How Filmmakers Can Support Their Storytelling with Colors!

By Srikanth Kanchinadham. Posted on September 22, 2015

This article is written by Nathalie and was originally published on mentorless.com, a site about tools and tips for indie filmmakers to nurture their craft and creativity. To read more articles like this, get free ebooks on screenwriting and weekly curated bonus links, join her newsletter.


Nobody is explaining to us the meaning, the philosophy of light; the philosophy of color.” That’s legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro talking about the transmission gap in film school when it comes to the power and meaning of color (as opposed to the technical knowledge required to capture such elements).

Thankfully, Lewis Bond has started bridging that gab with his excellent video essay about ‘Colour in Storytelling.’ In sixteen minutes, Bond not only shows the use of colors throughout the years in films, but how hue (the actual color), saturation (the color’s intensity) and value affect what you convey in a film. If you change any of these elements, then you change the tone of the film. Change the tone, then you have a different movie. 

Bond also talks about the balance and discordance you can create thanks to using Color Scheme, the wheel of colors that lets you pair colors to either create harmony or contrast in films. You might remember the tumblr ‘Movies in Color’, the tumblr that extracted color palettes in famous films, and that often revealed visual balance.

Another important concept Bond mentions is that of using colors in an associative or transitional purpose.

The use of a color with an associative purpose means that a specific color and its scheme will be linked to a character or an idea throughout the film, letting the audience connects extra dots through the simple presence of a particular color.

A transitional use of color means that the colors associated with a character or an idea will change, either brutally or over the course of a film (depending on the story’s arc) and that change will help give an extra layer or meaning to the story told through images. A great example Bond uses is that of the Last Emperor, with a transitional usage of color that covers 180 degree of the color scheme wheel, starting with red and ending with green.

There is a reason behind every color choice in a film. 

Here are three more points Bond makes in his film:

1. Color is often a psychological process

2. Using color creates certain atmospheres

3. Creating a scheme around a color can emphasize that atmosphere

All those elements are good to keep in mind when you’ll enter that phase of filmmaking where you need to convey the words onto the screen.

The video below gives great examples to illustrate the difference concepts Bond mentions.

Enjoy and hopefully it will inspire you for your own projects.


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