3 Movies That Show How Students in Film School Can Use Natural Light

Posted on December 22nd, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

Want your work at film school to have an interesting look

One of the main benefits of lighting equipment is that it can allow film production to go on at any time of day, and in many environments. Without lights, it can be difficult to get good footage in low-light conditions.

Still, there are some films that forego lighting equipment in favour of the illumination offered by natural light sources. Done well, this approach to lighting can be used to create a sense of realism in the picture, and helps create striking visuals that would be more difficult to achieve with traditional lighting systems.

Want a little inspiration? Here are three movies that used natural light to great effect.

1. Children of Men Exemplifies Gritty Naturalism for Students in Film Production Programs

In Children of Men, which takes place in a world where no children have been born for over 18 years, a man and pregnant woman attempt to flee multiple warring factions bent on their capture. The places through which they journey are desolate, and the mood is decidedly sombre throughout the film.

Director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki relied largely on natural lighting for the film, which helped paint the scenery in drab greys and browns. If you want your work in the production and final project terms of your film school education to exhibit a similarly depressing tone, consider utilizing the subdued lighting of a cloudy day to help achieve your goal.

2. Use of Sunlight and Firelight Helped Make The Revenant‘s Visuals Distinct

The Revenant is another great example of natural lighting, again thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki. In this film, which follows a man journeying through frozen wilderness in search of revenge, use of natural light helped contribute to a realistic, brutal atmosphere.

Differences in the colour temperature of light sources also led to some beautiful, emotional shots. The cool, blue-tinted light of the sun heightened the loneliness of a man wandering the winter landscape, and reddish firelight was used at times to provide constrained warmth in portions of the picture. Considering the emotional impact of different colour temperatures, as was done in The Revenant, can help you use natural light to great effect while completing your courses in film.

3. Wild Shows Students in Film School that Natural Light Can Be Breathtaking

Natural light is not just a tool for creating a sense of gloom. As evidence, consider the film Wild, which follows a woman on a journey of discovery as she hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail is famous for its spectacular views and varied climates—it stretches along the west coast from Mexico to the Canadian border—and natural lighting (in the hands of cinematographer Yves Belanger) was used as a way to help communicate the diversity and splendour of the landscapes.

Natural lighting helped the landscape shine in Wild

Natural lighting helped the landscape shine in Wild

If you find yourself working on a film project that places importance on the natural world, consider employing a similar tactic by using natural lighting. Fans of nature will likely find much to appreciate in the way your work highlights, and doesn’t try to alter, the beauty of your chosen landscape.

Natural light can be used to many effects, and is an interesting tool for budding filmmakers to explore. Consider trying it out to create standout visuals at film school and beyond.

Are you thinking of studying in film production programs?

Visit Trebas for more information, or to speak to an advisor.

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