The decision by the city of Los Angeles last year to replace its high-pressure sodium streetlights—known for their distinctive yellow hue—with new, blue-tinted LEDs might have a profound effect on at least one local industry. All of those LEDs, with their new urban color scheme, will dramatically change how the city appears on camera, thus giving Los Angeles a brand new look in the age of digital filmmaking. As Dave Kendricken writes for No Film School, “Hollywood will never look the same.”
Kendricken specifically uses Michael Mann’s 2004 film Collateral as his example of a movie that relied heavily on the depiction of Los Angeles at night. Mann deliberately set the film in L.A.—actually relocating it to L.A. from NYC, where it was originally going to be filmed—not only due to the narrative mechanics of the screenplay but because of the particular color tones of the city’s nocturnal streetscape and how they would appear when shot with digital cameras.
Mann’s well-known urban aesthetic, and his propensity for shooting films digitally, thus came together in Los Angeles under the unlikely banner of the city’s antiquated streetlight infrastructure.