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:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Lights by name

Key light:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Fill light – fills shadows create by key light:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Practical light – visible within the shot:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Effect light (eg TV flicker):

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Ambient (available) light:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Position

Backlight:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Sidelight:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Frontlight:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Quality of light

Soft light – large source, diffused:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Hard light – easier to shape:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Motivated light

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

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

Lighting for Mood

High key – everything in frame is bright:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

Low key- moody, dark tones & colours:

Cinematic Lighting Explained | Media Division

More from Media Division on Instagram and Twitter.

Further Viewing

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

Ways of working with natural light: