ARTV 1351 Digital Video
Robert Flowers Instructor

Lighting Basics

1. Don’t just “Shoot”

2. Don’t just “Turn on some lights”

3. Lighting creates a “Mood or atmosphere and a sense of depth”

4. Plan lighting “before shooting begins!”

5. Match lighting from shot to shot, scene to scene.

6. Treat lighting like painting, think of moving lights in a 3D program

7. Low-key lighting: darkly lit, emotional, moody, tragic. High contrst. Slow tempo

8. High-key lighting: brightly lit, happy, “normal” uplifting. Low contrast Fast tempo

9. Face lit from above: angelic

10. Face lit from below: demonic, wicked

11. Head lit from behind: creates halo

Lighting Rules

1. Never state what you can imply

2. Every shot should look natural to the situation

3. Look to nature for determining the lighting of a scene.

4. Plan the lighting in advance of production (each scene will have a mood and tempo)

Color Temperature of Light

Light is measured in terms of color temperature, which is calculated in degrees Kelvin (K)

Indoor Tungsten light is 3200° K for Motion picture Film (white)

Indoor Tungsten light is 3400° K for still photography (white)

Daylight is roughly 5600° K (white, blue)

Lighting that effectively simulates sunlight are known as HMI lights which require a ballast.

Fluorescent light is roughly 2700° K (greenish)

Household incandescent bulbs are roughly 2200° K to 2500° K

Setting the lights

1. Key light: main source of light on subject. Setup 1st.

2. Fill light: fills in shadows. Usually at eye level. Setup 2nd.

3. Backlight: placed opposite the camera, above and behind the subject.

4. Kicker: placed directly opposite the subject from the key light

5. Background light: light only the background.

Types of Lights

Lights use lamps not bulbs (unless otherwise noted)

Do not touch lamps with skin, use gloves or cloth to add or remove

1. Fresnel (Pronunciation: frA-’nel) Most Fresnels are spotlights and are almost always the key-light (have lens covering lamp) 50 to 24,000+ watts, can attach barndoors, scrims, gel-holders, snoots etc. Examples of name brand Fresnel lights are: Mini-Mole, Junior, Baby, Tweenie, Midget, Pepper

2. Open-Face (lamp is not covered) cheaper
A. Soft-light
B. Strip-lights

3. Par/Fay cluster lights (they look like round car headlights)

4. Sun Gun

5. Camera light

6. Umbrella light (used mostly for portrait photography)

Controlling the Light

1. Barndoors

2. Snoots

3. Gel Holder/Diffusers

4. Scrims – Full Double, Full Single, Half Double, Half Single

5. Gels

6. Flags, Dots

7. Cukaloris or Cookie

8. Reflectors/Bounce cards

9. Dimmers (affects color temperature)

Examples of Films that primarily use High or Low Key lighting


1. Alien

2. Dr. Strangelove

3. In Cold Blood

4. Eraserhead

5. The Saddest Music in the World

6. Lost in Translation

7. The Night of the Hunter

8. The Elephant man

9. Blade runner

10. Fail-Safe

11. Barton Fink


1. RAN

2. A Beautiful Mind

3. Repo Man

4. Rosemary’s Baby

5. Falling Down

6. Saving Private Ryan

7. Gummo

8. Magnum Force

9. The Fifth Element

10. Total Recall

11. Monster

Lighting Rental and Sales