Film School: Cinematic Lighting

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

A comprehensive guide to the terms and types of lighting most commonly used in feature films.

Media Division‘s videos on film-making move between the conceptual and the technical. While the second half of their episode “Cinematic lighting explained…” focuses on equipment (if you’re looking to invest in a starter kit, it’s a great resource), we’re takings notes on the first half (from around the 6 minute mark):

  • what each type of lighting is called
  • how each type of lighting looks
  • when each type of lighting might be used
  • why each type of lighting might used

First, three helpful tips:

Lights by name

Key light

Fill light: fills shadows create by key light

Practical light: visible within shot

Effect light (eg TV flicker)

Ambient (available) light





Quality of light

Soft light: large source, diffuse

Hard light: shaped

Motivated light

In this shot / reverse shot, the “logical” light source is the window to the side:

More on Shot / Reverse Shot, and the 180 Rule:

Lighting for Mood

High key: everything in frame is bright

Low key: moody; dark tones & colours

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