Getting Color Temperature Right

Watching movies and plays has long been a form of distraction and fascination for viewers. There’s something magical about productions from the acting to the music to the color scheme. Many famous directors like to use color theory to enhance more subtle themes of the narrative. Famous directors like Wes Anderson and Christopher Nolan use specific colors to achieve specific tones. What many people don’t realize is that theatrical lighting plays a significant role in color theory. Here is a breakdown of how to use different color temperatures for your productions.


Color temperature is measured in the unit Kelvin. Temperatures classified as hot range from 1700 K to 3350 K. At 1700 K you get a light similar to that emitted from the flame of a match. It’s very orange and can be used to display warmth or excitement in a scene. By 3350 K, the color becomes slightly more yellow. You can achieve this look with studio CP lights.


The color temperatures considered warm range from 5000 K to around 6000 K. These colors can give a scene the look of daylight. If you’re filming a scene that takes place in the daytime but filming is scheduled at night, these temperatures can help recreate the time of day you need. Warm theatrical lighting it useful to give off a feeling of freshness in a scene.


It’s ironic that you need the hottest temperatures to achieve the coldest form of lighting. Cool color temperatures fall between 6200 K and 27000 K. To create lighting similar to that of an overcast sky, set your lights at 6500 K. Cool color temperatures can create ominous and dreary undertones in a scene. It helps to play with emotions in the viewers even if the scenes aren’t inherently emotional.

There’s little you can’t do with manipulation of theatrical lighting. Hot, warm, and cool lighting can be used to affect the emotion and tone of the scene. For any questions with lighting for your production, contact APS Lighting at 603-424-9198 or visit us online.

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