Thursday, 19 July 2012

Shining Some Light With Outdoor Landscape Lighting

Outdoor Landscape LightingWhen you hear the phrase outdoor landscape lighting, your first association is probably home security surveillance systems, or holiday spotlights on wreaths, but certainly not Hollywood. It turns out that the seemingly straightforward task of landscape lighting design is an art form in the movie world. This serious undertaking has direct ramifications on the entire narrative because of the degree of shaping done by light on the scene level. As with so many other cinematic production tools, audiences are largely oblivious to the manipulative effects landscape lighting; at least, if it’s done correctly. The design must achieve the delicate balance of directing viewers’ attention and emotions without obviously doing so, in order to give the plot and characters themselves most of the credit.


Because of the skill required to execute outdoor landscape lighting on a movie set, extensive thought and planning go into the job. A fun challenge for moviegoers is to consider these common tools for outdoor landscape lighting used on film, and then to watch for them in theatres next time the occasion arises. Nighttime scenes are particularly challenging for directors to navigate in terms of landscape lighting design, because of the twofold task of darkening the surroundings to a believable extent while maintaining sufficient light on the characters to illuminate what is happening. This dilemma is typically dissolved by using blue filters for the designated dark regions and yellow for the action, but on screen the colors do not appear this artificially enhanced.

Landscape Lighting Desing
The parallels between landscape lighting design for theatrical purposes as well as for home d├ęcor are interesting to consider and can provide insights into making the latter more of a game and less of a chore. When the rest of the world is treated as the audience, it is easier to identify objectives in what you want them to perceive, as well as potential evidence of artifice that you might have otherwise missed. And remember next time you’re at the movies to check if beam of light across the protagonist’s face is really coming from the moon.