There are many nuances to a film that often go unnoticed. No, we are not talking about Easter eggs and references to pop culture or other movies. Though the end product is a cohesive structure a few hours long, a film comprises of numerous features and characteristics that must be synchronised to ensure an incredible viewing experience.
Not many moviegoers pay attention to these nuances that frequently transform an ordinary video into something remarkable. Learning a bit about the details regarding production and editing will help you criticise and appreciate movies even more. You will start to pay much closer attention to what’s being shown on the screen, and you’ll better understand what the director is attempting to convey through these visuals.
One such technique that filmmakers commonly use is setting the tone with the use of specific colour palettes. Though you might not be fully aware of what this entails, you would have certainly noticed how the colours and the atmosphere are different in movies belonging to various genres or settings. Read on to understand a bit more about the use of colour palettes in film.
Film Colour Theory
Editing the colours on the screen to make them look brighter and more vibrant is pretty straightforward. But an experienced filmmaker will know how to tweak these colours and change their hues to convey a different emotion or create a particular atmosphere within the movie.
This can be understood more simplistically using the Film Colour Theory, which states that colours in films can be manipulated to elicit specific responses or evoke a particular feeling in the viewers.
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Using the colour wheel
A skilled filmmaker will understand the implications of the Film Colour Theory and have adequate knowledge regarding the colour wheel and common colour combinations. Colour combinations can be divided into balanced schemes, and discordant schemes and makers mostly use the former, harmonious systems.
Each combination of various colours often represents a different genre, mood, event or even a location. The most common colour schemes filmmakers use include monochromatic, analogous, complementary, and triadic. Let us understand each of these schemes in a little more detail.
Monochromatic colour schemes
Monochromatic colour combinations consist of the same colour but in different tones. Since all the colours in the visual come from the same family, there is greater harmony. The scene will consist of the same colour but in different brightness, saturation, etc. Depending on the colour that is used, a monochromatic scheme can dramatically change the setting and the emotions.
Directors often use different shades of yellow to depict nostalgia and youth while green is commonly used for nature, danger and even corruption. The use of blue and green tones often point to a dystopian world but can also depict a sense of isolation and calmness. Purple is one of the most favourite colours used by filmmakers when filming a fantasy scene, something that intends to transport the viewer to another realm. Deeper shades of yellow and orange often colour exotic lands and filmmakers use such a scheme to emphasise the poverty and underdevelopment present in the location.
Complementary colour schemes
When it comes to complementary schemes, colours that fall opposite to each other on the wheel are used to create intense contrast. The use of a yellow dress against a purple night sky, as seen in La La Land, emulates on the screen energy that can easily be transmitted to the receptive audience.
Movies with action sequences often make use of teals and oranges to set the tone. Product placement is also usually done using a contrasting background to draw your eyes towards the product advertised.
Analogous colour schemes
These schemes use colours that are next to each other on the wheel. Since these colours do not intensely contrast each other, there is a much better aesthetic harmony on the screen. While analogous warm colours provide a feeling of comfort and happiness, cooler shades jolt the individuals aware of what is happening with the characters.
Triadic colour schemes
Triadic colours are placed equidistant from each other on the wheel. Such a colour scheme is most commonly used in movies set in a previous decade. The colours are often muted but go well with each other to evoke a feeling of nostalgia. In films that shift between the past and the present, the use of different colour schemes can help convey the passage of time more efficiently.
Just like colour schemes, each colour will also have a different meaning in each movie. While the colour red is often used to represent danger or passion, in some films, it points to a feeling of homeliness. The deeper yellows that signify the dust and misery in an underdeveloped country could also be used to indicate the warmth of a spring day.
It is up to each filmmaker to skilfully use a particular colour or colour scheme to set their film’s tone. Sometimes, the colours associated with a character are changed all of a sudden to indicate that they have undergone some transformation.
Even filmmakers who are starting out in the world of cinema require a deep understanding of film colour theory to create masterpieces that keep the audience engaged.