An Application of Color Science To Science Fiction

Version 1.1 of 7/2/2011-2:30 p.m.

The Predator[1][2] species uses a vision-enhanced visor which enhances animal life and suppresses plant life and inanimate objects.

predator visor
The vision of the Predator species with vision enhanced imaging technology as shown in the movie "Predator" ([1]).

To understand the mapping that the Predator's visor is using, we need to understand the mapping's domain and range. In other words, the visor's temperature range and wavelength range.

The film's location is reported as being a rain-forrest in Guatemala, with ([2]) reporting an average rain-forrest temperature of 27?C.

On the other hand, for the human body wiki ([3]) reports that the highest body temperature is around 38?C.

To differentiate between the previous two extremes, the visor ranges from deep blue/purple (380nm) (colder, inanimate life), to bright red/white (680nm) (the maximum of the Predator's sensitivity) ([4]), so if w is the color wavelength in nm and T is the temperature in ?C, the mapping which describes the visor's range is:

wavelength to temperature map (1)

If we isolate the section of the visor's field of view which shows Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and divide it into squares we are able to sample the centers using Photoshop.

Dutch through the predator visor  Dutch through the predator visor with grid
Dutch through the Predator's visor and corresponding image divided into a grid for sampling.

Sampling the image using Photoshop, we extract the RGB values for each square to get a matrix IM[r,c]=RGB[r,c].

The sample matrix IM[r,c] is color enhanced further using the transformation IME[r,c]=IM[r,c]+e, where e is the color enhancing factor.

We then use [5] and the CIE 1931 Color Table to transform the RGB values to wavelengths, as IMEW[r,c]=wCIE1931(IME[r,c]). The result is shown below.

Dutch through the predator visor sampled and enhanced by a factor of 50 with the CIE 1931 Color Space
Image of Dutch through the Predator's visor IMEW[r,c] sampled and enhanced by a factor of 50 using the 1931 CIE Color Space and Maple.

IMEW[r,c] is a 25x25 array of wavelengths. We apply the transformation (1) to the wavelengths found on the sampled and enhanced image to get a list of temperatures, as T[r,c]=T(IMEW[r,c]). These are shown below.

Temperatures matrix
Temperatures for image of Dutch through the visor.

Finally we combine the sampled image with the matrix of temperatures, which shows the complete mapping and how the Predator visor translates temperatures into colors.

Visor Image of Dutch and Temperatures
Predator visor image of Dutch with temperatures.


  1. To see a Numerical Analysis application on the same subject, click here.
  2. To see an Astronomy application on the same subject, click here.


  1. Wikipedia's "Predator". (online)
  2. "Guatemala's Factbook". (online)
  3. Wikipedia's "Human Body Temperature". (online)
  4. This author, "An Application of Spectroscopy To Science Fiction Astronomy". (online)
  5. This author, "The Science of Color, the Emission Spectra of the Elements and Some Lamp Engineering Applications". (online)