Within this week, we’ve been asked to create a research plan to do with Lighting. Whilst coming up with some ideas as a group, I’ve decided to narrow it down to either:

  1. Equipment (The current different types of lighting available).
  2. Physicality of Lighting (The aspects and where to place them).
  3. Film & Lighting within Film (One genres).

Personally, I feel that I would much prefer to learn the different types of lighting needed for one specific genre of film – Horror.

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Peliculas Basadas En Libros De Stephen King Top 10 (Ranking Peliculas Admin, No date)

As I am interested in the horror genre, I decided it would be a good idea to research about what makes the lighting within horror films effective, and how much it could cost, as well as how much it could be and just to learn some more about the lighting within the genre itself.

Generally, we can begin to gather lighting a horror scene can either be high budget, or have hardly any budget. We can gather that even the grittiest of film lighting within this genre, the better it usually is. The genre itself has lighting where everything is “hidden in deep, ambiguous shadows” with a simple gist of noir lighting. Noir lighting creates a sense of mystery as it can be as simple as someone’s face in the dark with half of it shadowed.

Image result for horror shadows
The Timeless Horror of Nosferatu’s Slinking Shadow Climbing Across a Wall (Oursler, J, 6 December 2013)

According to Videomaker.com, the first thing needed is darkness. Generally this would be filmed at night or in broad daylight with your gain turned down on the camera itself, bringing in lights for exact shadows. Hollywood shoots during the day so the crewmembers can see what they’re actually doing. They’ve also mentioned the use of Harsh Light where you would have some form of a violent light with dark ambiguous shadows to create a perfect visual effect for the horror genre. To get a good effect for this, they have suggested using a blue ambient light, which produces a warmer colour temperature than daylight and/or ambient room lighting from windows. As shadows are important for the genre itself, it creates the sense of fear into the audience and creates an effect that the person is also there with you, getting them more involved.

Lighting can generally be used through Barn Doors and Cookies. These are panels that go over the lighting itself to block light from passing through a specific point, and allow shadows to be added to the backgrounds. A cookie basically interrupts the light in some places to be able to create a shadow and only allow the light to go through one part creating a pattern with light and shadows.

Horror Film Lighting On a Budget (O'Rourke, T., 1 October 2012)
Black and white photo of the long shadow cast by a person across a floor labeled, figure 3.
How to Light a Horror Scene (O’Rourke, T, 9 August 2014)

Researching into another article on Videomaker.com, I’ve been able to gather some more information about the lighting within the horror genre. A lot of the time, it can be simple lighting that creates the best effect. Sometimes a bright light in the background followed by a dark border around it (e.g a doorway) with a person standing in it can create a brilliant silhouette effect, which adds to that dark and mysterious tone. This can be done simply by taking advantage of your camera’s ability to render dark shadows and represent fear. Low lighting techniques as well create a long, slender-like shadow which will exaggerate the shadow and the movement of the subject. The effect this lighting technique does is makes the audience jump to conclusions about who this person is, they could simply be somebody walking somewhere!

Photo of woman with green light illuminating her right side and red light illuminating her left side, labeled figure 5.
How to Light a Horror Scene (O’Rourke, T, 9 August 2014)

Another technique is using some actual coloured lighting within the scene itself as well. Horror generally uses a lot of reds as well as darker colours, sometimes the odd neon-colour added too. This can be used effectively by adding the blood red effects as well – the two different lighting colours are on the subject and are fixed into position creating more of a “spooky” effect. Usually colours such as red and green/blue will go best together here, as it simulates the idea of the police – possible danger?

As well as this, you could use the misdirection within the lighting techniques. This allows the lighting to be on a focus area, whilst something completely different could be happening and could be revealed within the certain part itself. It could be that something is too dark to view, but as time goes on it gets easier to see something appearing (e.g in somebodies hand).

How to Light a Horror Scene (O'Rourke, T, 9 August 2014)

A lighting technique within horror films is dark or even low key lighting. Low level lighting is used to stimulate a dark and mysterious atmosphere to the specific shot/scene. The lighting is generally used at eye level or towards the ground and creates a dim hue with shadows.

Horror Lighting & Camera Work (More, N, No date)
Speirs + Major | Designers working with light (Rose, P, 1 August 2010)

You can also have spotlighting, which spotlights a figure, usually from behind. Similar to a silhouette but limits any noticeable features. As well as this, Uplighting is very effective as it creates a heavy shadowing to the face – mainly the eye, nose and brow. This is used to distort the human features to generate a feeling of unease and mistrust.

Generally within this task I’ve gathered the different ways that lighting can make horror effective, and has allowed me to understand the different ways that different horror lighting techniques can be used to create an atmosphere that will be effective for a horror genre (short) film.

Some other ideas on lighting techniques could be strobe lights: a dark corridor with a light flashing constantly at the end of the corridor! Even a flickering light bulb would do!

Some ideas on how to produce them myself could be to try and re-create some shots within horror films that have effective lighting to be able to see if I’m able to produce some of the different lighting techniques myself.

Trying out some lighting techniques

Testing out some lighting effects on myself, I decided to use my iPhone torch light in the bathroom with the lights out to create a darkened side to my face to give it the horror-styled theme. I also tried some other shots, however they didn’t turn out too good and I wasn’t able to create the effect I wanted, for example, I tried a silhouette shot but it didn’t turn out too well. This shot I’ve used above was about the best I could do on my own with my flashlight on my phone.


Ranking Peliculas Admin (No date), Peliculas Basadas En Libros De Stephen King Top 10 . Available at: http://www.rankingdepeliculas.com/list/peliculas-basadas-en-libros-de-stephen-king-top-10 (Accessed: 26 September 2016)
More, N. (No date) Horror Lighting & Camera Work. Available at: http://naomimore.weebly.com/horror-lighting–camera-work.html (Accessed: 26 September 2016)
Rose, P. (1 August 2010). Speirs + Major | Designers working with light. Available at: http://www.speirsandmajor.com/thinking/light_and_horror/ (Accessed: 26 September 2016)
O’Rourke, T. (1 October 2012) Horror Film Lighting On a Budget. Available at: https://www.videomaker.com/article/c13/15436-horror-film-lighting-on-a-budget (Accessed: 26 September 2016)
Oursler, J (6 December 2013), The Timeless Horror of Nosferatu’s Slinking Shadow Climbing Across a Wall. Available at: http://www.popmatters.com/review/176873-nosferatu-by-f.w.-murnau/ (Accessed: 26 September 2016)