Film Lighting Technique is Simpler than You ever thought!

Film Lighting Technique is Simpler than You Ever Thought

Have you ever wondered what type of light is used for movies, or how to create a light for a video shoot? I’m sure you did!

We’re all curious about film lighting techniques and how to create cinematic lighting, just like everyone else. We are used to blaming our camera, lenses, and budget, yet this is the incorrect answer. 

In the creation of stylish, natural cinema sequences, the appropriate lighting methods are important, apart from the camera, lenses, and angles.

Now I know you’re going to ask me how you know how many types of lighting there are in films or what the purpose of lighting in films is. Therefore, we will look at every four essential film lighting principles: quantity, direction, quality, and color. It’s why we’re here with film lighting basics.

So, without further ado, let’s get started and find out what film lighting definitions are and see a few film lighting examples also.

Basics of Film Lighting

If you want to be a cinematographer, director, writer, or any other creative member of a film crew, you’ll need to understand how to shape and apply film lighting, as well as some basic lighting methods and types of lighting utilized in filmmaking. Let’s understand this with a few questions.

What Is Cinematic Lighting?

By varying light intensity and direction, cinematic lighting goes beyond the standard three-point lighting setup. This is what gives a scene depth, drama, and mood.

Diffusing and bouncing light, as well as changing color temperatures, are cinematic lighting techniques used to produce the appropriate mood and effects in visual storytelling.

These were some of the lighting methods that are currently being used in filmmaking.

How many film lighting techniques in general?

There are several film lighting terms that cannot be discussed in a single post, however, we did discuss some fundamental film lighting phrases. As a result, these are some lighting techniques applied in modern filmmaking.

⦁ Types of film lights
⦁ Direction of light
⦁ Quality of light
⦁ Quantity of light 
⦁ Color temperature in film 

How many types of film lights are?

These are the main film lighting techniques used in films, however, we just addressed the 9 fundamental film lighting concepts that are always used as a foundation to create natural lighting in film, and we will cover all of them in a subsequent post.

⦁ Three-Point lighting
⦁ Key Lighting
⦁ Fill Lighting
⦁ Back Lighting
⦁ Practical Light
⦁ Hard Lighting
⦁ Soft Lighting
⦁ High Key
⦁ Low Key
⦁ Bounce Lighting
⦁ Side Lighting
⦁ Motivated Lighting
⦁ Ambient Light

1. The Three-Point lighting setup

The three-point lighting arrangement consists of the main light, backlight, and fill light. Three-point lighting is a common technique in visual media.

The cinematographer may illuminate the subject in whatever way they desire by employing three distinct locations, while also managing shadows caused by direct illumination.

2. Key Lighting

The main film light of a scene or subject is also known as the key light. This implies that it is usually the brightest form of light in any scene or photograph. In most cases, the key light in film will spotlight the subject’s or actor’s form.

How to use Key Light

  • Use key lighting to focus on a subject or to distinguish it from the rest of the scene.
  • If you place your key light too close to the camera, it will appear flat and featureless.

3. Fill Light

A fill light eliminates the shadows cast by the key light. The fill light is generally situated opposite the key light and is not as strong as the key, located near the camera and around 120° from the main light. 

By “filling in” the shadows created by the key light, it softens the illumination on the subject and the environment.

How to Use Fill Light

  • Remove any shadows cast by the key.
  • It does not cast shadows or have its own features.

4. Back light or Rim light

A backlight illuminates from behind an actor or subject. It is elevated just above the subject it is lighting. Backlights are used to distinguish an object or performer from the backdrop. They add form and depth. Backlighting makes the frame appear three-dimensional.

How to Use Backlight

  • Sun is a big backlight – you may turn the subject on a mirror or bounce the sun to a lower degree.

5. Practical Light or Available light

What if you wish to use light sources that are already in place? What about lights, candles, or even the television set? In the film industry, these are referred to as practical lighting. 

Most of these accouterments are added to the scene by set designers or members of the lighting team to aid with the ambiance.

How to Use Practical Light

  • Consider using a variety of practical lights to assist illuminate a topic.
  • Keep track of the number of outlets on each site.
  • Ensure that the color temperatures are consistent.

Film Lighting Terms

Harsh light vs Soft light

6. Hard light

Sunlight or a bright light source can be used as a source of hard light. It’s typically unwelcome, but it has cinematic rewards. Direct sunlight or a tiny, strong light source can be used to generate harsh lighting.

Despite the fact that it casts harsh shadows, hard lighting is excellent for bringing attention to your main subject or to a specific section of the scene, accentuating the shape of your subject, and producing a powerful silhouette.

How to Use Hard Lighting

  • Hard lighting draws attention to variations in contour, form, and texture.
  • To achieve a more dramatic effect, use harsh lighting.
  • Diffusers or flags can be used to halt it.
  • Will draw attention to everything in the frame
    Excellent for shadows

7. Soft Light

Soft light does not relate to a specific lighting direction, rather it is a method. Soft lighting is used by cinematographers to beautify their work. On human subjects, soft lighting is more flattering. The softness of the light reduces the visibility of shadows, wrinkles, and imperfections.

How to use soft lighting

  • It may be utilized as a fill light.
  • It can give a subject’s face a youthful appearance.
  • Gives the impression of being derived from real-world sources.

8. High Key Lighting

High key lighting is a type of lighting that is employed to create an extremely brilliant picture that is virtually shadowless, frequently approaching overexposure. Because lighting ratios are disregarded, all light sources have roughly the same intensity.

This was done in the early days of cinema to deal with strong contrast, but it is today employed by filmmakers to change the mood and tone of a scene. These days, this approach is utilized in numerous films, TV, advertisements, and music videos.

How to use high-key lighting

  • White tones from bright lighting dominate.
  • The usage of blacks and mid-range tones is kept to a minimum
  • Tone can be upbeat or cheerful.
  • Frequently seen in pop music video lighting settings.

9. Low-key Lighting

Low-key lighting in film lighting approach that employs a hard source to cast shadows on your scene. Contrast and darkness are desired with low-key lighting. 

Light flows from a single source, resulting in a lot of sharp shadows and great contrast.

How to use low-key lighting

  • Tones in the dark, blacks, and shadows
  • Images with high contrast
  • In noir or thrillers, it is used to convey foreboding warnings.

Colors and temperatures

Color in film lighting

When we talk about color light, we actually need to discuss two things: temperature balance and creative color. 

The color temperature scale ranges from “warm” light, which we perceive as red, orange, and yellow, to “cool” light, which we perceive as blue.

Colors like oranges and pinks represent warmth, whereas blues and gray represent coldness, according to Film Education. 

Darker hues, such as black and crimson, might represent passion, rage, or danger, whereas white nearly usually represents purity and innocence. Yellow can represent happiness and vitality, whereas green might represent envy, and so on.

Color temperature gels may make a light look more blue or orange, and depending on the color temperature balance of the camera’s color space, the color temperature from a light source can be neutralized or amplified.

Colored lighting is subtle and frequently ignored by the viewer, yet it is critical in establishing the mood of the scene. Color may express love, enthusiasm, despair, and pretty much everything else. 

Make an informed decision. In the Post-Production process, you may also work miracles with color grading and color correction.

Film Lighting Technique is Simpler than You ever thought!
Photo by / Mecreeled

Temperature Source

1,700 K: Match flame
1,850 K: Candle flame, sunset/sunrise
2,700–3,300 K: Incandescent lamps
4,100–4,150 K: Moonlight
5,000 K: Horizon daylight
5,500–6,000 K: Vertical daylight
6,500 K: Daylight, overcast
15,000–27,000 K Clear blue poleward sky

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

Color Rendering Index (CRI) is an abbreviation for Color Rendering Index. It refers to a light source’s ability to correctly and authentically display the color of an item, as compared to an ideal or natural light source. The maximum achievable CRI is 100, which is associated with a flawless black body (a tungsten light source is a perfect black body, as is the sun).

Characteristics of Film Light

Quality of Film Light

There are several levels of brightness. Hard light and soft light are the two umbrella categories. Hard light is analogous to a brightly lit day. It’s bright, focused light from a small source. This results in well-defined shadows.

Soft light, on the other hand, is more akin to an overcast day. It is spread out over a vast region of space. This light is emitted by a bigger light source and obscures surface details. There are fewer shadows and sharp lines with softer lighting.

RGB LEDs are making major waves in film lighting to create cinematic lighting, so things may change in the future, but for the time being, HMIs aren’t going away, and tungsten is still widely employed on set.

Quantity of Film Light

Why quantity of light matter? The quantity of light refers to the amount of light produced by your source. When choosing a light, the initial selection is usually made based on the output of the light source. Choosing the amount of light relies on a variety of variables.

How much electricity can you consume before a fuse blows? How far away from the object is the light? Where is the scene set? What is the scene’s tone? Is there a driven source of light in the story world?

Film Lighting Technique is Simpler than You ever thought!
Photo by / PetaPixal

You will be able to estimate the intensity of the light required by answering the questions above. The inverse square law of light, which in photography lighting quantifies the degree of “fall off,” is a concept in both photography lighting and cinematography lighting.

The properties of light vary as the light source moves away from the subject. Watch this demonstration to learn why the quantity of light is important.

Direction of Film Light

Camera Shots and Angles

There are multiple types of shots in the film to lighting a scene. Within the framework, the angle of a light affecting your topic creates the subjects. 

A sidelight gives a person’s face dimension and texture and achieves the subtle feature of DA Vinci lighting with a correct angle. You can direct light at different angles. 

This is particularly common if living beings are filmed rather than scenery.

The lights are strongly influenced by the image. A light directly overhead might give the subjects hard shadows, while a subject underneath them seems strange or twisted.

A frontal light tends to make faces seem boring and bland. A backlight helps to differentiate your topic and alight from the backdrop.

A frontal light tends to make faces seem boring and bland. A backlight will distinguish you from the backdrop, while a background light will shadow your topic.

Lighting may establish power dynamics, amongst many other things. It may produce an angelic, pleasant atmosphere and make someone or something seem significant when throwing light from a high angle. It produces a spotlight and notifies the public where their eyes can be focused.

Low-angle lighting provides a spectacular effect. This is usually used to make someone appear stronger or more bullying. This is often utilized in horror films by criminals.

That's it

As you can see how color creates a distinct atmosphere, or how color is used in movies, but the color light storyline is not blue or orange. Many of our favorite directors use the notion of cinematic color. 

Whether you need a strong red or a magenta in order to match the neon light of the café sign, or a blue-green tint on the face of a figure, color changes may make your scenario come to life.

Soon we’ll examine the many components of filmed lighting, explain them in further detail and connect them all here so that you have a whole film lighting resource.

We hope you will consider this fundamental film lighting technology and let me know that we should include more in the commentary area.

Till now,

Keep learning.