How Color Plays with Emotion
Mozart had the notion that each musical note corresponds to a specific color. He assigned the note A to the color red and did each accordingly. This is far from true as each color has the complete range of octaves repeating throughout the spectrum. This is mathematics and can be supported or refuted with scientific evidence but when it comes how color plays with emotion it becomes more subjective. However, film has a history of playing with vivid colors to evoke specifically desired emotions to create the mood of the scene. Let’s look at a few of the powerful colors that harken a desired emotional response by the viewer so you can add to avoid this in your next project.
Our modern association of red comes to us from medieval art. We see red as an evil color from paintings of the devil and Judas in red. In early Byzantine paintings, the devil was always in blue but a thousand years has re-associated it. Despite your religious and cultural orientation, red is a powerful color and conjures up passionate ideas, sometimes violent from the imagery of blood and often romantic ideas for the same reason. If the scene is set with large amounts of red in the background or by use of filters then it causes an aggressive reaction in the viewer’s mind. It is a warning sign for some immediate danger that might be about to occur. This might be exactly what you want to use but also consider a more clear or muted background with a touch of red added in to invigorate the environment.
Green is broken into a dreary green like those on an early computer screen which conjure up ideas of sickness or confusion as seen in the films The Twilight Zone, The Matrix, or Flatliners. It is a color that can create a repulsive emotion and a desire to be relieved from it. This is particularly useful when trying to create the idea of a situation that must be repealed, possibly through some new product or revealing idea. The other side of green is the vicissitude of life. The green of plants makes the viewer feel the life of the planet flowing inside them and smile. Here is a fun trick: where do you see a dollar bill fitting in between these two?
This is a color long associated with sadness and melancholy. Comedian Neal Brennan used a blue spotlight in his Netflix comedy special to discuss his personal issues of depression then jumped to another mic with a white light to show his bi-polar issues. While there is sadness associated with blue there is also a clean hope that comes from it as well as relaxing tone that can sooth the audience after a particularly jarring or violent moment.
Orange, Yellow, and Purple
These colors invite a sense of playfulness to the scene. While purple remains the one associated with mystery, orange leaves something to the imagination and can be a precursor to red or move into the soothing and innocent elements of yellow.