Mood Lighting

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    The use of filters or digital post-processing to change the tint of the film. Common techniques include Color Wash.

    Sometimes, this is used to create a particular mood—a washed-out, desaturated look creates a bleak atmosphere, while bright colors seem "happy" and naturally inviting, and orange is used in "sunny" places such as deserts or beaches. Other times, it's used to emphasize two contrasting colors to look more appealing, usually blue and orange. Especially blue and orange.

    This is Older Than Television. Silent films used color tints to distinguish day and night, interiors and exteriors, and different moods.

    Unnaturally Blue Lighting is often a signature of science fiction works. When overused it can results in both glare and loss of detail in a scene.

    See also Hollywood Darkness. Real Is Brown—a brown tint applied to videogame graphics—is a subtrope. See also Post Processing Video Effects.

    Examples of Mood Lighting include:

    Media in General

    • More generally, it's a common trope in both film and television to shoot New York City through a blue filter to make it look depressing, gritty, and urban, and to shoot California through a yellow or red filter to make it look sunny and cheerful.
      • Sometimes the yellow or filter is to make it look sunny all right—but not cheerful, but hot, therefore depressing, gritty, and urban.


    • Nearly ALL adverts for holidays will have some kind of yellow tinge to give the impression that its sunny all the time.

    Anime & Manga

    • The red room attack scene in Soukou no Strain.
    • Some of the more serious scenes in Popotan have a red/orange tint to them. Most of them can be explained by the scenes taking place at sunset, but it happens so often that it's probably not a coincidence.


    • An example of using this technique well can be found in Soderburg's Traffic, where scenes in the US were shot with a blue filter and scenes in Mexico were shot through sienna.
    • The movie Sleepy Hollow was shot almost entirely with a creepy bluish filter to enhance the horror atmosphere of the setting. Only at the end when the threat is past does the filter shift to a warm color (ironically, in New York City...)
    • In The Matrix, scenes inside the Matrix are shot with a green filter, while scenes in the "real world" are shot with a blue filter.
    • The Adventures of Picasso uses this in the scene in Sirkkas home (from 3:10 and about one more minute), switching between full-colour and black-and-white.
    • Director Mario Bava was known for using colored lights—often in non sequitur shades of green or purple—to create a mood of unease.
    • The Mamoru Oshii film Avalon (film) has everything tinted brown, until one sequence which brings up the possibility that it's real and the rest of the film isn't. This possibility ends up not being true.
    • The entirety of the Mel Gibson gangster film Payback was seemingly shot in Chicago at the height of Blue Filter Season to emphasize how grim the film was. But an alternate director's cut version (Payback: Straight Up) reveals that most of the mood lighting was a post-production effect due to Executive Meddling.
    • The movie version of South Pacific is an infamous example of color tinting gone wrong, a mistake which haunted director Joshua Logan for the rest of his life.
    • Battlefield Earth overused color filters, as well as weird camera angles.
    • City of Angels (with Nicolas Cage) used a lot of sunset/sunrise tones.
    • Every shot in Sin City invokes this trope due to City Noir roots and the shot-for-shot nature of recreating a comic book in live action.
    • The film Thirteen, noted on the DVD commentary, was shot with warmer colouring when the girls are partying and colder, more stark lighting as things fall apart.
    • Christiane F is mostly green-tinged. This might be deliberate on the part of the film-makers (since it's about drug addiction), but it looks largely shot under fluorescent lights (in subway stations, etc.), due to budgetary restraints. This will give a green tint to film if not corrected with filters.

    Live Action TV

    • CSI: Miami seems to have incorporated another shows use of this trope in its Poorly-Disguised Pilot for CSI New York. When the camera focused on Mac Taylor (the NY character) it looked darker, while shots of Horatio Caine were brighter.
    • During the first season of Heroes, Mood Lighting was used to differentiate the different regions that the show took place in. New York was blue, Texas was gold, Nevada was bleached out, etc. This was dropped in the second season.
    • Used in the Firefly episode "Out of Gas" for flashbacks more than a day or two previous.
    • In Dexter, the kill scenes are usually shot with green gels on the lights to create a sickly or monstrous appearance for the character. In addition, bold red lighting is sometimes used in relation to kills.
    • Done frequently in Power Rangers to suggest an Alien Sky. The moon usually uses blue tinting, a volcanic planet uses red tinting, and in Power Rangers RPM, the earth post-nuclear Robot War uses a yellow tint.
    • Veronica Mars: One of the notable differences between the Season 4 pitch and the rest of the show was the drastic change in mood lighting. Neptune, Neptune High and Mars Investigations all had very orangey, red warm hues—whereas the FBI office Veronica was slated to work in was all white, blue and cool chrome.

    Video Games

    • Several video games use the graphics card to give the entire scene a certain lighting effect:
      • Crank up the visual treatment in Need for Speed Most Wanted, and you'll see how the entire world is seen through a yellow tint and a lens vignette effect to make it feel like a rough, gritty city during the day.
      • Likewise, if you turn on the Over Bright and the Enhanced Contrast in Need For Speed Underground 2, you'll see how the dark parts become darker while the light parts become glaring, in order to accentuate the shiny lights of the city and the cars.
    • What's your favourite Metal Gear level design - grey buildings with a blue tint (Metal Gear Solid), grey ship with a green tint (Metal Gear Solid 2), orange buildings with a green tint, averaging out to grey (Metal Gear Solid 2), green trees and buildings with a yellow tint (Metal Gear Solid 3), or brown brown with brown and a brown tint (Metal Gear Solid 4)?
    • Although the areas are often right next to each other, World of Warcraft colors the sky (and the artificial fog of the area if you don't have maximum distance set on your visual settings) of many of its areas to fit the type of area. For example, the sky is colored orange to fit a burnt or volcanic area, the Eastern and Western Plaguelands have a reddish-brown tint and yellowish-brown tint respectively to give off an infected, ravaged feel; and Shadowmoon Valley has a yellow-green sky to match the green lava of the area. And with Wrath of the Lich King comes Icecrown, which has gloomy dark blue lighting to match the pure ice wasteland. Thus moving past a zone border can turn previously-clear lakes to sickly green, for example.
    • In Psychonauts, this becomes a gimmick in one of the levels which takes place in a theater that plays the memories of Gloria Van Gouten. By using the lighting, one can induce Mood Whiplash upon the scene, changing it in order to progress.

    Western Animation

    • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack uses this a lot; for example, the colors on Cammie Island are much darker, in the morning are yellowish, and in the West are all red and black.
    • Used in Danny Phantom: During any ghost attack the scenery changes colors, usually to a dark blue, purple, or red—though with the other "ghost" powers on the show, it's plausible to Hand Wave it as an effect of ectoplasm on a human environment.
    • The Diet Coke and Mentos experiments have a strong blue tint to the video, although this does not extend to the sequel.
    • In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Tough Love", the city of Townsville turns a hellish red when everyone (sans the girls) is under HIM's control.