Colour Theory in KPOP Music Videos Part One

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This was made as an original post I contributed to a community with an already established understanding of KPOP but a limited understanding of music video concept. Re-sharing it here because the content is something I'm really proud of!

If you don't know much about KPOP as an industry you can watch a great primer created by VOX on Netflix! You don't have to know much about the industry, the language, or the culture to follow along with concepts in this post.


~In This Post~

There are a few ways colour is specifically used in film and music videos but for the sake of this post we're focusing on specific obvious colour symbolism. Colour used very intentionally to drive the plot or to really say "hey this thing is important that's why it's in this colour" because otherwise it could take a month to write out and breakdown all the uses. i got time right now but not that much time

These aren’t the best of the best examples for this but they are the best examples to show the concepts visually for the sake of this post as an intro to filmmaking colour theory. TW: mentions of death in the red section (nothing relating to suicide or any IRL deaths)

~What Is Colour Theory~

Because I started to have film school war flashbacks while trying to write out a good explanation of Colour Theory here's a quotes passage about it instead:
"Color can affect us emotionally, psychologically and even physically, often without us becoming aware. Color in film can build harmony or tension within a scene. Bring attention to a key theme. And that’s just the start.
When telling a story, colors: Elicit psychological reactions, Draw focus to significant details, Set the tone of the movie, Represent character traits, Show changes or arcs in the story." - STUDIO BINDER

Every department responsible for how a video looks or what goes on screen, from producer/directors and designers down to stylists and editors, are all constantly thinking about how colour works within a frame.

Further Info If You're Interested: Lilly Seara's Colour Psychology | FilmInTheMaking Colour Theory

It's Not Always That Deep: Sometimes the approach is as simple as what looks nice together or what fills in a scene and gives a certain emotion or impression. The colour doesn’t drive the plot but adds to what else is being told visually. All of Blackpinks videos for example or NCT127’s Touch because there’s not a lot of symbolic meaning behind why colours were chosen but when paired with the material giving off a sensory feeling.


☀️YELLOW☀️

Yellow symbolically is used to imply wisdom, knowledge, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope but it can also be used to convey dishonesty, cowardice, betrayal, and illness.

EXO ☀️ UNIVERSE

Taking place in a stripped down set meant to represent an art gallery and cafe, the deep yellows and beiges of the strings, ropes and clothing, are used to highlight the bonds between people and how they can become complicated (a tangled mess), secure (solid knot), or break.

BTS ☀️ SERENDIPITY

This one's probably the most obvious use! The bright yellows used throughout the MV represent memories of youth and optimism. Even down to Jimin's hair being the shade of blonde it is for this was important to the story itself. Even the cutaway shots with Jimin singing to camera are lit with yellow and clean lighting.

LUNA ☀️ NIGHT REMINISCIN'

This is a more subtle use of yellow because it's made to look like natural indoor lighting instead of glaringly yellow light but with the song being about thinking over a past relationship you can see that certain spots in the apartment light up as if to signify a memory about the relationship.

⛔️RED⛔️

Red symbolically is used to convey anger, desire, strength, power, heat, love, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, and violence. Coincidentally Red is used to mean almost the exact same thing across all three MVs but is presented differently in each.

RED VELVET ⛔️ PEEK-A-BOO

A coven of murderous witches girl group members killing pizza boys in los angeles. Red's used here on anything that causes harm/death or is about to be harmed/die. Weapons, candles, clothing, nail polish, and of course the pizza boys outfit. Even the missing persons poster at the end is highlighted in red to make sure viewers understand it's related to RV. The house itself when it's shown from the outside has red lighting being painted onto it.

GAIN ⛔️ CARNIVAL

In Carnival red still symbolizes death but it's used purely on someone who has died. Ga In's clothing, accessories, and even hair is red...but no one else is seen wearing it unless they're stylized to also look like her. The use of red also signifies in viewers brains which clips are pre and post the death happening.

TAEMIN ⛔️ FLAME OF LOVE

I know it's technically a Japanese release but red's used really beautifully here in a similar way to Ga In where red is related to the accident and death. Red is basically the only colour in this video and shows up as red roses and a phoenix - which are all symbols that can be tied back to love and rebirth/renewal which visually push the plot along of a couple in a car accident and the man unable to cope with losing his partner.

🌺PINK🌺

This one's that's a bit more complex compared to the other examples but it's one I always come back to and its use is really great because it crosses between two music videos instead of being contained to the one. Visually pink is used to convey innocence, young romance, playfulness, softness, and most often for femininity.

SUNMI 🌺 GASHINA

In Gashina, pink is only used in scenes where Sunmi is seen performing acts directly scene as being feminine. She's either wearing it, it's a key decor component or she's lit with it. The title card is even pink but as soon as Sunmi's performance changes to something "un-womanly" (acting out, performing really coldly or showing her temper) pink is completely removed from the shot, the only exception being the pink outfit at the end dance number which is...not 'lady like' by any stretch of the imagination.

SUNMI 🌺 HEROINE

Pink comes back once she falls back in line. This continues in the Heroine video as well...Pink only shows up when she's acting out a couple/drama scene but as soon as she walks out of frame you never see pink again. idk y'all i really just love the commentary sunmi and her team are making