Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Wow, looks like last time I wrote my blog it was to review Superman Returns. Well only Supes could draw me out from hiding - today I watched Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. And, in accordance with the spirit of blogging, I'm going to let you know what I think! You have been warned: It is long.

There will be minimal spoilage, because hopefully some of you are actually going to want to watch this some time!

Incidentally, it's my birthday today (Dec 12... well it used to be anyway). And I just found out I share a birthday with Sarah Douglas, who plays Ursa, one of the three villains in Superman II, so that is cool. Um, happy birthday, Sarah.

OK, brief backstory: Richard Donner directed Superman: The Movie, and simultaneously shot about 75% of Superman II only to be inexplicably fired after Superman was released. He was replaced with Richard Lester, who completed the movie and re-shot most of it in the process. Why? It ruined the movie. Superman II is half-serious, half-joke. Furthermore, since Marlon Brando was demanding ridiculous millions to appear in Superman II, the new director and producers decided to simply remove his character (Jor-El) from the movie and replace his scenes with Superman's mother Lara (Susannah York). Second big mistake. The movie lost a heck of a lot of sense.

So here we are, 26 years and thousands of fan letters later, with Warner Bros and Richard Donner having finally decided to restore all of the old "lost" (literally) footage, including that involving Marlon Brando, and edit it into a coherent movie, released November 28, 2006. It's essentially the ultimate director's cut. See the wiki for full information.

Before the film proper, the DVD includes a special introduction by Richard Donner himself. It was a heartfelt message. I really feel as though I have come to know and understand Donner over the past 6 months, and he only reaffirmed this, when he introduced himself thus: "I'm Dick Donner. Well, my name is Richard Donner, but my friends call me Dick. And I consider everybody out there to be friends right now." It's a little awkward when he explains some of the history, but he has a right to be upset. The man was trampled on, and he fully deserves this re-edit, a tribute to his great work on Superman I and II.

Of course, it's a mixed experience. Overall, the Donner Cut leaves me with this feeling of regret - here we have two versions of the film which complement each other. Yet, they are both compromises. Superman II was a compromise between the new and old footage, a self-imposed mashup of two directors. The Richard Donner Cut is a forced mashup of so many sources, inevitably there are going to be issues with it - things missing or out-of-place which are no fault of the 2006 editors. Fortunately, they did an excellent job, and it's very hard to notice continuity errors.

I have to say the most enjoyable part was the opening sequence. Frankly, everything about the opening to Superman II shitted me. The absence of Marlon Brando in the "villains exile" scene and flashback scenes stuck out like a hole in a bucket. The music was a crappy watered-down version of John Williams' classic score. The "flying credits" in space were cheap suck (not to mention the insulting absence of Richard Donner's name). The flashback scenes were irrelevant, poorly-timed to the music, and explained nothing.

The Donner Cut's opening is all class. It opens with the thing Superman Returns was missing (or at least, hid halfway down the ending credits) - a big glowing dedication to Christopher Reeve. Then, there is a proper recap, presented with actual incidental music (not the main theme), including a newly-edited version of Marlon Brando's original exile scene. More than just a recap, it does what The Two Towers did, and shows more of what was going on at the same time (namely, the three villains coming to Earth, or "Houston"). It then concludes with the credits sequence - with masterfully-updated titles in the style of Superman: The Movie (including "Directed by Richard Donner") and the full emphatic John Williams score.

Obviously, the biggest thing missing from this new cut is the Eiffel Tower sequence, a major "heroic" scene where Superman saves Lois, invented by Richard Lester. While I understand the removal of this entire sequence (it wouldn't really be "The Donner Cut" with this bit in it), it doesn't make the most sense as far as the film goes. I quite liked this scene - it was pretty much the only time in the whole saga where Lois went down and got herself in a heck of trouble, as she always did in the 1940s cartoons. Also, all of the films need some early-on Superman action (Superman has the helicopter, Superman III has the chemical plant, Superman IV has the train, and Superman Returns has the plane). With the removal of the Eiffel Tower scene, The Donner Cut no longer has any early scenes with Superman at all. In fact, the Man of Steel is seen for only two scenes before the climactic battle at the end. This is a bit of a problem.

Now, to the film itself. It was less of a radical change than I thought - the film follows the same story closely. There are several brand new scenes which completely own ("brand new" as in, there was no equivalent scene in Superman II). This includes two extensive new Marlon Brando scenes. But then there are a whole bunch of scenes which are effectively the same as in Superman II (very similar lines, costumes, set, etc), but are Donner scenes here, where they were previously Lester scenes.

Which begs the question: Why? Why re-shoot perfectly good material just to demonstrate your directorial control (I'm referring to Lester here). It saddens me to see this old footage which was abandoned to pointlessly. But it is good that it has finally been restored - a fitting tribute to Donner, Christopher Reeve (Clark/Superman), Margot Kidder (Lois), and Marlon Brando (Jor-El).

A side note: I wonder if Coca-Cola is paying them extra for product placement. If I'm not mistaken, they've added additional shots of the giant Coca-Cola sign! (Amongst other coke references).

I think the best that has come of these restored scenes is the appearance of Margot Kidder (Lois). I have no idea whether it was the makeup, the lighting, whatever, but for the majority of Superman II, she looks "mousey". Her face is small and pointy and she looks really tired in many scenes as well. It's the weirdest thing, and as I said, I don't know what caused it, but I can plainly tell the difference between the Donner and Lester footage involving Margot. And it was really good to see that now, for the majority of the film, she looks "normal" again, as she did in the first film, and the sequels!

Two scenes, which alone were worth the price of admission, were the famous "blank bullets" scene, and the "restoration" scene with Marlon Brando. Both crucial points in the story - the first butchered by Lester, and the second inexplicably missing from the original movie (forming the biggest plot hole in Superman II). The "blank bullets" scene was never filmed, except for a screen test with Reeve and Kidder shot during the audition process (included on the 2001 Superman DVD). Watching those tests on the DVD, I had no idea how they were going to edit together into a cohesive scene, but it was done brilliantly.

The "restoration" scene was the crux of the film. Brilliantly-executed (I read that this scene was rather complex to restore, involving body doubles, and special effects), it finally fills in the big plot hole and gives new meaning to Jor-El's "prophecy" from the first movie, all without removing any of the dramatic tension of Superman's eventual return.

I am still disappointed with the role of Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor) (still credited with top billing) and his cohorts Otis and Eve (played by Ned Beatty and Valerie Perinne). I never got why they were really in this film. Otis and Eve are just here to help Lex escape, then they inexplicably disappear from the film. After this, Lex's entire role in the film is to think he is helping out the three supervillains, when really they could have killed him numerous times (which they continually point out, to which he continually replies, "Kill me? Lex Luthor? The greatest criminal mind of our time?") He has some funny moments ("Australia!"), and plays a key role in the final climax, but essentially he plays fourth-fiddle to the other villains and doesn't assume the proper role of Lex, which is to be the brains behind the operation.

I had read that Gene Hackman had a "much bigger" role in The Donner Cut. While he did have some extra lines that had originally been cut, he didn't actually have any additional scenes and played no bigger role in the Donner Cut than he did in the original.

I also have to throw in my objection to the "diner bully" scenes, in which a de-powered Clark gets beaten up by a thug, and then in the second scene at the end of the film, a re-powered Clark goes and beats him up. I have always hated these scenes, directed by Donner. The first one is OK - I don't think it's within Clark/Superman's personality to pick a fight, but assuming he does, the scene works. But the ending scene disgusts me - I don't see why Superman would be so petty as to beat this guy up. It doesn't fit my idea of Superman's ethos. These two scenes remain in the film, unedited.

Now the film holds together (as far as the plot goes) surprisingly well. However, there are about 3 moments I could list where it jumps forward jarringly. Footage from Superman II could have been used to plug these holes, but I can see why they were reluctant to use it. (Except for the ending, where Lex Luthor just disappears inexplicably - apparently there is a deleted scene on the DVD where he gets arrested, but I haven't seen it so I don't know why it wasn't included). But on the plus side, the ordering has been improved, with previously lengthy scenes being intercut with one another to increase the pacing.

Some of the best parts were me cringing with anticipation as I knew some tacky scene or line was coming up, only to find it had been cut from the film. A lot of the small changes were simply cuts to Lester scenes. A good example is Superman flying around to gather cooking ingredients. Also the entire group of scenes in the tacky++ "hotel interior" set has been excised in favour of the aforementioned "blank bullets" scene.

A final caveat is the ending. I was spoiled as to what the ending would be, but I'm glad I was. I think everyone should know what's going to happen before they watch this film, because otherwise they're going to shit themselves when it actually happens. So here it is, spoiler warning and all that: Superman flies around the Earth and turns back time. Again. Geez, it was bad enough the first time. This time it makes even less sense, because he basically turns back the whole film - what was the point of it? The justification is that this was the originally-scripted ending to Superman II (not Superman, which it got used in). I think it was pretty obvious they couldn't use Lester's ending. And it would have been too hard to create a new one. So I understand why they did it. But it does ruin the film a good deal. However, it is executed brilliantly, so I'll credit them for that, and leave you to see how they pulled it off for yourself.

Overall, great. Monumentally better than the original, mainly for the presence of the opening, blank bullets and Marlon Brando scenes. Those are the main gems, but there are, as promised, small and large changes scattered throughout the film which make small and large improvements all over. While there are some missing scenes from the original which I'd ideally like to see still in the film, it's understandable why they are gone. Producer/editor Michael Thau has made his mark on the Superman franchise with an important task, handled with great care and done masterfully. It's only sad that the stars of the show, Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando aren't here to see it.
"I just got a kick out of seeing it - something I never thought would happen. It was quite emotional, quite exciting. Thirty years."
- Director Richard Donner

Friday, June 30, 2006


Better wipe some dust off this blog because I'VE JUST SEEN SUPERMAN RETURNS.

So it's time for my SPOILER-FREE REVIEW! Fan bias rating: extreme.

For those of you who haven't noticed, I've been getting quite extremely "into" Superman over the past month (I like to time my obsessions to coincide with major Hollywood movie releases). So here's a fan's opinion.

This movie is totally amazing, visually and emotionally.

Well, for starters, IT'S SUPERMAN UP THERE. Come on, that has to count for something - just watching the Man of Steel up on the big screen for the first time in 19 years is something legendary.

But onto the film itself... Brandon Routh is an incredible Superman, and a great Clark Kent. There was one moment near the beginning of the film (with Routh as Clark) where I could swear it was Christopher Reeve up there. Spine-tingly! But no, Routh was afraid of being passed off as a Reeve-impersonator, and he wasn't. He made a new Superman which was reminiscent of the original.

In fact this whole film was a new Superman which was reminiscent of the original. Perhaps a little too reminiscent - I couldn't tell if it was an homage or a remake! I'd say the relationship between Superman Returns and Superman: The Movie was similar to that of the movie Hook and the classic Peter Pan - both a sequel and a retelling rolled up into one. A lot of lines were repeated from the first one as well - mostly this worked as intended, a charming nostalgic reference for the fans.

All the classic characters were there - Clark/Superman, Lois, Perry White and Jimmy, and the baddies, Lex Luthor and his good-girl-gone-bad, Kitty "Miss Teschmacher" Kowalski. All the actors played the roles superbly, each capturing the original performance and taking it further. I must specially commend little Tristan Leabu who played Lois's son Jason. Let's be frank: Having little kids in movies can really suck. *cough*Phantom Menace*cough*. But Jason was perfect and had a pretty big role too.

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was interesting - one the one hand, she played the role right - brooding and deep, but on the other hand, she didn't have the "spark" of Margot Kidder. But what annoyed me was this - and I didn't notice from any of the trailers or posters, but it annoyed me in the film - she has one brown eye and one blue eye. Uh... it seems a bit cruel to say so but it was quite distracting. Couldn't she have worn contacts or something?

The story was great, and very emotional. Some parts were... very emotional... for a Superman fan but hopefully anyone will get the full impact of the story. Unfortunately it was just a little bit holey, as in, felt like it was missing some scenes. I know for a fact about half an hour was made, then cut from the start of the film, and you could kinda tell it was missing something there. That'll be on the DVD though, I hope. And hey, Superman fans can't complain about plot holes, right? Superman I and II had their share of them, and Superman III and IV were not so much plots with holes, rather big gaping spaces with bits of plot in them. But I digress. Early on it felt like it was a bit slow, but of course, leading into the epic climax, it got really good.

Music - well I heard a lot of people say the music was like they had "butchered John Williams", that "John Ottman shouldn't have done editing and scoring" or that they "should have got John Williams back". In short, they were saying "good film, lousy score". Wha...? I don't know what film those guys saw - the score was one of the best parts. So awesome - and yes, I'm a film score enthusiast. Ottman captured Williams' original score and used it just right - exactly original where it was needed, and modified where it was needed. He did things like taking the original theme and changing the chords to emphasise different tension, or add backing vocals, just in the right places. Or made the Lois Lane theme just a bit grander. All that was awesome. Now he hasn't written a lot of new themes, but there were one or two prominent new pieces that came up a bit, and they were wonderful too. So the score was perfect in my books.

Visually, the film was brilliant, of course, from the new Superman suit, to the mind-blowing special effects. I won't say much about them because we all know what special effects are like these days. I will mention the opening credits sequence, which was mind-blowing. (There, it's mentioned). Now, the negative. I heard that the guys spent ages deciding on a camera to go with, and ended up choosing this brand new spunky Genesis digital camera which "simply looked stunning". What I saw through a lot of the film was grain. Grain grain grain and it was distracting (especially in dark scenes). So maybe it was this new camera's fault, maybe something else. I'm just hoping the DVD will be at a low enough resolution so I can't notice (down with HD!)

Anyway, let's not wallow in the grain... the film was a masterpiece. I simply must see it again - who wants to come?

Kitty: You're not a god, Lex.
Lex: Gods are selfish beings who fly around in little red capes, and don't share their power with mankind.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Psychonauts: A+

Well hi! Happy new year! Yes I haven't blogged for a long while, but there's a good reason: I've been playing Psychonauts. I just finished it today so it's finally time to tell people what I thought. It's one hell of a game!

With the exception of some of my best-games-of-all-time list mainstays like Warcraft III and the Myst series (and possibly some other games which I've forgotten about), Psychonauts is the best game ever! It's funny, beautiful, intelligent, and great fun to play with. (Who'd have thought I was talking about a game?)

And I'm sad to say I'm probably one of the few Australians who's actually played it, owing to it never having been available in the country. (I had to order it from the UK). But enough about that - see the previous blogpost for that whinge.

Designed by Tim Schafer, the mind behind LucasArts adventures Grim Fandango and the classic Day of the Tentacle, Psychonauts is an adventure game disguised as a platformer. So you'll get to take Raz (i made that page :)) double-jumping, gliding, and punching through 13 crazy levels, but at the same time be solving puzzles and unraveling a brilliant story.

The game is based on the interesting question: what does it look like inside someone's mind? The idea is that the designers have taken some of their characters, and expanded their personalities to form an entire world you can explore. It's taking all the metaphorical stuff we call "the mind" and making it into literal stuff. So mental "sensors", nightmares, emotional baggage, figments of the imagination, and mental cobwebs are all represented in the mental worlds as real things for Raz to fight or collect.

More importantly is how the minds are represented. If a character has repressed his memories, then his mind will appear as a simple cube, with the memories able to pop out of the sides at any time. If a character has a light and dark side to their personality, then her mind will have a switch which can change all of the characters in it from happy to angry. If a character is obsessed with a woman, then his mind will be centered around her image. It is always interesting and often funny to see how each character is represented in their mental world.

There are 10 mental levels, and each is a completely new experience. Although you'll still be jumping around like a platformer in each, the layout and art, and also, the overall gameplay of each world is completely new. Only a handful of levels follow the classic "get through the level to the end, killing the bad guys on the way" structure. The others are much more creative. For instance, one woman is a theatre actress - her world is a stage, and you have to figure out which sets and scripts to use. Another guy thinks he's Napolean, and his world is a war game where you have to win the game by moving the pieces around the board. In another world, you are pitted in a race against your fellow psi-cadets. Every world feels totally unique.

This game is funny! There have only been a few games in history which are thoroughly funny - most of them have been LucasArts adventures, and Tim Schafer has had a hand in most of those. It may not be as constantly hilarious as the Monkey Island series, or Zork Grand Inquisitor, but Psychonauts regularly offers laugh-out-loud (that's "lol") moments. The humour ranges from the sheer craziness of some of the worlds, to some clever events, to a ton of "snappy one-liners".
(Go here and hit "Presenting the winner" to find out how funny it is).

It also has really good music, by Peter McConnell, who has found the perfect background to all of the mental worlds, as well as some nice "summer camp" ambience. The art has a brilliant cartoony style, but it's all in full 3D. And the art of the worlds is bizarre and wonderful - like Tim's previous games, Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango (and I believe he worked with the same artist), everything's crooked and twisted.

The GameSpot review makes two complaints which I disagree with: firstly, that it's "too short, and too easy" (now where have I heard that before). Maybe I suck - but the game felt like the perfect length to me, and the perfect difficulty. Secondly, that on PC, the keyboard and mouse controls felt awkward. I disagree - the game was fine to control. (Even though I am a stickler for the PC).

That said, have a look at Alex Navarro's video review - he says some good things and provides some good insight into the game. You can find that here.

Update: here's a humorous pdf from the team which makes some good points as to why you should go to the ends of the earth to find this game! (The competition is expired, so no we can't win free stuff, but the rest of the points are still valid!)

If you're an adventure or platform fan, you'd do yourself a great service to track down this brilliant game! The saddest part is that so few people actually got their hands on it.
(In training, Raz throws a trash can at a bad guy.)
Raz: "Looks like the trash took him out, heh heh."
Ford: "Next lesson, we'll work on your snappy one-liners."
Raz: "How do I kill that armless guy with the swords in his mouth?"
Ford: "Ah youth. I remember the first time I asked that very question."
I can listen to any phone conversation that I want, but do not because of my sense of professional responsibility.
- Government agent posing as telephone repairer
You were born with a special gift. But the people around you treat it like a curse. Your mother is afraid of you, and your father looks at you with shame in his eyes. Come to Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, and you can show them all! Back home, your powers make you a loner, an outcast, a circus freak. But in this dojo, in this Psychic dojo, they make you a hero.
- Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp pamphlet

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Psychonauts, awards, shelf-life and the games industry

Awhile back Adric told me I should check out Psychonauts. Oops, I didn't. Til now.
Aside from him, I'd never heard of the game. Never seen it on the shelf at EB. Never seen it advertised or discussed on a website. And you guys know I do go to EB and games websites a lot.

It would seem, a great many people are in the same situation.

Which is a tremendous pity because Psychonauts is no longer available in many places at all, (officially discontinued) and it's an extremely bad time for this game to not be on sale.

Many of you will remember my disdain last month when we went searching for Myst IV: Revelation (one of my favourite games, obviously, and the penultimate in the Myst series - from September 2004, winner of GameSpot's Best Adventure 2004) as a birthday present for someone - to find that it had been discontinued after just over a year.
A week ago we tried to find a game for my brother, Sid Mier's Pirates! (November 2004) and found that it too had been discontinued.

Well Psychonauts was released in April. April 2005. And it's gone already. What a sorry state the game industry is in. It sold, apparently, less than 50,000 copies. I wouldn't mind if it was a crap game. Or even an average game. But that's not what I've heard.

The GameSpot awards for 2005 are in full-swing, and I've finally discovered Psychonauts. The reason I've discovered it is that it has completely cleaned up the awards. Check this out:
GameSpot:And GameSpy awards (cbf getting links):
  • PC - Special Achievement in Art Direction
  • Xbox - Top 10 Games of the Year - 7th
  • Xbox - Best Platformer
As you can see - it's a really well-respected game. I've checked out the videos and played the demo and I agree - it looks like one of the big winners of the year, and it's a crazy, zany platformer from the creator of such great games as Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle (going waaay back).

And Nobody played it!!!. No wonder I think the gaming industry is going downhill, with games like Half-life 2 and World of Warcraft which I own and enjoy taking all the awards and sales last year - although I enjoy them I don't think they're as good as Half-life or Warcraft 3 respectively - and this year that trend continuing, with all the big games being horrible dark shooters like F.E.A.R. and battlefield shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield 2. The creative and innovative games are losing. Psychonauts is a prime example.

Read this recent article! (with interviews with Psychonauts creator Tim Schafer).

And while we're on the awards, what happened to the big finale of the Myst series, Myst V: End of Ages? It was nominated for Best Adventure Game (which its predecessor won last year), and was one of only two respectable games in that field this year. Sadly it lost to Indigo Prophecy.

To be honest, I'm not mad... Looking at IP, it seems to be a pretty good game, with a good rich story (it beat Psychonauts in the story category) and nice graphics. If I wasn't a Myst fan I might agree...

And my other game of 2005 (yes, there are only 3 games this year which I feel deserve any attention at all), The Movies, didn't seem to win or be nominated for anything on GameSpot.. not sure why, it seems like everyone thinks it's a great game... my theory is it came out too late to get nominated and will be in next year.

Anyway long story short I found a company in *BRITAIN* which is selling Psychonauts and ordered it. It won't be here for xmas but they tell be it's on the boat! We also found a company in the *US* which is shipping Pirates! so Dave should be happy too.

Long story short: you can still find these games! And they're pretty cheap to order from overseas as well. I might do this more often if they come in good condition, with proper packaging, etc.

Anyway go check out Psychonauts!!! I'll tell you what I think of it when I get it.
And have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 02, 2005

New Summit Website

It's another one of my "look guys, at what I've been making for the past 3 weeks" posts. :)

My games studio, formerly known as Summit Interactive, is now known as Summit Worlds, and has a brand new website!

I've learnt a huge heap about web design with all the lovely features of CSS and XHTML, so this is pretty much the most advanced and compliant website I've made. I'd really like to thank Tim for his help - he's been answering my emails all day every day for weeks!

Here it is:
Summit Worlds Online
I've also registered a new subdomain at cjb.net - www.summitworlds.cjb.net, but I'm thinking of changing because as you can see it places a nasty ad at the top (until last week, cjb.net was also serving up annoying popups but they seem to have stopped...)

I think it looks kickass but we'll see what you think.
Also check out the Evermoork pages, since that's a totally different style.

In other news, Firefox 1.5 is out. I like some of the new features, but it doesn't look like they're any closer on the Acid2 test, and there are a couple of annoyances with the new version that weren't in the old one:
  • The default theme seems to have very few icons for menu items, etc. What happened to them? Although it's supposed to just be a "niceness" feature, I find menu items help you find what you're looking for much faster than just text.
  • On Linux (KDE) I used to have a nice theme which made it look like KDE, which is totally and completely nicer than the ugly GNOME look. I can't use that theme with 1.5 and the other themes which try to make it look like KDE all have ugly problems.
  • Also on Linux, 1.5 seems to use the ugly and clunky GNOME file open/browse dialog. 1.0 used to use the KDE file chooser which, once again is heaps nicer (it's like the Microsoft Windows one, and let's face it - that's good).
PS. GNOME really sucks. I don't know what you GNOME-advocates see in it. (Tim, I'm looking at you!)

Monday, November 21, 2005

RGB power... are you asking for a challenge?!

At risk of contracting addendophobia, I'm doing a follow up to my severely lengthy and ranty post on Thursday about colour spaces.

To say...

Are you asking for a challenge?!
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
(click to enlarge)

Thanks Andrew!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Matt Loses It: Colour Spaces

The people who know me know that for some reason, there's one thing in the whole world which gets me more upset with the general ignorance of people than anything else. I think the reason is that I'm so gosh darn positive I'm right about it yet keep being told by practically everyone else that I'm not.

Particularly, I get a surge of irritation every few months or so when The Age quiz asks a question like this:
"The primary colours are red, yellow and what?"
The answer of course being "red, green and blue you dumb piece of unintelligible excuse for information!"

Today the question was this:
"In pigments, the secondary colours are purple, orange and what?"
The answer was green. Even more people think it's correct. I'm not going to comment on that yet because I can't explain just how wrong it is until later.

Yet every time it does, for some reason, everyone else thinks The Age is right. Just goes to show you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper. I haven't blogged about it before but... I've had enough. Here's what I'm going to do.

I'm going to lay it all out, right here, all the facts, all the theories and all the myths, and I'm going to have links to Wikipedia everywhere. There are a huge number of pages on Wikipedia relating to colour theory, and by some strange act of the Maker, they all agree with me. I'll also find some other non-wiki sources for those of you who don't have faith in the world's collective knowledge.

What you learned in primary school

Everyone knows the primary colours are Red, Blue and Yellow, right? As Mish keeps pointing out, that is what we learned in kindergarten. There are several reasons this "fact" was presented to us:
  • Red-Yellow-Blue (or RYB) is the classic set of colours, previously believed to be "primary" since they mix well.

  • At the age of 5, you don't know big words like "cyan" or "magenta", so it's just easier this way.

  • Red is pretty close to magenta. Blue is pretty close to cyan. For primary school purposes, it is most certainly "close enough". But if you're trying to win an argument, it most certainly is not!

And artists may still use RYB for painting (that is: pigment, or subtractive colour, as we'll see later). They are free to do this - it's art. You can do whatever you want in art. What I'm talking about is science. Actual physical what do you see and why do you see it science. And please, nobody say "Brainiac", I'm too upset as it is.

Wikipedia: RYB color model:

RYB is a historical set of subtractive primary colors. Nowadays, we know that this set is incorrect, but it continues to be in common use in art. In it, green is a mixture of blue and yellow, yellow is the complement of violet and orange is the complement of blue. Today, scientists know the true set is CMY, which uses cyan as opposed to blue and magenta as opposed to red.
And guess what... the secondary colours of the RYB colour model (the colours you get if you mix combinations of red, yellow and blue) are... you guessed it: orange, purple, and green. So The Age quiz today was in fact giving secondaries in terms of RYB.

So RYB: Useful? Yes. Correct? No.

And just why isn't it correct? Well they are three colours which can be mixed. But they aren't primaries.

What are primary colours?

Wikipedia: Primary colors
Also have a read of this.
Firstly, there seems to be some debate over whether there really is such a thing as primary colours or not. (If there isn't, then I win, The Age is wrong... but here's my argument). A primary set is a set of three colours which can be added or subtracted in any proportion to each other to produce any colour possible. I don't know how, but it's pretty much been determined that red, blue and yellow DO NOT form a vector basis in a colour space. This means they cannot form all colours by mixing. Which colours do?

The argument against having primaries at all is that there can be no set of three colours that form a vector basis (sorry, that doesn't include RYB) which is "better" than any other set. Well, colour is in the eye of the beholder, and most of us are humans. So let's take a look at the human eye.

As we see here, the human eye is comprised of three types of cones: red, green and blue. As summarised by Wiki's Primary colors page:

Primary colors are not a physical but rather a biological concept, based on the physiological response of the human eye to light. The human eye contains receptors called cones which normally respond to red, green, and blue light. Humans and other species with three such types of color receptors are known as trichromats. Although the peak responsivities of the cones do not occur exactly at the red, green and blue frequencies, those three colors are chosen as primary because they provide a wide gamut, making it possible to almost independently stimulate the three color receptors. To generate optimal color ranges for species other than humans, other additive primary colors would have to be used.
OK so from this point on, we're talking about humans only. That bother anyone?

THUS for human beings, the primary colours are our old friends: Red, Green and Blue.

Red, Green and Blue

These colours aren't dealing with paint though, as we originally were. Since we're talking about the human eye, we're talking about light. Well... shouldn't we be? After all, colour is made of light. Paint is just pigment, it's something that creates colour indirectly.

Wikipedia: RGB color model.
As many of us are computer scientists, we will be immediately familiar with the RGB colour model. All images on the computer are saved in a format which records each pixel as a mixing of red, green and blue. This isn't just a file format though - the data is sent to the video card, which sends it to the screen, STILL IN RGB FORMAT. And the screen doesn't mix the colours before displaying them to you. What it does is display THREE SEPARATE dots, one red, one green, and one blue. The colour is mixed by your mind!

And that's exactly why we use RGB for computer and television screens - because those three colours are the best primaries for your eye/mind to interpret.

What are secondary colours?

This one's easy. From wiki:
(Wikipedia: Secondary color)
"A secondary color is a color made by mixing two primary colors in a given color space."

It's as simple as that. Here's what you get when you mix the primary colours of light for human eyes, RGB:
red + green = yellow
red + blue = magenta
green + blue = cyan

So Cyan, Magenta and Yellow (in their conventional order) are the secondary colours of light. There isn't much to dispute here (provided you agree RGB are the primaries) - if you don't believe me just mix them yourself in paint.

What are primary pigments?

OK so now we return to pigments (almost there people). Pigments are not "colours" as such - they are physical "colours" of things in the world. Light reflects off them, and they subtract certain wavelengths from the light and the colour you see is a result of that. We all know this fact.

Note the key word here: subtract. Pigments subtract colour instead of adding to it like a light bulb might. So, mixing pigments is different. When you mix two pigments, their subtractive power increases and they let less light escape. So when you mix all three primary pigments, you get black. As opposed to light which, when mixed, forms white.

It isn't hard to imagine that if the primary colours of light (which are also known as additive primaries) are RGB, then the primary pigments (note: I did not say "primary colours of pigment", which is wrong) are Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. And you'd be right (if you imagined that).

These are the colours found in your printer - the pigment equivalent of the screen in our computer age. When you print, you have four cartridges - cyan, magenta, yellow and black (the black is there because it's not nice to mix cyan, magenta and yellow all up together). These same four colours have been used for decades on dedicated printing plates to print coloured books and magazines.

These are known as the Subtractive primaries. Being opposite to the additives, what do you think happens when you MIX them?

cyan + magenta = blue
cyan + yellow = green
magenta + yellow = red

Makes logical sense doesn't it? Everything fits nicely.

And what do we call it when you mix primaries? Secondaries! So the seconary pigments are Red, Green and Blue.


Additive (Light) Primaries: Red, Green, Blue
Additive (Light) Secondaries: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow
Subtractive (Pigment) Primaries: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow
Subtractive (Pigment) Secondaries: Red, Green, Blue
Historical (Art) Primaries: Red, Blue, Yellow
Historical (Art) Secondaries: Orange, Green, Purple

And hopefully, that clears everything up. Please ask if you need clarification, but don't tell me that red, blue and yellow are primaries, or that orange, purple and green are secondaries.
It's a myth taught to you out of convenience and tradition which has no basis in science.
*phew* now if you'll excuse me, I have an exam to study for...