More and more films are using natural lighting. It’s bright, it’s free and it majorly reduces your carbon footprint.
With the advent of HD cameras, the lighting game has changed. Cameras are picking up more light than ever and you really don’t need an entire lighting trailer to make your actors visible anymore.
You definitely still see (mostly) artificially lit movies, but with the ever growing number of independently produced and low budget films receiving wide distribution, there seems to be greater contrast to these perfectly lit flicks than ever before.
Big movie, natural light
Tree of Life is a great example of a big budget film which used entirely natural lighting, while Another Earth is a great low budget example. Natural light gives both films an organic, relatable feeling that you just can’t get with controlled lighting.
Big movie, tungsten light
Have you ever seen Batman Begins on an HDTV in full 1080p? If you have, you may have noticed how over lit certain scenes are (like the one where Gordon, Harvey and Bruce are arguing on the roof). Full 1080p broadcast is where you really notice how Hollywood movies have been so artificially lit that they appear fake. It is a quality of film we’ve become accustomed to and almost expect. Sherlock Holmes, for example, was perfectly designed from start to finish, every frame and every drop of light accounted for, and its “perfection” definitely comes across on screen (too well if you ask me).
Get down off that stage please…
Controlled lighting has been used for so long in filmmaking because so much early cinema was done on sets, much like stage plays. But with the move toward outdoor filmmaking and HD shooting, there really is no need to use so much lighting unless you’re creating a specific mood or feel for the film that requires it (or of course if you’re shooting a pitch black room – might want at least a night-light in that case).
No one way is better than the other, of course, but ask yourself the following when deciding to go au naturale or to haul your lights around with you:
- Will the scene look “better” with artificial light?
- Can you get what you need using natural light?
- Do you want your film to feel organic and “real”, or do you want it to feel like a story? Something fictional?
If you’re going for an organic feeling for your film, either because of budget constraints or artistic intent, you should undoubtedly choose to use natural lighting and just work around the weather. This will certainly give you that organic feeling you’re looking for. If you want your film to feel like a screen fiction, a sort of fantastic story then you certainly want to carefully craft each shot with artificial lighting so you can achieve just the look you want.
Either way you look at it, more options are better and with the right HD camera the lighting world is your oyster.