Film Production Lighting

Quality Film Production Lighting is essential for film work whether for TV shows or for major motion pictures that are shown in the theaters. The same as still photography and paintings, lighting can make or break movie scenes and possibly an entire production. It's one of the most important aspects of cinematography.

Lighting adds significantly to the emotional response from a film's audience. The control of the lighting quality, color, direction, and intensity are huge in the development of a successful film.

TV show producers are typically operating on smaller budgets than movie producers, so they may use low-tech solutions to get the best lighting. What TV lighting managers with experience will typically do, therefore, is try to work with the lighting that's already on the scene while keeping their own lighting setup simple and fast to put up, adjust, or take down.

These techniques include:

  • Placing as many existing lights and lamps on in a room as possible to increase the overall light level
  • replacing existing light bulbs with stronger light bulbs if yet more lighting increase is needed
  • using reflectors to bounce existing light sources onto the focal part of the scene. (A reflector is a piece of gold, silver, or white colored fabric stretched over a frame)

Also, when doing film scene lighting, it's not a good idea to mix artificial lighting with backlighting because it throws off the camera's sensor and you'll get smeared or too little light exposure on the scene.

Natural lighting is often preferable over artificial lighting and should be used whenever possible to give more subtlety and truthfulness to a scene.

Also, for doing TV production night shots, lighting managers will try to shoot the night scenes before total sunset as long as there is still some natural light. Artificially lighting night scenes for films is really tricky, especially on smaller budgets. Subjects filmed at night with artificial lighting tend to look either grainy or washed out.

If the scenes cannot be shot when before full sunset, TV lighting managers on tight budgets will resort to the nuit américaine ("American night") technique, also called "day for night". This is a film lighting technique developed decades ago to simulate night scenes. Night scenes are actually shot during the day using special blue filters and under-exposed film to create the illusion of darkness or moonlight.

Advanced filming technology has since made it much more possible to successfully shoot movies' night scenes after sunset.

For movie producers money is usually no object when it comes to lighting. Movie lighting managers--called "gaffers"--have access to a vast array of different lights and technology that can perfectly light just about any scene indoors or outdoors in daylight or night. They may still rely on using natural light if it provides the right emotional effect.

Some TV and movie lighting managers may also use "gels", or plastic sheetings put on windows to transform the mood or even the apparent time of day of a scene.

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