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How Films Conjure Sun, Sand, and Sea All Year Round

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Movies have the power to transport us far, far away, be it for a beachside romcom, an action-packed desert, or a tropic jungle adventure. So, let’s take a look at how films are able to conjure the sun, sand, and sea all year round.

Score and Soundtrack

Music is crucial for setting the scene of any kind of media, as it provides a multi sensory experience. Just take something like online slot games, for example. Whilst the Big Bass franchise is typically set closer to home, the Big Bass Splash slot has more tropical vibes. The game uses similar icons to the others, such as fishing trucks, rods, bait, fishermen, and fish, and is set at the bottom of the ocean. However, Big Bass Splash has a soundtrack that utilizes a jaunty ukulele tune, conjuring images of tropical beaches and warm sunshine. By using the ukulele in this way, this makes the thematics of the game more authentic and immersive.

This same logic is also applied to film soundtracks. A film could have all the right imagery, but without the right music it is impossible to create a comprehensive, immersive theme. With this in mind, getting the right tone of the score is essential. Many film soundtracks also use popular songs, too, so this needs to be a consideration in choosing the right tracks. Just look at Shotgun Wedding (2023). As the film is set at a private, beachside resort, songs like Island In The Sun by Weezer, Jamming by Bob Marley, and Shape of You by Ed Sheeran bring those vacation vibes to the movie.


Image by Mariya from Pixabay

Getting the right lighting is a nuanced decision. It’s one of those things that you may only notice if filmmakers miss the mark. Too bright and it seems too clinical, too dark and it can feel ominous – too blue toned and it can feel cold, but too warm and it can look hazy. To create the sense of a warm location, the most common technique is to employ a yellow-colored or sepia filter when programming the lighting on set and when color grading the edit, and to opt for a mix of soft and harsh lighting to mimic the sunshine.

This filter has long since been used in Hollywood, with notable examples including Traffic (2000), Extraction (2020), and the tenth Saw installment Saw X (2023). As with Saw X, this technique is perhaps most commonly used when setting films in Mexico and South America, and is sometimes referred to as being synonymous with those countries.


For films with larger budgets, the emphasis will be on location, location, and… location. For many filmmakers, this is the Hawaiian island of Kauai, which has served as location for films like White Heat (1933), Blue Hawaii (1961), and Jurassic Park (1993). The island has hosted so many films over the years that The St. Regis Princeville Resort provides movie set tours around the iconic locations.

That said, it is possible to get an impactful beachy vibe without forking out on expensive locations. Vancouver has surely set the scene for everywhere from Hong Kong to Aruba over the years with a little movie magic. Just look at Mama Mia! (2008) which looks like an authentic Greek setting, but was actually filmed in Croatia.
And there you have it – just a few ways that films can conjure the sun, sand, and see all year round for different effects.

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