Lighting for Film & TV: Colour Correction Filters Pt 4: Effects

2 Dec


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Effects Filters: What They Do and How To Use Them

OK now you know the basics of colour correction filters let’s talk a little about effects filters. These differ from colour correction filters in that they are designed to create a specific mood when lighting a scene.

Now before we begin I just want to get something off my chest: a lot can be, and is done, in the grading stages of production to help bring out a visual style of a film/documentary BUT – it’s important to remember that lighting with a certain style in mind, i.e. lighting with purpose, will give you much greater results and much more to work with when you get into your grade.

effects_gels_thumbFor example: Want to enhance that backlight to make it bluer in the grade? If you’ve lit the scene with balanced “white light” you might find it hard to isolate the specific source you’re looking for. By having distinct colours in your raw footage it will allow you to select and enhance/desaturate elements quickly and easily in your grade. You can achieve this using gels or mixed colour temperatures. Make sense? Good. So let’s get to it.

In this blog I’ll show you three commonly  used gels to help:

i. Create Flattering Lighting
ii. Replicate Moonlight
iii. Replicate Sunset

So, what effects do colours have on an audience? Well, a rather large subconscious effect. For example in the film and TV industry if we are filming a show that is bright and cheerful such as a comedy sitcom or a chat show we use bright coloured filters such as yellows and ambers to light the set; this subconsciously portrays  a warm ‘feel good’ experience to the audience. On the other side of the spectrum (sorry no pun intended!) if we are lighting a gritty drama we use filters that give a colder, more aggressive feel, such as blue tints, to create a feeling of apprehension and expectancy for the audience.

There are literally hundreds of effects filters to choose from but today I want to talk about just a few that are frequently used, filters that you can easily apply to enhance the look of your lighting, and as a result your productions.

Flattering Lighting with “Cosmetic Rouge”
(Rocso filter ref 187)

Image:Courtesy Rosco Filters

Image: Courtesy of Rosco Filters

This is a personal favourite of mine, it’s used extensively in theatre lighting but also works perfectly in film and TV.

As the name Cosmetic Rouge suggests this filters enhances the facial flesh tones of film actors, TV presenters and interviewees to give their complexion a warmer, almost flawless look through the lens.

Demonstrating the effects of a cosmetic filter on the lights. Credit: ElenaGibson

Demonstrating the effects of a cosmetic filter on the lights. Credit: ElenaGibson

It can only be used with tungsten light, not used in conjunction with CTB filtration.

The added benefit of this filter is that it is quite dense so it not only enhances flesh tones but also softens the light source to prevent hard ugly face shadows that can often occur with a hard key light.
This filter is great for both documentary work and drama.


Replicate Moonlight with “Moonlight Blue”
(Rocso filter ref 183)

Image: Courtesy Rosco Filters

Image: Courtesy Rosco Filters

Again as the name suggests this filter is designed to recreate moonlight. This is a filter that is used extensively to light night scenes on TV drama and feature films and is commonly used to create moonlight backgrounds and backlights on actors. It can be used both with HMI’s and Tungsten lamps. When lighting actors, using this filter on the backlight and combining it with warm tungsten key on a dimmer and flicker box gives a beautiful blue/orange balance that creates an intimate effect that is ideal for camp fires, oil lamps and candle light.

Blue moonlight with a warm tungsten fill - a scene from the movie 'For whom the Bell Tolls' Author - Trailer screenshot

Blue moonlight with a warm tungsten fill – a scene from the movie ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’
Author – Trailer screenshot

Replicate Sunset with “Sunset Red
(Rocso filter ref 025)

Image: Courtesy Rosco Filters

Image: Courtesy Rosco Filters

This is an ideal filter if you are filming in an interior location and want to create the illusion of sunlight coming through a window or the deep orange colouration associated with a sunset. For best effect you need a fairly powerful light source such as a 2.5 or 4k HMI.  Position the HMI outside the building and focus the lamp through a window.

To recreate a realistic look always keep the light source quite low to replicate the sun on the horizon. Using a slatted Gobo in front of the lamp will add to the effect by re creating a partially opened venetian blind, or simply focusing the lamp through trees or shrubs that may be outside the window will give a beautiful dappled lighting effect.

This filter can be used on both HMI’s and Tungsten light sources preferably lamps with a Fresnel lens so you can focus the light accurately.

Tip: If you can’t get hold of Sunset Red you can also use a Full CTO to great effect.

Sunset through a window!Image Credit: Steve F

Sunset through a window!
Image Credit: Steve F

So I hope all that makes sense. It’s all fairly simple really, but having the clarity on how your image looks is of huge importance. Don’t go into a production without clearly knowing what you want from it. Sure things might change along the way, you might get new ideas/suggestions and by all means, feel free to be flexible… but a cardinal sin in lighting is to light “blindly” – to light without intention… to “illuminate”. You’re not there to make sure the audience can see everything in your frame, you’re there to tell a story. That means using your framing, using your blocking and using LIGHT. Don’t be afraid to be bold with your lighting, nobody likes a bland, dull looking movie (unless of course that reflects the scene!). Be creative and try something new.

Film Camera CourseI actually run a course/do a talk on Lighting and Cinematography so click the link or get in touch, if you’re interested in coming and learning in person! (SHAMELESS PLUG)

If you’ve enjoyed this article please share it with your friends. It means a huge amount and it’s quick and easy. I’m on facebook and twitter if you want to ask me any questions.

Kind Regards,


Free Spirit Film & TV
Film, TV & Online Video Production.

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