Film Color Theory: How Colors Can Change the Video Completely

Film Color Theory: How Colors Can Change the Video Completely
On:Mar 04, 2022

Did you know that choosing the right colors in videography is a huge part of making a film look great and have the impact you need it to? It’s known as “film color theory,” and it helps videographers determine the emotional impact a film has.

At Gillespie Productions, we understand video production inside and out. With years of experience in corporate communications and broadcast journalism, we create broadcast-quality films for businesses throughout the Wisconsin area. We also understand the best way to use colors…and think it’s important to help educate our clients on how it works!

So, let’s take a look at color contrast cinematography and the basics of choosing the right color palette in film.

How Colors Affect the Video as a Whole?

Color plays a surprisingly large role in any kind of film. It can change depending on the time of day you’re filming, or you may wish to incorporate certain colors to invoke particular emotions and feelings. Happy colors might be yellows, oranges, and blues, while you may choose to invoke sad or negative emotions through reds, sepia tones, or even grayscale.

There’s even more to it than that. Not only do videographers choose what colors to use in each scene, but it’s important to ensure that colors are consistent when using multiple cameras. During the editing process, videographers will edit the colors from all footage to ensure that the footage remains consistent. 

Color may change because of the time of day, the angle, the presence of shadows, or because different cameras were used. Even the settings on two cameras of the same make and model will change the colors on the footage you take.

Color, therefore, is a significant part of the filmmaking process. It’s one of the reasons why it’s always wise to work with a professional videographer who understands how to create quality videos and utilize footage in the best way possible.

Why Color and Emotions Are Essential

As we alluded to earlier, color plays a large role in evoking an emotional response from your viewers. Whatever kind of brand video you may be producing for your business, you must consider the emotional response of your viewers.

When selling a product, you’ll want to make people feel interested in the information you’re sharing and inspired to use your product or service to benefit themselves. Your video should make people think about how your product or service improves their life, and you may wish to include scenes that invoke some negative emotions when discussing the kind of problems that they may face without your product or service.

Colors can power these emotions, and below is a good overview of the kind of colors you may choose depending on the emotion you are trying to invoke.

Red – Love, Anger, Power, Desire

Orange – Enthusiasm, Warmth, Friendship

Blue – Positivity, Peace, Calm

Purple – Fantastic, Royalty, Mysticism

Green – Health, Environment, Growth

Types of Color Schemes

Now that you have a grasp of cinema color and film color theory and why emotion and color are important let’s take a look at some popular color schemes used by professional videographers.


An analogous color scheme uses the three colors that sit together on the color wheel. These include one dominant color, then a supporting tertiary color, and then a third color that may be a mix of the first two colors. This creates an interesting monochromatic feel and can be used with both warm and cold colors.


Complementary colors are also known as “opposite” colors. They sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Orange and blue are good examples of this and are often used in major Hollywood films to create a bold style.

These colors may be used to represent conflict or just to add that “wow” feeling in dramatic scenes. This kind of color scheme is high-contrast and impactful.


A monochromatic style chooses one color but includes a variant of shades and hues within that color.

Monochromatic does not mean black and white, and it doesn’t mean grayscale. It simply means choosing one color and using light and dark variations of that color to create an interesting, almost surreal look.


Finally, there’s the triadic color scheme. This scheme uses colors that are spaced evenly throughout the color wheel. Choose one color and then two others that are equidistant from the first color.

When you use these colors, you’ll notice that you create an almost comic book-like feel to your video. 

Color Scheme
Color Scheme

Other Color Storytelling Techniques 

There’s more to color than simply… color. The hue and intensity of color through saturation can change the emotional impact of color. Gillespie Productions can break down these additional considerations when choosing color into four sections. 

Color Value 

First, there’s color value. This refers to the darker and the lighter shades of color.

Dark red, for instance, can instill a feeling of dread or danger. A lighter red, however, may indicate love or a burning passion. With blue, a light blue may feel cold, and a slightly darker blue may indicate positivity. A much darker blue almost feels royal. 

Saturation and Hue 

Hue refers to the wavelength of visible light, determining the color. Saturation, however, refers to how pure or rich that color is. The more saturated a color is, the brighter it gets.

Playing with saturation and hue by using one of the four-color schemes described above can help you develop different themes. 

Colored Costumes 

When filming, you can do much more than just play with color in post-production. In fact, costumes are one of the biggest ways that videographers like to play with color.

Choose costumes along the lines of one of the four-color themes outlined above, and you’ll be able to achieve so much more in post. 

Discordant Colors  

Finally, you may wish to consider discordant colors. These are colors that immediately hit the viewer. They may be contrasting, they may be surprising, and they may be…intense. Discordancy breaks away from the monotony of a film, wake people up, and attracts attention.

Colors in filming
Colors in filming

Get Your Colors Right with Professional Videographers

Still not sure about the best colors to use in your film? Need a videographer to handle these major elements of pre-production, filming, and post-production?

Gillespie Productions is here for you. With years of experience in corporate communications and journalism, we produce broadcast-quality films for medium-sized and large businesses across Wisconsin and beyond. Our team brainstorms ideas with you, learns about your business, and comes up with exciting color schemes adapted for your audience. Hire us for professional video production from seasoned experts!