Good Lighting: The Key to Award-Wining Cinematograhpy

Light is the most vital part of our lives. If you ponder on it, we need light as much as we need oxygen. You cannot read this article, and I couldn’t have written it without the light coming from our smartphone’s screens.

At least once in our life, we’ve come across a movie which mesmerizes us with its perfect storyline, on-point screenplay, and adrenaline-filled background music. It inspires us to such an extent that we are still in a bubble long after the movie has ended. Everyone has watched such a movie once in their lifetime. Personally, the film that charmed me the most was Birdman whose cinematographer is Emmanuel Lubezki. The same man behind the astonishing visuals of The Revenant, Gravity, The Tree of Life, The Cat in the Hat, and Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events.

Good Lighting: The Key to Award-Wining Cinematograhpy

While thinking about good movies, we often neglect to commend their lighting techniques without which we won’t be able to see the actor’s expression. But that is not the only use of good light. Here are the three key uses of light in movies:

  • To illuminate the artist:

Have you ever wondered why the actor’s face is always glowing even in dimly-lit settings? That is because there are numbers of factors at work. The lighting technique employed by award winning cinematographers is to use a soft light source (fill light) from the front, to brighten the talent’s face and make their facial expressions visible. In addition to that, a more directional and stronger backlight visually highlights and differentiates the actors from the background. Remember, the backlight is always one-point stronger than the fill light. Movies like Schindler’s List, Inglorious Bastards, The Artist, and The Hateful Eight are the prime examples of the what happens when the fill light and the backlight meet in a perfect harmony.

  • To set the mood of the scene:

Imagine the critically acclaimed horror movie ‘The Evil Dead’ shot in Wes Anderson’s style; it wouldn’t be a scary movie anymore.

Lighting sets the tone of a scene. There is a reason why dramatic scenes require an intense hot light and why horror scenes get shot in dim light. It is to have an emotional impact on the audience. In a movie, cinematography tells half of the story and the remaining half is acted out. Think about the iconic Titanic scene where Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were standing with their arms wide open on the edge of the ship saying, “I’m flying.” Now, ask yourself would that scene have had the same impact on the audience if it was night time instead of the sunset? Probably, no.

  • Adequate lighting = Good quality project:

If you are an aspiring filmmaker, who dreams to make his name in the movie business, then you need to perfect the art of illumination. Make use of natural and artificial light. Open the window and let sunlight stream in. For artificial light sources, floor lamps are the best. In small areas, floor lamps are the perfect substitute for spotlights. We would suggest getting a LED arc floor lamp because of its modern and sleek design. Moreover, LED lights are long-lasting and can work for tens of thousands of hours. They consume less energy than incandescent bulbs. Hence, LED light bulbs are also cost effective and will help you save money on the electricity bill.

Illumination is an intricate element in video production, too much of it reveals the imperfections in your environment, while too little ruins the quality of the video. Mostly home-shot movies are the ones with standard lighting, which is the reason why they don’t get much appreciation. Though, film studio released films such as Suicide Squad and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem has received negative reviews too, because of the improper lighting and lack of cinematographic direction.