Color palette in The Incredibles

Looking at the movie bar code of Incredibles doesn’t seem like anything useful at first glance, but trust me, there is a story hidden in those bars, so let’s take a closer look…

The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles (2004)

The first set of pictures is basically random selection of screenshots from the beginning of the movie. On the movie bar code (above), I marked it as a “PART 1”. These were the glory days of superheroes, fighting crime in the city and saving people’s lifes. And those glorious times are further depicted by the color palette. The colors used in the first few scenes are highly saturated – full of live and energy.

But then, there was the lawsuit against all superheroes in the city. They were forced to stop using their superpowers and fit in with the rest of the citizens. So Bob (one of the main superheroes) starts working at insurance company and experiencing the “normal” life.

The following set of pictures was taken after the lawsuit, marked as a “PART 2” on the movie bar code.

The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles (2004)

The colors are now desaturated and muted. The prevailing color from these scenes is grey/pale green/brown (also visible on the movie bar code above).

Hopefully you can see now, what happened in terms of color palette- from highly saturated colors at the beginning (saving people’s lifes, fighting crime, basically doing what superheroes are meant to do), to desaturated, pale and muted colors after the lawsuit (having a boring job and “normal” life).

In this case, the color palette was used to document change of Bob’s life, when he had to stop using his superpowers and get a “normal” job, but I can easily imagine using this change in color palette in various different situations – the most obvious one would be being with someone who you love and than losing him/her. Or… (type in the comments below).


P.S. If you’d be interested in other example of cinematic storytelling in Incredibles, here is an article I wrote back in February 2012.

P.P.S. The movie bar of Incredibles can be found here:

Establishing scene using sound in Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

As a small kid, I used to watch serial called JAG. I remember, that with each new scene, you would see a green text appearing in the lower left corner of the screen, telling you what time is it, place and location. It is a great way to establish the scene, but there is even better way.

Stories happen in time and place, which (both time and place) can be characterized by soundscape or acoustic environment. The acoustic environment can be created by sound effects, spoken word, music or all of these elements in combination. What is really important here is that it really doesn’t matter so much which elements will be used, but how they’ll be used and to which purpose.

For example, if you were to establish a movie scene using only acoustic environment (without any visuals), you’d probably think a lot about the sounds, which are really specific for the given time and location.


The sounds you’ll hear during the day will be probably much different from sounds you’ll hear during the night, the same holds true for seasons like summer or winter. Sound can also be used to establish time period as well, think of sounds of 19th century (steam locomotive)  or sounds of 1990’s (tape recorder).


Sound works also very well for establishing locations. You could for instance use sounds of drilling machine, cable crane etc., to establish a construction site. Or a dialogue between doctor and nurse to establish a hospital environment. Or music.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

At certain point in the movie, IMF team led by Ethan Hunt has to go to India. The scene starts with the picture above, but what’s interesting here is the music playing in the background.

You’ll hear light percussions, sitar and other instruments typical for eastern music. In other words, the music establishes the location, telling us that we are in India now.

If we come back to establishing scene (both time and place) using only sound, we have to mention also some drawbacks. This method works mostly only with general locations (like construction site, but not specific, or 19th century, but not a specific year). For example, it would be really hard to establish the place where I live using only sound, unless someone would mention the name in the dialogue.

Nevertheless, if you have the opportunity to establish the scene using sound, by all means do it, it’s cinematic!

Sounds of danger in The Incredibles

The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles (2004)

The movie revolves around heroes with super powers. They are called “Supers”. Once, they were seen as heroes and beloved by citizens, but due to several unfortunate deeds, they were told to fit in with the rest of the public and not to use their super powers anymore.

The central characters are father Bob, his wife Helen and their children Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack, all of them are supers. Bob has a boring job in an insurance company, so when he gets a message from a mysterious woman named Mirage, to stop a raging robot on a distant island, he doesn’t hesitate even one second and takes that job. However, the robot is controlled by an evil villain called Syndrome – lovelorn man, who once used to be Bob’s huge fan.

Meanwhile, Helen realizes, that her husband Bob is in danger and, together with her kids Violet and Dash, goes to rescue him. After they land on the island, Helen tells her kids, that if anything goes wrong, they are free to use their superpowers.

One of the key scenes in this movie is right when Helen and her kids separate. The kids are waiting in a cave, but suddenly there is a huge fire coming towards them and they have to leave immediately.

The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles (2004)

They found themselves in a jungle, soon discovered by an alarm system and in a moment, chased by Velocipods.

Randy Thom, sound designer of the movie, knew, that in order to make the chasing scene work, the Velocipods had to sound dangerous.

“The scene doesn’t work unless we think that those things are about to chew them up and spit them out any second.” [Randy Thom]

Nobody knows, how the Velocipod sounds like, but at least, there were some visual clues to that. They look like flying sources, with knives spinning around them – they fly, they are fast and they are life-threatening.

What Randy Thom did was that he thought initially about sounds, that evoke all of those above mentioned characteristics. Consequently, he came up with sounds of F1 racing cars, jet-bys, knives being sharpened and sharp pieces of metal rubbing against each other. All combined together in such a way, that on emotional level, the audience can feel the danger represented by the Velocipods.

Randy Thom is truly a great sound designer, he is focused on using sound as a storytelling device and he is willing to share his insight and knowledge.

If you want to read more about sound design in “The Incredibles”, I recommend you to read these two interviews with Randy Thom:

And if you want to learn more about Randy Thom, read the “Behind the Art” interview at and his articles at, these are golden!