Exterior Night Lighting


“Life is full of shadows.” — Chris Weaver, our Dad.

The whole of COSMOS is set across a single night, and about thirty percent of that story takes place outside. This blog is a rundown of our approach to lighting those night exteriors scenes.

We’ve tried to cover a lot of info about our lighting approach, including kit, technique and inspiration. As always, our aim with this production blog is to be as informative and thorough as is possible, hopefully without boring you.

Before we get started, below is a video of COSMOS B-rolls for the night exteriors to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how we’re making this film. As with all indie films our resources are limited, but that’s not always a bad thing. We will discuss the lights and techniques being used in this video further on in this article.


Why is Film Lighting Important?

Photography is the combination of two Greek words:

  • Photo, derived from phos – meaning light
  • Graphy, derived from graphos – meaning written

Photography literally means written in light making a Photographer a light-writerAnd the art of photography for the cinema is known as Cinematography.

I can’t think of a more beautiful reminder of the importance of light in the filmmaking process; without light there can be no recorded image. Cinematographer John Alton is famed, aside from his legendary anthology of films, for his phrasing “Painting with Light”. And that is what we, as filmmakers, must strive to do – our paint is light, our brush a camera, our canvas a cinema screen. (more…)


Character Costumes

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“What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what
they are not. “ — Edith Head

Costume Design, as the name suggests, is the creation of costume or clothing for a character in film, tv or theatre. The development of this overall appearance contributes heavily to the believability of the world and its population in a particular story.

Costume styles vary significantly depending on gender, nationality, geography, class, period, economics, religion, season and even character backstory. Historical dramas obviously rely heavily on believable and accurate character costume. Science fiction obviously accesses artistic license to the same effect.

Costume design is so impactful on the filmmaking process, that sometimes iconic movie characters are inseparable from their iconic costume. A leather jacket and fedora can only belong to one man… and if adventure had a name… it must be Indiana Jones! 

But remaining faithful to the old movie maxim, why tell, when you can show…? here is a collection of insightful vignette videos all about the costume design process and its value to the production, the actors and the audience. Enjoy.


Cast Rehearsals

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“All the real work is done in the rehearsal period” — Donald Pleasence

Whichever way you want to look at it, filmmaking is an expensive game – there’s either a money cost or a time cost. And ideally, you want to spend as little of both as possible!

If you have money you can buy time and get things done quickly. If you don’t have money, it’s going to cost you more time to get the job done. And one of the best ways to make the most of your shooting time is to have some constructive rehearsals sessions under your belt, for your benefit as well as your cast’s.

This video features some of the greatest actors of our time and although the topic of rehearsals isn’t directly discussed, it’s clear how seriously these actors approach their work – they love what they do, they want to do their very best and they put a lot of effort, thought and research into how they can achieve that.


Listening To Space (Sound Designing)

COSMOS Banner Listening to Space

LISTENING TO SPACE (Sound Designing)

A great film once taught us that out there, in the cold vastness of space – no one can hear you scream… Why?

Sound waves (as we perceive them) need a medium like air to travel through, and in the vacuum of space there is no such medium. So to the human ear at least – space is silent.

However, this is not the whole truth.

On August 16th 1977, a radio telescope in Ohio picked up a steady source of radio waves that became known as the “Wow!” signal…


There is much speculation as to the origin of the “Wow!” signal and perhaps we will never know for sure if it was of extra-terrestrial design. But it certainly makes you wonder.

The field of Radio Astronomy observes astronomical objects by studying their radio wave emissions. These astronomical objects, such as stars and galaxies, naturally emit radio waves which travel across the vast ocean of space at the speed of light – an astounding 186,282 MILES PER SECOND! (The equivalent of flying around planet Earth 4.6 times in a single second!) (more…)

Creating Fantasy User Interfaces (FUIs)



You’ve probably never heard the term ‘Fantasy User Interface’ but I can guarantee, you know exactly what one is.

An FUI is the super cool and futuristic computer display system found in movies, TV shows and computer games. Obviously these FUIs are not real computer programs but bespoke animations created with the purpose of helping tell the story. In modern filmmaking, most of these FUIs are added in post production but some films still feature on-set displays that the actors can interact with.

For COSMOS we need to create several FUIs of our own, and in researching the topic we found ourselves entering a vibrant sub-culture of FUI designers and admirers. If you’re interested in learning more about the cool user interfaces in your favourite movie, please check out Kit FUI which is basically an IMDb-like database for anything and everything FUI. You can also lose hours marvelling at the intricacy of these designs and enjoy the talents of their creators such as Jayse Hansen, OOOii and Mark Coleran.


green screenMoving onto COSMOS we need three different displays for the three main characters to work from. As discussed in a previous post about Building the Goodman Satellite in Blender, we’re big fans of practical and physical effects (for both photographic and budgetary reasons!). (more…)

The Importance of Location Scouting

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“Location. Location. Location.”

Picture some of the greatest films in cinema history and y0u’ll be blinded by a vast canvas of filming locations… we’re not talking constructed film sets here, we’re talking places out in the real world that the crew have travelled to.

Filming on practical locations is at the very heart of cinema itself — Just watch this stunning tribute montage to the late, great Tony Scott (expertly crafted by sigug) and keep an eye on all the amazing locations he used…


Casting the ‘Astro-Nuts’

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CASTING THE ‘Astro-Nuts’

“I always take great care in casting my movies… you develop good characters with good casting.” — Ridley Scott

Every Director will tell you… Casting is everything.

The history of film is littered with examples of both good and bad casting. In the hands of an experienced actor, the corniest dialogue can effortlessly bubble with life… but an inexperienced actor can just as easily murder a film’s chances of success. Will your film serve as an inspiration to others… or a warning?

Watch this short video of director Ed Burns and commit his golden-nuggets of advice to memory…


Good filmmaking is 95% good casting — Ed Burns, Director.

Committing to finding the right actor for the right role is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a filmmaker. You can only make a good film if you cast good actors… and be under no allusion — good actors are hard to find.


Storyboarding – Make Your Movie, Before You Make Your Movie

COSMOS Banner Storyboarding


“A picture paints a thousand words… or something like that”

A Storyboard is basically a huge comic strip of the film, used to help visualise the scenes and how they will be seen through the lens of a camera.

Here are a few examples of the COSMOS Storyboard for a sequence where one of the main characters has the run through a forest at night:

Storyboards can vary in complexity, from simple ‘stick-figure’ line drawings to intricately crafted works of art in their own right.

Alien Ridleygram

Alien Ridleygram

Many major motion pictures will have entire teams of Storyboard Artists methodically working their way through set-piece sequences or even the entire film.

Some Directors produce their own stylised storyboards, allowing their vision to be translated directly to the page – Ridley Scott’s Ridleygrams are not only incredibly beautiful, but a fascinating insight into his visual process. (more…)

The Script Breakdown & Stripboard

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We’ve written the script, now it’s time to break-it-down – this results in the deceptively-named Script Breakdown.

In order for the script to be turned into a film, we’ve analysed the script and created a detailed list of all elements within it; literally breaking down each scene into its component parts, and there are many scheduling tools available on the market such as Movie Magic and Showbiz to assist you in the process.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 18.39.21I’m not going to go into detail about the breakdown process; there are plenty of people who’ve already done a great job and if you’re interested in producing a Breakdown for your own film, I would recommend visiting LineProducing.com – there’s a wealth of knowledge and advice on their site to help you with your projects.

All in all, the Breakdown for COSMOS took me about 2 solid days – personally I find it tough to stick with it; it’s not really my cup of tea (as we Brits say), but it is a vital step in the production process and therefore needs to be done. Now complete, we can draw up a Production Schedule and Budget, and then we can get underway! (more…)

Creating A Great Teaser Trailer… (Accidentally)

COSMOS Banner Teaser Trailer


Previously we’ve covered how the concept for COSMOS was born, and our scriptwriting process. Today I want to talk to you about this here Teaser Trailer… and why, quite frankly, it exists.


Believe it or not this Teaser Trailer was created before we’d even begun writing the script!

Why?’ I hear you cry – well there’s a very good explanation…

So gather round children, it’s story time!

While brainstorming ideas for scenes, we developed a sequence where one of our characters phones a friend who works at a Radio Astronomy Observatory. We really loved this idea for the change in location it could offer the film, and how it would allow our three main characters to interact with another scientist on the other end of the phone; it could even offer some comic relief as this disembodied voice is caught snoozing during his night shift, instead of monitoring the radio dish array.

However we knew that if we used this scene, we’d somehow have to visually establish this ‘friends’ location and with his place of work being a Radio Astronomy Observatory, this meant inserting a shot into the edit of a suitably impressive dish pointing up to the night sky.


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