28 Days of Cinematography Insights Redux – Day 12 – Color temperature experiments and takeaways

How often do you play around with color temperatures?

28daysredux425In what was essentially a combination of Scott Simmons’ #28daysofquicktips and my own AMA, I answered questions throughout the month of September last year on a daily basis. The PVC team wanted to rerun this series for our readers along with some new questions and answers, so stay tuned for a few entries at the end of the series which will take us past 28 days. Use the hashtag #28daysofinsights or email us at ask@www.provideocoalition.com if you want to help us build up some questions for a brand new series.

How often do you play around with color temperatures? Any insights or takeaways from your experiments?

A lot of the work I do doesn’t allow me to play that way because product colors have to be very specific. When I do get the chance, though, I go for it. One of my tricks when shooting in a daylight room without direct sun is to use tungsten practicals in the set and split the white balance between the two at 4100K or 4300K. Such an environment can normally look a little flat, but by creating pools of warm light inside a cool base fill I can quickly create depth and interest.


Mysteries of color and light

This works well with interiors that might otherwise be lit somewhat flat. For example, a bar interior may have lots of different colors of light in it, and those colors can help you define “zones” that help define where characters are in relation to each other.

I do like to play with colored fill. The effect is a bit like flashing film: the shadows get a lot of the color and the highlights get a little of the color. For example, if I key a scene with white light and put a chocolate gel on my fill light, the shadows will turn a rich deep orange but the highlights will pick up only a little of that warmth.

Colored fill light works well when filling from the key side, where I’ll use a soft source on the same side as the key to extend its wrap around an actor’s face. If my key is a little neutral or even cool, and the fill is warm, then not only do I get a wider range of tones across the face (bright to medium to dark, as key blends into fill and fill blends into shadow) but I get an array of hues as well. This may seem a little odd at first but if you pay attention to rooms lit by indirect daylight you’ll see this happen naturally, as whatever colored building or wall that you see out a window is coloring the bounced light that’s coming through the window, and two windows rarely see the same thing. It’s as if different hues are mixing in the air.

RED MX DCS chart

This is a DSC Chroma-du-Monde chart, which is probably the best designed broadcast color chart ever.



Art Adams | Director of Photography

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Have your own insight about what I’ve mentioned here? Feel free to comment below or send in a question by using the hashtag #28daysofinsights or emailing ask@www.provideocoalition.com


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Art Adams is a cinema lens specialist at ARRI, Inc. Before that, he was a freelance cinematographer for 26 years. You can see his work at http://www.artadamsdp.com. Art has been published in HD Video Pro,…