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Croatian film

Research theme - cinematography

Good, bad, expensive... lighting

An analysis of differences in lighting styles that depend on the budget of a film.

Analytically comparing two films shot by the same cinematographer (Dean Cundey — Halloween, Back to the Future) one can notice remarkable differences in the lighting styles of the two films. Halloween was shot with reduced lighting sources with low-key photography. Back to the Future was shot with rich and varied sources, with the heightened level of lighting. The differences are caused by the different budgets of the two film productions (Halloween being a low budget film). Each lighting pattern is used stylistically beneficially, with different narrative impacts in mind. Generally speaking it is technically easier (especially in night scenes) to manage reduced lighting sources than rich ones. With rich light sources, one has to precariously co-ordinate several variables.

On the other hand, rich light sources offer a greater range of choices — it is possible to achieve many effects that are not accessible with a reduced lightning approach. But, as the example of Halloween demonstrated, the limited light situation does not need to be a stylistic impediment — it is a possible to use production limitations to a stylistic advantage for particular films. Croatian authors have become skilled at it. But if there is a discrepancy between the high stylistic ambitions and the lighting limitations of low production, the ensuing effects can be disastrous, as can be seen through an analysis of the cinematography in the film The Phantom (1996; director Simon Vincer and cinematographer David Burr).

Silvestar Kolbas

On Color
Film Lighting — Between Realism and Stylisation
A New Age of Cinematography — Cinematography in the Nineties
CinemaScope — History and Characteristics
Theatrical Film within the TV Frame

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