Film School Friday – Is color temperature a creative choice?

Color Temperature Episode Summary

In this episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill talk about color temperature on set and how it can impact your creative approach to a shot.

Color Temperature Episode Notes

Who is Kelvin and what are all these numbers? In this weeks episode we avoid talking numbers and instead talk about the impact color temperature has on the creative process.

“It’s definitely a creative decision.” – Bill Cornelius

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Color Temperature Transcript

Corey (00:00):

Welcome to film school Friday, I’m Corey.

Bill (00:14):

I’m bill,

Corey (00:15):

And together we host the InFocus podcast. Film School Friday is our special weekly episode where I get to quiz bill to see how much knowledge he’s retained from his years of film school. In this week’s episode, we’re talking about color temperature, but bill, before you start breaking out all your definitions and prepared a school me on Kelvin, the question is more around how do you leverage color temperature to enhance your creative process?

Bill (00:42):

So color temperature is a really big deal to me. And I don’t know if it’s because I come from a visual artists sort of background. I, I paint, I draw, I do things like that. So I’m very much into colors, watched a lot of cartoons growing up that sort of influenced me visually. So splashes of color and lots and lots of different color were always very appealing to me going into film and video. And so I’ve always tried to leverage color temperature in different ways to achieve something that’s visually striking or interesting and sometimes not necessarily practical. And in all respects, you know, that works in music videos, for example. And that’s a matter of, you know, combining a lot of warm tones and a lot of cool tones when it comes to temperature. Something I, I don’t personally like to see is one temperature flat across the board. That’s visually a little bit dull to me. I like to put a pop of, of a counter color temperature in there somewhere just to keep the eye going, just to keep that eye interested. And so I’ll sometimes for example, lighter room with warm tones, but light the windows with cool tones, very striking, cool tones. And sometimes even like, let’s say there’s a hallway, put some cool tones in the hallway and, you know, do that vice versa. A film that I can cite that does this to a great extent is a kiss kiss, bang, bang. It’s got Robert Downey Jr. And Val Kilmer. Yup. I think it came out in like, ’07 or something. There are some strong color temperatures to, to make the film more visually striking. You can go too far with that and make things look just bizarre and unnatural and crazy, which again works in the music video world a lot of times. So there is a limit I would say, you want to go easy on it and you want to mix up your temperatures as it works, I guess,

Corey (02:54):

Right. That’s probably similar to move beyond just the, the different shades of, white and you know, you start talking about complimentary colors and again, but like back to music videos, you see this often where maybe they’re a stereo tubes or different light movers, things like that, where you get wild and crazy colors, you get those compliment. And your approach is interesting in the sense that maybe you don’t necessarily subscribe to every light needs to be the exact same color temperature to match the setup. Maybe the camera color temperature doesn’t necessarily need to match the lighting temperature. But again, that’s, that’s a creative decision that you’re making it is leveraging color temperature to your benefit.

Bill (03:37):

It is. Yeah. It’s definitely a creative decision. I don’t recommend that style of approach if you’re doing corporate type work sit down, interviews, news, that sort of thing. Definitely stick to your white three-point lighting for something like that and make sure you white balance. But if, if you’re wanting to be a little more striking and you’ve got that flexibility to be more creative, mix wild with those temperatures, mix it up, mix it up. Okay, good. Anything else? I mentioned color temperature and music videos. And I, I know, I think that was really big and nineties music videos in particular was doing very striking, very contrast the color tones and temperatures within the same scene. Like you’d see someone you’d see your artists performing in the foreground with like bright blown out teal, but then the background would be red. Like it’d via just real striking images like that were really popular in the nineties. Right. That’s I would say there’s probably a market for some of that these days, but I would say that’s probably taken it a little too far and kind of the sensibilities of design and visuals these days. It’s probably going to come back around. It’s it’s a nice novelty to go that hard if you want to, but again, don’t do it if you’re doing a sit down interview cause that’s very bizarre. And is it going to be noticeable?

Corey (05:02):

Yeah. Everything has a time and a place, even your color temperature.

Bill (05:06):


Corey (05:07):

Got it. Perfect. All right. Well great job once again. I give you an a on this week pop quiz.

Bill (05:13):


Bill (05:14):

Do I get a pizza party past?

Corey (05:15):

Uh Nope. We’re not there yet. You gotta wait for that midterm.

Bill (05:18):

Ah, all right.

Corey (05:20):

Uh so that’ll about do it for film school Friday. Thanks for tuning in. Please make sure you feed your crew and we’ll catch you next time.

Bill (05:29):

See you later.

Corey (05:31):

We know you have plenty of podcast options. We appreciate you choosing us. Join us next week to hear me put Bill to the test. Once again, check us out And if you like what you heard today, go ahead and subscribe. We’ll be here when you get back.