A 3-dimensional world is how humans perceive facts, but people actually don’t see the world. What people see is the light reflecting off of objects.

Our world is made of light waves carrying visual data, which we transform into interpretations and emotions. The eye is equivalent to the models of the camera obscura: it uses the effect of light passing through a small gap or iris and forming an image, so the light beams are now able to be viewed as the truth. While the light passing through the human eyes will be translated by our brain into 3-dimensional, the image perceived from the retina or camera is simply 2-dimensional.

eye light

It took years to cinematographers and film makers to mature the ability and the technology to manipulate lighting for 3-dimensional images. The human skill to manage light started with fire: initially, the fire was correlated with protection and heat with its glowing and warm light providing a place to convey and to tell stories. Individuals would gather around it, together with firelight as the only resource for staying awake and sharing tales before it burned out. But firelight wasn’t enough to illuminate all the features of the acts, therefore theatre recitals depended on the performance of the available light.

lighting for theatre

In 1781 Laviosier, a French chemist, designed manageable lights by putting mirrors on oil lanterns. Some theaters started to light their sets under basic lanterns, however it was only when the gas lantern was developed that theatres could have prevalent indoor displays. In the end the limelight was applied on theater stages, inventing the sentence “step in the limelight”. The development of light technology improved the people’s involvement in theatre; however, when motion-picture creation commenced in 1888, cameras could get an adequate exposure only when using outdoor light.

The firsts movie sets, like Thomas Edison’s Black Maria for example, had retractable roofs to light the film set with natural light. Interior lighting wasn’t popular until white flame carbon arcs were used for the first time, in 1912. Unfortunately, these fixtures were very unsafe to use therefore in 1927 the tungsten lights, more reliable than white flame carbon arcs, became the new lighting technology for movies and films. Since the origination of filmmaking, with the passing of time cameras, electronic technologies and lighting fixtures have largely progressed. Yet, the lighting fashions related to every sort of narrative and also movie categories have evolved into cinematic models. Genres of humor, drama, mystery, love, emotion, are a consistent force in storytelling for filmmakers and cinematographers today. For instance, cinematographers illuminate a comedy using bright lighting set-ups, less contrast, and a slick, shiny look to generate emotional responses of happiness, enlightenment, morality, and joy.

Talking about cinema lights, for the sake of ensuring adequate disclosure, we report a significant sentence of Bettetini Gianfranco (famous director, semiologist, television critic, film critic and screenwriter): “one could say that the technical ability and the expressive effectiveness of a director’s or of a cameraman’s work is revealed above all in the lighting”. Perhaps, due to the visceral and emotional reaction to lighting, the lighting styles conceived to be critical in the illumination of our genres are strongly linked through time.

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