TIP-ical Tuesday: Color Theory in Filmmaking
by Liz Quintero on 03/17/20
Color theory is used in a wide variety of ways in all types of filmmaking. Colors evoke emotion in a subconscious manner that would be too obvious if said out loud through dialogue. If you were to watch 6 action movies one after the other, one of the first observations you’d make is that everything looks blue and orange. No, that’s not a coincidence.
We will be talking about 4 of the many color concepts directors use. They are monochromatic, analogous, complementary, and triadic.
A monochromatic color scheme focuses on one color. For example, The Matrix has a lot of green in their shots. This color makes the audience feel uneasy at times and emphasizes an “other-worldly” feel. It only makes sense that green is a highly featured color in this movie because it reflects the Matrix digital rain – the whole meaning of the movie.
An analogous color scheme uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Moonlight uses blue, pink, and purple. American Hustle uses red, yellow, and orange. These color combos go well together so they can indicate a harmonious relationship.
Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. This kind of color scheme (especially orange and blue) is seen all the time in movie posters, movies, shows, interviews, etc. We can also see the pairs yellow and indigo in La La Land and green and red in Amelie. Complementary colors can indicate separation or unification between people or places.
A triadic color scheme takes 3 colors that are equidistant from each other on the color wheel. Superman’s uniform represents the iconic red, yellow, and blue. Room 237 in The Shining contrasts the rest of the movie with green, purple, and yellowish furniture. These color schemes are used to suggest hidden meanings.
Each color also has its own meaning and can be twisted and applied to the overall meaning of different movies or shows. Hopefully, in the future, you will be able to indicate color schemes.