Ever since the advent of color in cinema, directors and cinematographers have used color to help influence how we feel about scenes, and to give a sort of shorthand to viewers who are really paying attention to what they are seeing on the screen. Color has a powerful psychological effect on our brains. For the most part, you probably don’t even realize how much of what you are seeing is planned a head of time to emotionally anchor the visuals of a scene.

For example, when you see a scene on scene that is predominately orange, what do you guess that the director is hoping you’ll take from what you’re seeing? For the most part, an orange palette is used to portray warmth and happiness. Think about sunsets and campfires. The color they put off immediately has a sense of home and comfort. Another example is red. Red is a very powerful color that gives impressions of love and power, even danger and anger. Red can even influence blood pressure, how’s that for visual power?

When directors are world building, they use color to help drive the story in a way that they intend the viewer to understand, sometimes only on a subliminal level. It’s fascinating to realize that our brains pick up on things without us even knowing it. Color not only sets the tone of a movie, it can also allude to changes in character or even foreshadow things to come. Color, when understood well, is an important tool that the director and his team can use to enhance what is being told by the story.

Color can even be used as visual cue to portray a certain character in the film, like how Batman always wears black, but The Joker always wears purple. When you see these colors, even if the characters are not on scene at the time, they will echo which character is associated with that color. Colors can range from complementary, analogous, to discordant and even monochromatic. Each of these evoke a mood and tone that allow the story so much more depth than would otherwise be there.

At The High Road Agency, we strive to give depth and weight to every project that we are involved in. If you need strong visuals that help tell your story, get in touch with us and we will be glad to help you be more powerful in terms of visual storytelling.

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