now. And we have, most likely, changed our color away from a pure grey to something with a more definite hue. Is chrome a color, or is it a process, or is it the
metal used in that process? There are vendors who sell different hues or colors of chrome, and we can argue that chrome, more than most objects or materials, reflects rather than modifies the light falling upon it. In reality, then, assigning a color specification to the bells is difficult, and made more difficult when the specular or gloss component must be included.
While this analysis does have some value, there is something wrong with it. That error is foundational, I think, coming from the very concept of the study. Assigning specific values to what is the realm of culture, cultural memory, and sentiment must fall short from the beginning. While science and technology has definite use and value, such usefulness does not universally apply. In the end, dreaming of a white Christmas, or feeling blue that one has lost ones sweetheart, or enjoying the image of a magnificent reindeer with his glowing nose, and the images brought to mind by silver bells, seems to satisfy the requirements of the cultural customer much better than specifications rendered by science and color science. In the Spirit of the Holidays, then, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Holidays, and a Happy New Year to one and all.
Some possible snow colors, in the RGB model:
(237, 252, 255) as described in the article
(255, 255, 255) as a more theoretical choice
(213, 227, 229) for a less bright setting
(212, 187, 158) for a dirty snow
The entire lyrics for “Blue Christmas”:
I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me
And the when those blue snowflakes start fallin’
That’s when those blue memories start callin’
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas
I got something more purple from this; your reaction and choice will be different.
While the Number One hit of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was sung by Gene Autry, it’s notable that a year or so later a Number Six hit of the same song was recorded by Bing Crosby, the same artist who sang “White Christmas”. Those two songs are the largest sellers and/or money earners of any Holiday season songs. And, as we have demonstrated, both are concerned with color.
There is an entire body of work on the effects of gloss and reflection on the perception of color. In general an increase in saturation is observed with an increase in gloss. However, in this case we’re examining a neutral or near-neutral hue or color, and a material that acts more as a reflector of light than as light’s modifier. We might discuss this in much detail, even while humming the song, “Silver Bells.”
My color engine of choice here was Adobe Photoshop. There are other color engines, but this is the one I most often use. It does the job and does it well. It’s familiar in our area, and trusted as a good tool. My personal color settings for this were:
RGB: Adobe RGB (1998)
CMYK: Coated Fogra39 (ISO 12647-2)
Intent: Relative Colorimetric with Black Point Compensation
We got, last night, around 7 inches of new snow here in rural Connecticut. I must go outside shortly to remove it from my automobile and driveway, the better to get to work tomorrow. (Today is Sunday, December 15, 2013). On top of that snow is a coating of ice and sleet. I must admit that my thoughts will not be so pure and pristine as I shovel that stuff. That color, by the way, would be something like Lab (42 ,21, 54), but let’s not let this detract from the Spirit of the Season.
I trust you enjoyed Paul Deuth’s color article. Paul’s website is http://www.eyeqsolutions.net/default.htm
I trust you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.