Class notes – Aesthetics [COLOUR!!!]

Start thinking about colour!

The balance of colours in the film is really important. Where does the audience look? How does the colour affect that? You have to think about where you’re trying to make the audience look – draw the eye. Colour will help draw the eye – characters standing out or not from a backgr0und for example. Lighting and other things should be considered but colour is also a very important part of it as well!

Pick your colour palette – keep it simple and don’t over complicate it!

  • Red and Green (wes anderson films) (browns and muddy reds – natural earthy colours) (amelie)
  • Orange and teal/ turquoise (used a lot in movies) (action films) (brave) (lion king)
  • Muted palettes – greys,black and whites. Washed out colours.
  • Purple and yellow


Its a pretty terrible video in many ways but these guys take a look at colour in the movies:


These guys talk about the orange/teal colour palette and its overuse in the movies at the moment. There are many movies that adopt this colour scheme – you could say it’s overused as it’s certainly used on many productions that i’ve personally seen in the past few years. They conclude that directors, etc have lost originality. (The sounds production on this video makes some of what they say hard to hear, but they do mention this topic and i couldn’t find the better video that i watched that went over the overuse of orange teal in the industry at the moment.) Anyway…


This is an image from Paranormans development/design work. The orange and teal palette is used and the orange is quite dark compared to the light teal where the character is headed to and where the audience’s eye is being drawn.

Palettes contain many colours – but there are dominant colours.


This is a movie barcode for the film Bambi. (They) take every frame from a movie, skew it to be only a pixel wide and lines them up in a row, creating a barcode-like image of the entire film. [1]

How well does the black and white skunk stand out when Bambi first meets him in the predominantly yellow flowerbed? Or Bambi’s bright orangey hue against the pale greens of the forest behind him? All these things are planned out to the most minute detail to make sure that the viewer can clearly see what is happening on screen.

They make the point that characters have to stand out from their backgrounds so that the audience can see whats going on easily and follow the story without problems.




Finding Nemo



These barcodes are fascinating, and can give us some idea of colour – but studying the colour palettes of movies, like the ones below, may give more insight…


Movie Colour Palettes:

Spirited Away – Studio Ghibli (Japanese animation) This animation has a pretty equal range of darker to lighter colours. It has a red/blue colour palette.


A scene from Monsters inc (Orange and teal/turquoise/green are the main colours here – the characters stand out against the orange background.


Ponyo – Another Studio ghibli movie. seems to be a very light film – not as much contrast. The reddy/pink against the greeny/blue is the main colour palette.


UP – Pixar

There are a lot of resources online at for movie production art, etc. here’s is some colour stuff from the movie Up.


I could lose myself forever looking at this stuff, here’s a couple more images from movies, colour references for artists that are made before they begin making the film..



How to train your dragon:

color httud.jpg


Mary Blair – worked on Alice in wonderland, Sleeping beauty – she was an original disney background artist and produced some amazing work in the films and the theme park (disneyland).


Animator Marc Davis, who put Blair’s exciting use of color on a par with Henri Matisse, recalled, “She brought modern art to Walt in a way that no one else did. He was so excited about her work.” [2]


She knew how to use colour and space to the maximum effect when creating art.

“Mary Blair was a fine art water colorist. She had this real classical background to her work so that when she did the fantasy she had a sophistication to her work that belied the naiveté of the work itself. Her work is often called ‘childlike’ but the technique behind it is anything but,”  said Canemaker. [3]

John Canemaker was professor and head of animation at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and was the author of ‘The Art and Flair of Mary Blair.’

He also talks about the fact that Mary was a concept artist, her job was to make what the writers came up with into something real. To create the visual world for the story, the characters, world, backgrounds, colours, everything!

i’m sure she did’nt work alone but her influence is clear in the films she worked on.

The director of Monsters inc says that before every time they start a project they look at Mary Blair stuff to inspire them.

They look at her for ideas for color, shape, designs, and imaginative possibilities. She’s still a big influence on children’s book illustrators. Many of them admire her so much and they still consider her an inspiration. She’s, in fact, almost bigger than she ever was when she was alive.” [3]


Google did a search bar to commemorate Mary and her work, so millions of people around the world would have seen that.

She was also a children’s illustrator and even though you might not realise it, she probably worked on something you grew up watching or reading, and something you loved. She is a familiar style, even if you didn’t know it!






Eyvind Earle – Eyvind Earle was an American artist, author and illustrator, noted for his contribution to the background illustration and styling of Disney animated films in the 1950s.

He has a really iconic style as well, and produced some incredible landscapes during his lifetime. His work can reach such a grand scale and can seem so huge – and his use of space is obviously great.



Self-narrated biographical videos, from childhood to disney work and beyond – featuring his artwork (in three parts):

I believe it is our cosmic destiny that we are miniature suns. We follow in the footsteps of god. We are creators, art is creating. So much does the beauty and truth in our work manifest. Art is the search for truth. Art is another word for life and life is infinite.

Website –


‘The Renter’ – John Carpenter (website:

The colour used in this film is really interesting – it’s dark and the film is a bit disturbing and moody – it sets a feeling throughout the film. The child is afraid, i think, and sees everything going wrong even when it isn’t, although to be fair they probably witnessed their first chicken murder so its not surprising they were a little affected by it. Being in a weird new place with strange untalkative people wouldn’t help either.

The opening shot of this film is beautiful. We are a passenger in a car, looking out the window. We see trees pass by and what might be a lorry – the art style hints at shapes and as the car is moving fast the objects outside are already blurry and more formless. The clouds and reflections of light work really well and the scene draws us into the animation.

So this animation has a muted colour palette and also a messy unfinished style. At one point the cloud has been drawn in full and you see it through the wall – it’s over the top of the inside wall somehow – defying physics – but still working and looking great!! I noticed it and yet it never affected my enjoyment of the video.

Lots of darkness in this film, and black is used throughout.

Matthew Walker – ‘John and Karen’

A short animation about a polar bear apologising to his penguin love interest. It has a muted colour palette. Its a good animation to look at when thinking about my ideas for the internal monologue animation – with a range of emotional responses, some very subtle and brilliant. The penguin will not let the polar bear apologie easily – he must go into it and explain things until she is satisfied he is actually sorry/remorseful.

I’m a monster – red/blue and orange/green are used in this animation. the orange monster standing out against the blue/green backgrounds. The shadows are blue and the light is orange.


Class notes – Visual Grammar

There are many elements to a story, and when you are trying to tell a story they are things you must consider first. The script, sound, music, visuals. We discussed and explored some of them in class today. The plot, character and dialogue are all important to the script, they are the bones of the piece. And if they are the bones though, there are many other elements or body parts that make up the whole animal..

When it comes to sound you can vary volume, bass, treble and sound effects. The music can be broken down into the instruments, notes and melody. All of which can complement or jar with a scene, character, etc. When it comes to the visual there is a lot to consider; space, line, tone, shape, colour, light, movement and rhythm.

When it comes to lighting we can control what is in the frame – what will be lit, and the light itself. Objects and textures will have different reflective properties – how you play with exposure will be an important element to controlling the tone.

Coincidence and no coincidence is the relationship between the tonal balance of the shot and the subject of the shot – like a character stepping out of a shadow into the light. Using the different between those two ranges to reveal the subject.

You can use tone to show contrast or affinity –  this is often true for all the elements.

Colour: Hue, saturation, value (brightness). In animation you have total control of what is in the frame so all these elements should be considered when decided what goes into each frame/animation.

When thinking about Movement we have to think about the object, camera, and the viewers point of attention.

With Object movement – focus on Direction, Quality, Scale, Speed.

And with Camera movement look at the direction, scale, and speed of the camera. The cuts between shots are important as well and the camera movement combined with the right cuts can be very effective when telling a story. Chase scenes are normally good examples of where filmmakers will use movement to its full to tell the story.

A camera pan is a 2D movement, movement is at a uniformed rate. Track is a 3D movement because it has scale – things closer change scale quicker than those further away.

Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. The term is derived from the Greek word παράλλαξις (parallaxis), meaning “alteration”. [1]


Point of attention – where the viewer looks and why they might look there. Movement and brightness are what the eyes are drawn to. The viewer’s attention will move within a shot and also from shot to shot.

Rhythm. We can only discern a rhythm between its silence and a beat. Its that repetition that allows us to identify it is a pattern and tempo allows us to tell the changes to that rhythm.

How things enter and exit the frame, moving in front of each other, changing direction, starting and stopping.

Every frame a painting – Akira Kurosawa : Composing movement

When you’re judging a shot what’s the first thing you look for? Movement! Shots have visual interest with the weather elements that Kurosawa uses in most of his shots.Even with a still subject the frame is still visually interesting with the movement of rain or snow, etc. Kurosawa using individual movement in a bit of an exaggerated style. Every camera move has a very clear beginning, middle, and end. Kurosawa cuts on movement – the audience is focused on movement and the rhythm is changed to keep them guessing.

When animating a character, how are they feeling? Can movement help to convey that to the audience. What about other objects in the frame, how can their movement enhance the shot? For kurosawa lots of variation and subtlety is key, matching the right motion with the emotion can lead to some amazing cinema.

George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola all called Akira Kurosawa “The Master.” [2]

I was reading a random blog (it’s in my references) about Kurosawa and came across this video of the man himself giving advice to aspiring filmmakers:

He says if you want to make films – write screenplays. You only need a pencil and paper. It is not easy though, and takes hard work. Patience is essential (even more so for animators imo!) You cant create something nothing – you must have something inside yourself -so live and experience and read and explore.

I suppose when you are writing a screenplay you must considers all the different elements of the piece and what will work and write it down – you must create that world and put yourself in it – and the more you do it the more realistic the world will appear to the audience and yourself.


 Wes Anderson – Mise en scene and the visual themes of wes anderson

What it adds up to be is always sort of a surprise, you know, even if you planned every thing, when you add it up it’s never what you quite expected because you never could quite fully picture it. -Wes Anderson

I think here Wes Anderson is talking about how he worries about all the smaller elements, he knows those elements and what is needed/ what eh wants, but its very difficult to imagine all those components and how they will work – he knows that they will work.


Wes Anderson goes on to say he is drawn to long takes – seeing the actors play the scene through – not having cuts, like the theatre, it creates a tension and excitement. He uses a flat look to create a sort of storybook feeling, almost a theatre set look in his movies.

Wes actually made an animated movie adaptation of the Roald dahl book – Fantastic Mr Fox. And btw its brilliant! It seems that Wes is turning his attention back to animation with an upcoming film about dogs! From imdb it is starring Bryan Cranston (malcolm in the middle, breaking bad), Edward Norton (Fight Club, American history X ), Bill Murray (Groundhog day, Zombieland) and Jeff Goldblum (independence day, Jurassic park). [3 & 4] So get hype people!



1a-“Parallax”. Oxford English Dictionary (Second ed.). 1989. Astron. Apparent displacement, or difference in the apparent position, of an object, caused by actual change (or difference) of position of the point of observation; spec. the angular amount of such displacement or difference of position, being the angle contained between the two straight lines drawn to the object from the two different points of view, and constituting a measure of the distance of the object.