27 September 2015

The Color of Bucket

So I think I've just had my first genuinely mindblowing evidence of how differently I see (some) colors compared to the rest of the population, i.e. people who aren't colorblind. I don't entirely trust it, because it's being mediated by video, which is not the same thing as seeing colors out in the real world. And I'm still not sure I want to spring roughly $600 for Enchroma glasses, given that their own test indicates roughly a 30% chance that they'd be effective for my particular type and degree of colorblindness (strong Protan). But this is the first time I've ever seen something that made me say "Holy shit!"

Quick summary: My red cone is defective, so I don't see red properly. I see it, can generally identify it correctly, but it's apparently very diminished relative to what most people see. (This is slightly different from the red-green colorblindness you usually hear about, called deuteranomaly, which is the most common variety. I rarely confuse red and green, though I sometimes confuse green and yellow.) My clearest indication of the difference, funnily enough, is the opening titles sequence of certain movies—if the credits are red, I often have great difficulty reading them, especially if they're superimposed on images rather than a black or white background. They're extremely dark to my eyes, and hard to make out. I spent years wondering why filmmakers would do this before it finally dawned on me that it's my colorblindness causing the problem, and that others can read them just fine. 

Anyway, this affects any color in which red plays a part. Arguably, I have never seen purple, because the red in purple is barely perceptible to my eyes; what y'all call purple generally looks to me like just a very dark blue. Similar situation with pink, which I often have a lot of trouble recognizing/identifying. There are also some other issues that don't seem related to red per se (e.g., the green traffic light just looks white to me, must be the palest damn green on record), but red is the main problem. 

A company called Enchroma makes lenses designed to help colorblind people see something closer to what others see. The details are pretty technical, and if you're curious you can read about them here. But the lenses are apparently pretty effective for the more common varieties of colorblindness, and you can now find dozens of YouTube videos showing colorblind folks trying on the glasses and completely freaking out. Which is an experience I'm dying to have, but, as I mentioned above, Enchroma's own test indicates that their glasses are unlikely to work very well for me. I have the wrong kind of colorblindness, and in too severe a form. According to the site, any differences I perceive are likely to be subtle and minor rather than life-changing.

That's been precisely my experience—until now—with cases in which people take photographs or shoot videos through an Enchroma lens. I usually see a difference, but not a momentous difference; the intensity changes, but nothing actually changes color.

Today I saw this video and completely freaked out. (Apologies for the music.)

My response to most of it is typically muted. For example, he shoots a bike reflector with the lens, and it looks a brighter red to me. But I could see that it was red before. Not a huge deal. Just "interesting."

But then he shoots a bucket through the lens, and the bucket fucking magically changes color. I've never seen anything like it. 

This is a still of the bucket as seen without the lens. I guess you all see an orange bucket here? This bucket is yellow to me. It is plainly yellow. It could hardly be more yellow (apart from the distortion caused by sunlight, which renders a big hunk of the midsection whitish). I could perhaps be persuaded that it's actually bright green, as I screw those colors up all the time. But never, ever in any way reddish. There is not a trace of red in this image that I can perceive.

This is a still of the same bucket seen through the Enchroma lens. It is now, to my eyes, a color that I would have difficulty pinpointing as red or orange. Having read the comments in the Reddit post where I found this video, I know that the bucket is, in reality, orange (assuming I'm not being lied to), but without that knowledge I might have called it red. But it looks nothing whatsoever like the color of the bucket in the previous still. If you had shown me the two photos with no context, I would have sworn that they are two different buckets. It's as distinct to me as the difference between a banana and an orange. Even now, I am suspicious that the dude who made this video somehow managed to switch buckets without my noticing the switch or the edit. But that seems unlikely given that I don't get the same WOW! effect from any of the other comparisons. (Closest is the jacket, which is apparently green but to me goes from an extremely dull, pale yellow to a bright, vivid yellow.)

So I'm curious about what people with normal color vision see here. Do the two buckets look identical to you, or nearly identical? Because that would genuinely blow my mind. Or is this more like the phenomenon in which, say, a sodium streetlight can make a car look the wrong color, even to people with normal vision? Feedback encouraged.


tuttleAC said...

My fiancee and I both see a drastic change with the bucket, but nothing else.

Private Joker said...

I have perfectly normal color vision, as you know, but this blog post is making me doubt that. The first bucket looks plainly, perfectly yellow to me. Not orange, as you're claiming normal people see it. The second bucket looks red... well, 90% red, with a 10% tint of orange. But if I had to choose between red and orange I would definitely say red. It isn't close. Also, the case that the bucket is sitting on seems to change color too. In the yellow-bucket shot, the case is grey, with a slight white tint on the front top rim. In the red-bucket shot, the case is brown with a brown rim.

In short, this seems like a scam or something. The lens isn't changing color for color-blind people, it's just changing it, period.

(But traffic lights are totally green, you weirdo).

Private Joker said...

Oh yeah, and the dress was blue and black.

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Atli Sig said...

I don't where else to put this, so here are my annual predictions for the Skandies:

1. Mad Max Fury Road
2. Carol
3. The Duke of Burgundy
4. The Forbidden Room
5. Inside Out
6. Phoenix
7. The Mend
8. The Hateful Eight
9. Sicario
10. Anomalisa
11. Clouds of Sils Maria
12. The Look of Silence
13. Jauja
14. Brooklyn
15. Mustang
16. It Follows
17. Experimenter
18. Mistress America
19. Hard to Be a God
20. Saint Laurent

Also likely: Timbuktu, Heaven Knows What, Magic Mike XXL, The Martian, Son of Saul, 45 Years