In order to truly grasp the importance of color saturation in film media, it’s helpful to see it in action. Pay close attention to the videos, television shows, movies, and music videos you watch, and notice how their saturation intensity correlates to their tone.
There are countless ways to tell a cohesive story with saturation. Take a look at the list below for inspiration.
- My Fair Lady – Great filmmakers have known since the beginning that saturation is an extremely powerful tool. The production team of the 1964 film My Fair Lady, led by director George Cukor, utilized a desaturated, monochrome palette during the musical number “Ascot Gavotte.”
The visual switch up from the cool greens and warm browns of the streets of London and Henry Higgins’ study to cold and calculating black and white demonstrated a serious shift in the social strata. With stiff, stylized choreography and spectacularly crafted monochrome costumes, this scene remains a clear example of the creative use of desaturation.
- Wes Anderson’s repertoire – Wes Anderson is famous for his use of bright, saturated color to deliver drama and whimsy. Just think about the achingly red beanies in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou to the subtly nostalgic sepia tones of Moonrise Kingdom.
Anderson honors color properties (including saturation) in all of his films. His palettes have greatly contributed to his success as a filmmaker (just ask his seven academy awards).
- Corpse Bride – From a bird’s eye view, the individual frames of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride come together to form a lush landscape of saturated blues and greens. Channeling the vibe of a dewy woodland lake, Burton’s typical emo palette gains a touch of extra romance and melancholy in this stop-motion classic.
Never one to sacrifice fun, Burton also incorporates highly saturated purples, inky dark blacks, and sharp and spooky whites, proving his mastery of color.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – Director George Miller encouraged his editing team to experiment with the color grading on Mad Max: Fury Road. He had only one requirement: the film was to stay ultra-saturated, achieving the opposite effect of the washed-out look that was trending at the time.
Fury Road bagged Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Production design (along with six other wins and even more nominations). Audiences and critics alike appreciated the film’s bright and unusual color palette, which balanced the grim plot content and spoke to the resilience of the central characters.
Keep in mind as you work with color that editing with an intentional hand can set you apart from the rest. Don’t just settle on trendy palettes and intensities—consider the hues and the levels of saturation and desaturation that will help you convey the emotion of your story.
With Runway’s intuitive saturation tool and video templates, it’s easy to experiment with color saturation to create a meaningful, memorable aesthetic. Try the effect today and leave your viewers raving for years to come.