Filmmakers utilize natural and artificial light to manipulate the mood of a scene and achieve different goals.
Being able to control lighting in film is so important, as filmmaking is all about designing a look from scratch and then carrying that out on the shoot. Lighting affects perception and can leave a lasting impression on the viewer. For example, bright and colourful lighting creates the idea of a happy environment and cheerful actors, whereas dark shadows and low lighting become synonymous with dark and sinister setting and characters, such as you often find in horror movies.
Things to remember about lighting your scene;
Poor lighting means more time in the editing room.
Don’t underestimate the importance of lighting. Check, double check and triple check your footage to make sure the lighting correctly represents the mood you are aiming for, otherwise your post- production team will have a lot more trouble trying to create this effect. Tests should be carried out before shooting.
Hard vs Soft Lighting
Light quality can be characterised by how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ the shadow produced is. A sharp, well-defined shadow edge is known as a hard light which is similar to the light produced by the sun. A softer, less defined shadow edge is the soft light, like that of a cloudy day, and is often used during interviews and lighting people, as it is more forgiving, but harder to control.
Primary Light Sources
A popular technique in film lighting is to use a soft light source from the front and a stronger, more directional light from the back, so that your subject stands out. The soft frontal light is known as the fill light; the strong light at the back is known as the backlight. Here are the 3 primary light sources…
• Key light:
This is the primary light and establishes a light quality for the shot. Usually, the key light is placed to the side of or directly above the camera and is the main light that helps light the subject of the video.
• Fill Light:
Fill light is the secondary light source designed to ‘fill-in’ shadows created by the key light. The fill light is often thought of as the mood indicator and is normally placed on the opposite side from the key light.
• Back Light:
The back light is placed on the back of the subject you are shooting, helping to distinguish the subject from the background of the scene and give them a three-dimensional look on camera. The backlight increases contrast, reduces “muddiness” and enhances perceived sharpness.
Key questions to ask yourself;
Before setting up the lighting, you need to consider these key questions, which will help when designing the light your scene will need.
- What is the mood and tone of the scene?
- How does the time of day affect the scene?
- Do people move around the scene, and if so, how will this affect your lighting?
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