The lighting most of us are used to in our homes is a soft gold – the light produced by tungsten bulbs. The lighting used on sets in the past has also been tungsten, albeit much more powerful. Contrast this with the light from fluorescent bulbs – a light that looks cool blue to our eyes. No where near as flattering to us older ladies! Honey, give me warm pink!!! But we are all in for a change. Movie lighting too!
- Tungsten vs LED
In 2014 a law goes into effect requiring energy limits that tungsten lights don’t meet. So manufacturers are phasing out production of tungsten lights and exploring options with compact fluorescents and LEDs. A look at the lighting section of your local hardware store will show you that a lot of changes are afoot. This is creating a headache for cinematographers, art directors, and makeup artists. All will have to adjust for the new lighting.
“There have been color-rendering problems,” says SciTech Council director Andrew Maltz. “The colors that appear on film or digital cameras are not what the d.p.’s expect. When they used these new devices, to their eye, it looked fine, but the recorded image was wrong.” (“Chromatic chaos reigns”, Variety, Apr. 13, 2011 http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118035372) An experiment with LED lighting showed the problem:
“A model wearing a specifically designed dress with various gradations of blue and blue-green had been filmed while she was lit by the latest addition to the cinema lighting family — the LED fixture.
The results were shocking. They didn’t represent at all what everyone present had seen on set when the dress was photographed.
“Now, it was simply a nice blue dress,” says visual effects specialist Jonathan Erland, who chairs the Solid State Light and Research subcommittees of the Academy’s Science and Technology Council. “The subtle differences in the colors were gone. And in movies, subtle is the difference between excellent and not so excellent.”
The 2009 Star Trek movie included lighting approaches that would evoke the feel of the previous movies. Visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett “wanted to present the Enterprise in a very emotional way, so he and director of photography Dan Mindel used the lighting approach that Stanley Kubrick had used in his film 2001 as a template, with a lot of darkness hinting at the unknown.” (http://www.startrek.com/database_article/industrial-light-magic) This will be less critical for the next Star Trek movie but the lighting changes mean the film crew will have a lot of experimenting to do! LED products are being developed that don’t flicker and allow control of the color temperature but they are new and very expensive. I’m sure Industrial Light and Magic is already testing them out.