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Why is the color of night or moonlight blue?

night blue history films filters cinematographers night effect moonlight tone

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#1 maniemjr

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 08:16 PM

Hi, I'm having a little research. Usually cinematographers or directors (ask) to use blue tone when lighting night scenes and moonlights effects. I believe it's a creative choice but some would make it their standard.

Personally, I don't want to use blue in lighting night/moonlight scenes unless it is a creative decision. I'm discussing about this with some of my friends. I want a little help in finding out the background behind it. Where did the idea came from? Who and what film started it? Any links and information about this?

Thanks.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 10:33 PM

The moon is reflecting the sun so it is daylight balanced, around 5600K, so compared to night sources like firelight or tungsten lamps, it is blue-ish, though your eye reads it as cooler but not a saturated blue, more of a steely or silvery blue-grey light.

But the main reason that moonlight is blue is that it is a symbolic color, a visual signal to the viewer that the scene is under moonlight -- this pre-dates cinema when even magic lantern slides would color night scenes blue, and then later, silent movies would tint night scenes blue. And for pre-electricity societies where the only artificial light source at night was fire, by comparison, moonlight would definitely feel colder in color.
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