Creating a mood

Filmmakers rely on images to tell stories and create mood, so it's important to think carefully about how you light a scene.

When planning your shots you should always spend time thinking about what kind of mood you want the lighting to create.

Types of lights

Traditionally, most film lights used tungsten bulbs.

A production electrician setting up a tungsten light

Tungsten bulbs work like household lightbulbs but generate a lot more light and heat.

Tungsten lights can be dangerous. You must be extremely careful because they generate so much heat that bulbs can shatter. The lights must be allowed to cool down before being moved.

The extreme heat they generate can cause burns if you accidentally touch the casing of the light.

The need to plug tungsten lights into power outlets also raises the risk of injuries if cast or crew members trip over poorly secured cables.

In recent years, LED lights have become more common.

A DSLR operator using an LED light

There are now many forms of LED lighting kits which use batteries rather than mains electricity.

These lights can achieve levels of brightness similar to those of tungsten bulbs but they generate much less heat, which means they are safer to use and much more portable.

Safety considerations

If you are using mains powered lights:

  • make sure that cables have been taped or tied down to reduce the risk of tripping
  • allow them to properly cool before moving them
  • never overload plug sockets by plugging too many lights into the same outlet

With all lights you should make sure that:

  • their position is not blocking any doors or fire exits
  • they are properly secured to their lighting stands
  • you fold the legs of lighting stands out fully so that they are properly supported