Present the results of your Special Subject Investigation to a group of your peers. The style, length, size and method of your presentation will be negotiated with your supervisor throughout the process. Some examples are as follows:

  • A written Dissertation
  • A Masterclass or lecture
  • A Multi-Media Website
  • An Interactive DVD/Blu Ray
  • A Showreel accompanied by a Supporting Booklet
  • Etc



Above is the final product of my SSI Report. I decided to make a video rather than just writing a paper because for the topic that I choose it is better as you can see the visuals and hear the added voice over instead of just reading it. I downloaded the 3 films that I analyzed in the video along with some extras like behind the scenes footage of Prometheus and Then I imported them and edited the video using Adobe Premier Pro CS3 and CS6. Below is the voiceover and the references I used.


In this video I’ll be examining a few of Ridley Scotts films that he’s directed throughout the decades, and I’ll be taking a closer look at his lighting style as well as the use of color palettes chosen for these films. In films, lighting and color palettes are usually intentional and are controlled on set during production. First I’ll briefly discuss what they both are.

Lighting a shot is an art, and is a very essential to filmmaking and with many different techniques to light a shot; there are numerous atmospheric outcomes to be gained. Just like light does, shadows play a prominent role in filmmaking, and its with these shadows we get a sense of feel for what directors are trying to accomplish in their films.

Color Palettes are a limited number of specific colors, which are used in a film to convey various aspects of character and story to the viewer. They visually can communicate emotion as well as also connote things symbolically. Color Palettes consist of many aspects starting with pre production with the set design, costumes, props, and in post-production with color grading to finesse the final image.

First I’ll be looking at the color palette and lighting techniques in one of his earlier films, the sci-fi blade runner. This film is praised for the amount of dedication, which Ridley Scott and cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth went into, to light each of the scenes. The film takes place in a futuristic 2019 dystopian Los Angeles. During the majority of the movie a major theme is the non-stop rain that doesn’t seem to end, and this is to show a sense of despair, pollution, and creates ambiance throughout. Scott uses ample amounts of florescent neon in this film. Such as in clubs, or on building store fronts, but famously know for the umbrella poles which seems a bit dangerous in the rain but it cannot be denied, it looks cool.

This scene however when the main character Deckard interrogates the replicant Rachael in Tyrell’s corporation, is one of the only scenes when the sun is quite present. While most of the movie has a mysterious blue tinge, this scene is quite the opposite with a warmish yellow feel to it. In this shot Deckard is lit from the back casting a halo effect around him, which suits his protagonist role. Deckard then ironically states “its too bright in here”, the shade is pulled down and the mysterious blue tinted lighting then comes back. This lights Deckard from the front and Rachael from behind. However in this film we rarely see peoples face completely lit. Such as on Deckard’s face after his test on Rachael, half his face is strongly light from the side while the other half is cast with shadows.

The color palette throughout this film is mainly a combination of the two complimentary colors yellow and blue. Like here where Deckard is wrapped in a blue blanket and his apartment ceiling is a tad yellowish, then looking out from his balcony there are loads of yellow and blue neon lights in the distance. Then we cut to Pris who is roaming the streets, and again we see the same color palette. Yellow construction stripes, and blue streetlights, even the police lights on the cop car are blue and yellow.

However in this scene “ Scott uses candlelight, or some suggestion of it, to illuminate Tyrell’s very ornate room, this gives everything a redness that fits with the moment when Batty arrives and destroys his maker. The room becomes more of a cave than some swish apartment in a mega skyscraper.” This is very different from the yellow and blue colors typically used in the film, but the red glow from the candles is very appropriate for this scene and definitely suits and goes well with the blood caused by the eerie eye gouging part.

“ In this film light can represent illumination, and also invasion and interrogation.” But it’s with the use of these lights that Scott gives us those subtle highlights and magnificent shadows that gives blade runner its distinct look and feel to it.

Next we’ll move on to one of Ridley Scott’s debatably most famous known film, Black Hawk Down. Which is based on the battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993. Scott worked together with Polish cinematographer Slawomir Idziak to give this film a tremendous color palette that breaks most of the normal conventions for war films. One thing they do stick too for modern war movies is the beach-bypass look was done by color grading in post. This makes for a dirty gritty feel for the image, which has high contrast and really desaturated look to it.

The landscape of Somalia’s dessert is a brownish orange not a typical golden sand color, which implies a sense of distraught and danger. Black tire smoke is a common theme in this film, which contaminates the sky and connotes trouble.

Compare this to the steel barracks that the US soldiers are stationed in. They are light by cool blue halogen lights, which suggests coldness and unfamiliarity. However this is another example of the normal conventions broken. Usually warm tones show a calming and relaxed atmosphere but not in this film.

This scene is when a soldier calls his wife before going out on the mission. It is color graded in postproduction for a very desaturated look. There is hardly any color in any of these shots compared to the rest of the film. Its almost feels like it’s a dream of something in the past, that’s too far out to grab. This is done to show the vast amount of distance between the soldiers and their loved ones back at home and to convey emotion about the soldier’s lives that they left, to come serve for their country.

Then when the soldiers enter the brightly lit Mogadishu, the mission begins. That’s when all the trouble starts and the nice warm orangey tones that usually are supposed to be comforting are now dangerous. The interesting conventions to this color palette are flipped around and are not what viewers are used to.

After tremendous gunfire, lots of gory bloodshed, and a couple black hawks down. Some of the soldiers find shelter in an abandoned building because they are the first to start setting up a perimeter for the first black hawk down. Here we have another cool blue lighting scheme. The lighting is coming through the windows and the holes in the walls. Since we again have a blueish tone here we know that the soldiers are somewhat safer here than outside with the enemies in the brownish orange heat.

With the mission taking longer than expected day starts to turn to night and instead of a traditional blueish moonlight Scott has chosen to take a completely different approach by making it eerie green. There are no blue tones present here. Which suggests that the safety is once again gone. The constant explosions and numerous fires provide an excellent source of light and create warm orange tones, which again represent danger.

The soldiers fight through night and into dawn, which happens to be blue. Safety is returning once again. The soldiers are left to run back to base on foot, as there is not enough room in the convoys. This is last stretch before making it safe and sound back to the base and as soon as they arrive there the color palette returns to regular conventions and everything turn backs to its normal hue.

Finally we’ll look at one of Ridley Scott’s more recent film, Prometheus. Scott shot this film in 3D on a prototype Red cinema camera with polish cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. Prometheus is based in the future and is about a team of explorers and their expedition to a planet far away to discover new life. Although the story plot isn’t amazing, the visuals undoubtedly are.

In this scene, the explorers are getting briefed on their mission by characters Peter Weyland and Vickers who are funding the expedition. Notice how the colors of their suits are visually consistent with the background and fit in perfectly. This is because the wardrobe choices were made to work thematically with all the colors of everything on set.

Then in this scene we see the reoccurring yellow and blue color palette again, that Scott seems to like so much. Motion graphics were used to simulate a holographic computer operating system. Its glows a strong limeish yellow color and has other small images on it most of which are a complementary light blue.

Or in this scene where the main character Shaw is speaking to the captain of the ship. The lighting from this room gives off strong yellow tones with subtle hint of blue from their suits and the monitors on the cabinets. The yellowish tone here is very strong but compared but the cool blue lighting in the hallway this separates the two different areas as well as works together with the color palette.

Another example is the video camera interface from the characters spacesuits that relays back to their ship are also yellow and blue. Or how about the spacesuits themselves? They are a dark blue and attached inside the helmets, are bright florescent yellow lights. Beside the color palette, this was because most of the big sets were lit minimally because they wanted loads of mysterious shadows. This is why they are holding flashlights most of the time and these helmet lights would also allow the viewer to see the characters faces.

In this scene where David is talking to Dr. Holloway, from the behind the scenes footage we can tell these shots are light from many different places including from above as well as from behind with the bright lights on the wall. It is well light but compared to the shots from the movie it seems really dark. This was done by colorist Steven Nakamura in postproduction by crushing down the blacks with color grading software Davinci resolve. He also enhances colors with more saturation to both of their green shirts and the blue from the pool table.

Ridley Scott’s lighting technique and use of color palette differs from film to film. Depending on the atmosphere or mood he trying to create he does this by his unique lighting style and use of shadows. He also use colors palettes to break conventions and tell a story of its own. Even though it takes many people to work to get his film made, Ridley Scott is definitely an auteur because he is a dedicated director and does an extensive amount of preparation for his each one of his films.


Clark, James (2002). Ridley Scott. London: Virgin Books LTD. pg 66-69

Radulescu, Roxy . (2012). Ridley Scott Week. Available: Last accessed 5th May 2014.

Botkin, Isaac. (2009). Color Theory for Cinematographers. Available: Last accessed 5th May 2014.

Parrill, WIlliam (2011). Ridley Scott, A Critical Filmography. North Carolina: MacFarland and Company INC. 108-115.

Taboada, E. (2013). Recreating the Shot: a Lesson in Lighting Through ‘Blade Runner. Available: Last accessed 5th May 2014.


Unit 2 Criteria: 3.1, 3.2 & 3.3 and Unit 4 Criteria: 3.1