Over the holidays I started researching into some film equipment and the equipment that popped up the most was lights from standard LED to soft box lights. The reason they popped up so much was because they are important pieces of equipment for any film from high production to independent films. I will be going through some of types of lighting and how they all impact your film.
Red heads are often used as a key flood light for large areas and used as backlights to light the background of the scene. These are used to show the audience the type of location the characters are in and to understand the situation the character is facing. The more light in the background will bring out the colour of the scene making it look nice showing that the character is safe and happy while having it dark will hide things in the shadows making the character feel watched and scared. The term “redhead” is often used loosely as there is no rigid definition, they do have a history of overheating giving it the name red head.
LED lights (also known as light-emitting diode) are portable lights and can be fitted on most dslr cameras. Unlike some lights on this list, LED uses batteries which makes them great for filming outside (at night) as they won’t need a generator to use some of the other lights. LED lights are cheaper compared to other lights and can be useful in some scenes but using LED lights in the wrong way can make the footage look very cheap. Most mistakes are when LED lights are used directly at the subject (character or object) and makes them too bright or makes the colour look poor. Having the LED light not as direct and using it to bounce light, the footage will turn out better.
Soft box Lighting
Soft box lighting offers the most (if not the best) lighting for shadows and bouncing light. Soft boxes are more effective at reducing shadows and unlike other lights can be bright without washing out the image (too bright to use). Soft box lights are mostly used for photography but can be very effective in film with the light causing shadows to the scene or to make the whole scene bright with no shadows, depending on what you like the soft box light can do it. Soft boxes are expensive lights and in most cases hard to setup, although some can be quicker to setup and at a cheaper price most of these type of lights are mainly for higher budget production teams.
The best type of lighting is natural light as having too lights will make the scene un natural and make the audience lose focus in the film. Natural lights are cheaper as you don’t need to pay to use them, you just need to think creative on how you’re going to use them. Other lights can cost a lot of money and most the time won’t be used unless they are needed while using natural lights (from windows and outside scenes) with give that real-life feeling to the scene making the characters as real as possible. You will natural lights for almost every film you make unless the film is hidden in a dark room. The cons of natural light is that its unpredictable and can change at any moment depending on the weather on the day. If the day is raining there won’t much light to use and if the day is sunny but the film is a horror, then it won’t feel natural.
Natural lighting is always there and we grow up learning about the sun and the light it begins so there is nothing new to learn about it. We would use the natural light by just opening a window or walking around and film what feels natural. But we shouldn’t rely on natural light as the weather changes from a sunny day to rain in a matter of minutes. Natural light can make the scene realistic with the characters in everyday life which we the audience can relate to. Depending on the time of filming we can understand the situation better, so if the character is walking on a rainy day with grey clouds the light will make the scene look sad so we know how the character is feeling.
High Key Lighting
High key lighting is when the scene is mostly bright with a range of light tones to the skin making the subject shiny. High key lighting would usually be used to make the story more upbeat/ optimistic as the shots look artistic. You can make high key lighting with some studio lights and making them go to a high amount of light pointing towards the subject. You can also use natural lighting to create high key stills with the camera settings set high letting in more lights.
Low Key Lighting
Low key lighting is when the scene is mostly dark with very little amounts of lighting bouncing of the character’s face or shining off the subject. While high key lighting will focus on the light tones, low key relies on the shadows and deep black tones. Low key is usually used to hide things in the shadows and gives the shot a dramatic mysterious tone to it.
I’ve learned that different types of lighting can impact a film is small ways that make up the scene. Understanding the lights help understand the scene they are used in and will make the scene who important to the film not only for how it looks but also how the characters might feel during that moment in time. I know that before I start filming my upcoming shorts, I need to know what lights I’ll be using and how to use them to tell my story better.