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Why fake the Aerochrome infrared look?

The Aerochrome infrared look became quite trendy among filmmakers after the release of Richard Mosse’s documentarian work in the Congo between 2011 and 2013.

There is a sequence in the Netflix movie Beasts of No Nation from 2015, which is heavily inspired by Mosse’s work. However, the scene was not recorded with Aerochrome infrared film, but created digitally. You can see the difference, for example, in the color saturation, which is much more intense in Mosse’s work, or in the grain. Director Cary Fukunaga told the Huffington Post in 2015:

In 2006, when I was writing the screenplay, I figured out that I’d probably shoot it, assuming we’d be shooting in a photochemical world, on infrared, similar to what Oliver Stone had done in the India sequence on “Alexander.” That was gonna be the goal for that section, and then ultimately we didn’t end up shooting on film and they discontinued infrared stock a couple of years ago. We tried using infrared on “True Detective” as well for Rust Cohle’s hallucinogenic sequences, and we couldn’t find infrared stock anywhere. So I ended up doing a digital effect that mimics infrared.



Mosse was not enthusiastic about the copy by Fukunaga. Above all, it bothered him that Fukunaga had never mentioned him as an inspiration or as a source.

He wrote the following statement for artnet News in 2015:

Imagery that I have been making in Congo since 2010 has been used in a derivative scene from the new film Beasts of No Nation. The film’s director, Cary Fukunaga, emailed me during production to—as he explained—“pick your brain” because “some of your work has struck our aesthetic appetite.” However, he has never cited my work as an influence and even gone out of his way to conceal his sources. I feel it is important to restore the correct authorship to this imagery. Neither myself nor any my collaborators were involved in this film, and we would like to draw a clear boundary between Fukanaga’s Beasts of No Nation and what we were trying to achieve with The Enclave. I’d also like to say thank you to the many supporters who have contacted me about this, and hope this clears up any confusion.

Another example besides Beasts of No Nation is the blockbuster movie Star Trek Into Darkness, which was released in 2013. The set for the opening scene on the red planet of Nibiru is heavely inspired by the look of Aerochrome infrared film and probably Mosse’s work also. It was filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and VFX digitally changed all green vegetation into red.

I ask myself: Why did both of these productions fake the Aerochrome infrared look? If you have full-spectrum cameras, there shouldn’t be a problem with creating red vegetation via a strong cyan filter and some post-processing, as I have shown in a previous post (link).



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