10 Oct 2017

Lighting is everything [video]

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Beautiful lighting is important - even if you don't notice it Beautiful lighting is important - even if you don't notice it Alastair Dixon/Aardman

Lighting is every bit a part of our visual language as storytelling itself. Here's an example showing how it can transform animation and visual FX.

At the risk of stating the obvious, lighting makes a scene, even — or especially — in computer generated animations.

Lighting, more than almost anything else, establishes the feel of a scene. It has its own language. It can be threatening or uplifting, powerful or timid, inspiring or desolate. There’s a form of lighting for almost every emotion.

And although we’re very good at interpreting this language, that doesn’t mean that we necessarily have the talent to create effective lighting on-set, whether real or virtual.

We don’t always appreciate good lighting, at least, not overtly, not consciously. Because when it’s done well, it simply looks right. We typically don’t say: “That was a lovely film and so was the lighting". The way a scene is lit is — rightly so — intrinsic to that scene. Separating the lighting from a scene is like trying to remove an egg from a baked cake.

All of which is leading up to a Lighting Supervisor’s showreel. As you look at Alastair Dixon’s CGI and VFX showreel, pay special attention to the lighting. This video makes a very good point, which is that even in the goofiest, stylised animation, realistic lighting makes it seem real, or at least, credible.

Check out Alastair's website for more VFX, CGI and Photography work.

David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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