The Common Teal

The Common Teal (Anas crecca) is a gregarious dabbling duck which is widespread throughout temperate Europe during all seasons.  Further east, great flocks of teals live in Siberia during the summer and then migrate to India and China for the colder months.  But why is this duck being mentioned on Ferrebeekeeper?  Well, as it turns out, this is a post about color–and the common teal gives its name to one of the most widespread colors, teal, a middle tone blue-green.  The male common teal has a blue-green patch of feathers around his eyes–and these feathers are what the color was named after.

Situated half-way between blue and green, teal is a handsome tone which appeals to people who like both those colors. Teal featured prominently in the Plochere Color System, a color methodology favored by interior designers since the late forties.  Additionally, teal was one of 16 original HTML web colors formulated in 1987, so if you are a web pioneer or came of age in the nineties you may also have seen quite a lot of it.  But, even if you are somehow not an aging interior designer or an old school computer geek, you have still been inundated with the color teal by a different industry.

In order to make scenes comprehensible, television and movie producers (and visual artists for that matter) need to make the people in their shots stand out from the background.  Most actors range in hue from pale to dark orange. As you can see in the color wheel which I have very helpfully included above, orange is opposite on the color wheel from teal.  The easiest way to make actors contrast with the background and thereby have shots with adequate color contrast is to portray orange actors against a teal background.  Of course gifted directors use a whole range of techniques to provide contrast to their shots—talented filmmakers utilize light and shadow, wide-ranging color contrast, and subtle visual cues to make shots comprehensible.  But terrible directors (or producers running behind schedule) can simply have the digital effects technicians make everybody look like John Boehner running around in a swimming pool.   It’s shocking how many movies (especially bad movies) do in fact look exactly like that.

Chevy Chase, is that you? You look like a pumpkin!