Lighting and movies

Singapore, 9th May 2010

You know in our daily lives we use lighting or lighting metaphors in many different ways. I wrote about it previously in terms of our language for instance. Remember the light bulb in cartoons to illustrate someone got an idea? Someone ever changed that in a compact fluorescent lamp to illustrate the change of times. Last night I watched a series on TV where a developer was talking about his new building development being sustainable and that it would be LEED classified! That is keeping up with the times!

In general movies are supposedly representative of our times if it plays in today’s time and age hence you would expect to see the latest products and technologies being used. Products are often sponsored in movies, like cars, drinks, techno gadgets such as phones, etc. You see the brand name flashing for a second on the screen. But what about lighting? Do you ever notice the type of lights being used, or recognize any particular brand?

I remember that Philips ever got involved in the James Bond movies and sponsored some modern looking lighting installation for “M’s” laboratory. I don’t remember exactly which Bond movie it was but clearly remember looking out for it when watching the movie. It is that I knew what to look for, but for sure most people didn’t even notice. At least a Swarovski chandelier or specific exposed fixtures you will notice, but will you recognize an LED down light used in a movie? Probably not, unless specifically pointed out as part of the storyline.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that the latest lighting technologies and lighting trends will more and more appear in movies. Next time you watch a movie look out for it…you will be surprised. Let me know!

09. May 2010 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: lighting of the future | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. Pingback: LIGHT TALK » Blog Archive » Lighting and movies · News at

  2. There always seems to be a Flos Arco Floor Lamp in the Bond Baddies Penthouse!

  3. Dear Martin,

    Good to know that you were in Chennai day before. Its where i come from (my native city)!! 🙂

    There are many movies in which they create effects with light (mostly source not seen) but i want to share with you about a movie where you actually can see the effect and the source (in our words, Light) too!!

    It’s the movie “All the President’s Men” released in 1976 starring Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman casting the roles of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of Washington Post. It’s a story about the reporters Woodward and Bernstein, both try to uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.

    The movie won 4 Academy Awards in the later year including “Best Art direction-Set decoration”. The reason for grabbing this award is – they recreated the entire workspace (newsroom) set of Washington Post office in Los Angeles studio at a cost of $450,000 at that time. Even Washington Post co-operated with them by shipping several crates of actual newsroom refuse that included: unopened mail, government directories, Washington telephone directories, wire service copy, calendars, etc.

    The important point to note in their success is “Lighting”. It’s a stunning achievement i would say, in that period!! Whenever the camera dollies inside the workspace you can feel the ambiance and energy flowing inside with every shot. The idea the art directors adapted was to lower the ceiling of the space, compared to actual Washington Post office. The ultimate effect is not of enclosing the space and making the office seem more confined but rather of putting the florescent practical light sources closer to the actors. The shots that are given are often low angled, that is, they shot from low positions to higher positions so as to keep the audience looking upward towards the fluorescent lights of the ceiling and the bright light reflected off of the distant walls of the office. This was done mainly to avoid shadows.

    Also there is another interesting shot in this film where Robert Redford meets a character so called “Deep Throat”. The objective lighting is not very high quality – the scene takes place in a parking garage, with sparse florescent lighting. Good work again with Light!!

    Here are some links from youtube –

    If you haven’t watched it yet, grab a DVD in any store!! It’s delightful to watch (both the story & the light)

    with regards,
    Sathish Kumar. A
    Lighting Design Intern/Student,
    KTH, Sweden.

  4. Yes I saw the movie many years ago…indeed very interesting. Thanks for this info.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *

Get Adobe Flash player