The Colour Palette of Film Practical uses of colour in film ( material extracted from Jacqueline B. Frosts’ book Cinematography for Directors)
Colour Aesthetics• Colour Aesthetics may be approached from these three directions.• Impression (visually)• Expression (emotionally)• Construction (Symbolically)
• The Colour Palette is a subtle way to visually enhance the emotional aspect of a film and guide the viewer to respond to it viscerally.• Understanding the basic components of colour and how the audience responds to these colours is essential in communicating with a specific palette.
• The colour palette is the actual visual character of the film being created for the screen.• Some films are grainy, de-saturated, others are slick, saturated palette, or monochromatic, while others have a brown dusty palette.
• The cinematographer’s job is to interpret the screenplay in a visual form and guide the viewer’s emotions through colour, light, composition and movement.• It is important that both the director and cinematographer understand the thematic elements of the story and how to enhance it through colour and light.
• The colour palette begins a direct visual interpretation of the script that makes it a reality on film, where it then takes on a subtle character of its own.• The colour palette can convey a mood or feeling that stays with the viewer after the film has ended.
Elements of the Colour Palette• cinematography, which includes• film stock, filters, gels, and lights that are either tungsten or daylight balanced along with mixing of colour temperature and exposure to achieve a specific look.
• The production designer creates the background and sets.• The wardrobe person selects the costumes.• The colours selected should have an aesthetic or thematic basis that is underscoring the mood or theme of the story or the emotional state of a character.
Hours• The film the Hours, by Stephen Daldry and photographed by Seamus McGarvey BSC.• Contains three separate color palettes used to delineate the three main characters and their separate story lines, which take place in different time periods.
Hours• Virgina Woolf played by Nicole Kidman set in England between 1923 and 1941.• “Tiffen Antique suede filter in combination with classic soft, to effect the prewar setting. The Antique suede has a very slight sepia quality. It tends to pull back the colours and put a nicotine gauze over everything.’• Seamus McGarvey
Julianne Moore• Julianne Moore’s character was given a more yellow hue for her life that takes place in the 1950s in Los Angeles.• “I wanted to give this section a pastel feel without any strong black, almost as if it were hand-tinted or aged.”• Seamus McGarvey
Meryl Streep• The present day story of Meryl Streep takes place in New York city in the winter and has been given the cold blue hue of winter as she cares for her dying friend.• “For me, this section of the film acts as an emotional and visual hinge. Because it’s contemporary it requires a sense of veracity.”• Seamus McGarvey
Seamus McGarvey• “The three colours intertwine perfectly to separate the storyline while subtly providing the emotional states of the characters’ lives and their environments.”• Seamus McGarvey, American Cinmatographer, January 2003, 27
Janusz Kaminski• Shot Munich for Steven Spielberg, he defined each location with a specific colour and texture to help orient the viewer.• Each city had a different colour.• Beirut was blue-green,• Rome was slightly warmer,• Paris was less saturated, and• New York was grainy.
Traffic – Steven Soderberg(Using colour to represent different story lines in a film)
Traffic• In Traffic Steven Soderberg uses a common complementary colour scheme, blue/orange.• Mexico is orange and Ohio is blue.• Foregrounds are blue and backgrounds are orange.• Front light is blue and backlight is orange.