Dramatic Lighting – 10 Tips part 2

Blocking can also be useful for getting certain effects with light.

Dramatic lighting can actually be a good way of director’s or filmmakers in general to show the viewer what is important, what is not and the overall conflicts within a narrative.

Lighting is however, an area of filmmaking that really separates the student filmmakers (I’m sorry students, but I’ve seen way too many films where you don’t use lighting hardly at all) from the pros. And in the film industry, you need to look as professional as you can. You need to be able to illustrate not only a basic understanding of the technical side of lighting, but also the artistic side. Having one without the other does not draw in an audience.

6. Colours. Colouration in lights can get specific effects. Total Recall’s use of red light was used to emphasise the setting of the red planet’s atmosphere. You can get all sorts of colours using rolls of gels. You can get them in any colour, but you can also get ND gels as well. What’s ND? ND stands for neutral density – it cuts out some of the light from all parts of the spectrum, so it basically darkens things. This can be used on windows and doors if you need to be able to see outside as well as indoors. The gels can be placed over lights (though don’t keep them there too long – they can get quite hot!)

7. You don’t always need a lot of lighting equipment. In fact, if you’re simply bouncing light to lighten up one side, then you can either use a reflector or simply a large white sheet of some kind. Polystyrene is actually fairly good for this. The great thing is, with bouncing light in this way, you can control (to an small extent) lighting outdoors. Oh, that and the fact that they are quite cheap, so creating a bank of light (where the light doesn’t come from a single source, but from an entire side) is actually fairly doable.

8. When it comes to light and dark, it’s better not to leave it to post-production. Why? Because post-production relies on the data from the video you create. It means that if you need to lighten or darken things, you’ll then begin to lose detail. So how do you combat this? By sorting out the light levels in the actual production – the old fashioned way! Get the light levels right to begin with so that the camera picks up all the detail that is needed, and then in post production you can tweak the luminance (light) values if needed.

9. The more light the better. In terms of how much your kit can output anyway. It’s always better to be able to decrease the amount of light needed than to find you don’t have enough and struggle to get a decent picture. That’s why when it comes to lighting, you could really do with being as bright as you can get. Oh, and there’s also several ways of adjusting the intensity. First is the obvious way – turning bulbs off or turning things down on a dimmer. The second is moving the light source further away (obviously this will effect what is lit, not just how much). The third way, is bouncing it off something. This will also mean that the light is softer as well – giving a less defined edge to shadows. Each has it’s own uses and benefits, but in the end you want it to remain the same throughout the scene.

10. Blocking can be very useful. What’s blocking? Blocking is when you put something in front of the light in order to cut out bits in the scene. And example of this can be seen in The Shadow, where the eyes were lit, but the rest of the scene was slightly darker. It can also be used to make sure that one character stands out compared to other characters.

Alec Baldin as The Shadow - Not sunburnt, just blocked

So there you have it, 10 tips about dramatic lighting. Not all will be useful simultaneously, but I do hope they will be useful to you. I also hope they inspire you to be creative when it comes to lighting (especially those students!).


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