How did Hollywood movies conquer audiences with color?  (Part 2) 5 minutes to read

How did Hollywood movies conquer audiences with color? (Part 2) 5 minutes to read


A scene from the movie The Shining (1980)

There are many ways to create iconic movie elements, and using a variety of color palettes is probably one of the most effective.

Even when the audience doesn’t seem aware of this symbolism, they can feel it from deep subconsciously. We will go through some examples of connecting ideas and settings with filmmakers’ use of color palettes.

1. Unusual color

The unusual use of color in the film makes a key character, detail, or moment different from the rest of the movie. An example of this is blue’s Amélie and clear red The Sixth Sense.

An example uses unusual palettes in The Sixth Sense (1999) and some other movies

The anomaly is seen as an intention of the director to deflect the color palette that the film has instilled into viewers’ consciousness. This “steering wheel” creates a turning point both emotionally and visually, creating unexpected effects, annoying and creating “problem” in the climactic moments of a movie.

An example uses unusual palettes in Schindler’s List (1993)

This impression is often not clearly “just named” by the audience, but it causes a strong feeling in the audience. From there, an icon in the movie was formed.

2. Link color palette

The linked colors in the film refer to a specialized main color representing the scene or character in the movie, thereby creating visual effects that connect with the emotional circuit of the story.

An example uses the link-in palette The Dark Knight (2008)

In one of my best films, The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan has shown unique color palettes with his main characters. In contrast to a Batman with black and dark gray colors is a joker who always wears purple and green accessories. Their conflict is evident in their dark and light contrasting – a parallels to Batman’s efforts to protect the city and the hilarious mess the Joker intentionally causes.

An example uses the link-in palette The Godfather (1972) Orange and orange reminds of death

In addition, it is impossible not to mention the work The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The use of orange tones is associated with sudden and unexpected deaths in movies – a defining element of films with themes of crime and violence. Filmmakers describe violence as being naked and somewhat ugly. In that world, shadows combined with murky shades and orange tones add an emphasis on violence, bondage and insecurity.

3. Color transition palette

Transition palettes are often used when filmmakers imply a change in film story. This can be a transition in the mood and tone, between different genres of movies, or within or outside the characters.

The transformation of iconic character Luke Skywalker can be mentioned as a prime example of the transition color palette. At the beginning of the story, he is depicted in bright tones as if attached to a guy who grew up on a farm and stood on the front side of the Force. But once he goes through the Jedi training, and learns the truth about his origins, the tone that depicts Luke turns dark and mysterious. This shows his maturity, as well as the implication of a dangerous connection with his villain.

An example uses Luke Skywalker’s character transition palettes

Cartoon Up This trick is also used to show changes in story structure. Pixar touched audiences by portraying a playful and colorful Carl during a happy time with his wife Ellie; become old, lack of vitality with dark colors when left alone. The sad reality is further emphasized using the gray panel shadow effect.

An example uses the transitions in color palette Up (2009)

The variations in color in a movie may not normally be noticed by the audience while watching the movie. But their subconscious realizes that, and so, color becomes an important factor that constitutes the part of the image, making the audience “feel” rather than simply “see”.

Synthesized and edited: Gau Truc.
Reference sources: Studiobinder, Wiki, Canva.

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