I film camera technology of the time, the film

I will be exploring and contrasting how the lighting in the early
stages of cinematography was developed and how these changes in technology affected
techniques and how cinematic styles have been born from these developments.
Over this time cinematic lighting techniques advanced through the silent era,
to the beginning of film noir. Throughout the 1890s to 1950s light roles in
film production transformed from just a way to light a shot, to a fundamental
tool for creatively though visual storytelling.Film makers in the late 1890s were confined by
the film camera technology of the time, the film was only fast enough to expose
at just a fraction of a second, so a strong light sauce was required, the bright
sunlight was almost exclusively used to expose the cameras film, artificial
lighting could not compete. Early films would be limited to outdoor scenes
however filmmakers would make ways around their technological restrictions to
expand the narratives for indoor scenes, rooftop sets were build, followed by
dedicated studios with our air or glass roofs. Thomas Edison created the famous
black Maria studio (1892) this structure optimised shooting time with sunlight,
it allowed the glass roof to be maneuverer to follow the direct sunlight and
large black curtains would be open and closes with poles that had hooks on the
ends, there were called gaff poles and is the reason the people who light films
today are still called gaffers. The bright sunlight enabled shots to be lit
clearly however did not enable filmmakers to work the light to create mood,
styles and dramatic effects are the rudiments of cinematic lighting currently. Artificial
lighting was predicted to be first used in 1896 when the first indoor studio
was created, by Oskar Messter in Berlin. Filmmakers knew the ideal would be for
artificial lights to replace sunlight at exposing a clear shot, it would enable
longer shooting times and more freedom however it was not quite their yet. In
the film The Mystic Swing (1900) natural light is complimented with artificial
lighting as electric
movie lights were in use and although they were big and required a lot of
manpower, electricity, and expertise to operate meant that indoor and outdoor
shot shots could be clear lit. Although the technology was available it was
only by 1905 that filmmakers started to utilise the creative possibilities of
artificial light.

The two types of lights that where most commonly used were arc
lights and mercury vapor lights. Arc lights were powered by electric spark
jumping and gave off a very large and gave off a bright hard light source, this
was the first use of directional lighting. This meant that the filmmakers could
vary and contrast the lighting of the shot. Mercury vapour light working like
modern fluorescent tubes these were also used as direction lights as well as practice
light visual in the shot. Light changed from just a way to clearly light a
shot, to a remarkable tool for visual storytelling. The aesthetic benefits of
lighting were accepted worldwide and by 1907 the first dark studio was created
in Italy, this studio completely relied on artificial light, which is the
standard of studios today.

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In the 1910s productions started to use a range of new lighting
techniques, In D. W. Griffith film Enoch Arden (1911) the technique of using a
soft lighting effect on faces by using reflectors to redirect strong backlight,
this is similar to using a bounce board nowadays. Another technique Griffith
also used was increasing the use of high contrast lighting, this would create a
deep shadow across characters and sets, this is a very early version of what is
now called Rembrandt lighting. The last innovative technique was diffusion,
these could transform hard light into soft light and softened the shadows, this
heavily beneficial lighting of subject and actors as it created a more
complimentary effect.One of
the best-known lighting effects was created around this time, the three-point
lighting system, as it became common to use a combination of several lights to
create a more complex and visually appealing cinematic effect. This involves
three separate lights, the first being the key light. This is positioned to one
side of the camera and is usually the strongest light, this will have the most
influence on the look of the shot. Being positioned off to the side it creates
one well-lit side of the subject and the other side is shadowed. The next light
is the fill light and this is positioned opposite the key light, this lights
job is to fill in the side that is covered in shadow created by the key light,
however this light will be softer and no as bright as the key this was achieved
by moving the light further away or adding more diffusion however nowadays with
more modern lighting there is control over the brightness of lights. The last
light to complete the three-point system is the back light, this is poisoned be
behind the subject and light it from behind, this creates a defined and suable
highlight around the subjects, this would help the filmmaker direct the viewers
eye so that they focus more of the subject than the background. One of the
first films to utilise this was Fred Niblo’s The Mark of Zorro in 1920.

The introduction of a new film stock, panchromatic in 1926, altered
the popularly of incandescent lights as the colour temperature matched the
stocks. Studios quickly started using incandescent lights for this reason but
their wide use used was owed to many other factors too. These lights needed
less electrical power as well as less manpower that the usual lights, they also
reduced set up time and time it took to operate during shoots saving studio money.
Another factor was that with the introduction of sound the arc light was
temporarily abandoned due to its loud humming sound that would be picked up by
recording equipment however by the 1930s arcs were reintroduced with alteration
that silenced the humming, replacing the incandescent as the standard for some

Around 1947 a response to the techniques used for shooting
newsreels during World War II create a new lighting look. During these newsreels,
the filmmakers could not logistically create complicated lighting setups
forcing them to rely on daylight or small powerful lights for general
illumination. This style started to be adopted to by some filmmakers as it gave
off a rough and ready look, generating thrillers with documentary feels these
films would tend to be based on real events pushing this cinematic aesthetic
further, Call Northside 777 (1948) is an example of this. The 1950s saw the
growing popularity of colour film, this altered the framework of lighting as
this new range, with different hues, meant that light was not need for the role
of differentiating between surfaces, this enable less lights to be used. Another
alteration in lighting can be accredited to the rapid expansion of live
television production. These productions required the set and subjects to be
clearly and equally lit, pushing the role of light away from a more cinematic
look to a style not dissimilar to the old 1890s sunlit films. This high-key
style from live television was widely accepted as the norm however the
cinematic visual storytelling power of lighting was not going anywhere, as
around this time film noir was just starting to be realised.