Lighting’s not easy. Most of the time, after a series of other frustrations, people in film or video production just settle for something they can call adequate. Actually, a lot of the time, especially in commercial and corporate video production, just adequate isn’t even that easy to find.
What we’re talking about here, though, is using light in a different, more manipulative way. You don’t need to be doing a feature film or a narrative to want to add a splash of style to the aesthetic of your project.
Whether you want to add some humor to a corporate video production by being deliberately over-dramatic with the lighting, or you need some flair in a music video, or you’re working on a horror short and want some creepiness, we can help.
Let’s go over some of the styles and looks you can go for and how to go about achieving them. Just be careful to use them on the appropriate project, and not just to use them. Certain techniques will yield certain results.
The basics, the classics…
Low-key, or chiaroscuro lighting, was popularized in other art forms long before it made its way to film or video production. This is a style of lighting dominated by darker tones, creating a dramatic-looking subject or scene.
The idea is to create a contrast between light and shadow, to allow the light to fall in just the right spot, creating a mood that defines the scene along the way.
Horror and Noir-style film and video productions, or those wishing to hint at the tones associated with those genres, commonly use low-key lighting techniques.
Obviously, if you have the budget and a decent stock of equipment, this isn’t a style that’s all that hard to attain, as it values the dark as much as the light, and usually just a small amount of intense light at that.
A big black backdrop in a studio setup works fine, but if studio access is an issue and there’s limited equipment, you can try some other little tricks and remedies.
For instance, you can position the subject in a dark room, as dark as you can get it, then position a light just outside the room, using the door and walls as flags. A reflector or something to work as a bounce board can be used to help shape the light and add some fill where necessary.
Another simple tip: Make use of nighttime light and exterior locations when possible. Moonlight and streetlights work wonders, as they have an inherent emotion to them that can add to the effect. Shooting through some blinds and making use of silhouettes have similar effects.
Mixing up color temperatures.
Another great way to add some visual flair to your film or video production through the use of light is to use lights of different color temperatures. However, make sure there’s a motivation for doing so.
That goes for any lighting or stylistic technique you attempt. You should come up with a reason, a correlation that motivates the use of the different color temperatures, especially because with bold moves like this, the effect can be glaringly undeniable.
You must have a firm understanding of the relationship between temperatures. Check out our blog, Too Many Cooks in the Color-Correcting Kitchen, to see how this stylistic technique can quickly turn a project into a self indulgent case of style over substance.
But if you can keep the lighting from becoming a distraction, then a mixture of color temperatures can be dazzling. For example, if you wanted to shoot a club scene, then mixing the colors could result in some really interesting and moody stuff, while still being motivated and organic to the setting.
You can use gels and any necessary equipment or go into the camera settings to achieve a mixture of color temperatures. Again, make sure to educate yourself about the relationship of color temperatures and the resulting effects beforehand.
Lighting style is easier than ever to achieve.
The great thing about trying to add some style or visual flair to your film or video production with lighting is that, like every aspect of the craft, as technology has continued to grow, so have the possibilities to achieve looks with light.
Digital cameras have made shooting at night a whole new ball game. Not only is it possible to get incredible footage in extremely dark conditions with a reasonably priced camera, but it’s even possible to get some style into the footage.
Whether it’s messing with the camera’s settings to get an unusual or interesting aesthetic during production, or you alter the image in post, the possibilities are there, and there are more than ever before.
Check out KVibe Productions’ Music Video reel to get a feel for how we use light to bring some style to our film or video productions.
KVibe Productions is a full-service video production company. Whether it’s a product video production, a corporate video, or a commercial production, KVibe offers the total package of multimedia services from development through distribution.