Why Is Lighting So Important In Film And Videos?

Why is lighting so important in film and videos? Why is it that the light in a scene can make or break a movie? The answer has to do with the way our eyes work and how we experience reality.

When it comes to storytelling in film, one of the primary purposes is to convey information. That is, to understand what is happening and make sense of it so that we know what is going on. 

The way we decide what we are going to see and how much detail we want to see at any one time is based on how much information we think we can process at the time.

Lighting gives a clear distinction between the foreground or the subject in the story from the background. It subconsciously directs the viewers’ attention to the most vital space in the frame. Also, lighting is an effective storytelling tool in your narrative’s production design, tone, and theme.

You can use lighting to create tension, highlight the beauty, create moods, and so on. Experts consider it one of the most powerful skills in video and movie production. It separates the professionals from the amateurs when it comes to shooting videos. 

Lighting controls how people see things in the frame. A good camera has one significant advantage: it takes high-quality videos in different environments. In most cases, it determines what you see in a film or video. 

A lousy camera or poor lighting can ruin the production value. If a film is poorly lit, your content won’t entertain the audience. Poor quality images will turn them off in less than five minutes.

The Purpose Of Lighting In Film:

Lighting is a fairly complex topic, and because of that, it’s hard to know where to begin if you’re looking for information about it. But in simple terms, consider our eyes as the camera and what we see is because of the light falling on the objects before us. Can we see anything in stark darkness?

In short, lighting is a big part of filmmaking. Why is that? Well, first of all, it’s important to note that lighting can significantly enhance the storytelling potential of a movie or video production. So the purpose of lighting is –

 1. To create a mood/setting in the scene

2. To add another level of depth and meaning to the story

3. To move the attention of the scene, character, or prop in an editorial fashion

4. To direct attention to the correct elements of a scene and add tension, drama, or suspense (very useful in interviews)

5. To enhance the aesthetic quality of the production. 

6. To create uniformity between the lighting and other optical effects, such as color correction and digital modifications.

7. To identify with the genre of the show so that it follows the conventions of that genre and is pleasing to its audience. 

8. To make the lighting absent in the frame so that the audience can have an immersive experience in the story and escape reality.

The last point is what makes the lighting in films and videos so interesting.

But the matter is that lighting is tough to master. A camera can take some good footage, but it sometimes gives terrible lighting. No one can master lighting. But, of course, you will always have people who do it better than you, and that’s why it’s so essential to hire a professional who knows what they’re doing.

Is Lighting Different In The Film Than In A Video?

If you look at it in the format setting, you realize that video lighting is different from film lighting. 

The film delivers a soft or warm look with dynamic luminance, additional highlights, and shadows. In other words, the way filmmakers capture images in a movie is different from that of videos. 

The videos tend to have a hard look with bright and sharp imagery. Though the lighting setups and the lighting technique of both film and videos are the same, the frame looks different because of these parameters.

1. Projection Medium – 

Movies are projected from the front onto a screen, so the images are large enough for the audience to see. In contrast, the videos tend to have a hard look because video screens are backlit and are displayed on a smaller screen. So the nature of lights differs in both.

2. Frame Rate –

Frame rate is how many frames are run in a second. Films are usually shot at 24 frames per second ( fps ) or anything above ( 48 fps ). It is a bit technical, but they also make a difference in lighting, especially while shooting high and low speeds.

3. Production Timeline – 

Lighting setups usually take the maximum time during a shoot. So, the production team usually gets enough time for the lighting and setting up scenes, whereas, in the case of small projects, it may take less than 30 minutes from pre to post-production.

4. Time of Day –

To capture the perfect light, filmmakers and cinematographers always look for a good time to shoot the scene and get their desired look and mood. But in videos, this has little impact because You can shoot most videos any time of the day or night. That’s one difference!

5. Camera Equipment –

Film cameras and videos cameras differ in the type of film used and the quality of the image. The image resolution of the visual has much more depth of information than the videos. So the lighting information is higher in films than in videos.

6. Lighting Budget –

The lighting equipment costs a lot, so the filmmakers and cinematographers plan and budget for good lighting equipment before the shoot. Whereas, for small video production, you may be working with whatever lights you have available on location or what you can afford. So that may make the videos not at par with the films.

Lighting is an intricately complex topic, so you need an excellent cinematographer to light up your production.

 The Importance Of Lighting In Television

When it comes to television, lighting is just as important, if not more, than other elements.

If you observe different content on TV, you will realize that they are pretty different. You probably wonder why two shows on the same channel would look different.

TV is all about the content, and that’s what TV audiences look for. Quality content makes a show great, but lighting also plays a significant role.

If you are holding a children’s show, the director would prefer something warm and fun. The showrunners use lights to define the right mood for the kids’ program. 

As for adult shows, the same rules apply. The showrunners use lights to tell a more mature story and create an environment that grabs the attention of most of the grownups.

For instance, one of the most famous shows of all time, Game of Thrones (GoT), looks like mythology because of its lighting setup and techniques used on medieval sets. While Breaking Bad has utterly different lighting that sets the narrative style of life in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But both are outdoor productions. Sitcoms and TV shows are mostly indoors and have a different lighting concept.

importance of lighting in TV
Silhouette of a group of cameramen broadcasting an event. Workers are on a high platform on the background of bright beams.

Usually, here, television lighting caters to a uniform environment. Most TV shows operate in a static environment; hence, the camera people rarely move since they involve a particular stage. 

So, one of the major concerns in a static environment is creating a uniform environment that captures the same images from various angles. The showrunners make a stage that receives equal lighting delivering an elegant and graceful look that matches all cameras.

It helps the viewers to see things. Generally, lights have one typical role, ensuring that we see something even in our daily lives. This fact lets you not miss out on any crucial or minor detail. 

The same case applies in a TV show since the directors wish that their audience sees the right things. Lighting can also manipulate how you see things in a TV frame.

That’s why you should hire a good cinematographer to not only deliver a good image but also enhance the story and make your show look great. Lighting can make or break your TV show, just like it does for movies. So it’s essential to get a good cinematographer for your television show as well.

 Comparison Between Film And TV Lighting:

They can either use natural or artificial lights in both cases, depending on taste and preference. Also, We have some TV shows shot under natural lighting and film scenes shot in the same environment. The same applies to artificial lighting; you can use them to film or take videos.

1.Aesthetic Look:Film lighting is heavily genre-driven. Cinematographers have complete control over light and movement and are inclined towards visual and artistic storytelling.Lighting on TV is generally flat. The lighting needs to ensure that a scene has enough light. The TV lighting has to have a broad appeal, so your audience doesn’t turn away from your program.
2.Mood: Film lighting pays more attention to the mood it delivers.Showrunners focus more on providing a sharp look that defines various functions.
3.Lighting Setup:Dynamic- Lighting is more complicated and dynamic in films as the camera and actors move most of the time. Directors challenge the lighting with some complex and chaotic staging in movies than in TV.Static – TV lighting is mainly in the stationary position and rarely moves. Mostly the actors move here, the camera not very much.
4.Content Strategy:The duration of movie content is timebound and predefined. So the lighting planning is discreet, designed more towards the genre, aesthetics, and the narrative technique.Television shows sometimes run for years. Usually, the look and feel have to be generic and long-term. It is more of a defensive ploy than an adventurous one, bound by a script, production timeline, and budget.
5.Production Timeline:The production timeline is content-oriented. So the attention to detail is more in films than TV and is also backed by a budget. Film production can afford to shoot a scene in 7 days. The production timeline is time-oriented. TV programs have deadlines as future episodes are shot when the show is already on air. They can’t afford production delays and often cover 2 to 5 scenes in a day. So the lighting setups are rigid as they don’t consume valuable production time.
6.Camera Equipment:Film productions can afford to use a range of camera and lighting equipment based on the frame rates, F-Stops, color temperature, film speeds, and lab processing.TV shows have budget constraints and timeline pressures. So the choice of equipment is based on video signals, compressions, digital video, and image resolution.


Lighting is an essential element when taking pictures or shooting a video. Both film and TV have different needs; thus, their lighting and devices vary. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the difference between the two before you hire your cinematographers for your next project.

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