Are Crushed Blacks Wrong in Color Grading? Zack Snyder Didn’t Think So.

I saw a beginner colorist posting his work online and I was about to scroll down but I saw a comment that says “The blacks are too crushed.”

I don’t usually comment on groups nor post my works because I’m not a fan of argument but for once I felt like I had a need to educate this beginner colorist that it’s okay to have his blacks crushed and his work is okay if it serves its purpose.

So I commented nicely: “It’s okay to crush blacks. It depends on the purpose of the grade. It also depends on the director. Zack Snyder loves this.” I also included a still of a Justice League scene showing how crushed the blacks are.

But, he replied that Zack Snyder’s work isn’t that crushed and the details are still preserved in the blacks.

I hate arguments so I’ll just post my opinion on my blog hoping that I can help more people who are confused or beginners that love this kind of style.

Let me start with a still of one of Zack Snyder’s films, 300. This is a still from the film so it means, it’s a high-quality screengrab.

Judging it just by using your eyes, you can already see how his armor is just a plain black circle. Looking at the shadows, it’s pure black without any sign of the garments they are using.

Here’s a screengrab straight from my computer of the scope. Look at the bottom right corner. That scope is called a parade. The lowest value is zero. If the wave goes below zero, it’s called ‘crushed blacks’ and details are gone.

See how Zack Snyder didn’t care if the blacks are crushed because it’s his art and vision for the film.

This is another still from that film. Look at how gorgeous this image is even though the blacks are crushed.

I love how Zack Snyder sticks to what he thinks looks best for him. While other directors will try to please others, he has confidence in his vision.

As Quentin Tarantino said: “I’ve always made my movies for me anyway. I make them for me and everybody else is invited.”

Quentin Tarantino is the director of remarkable movies such as Kill Bill, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Speaking of Quentin Tarantino, his works are also unique and he doesn’t accept just what the majority is saying. For example, see how saturated his films are.

Especially his reds.

And by the way, those 2 stills have crushed blacks.

Looking at the corner right, you’ll see how crushed the blacks are. It’s not just Zack Snyder who crushed his blacks.

Color grading is subjective and I don’t think there is an exact right way. There are just common things that films have that make them look cinematic and feel right. That’s why I don’t judge people’s color grades.

For example. Whenever I see people post something and I see that they could’ve made the subject pop out more, I don’t comment because there are films that don’t do that. It would be my opinion as to what I feel is right and I don’t think that’s the best way to learn color grading.

That’s why I love taking up courses like what I always recommend, Freelance Colorist Masterclass because it’ll show you all the techniques you need to know like recreating Hollywood films and grading for commercials, music videos, etc. After knowing the do’s and don’ts, the ins and outs, you’ll have the freedom to create your own grades based on what you feel is best.

There are a lot of Judge-My-Color grade pages and I think it’ll help a bit but most of the time it’ll just leave you more confused because opinions will be different. By the way, the guy who commented that the blacks are too crushed isn’t wrong. It was really too crushed. But, I want him to know that it is also not wrong to crush them.

If he will obsessively analyze tons of films like I did, he will surely change his mindset as well.

You might think that crushed blacks happen only in Feature Films. Let me show you one of my favorite vloggers, Peter Mckinnon.

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He is a Canon Ambassador and he created commercials for different famous brands. His style includes crushed blacks most of the time. And his early commercials were filmed on Canon DSLRs that don’t have high dynamic range. As a result, even if you don’t crush the blacks below zero, there won’t be details in the blacks.

If crushed blacks are wrong, I don’t think he will be hired by famous brands like Canon and DJI to make commercials for them. His commercial for Hyundai was even shown on digital billboards in Vancouver and Toronto.

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What did you notice in the commercial? Yes, the blacks are crushed.

Peter Mckinnon’s style didn’t change for the product, the product hired him for his style and crushed blacks are a big part of it.

mckinnon camera backpack
Peter Mckinnon Backpack


I’m not saying that you should start crushing your blacks. I, myself, isn’t a fan of crushed blacks. My grades for my clients will never have those unless the clients request them. That is how much I don’t want my blacks to be crushed.

I love details and depth. That’s my style and I worked hard to master it because I enjoy those kinds of looks. Whenever I watch films and I see how much depth it has that they’re almost 3D, I get so inspired by them.

Even though I’m not a fan of crushed blacks, it’s not wrong. In fact, it works for a lot of people and if you apply it in your style it can really give you a stylistic edge if done right.

Famous directors, cinematographers, and filmmakers in different industries do it. It may not be common to most people but it’s not wrong even if they tell you that it is. Feel free to crush your blacks if you need to.