Why Proper Color Temperature Is So Important

29 July 2020
 Categories: Business, Blog

Among the many aspects of film color that you have to deal with is color temperature. This describes the warmth or coldness of how a scene looks, and it's based on the color temperature that you deal with when you buy lightbulbs. Color temperature is measured in Kelvins, and outside of film the term describes how yellowish to whitish (or bluish in some cases) the light is. Daylight is a whitish light in the middle of the scale, for example, and the higher the temperature, the cooler and bluer the light appears to be. In film, the wrong color temperature can make your film have the completely wrong atmosphere and create a really inharmonious picture.

Two Main Benchmarks

Color grading in film uses two specific temperatures as standards. These are 3200K and 5600K. As you can guess, 5600K is cooler and whiter than 3200K. The cooler, whiter light is more industrial, and using that for, say, a musical comedy could be jarring (unless that musical comedy took place in a starkly lit office). The warmer, yellower light may not well suited to film noir, for example, although in both of these cases, there are exceptions that totally depend on what the director is trying to convey to the audience. But in general, if you have a scene where you want a colder mood, you'd want a colder light.

Simply put, the wrong temperature will create the wrong mood. Viewers get a lot of cues from how the scene is set up visually, and light and color are major influences. Color grading is the step done after color correction (basically, you have to adjust the color so that everything looks normal and then readjust the color to create the atmosphere), so when you make these adjustments, you can't really blame a bad shot for bad color temperature. It's all in how you set up your color grading software.

Proper Grading for Temperature Is Usually in Between

Most of the time, you're going to end up with color temperatures in your videos that are between the 3200 and 5600 values mentioned previously. To reach the right temperatures, you need software that allows for not just easy grading but also easy undoing and redoing. Look for software with controls that are straightforward and that don't make things harder than they have to be.

Color grading is one step among many in video post-production, but it's a crucial step that can make or break your film. Be sure the software you use can give you the results you want. Contact services like Cinema Grade to learn more.