The creation of every great movie scene begins with light. Without light, there would be no scene. Most young filmmakers devote many hours to perfecting their camera skills and forget about the importance of lighting techniques. The lighting will have the single most influence on any movie scene. It will help create the mood and enhance your visual image, or it will distract your audience and turn them away. You’ll learn these filmmaking lighting essentials at film school, but we’re breaking them down in our Filmmaking Tips series today!
Regardless of how complicated it may seem, the elements of lighting stem from a very basic concept called 3-point lighting. With 3-point lighting, a filmmaker can illuminate the subject while still being able to manipulate the shadows and shading produced by each light. Enjoy these Filmmaking Tips on the basic of 3-point lighting!
The Elements Involved in 3-Point Lighting:
1. The Key Light — Is the brightest of the three lights and will serve as the main light source for the scene. The intensity, color, and position of the key light will determine the overall feel or mood of your scene. The key light is usually placed in front of the subject at a 45 degree angle off center of the front of the subject and 45 degrees above the subject’s eyeline.
2. The Fill Light — Is less intense than the key light and is placed on the opposite side, adjacent to the key light. It is still 45 degrees off center and 45 degrees above the subject’s eyeline. The purpose of the fill light is to balance the key light by adding a soft fill to illuminate the dark shadows produced by the key light. This will help create a nice contrast to a subject’s face.
3. The Back/Rim Light — Is placed behind the subject, illuminating the back of their hair or head. The purpose of the backlight is to separate the subject from the background, adding depth to the scene. The goal is to create a thin outline around the subject’s head, without spilling the light on the front of the subject. To achieve this, you’ll need a stronger hard light.
Additionally, once you perfect lighting a scene with the basic 3-point lighting elements, you’ll be able to manipulate the mood and feel of your scene by removing or changing the placement, intensity, color, and spread of the three lights.
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