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…)


One Simple Trick That Will Improve Your Film Lighting

reverse key banner

“What’s this?!” I hear you cry sceptically,

“Are you going to offer some kind of Holy Grail of lighting that will instantly make my movies look better?!”

Well… actually, yes. Quite simply if you put into practise the information below your movies will almost immediately look more… well movie like. It’s a simple yet incredibly effective lighting technique that should change the way you place your lamps… forever!

So, what is it exactly that I’m eluding to? Why, it’s Reverse Key Lighting of course. Don’t know what that is? You’re in luck, read on.


How to Film in Available Light Like a Pro


And God said… “Let there be light” and there was light. And the Director saw the light, and it was good (enough!)

Availablelight_thumbEver since the Big Man up there sparked that huge HMI in the sky, the Sun has been working for (and against!) filmmakers across the world. Shooting outside can be the most rewarding and most challenging part of your job; the imperfections of nature are what make it so perfect to photograph, but those same imperfections can and often do conspire against you.

Any filmmaker brave enough to venture from the safety of a controlled film set soon learns that the world is constantly changing; Hot, cold. Wet, dry. Day, night. Noisy, quiet. Windy, still.

Days of Heaven, Dir. Terrence Malick. 1978

Days of Heaven, Dir. Terrence Malick. 1978

To a filmmaker, light is everything. Inside a studio you can control that light, but outside, the light controls you. When shooting exterior scenes, interviews or landscapes you must be flexible and ever observant to the levels of light changing around you.

Shooting with available light (i.e. not supplementary artificial filming light) is primarily a documentary technique, however some feature films; particularly those of Terrence Malick, favour the dramatic aesthetic of this available light.

This beautifully produced tribute video from Joel Walden demonstrates the magic and majesty of Malick’s work and how, with the right eye, nature itself is the most amazing movie effect of them all.

So after that inspiration, here are the 2 GOLDEN RULES for taking advantage of Mother Natures spotlight – the Sun.


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