Lighting trends and fashions: is that a thing? (5 replies and 3 comments)
I'm writing a thesis about lighting trends in modern cinema, but I'm not exactly sure of where I'm heading, because of the lack of reliable sources available. So is that really a thing?
I've noticed some changes in recent years, mainly in use of colorful, neon lighting. There used to be more of simultaneous dark blue and sundown orange lighting, these days I feel like it's even more stylized - I see more of light blue / azure and bloody / bright red or even pink. Is that simply a coincidence or are there some "fashions" in the branch of cinematography, even if they're unspoken of?
And if it is true - can you recommend me some good sources, that could backup my thesis?
Here are some examples:
(Skyfall as an example of the past, Sicario stands for present)
You take two examples that are from very different films and the lighting is such for very different reasons. I think it might make more sense to contrast the lighting of early color films with those of today's. For instance, look at 'Red Shoes' or 'The Black Narcissus' and compare those two films with the examples you show.
Thank you, I will certainly look closer into these films. But my work, was generally supposed to be focused around modern cinema. Particularly the past two years. I understand that every film follows different rules, but I really need to know: are there any repeatable ways of lighting, some trends and fashions that change every few years in cinematography? Something that, in present time, cinematographers like to focus on, some particular lamps or colors, something that helps inspire each other in the branch? I didn't want to compare these two films directly, I'm just curious, are there any types of lighting that presently are being followed by many cinematographers at once? It was only supposed to be a comparison of two totally different, independent types of lighting.
I really can't say to that. I work the way I do without any reference to what a 'trend' there might be.
The only trend I have noticed is that most newer films have deeply manipulated images. The color temperature of the camera is constantly changed. In short, nothing truly ever looks natural, the colors are explosively oversaturated, and meant to look pretty for the general audience. Look at a new movie like Jurassic World; and pretty much every other film out there looks just like this. Most of the new cinematographers come from a music video background, they're used to shooting multi-million dollar projects for Beyoncé, and some of that neon lighting you mentioned is starting to bleed into every commercial film. You will notice that neon blue lighting at 0:59 in the trailer.
It does kind of feel like techno lighting, because of all the odd explosive colors, I mean just look at the Jurassic World trailer and you'll see what the standard is for every major motion picture; it's eye candy, plain and simple.
I prefer older traditional looks like "Elmer Gantry", it's a very bare look with no unnecessary glamour shots.
You're right. That music video thing is a very good tip. But my argument reaches a bit deeper, beyond commercial films. Good Time, The Guest, A Fantastic Woman, Nico 1988, Lucky - that's only a few of independent, also international films, in which I've noticed the tendency of using neon lighting. So I think that this comes from somewhere else, maybe even from people like mr Deakins, who inspire younger cinematographers. It is also very common in students' projects. Music videos might be the answer for some, but definitely not for everybody.
Also, the last Jurassic World was shot by Oscar Faura, a very talented cinematographer, so I think that it is a bit unfair to criticize him, because it's a huge blockbuster, where obviously a lot of color grading and cheap, corny shots will be applied, that he might not have an influence on.
The production company a21 is obsessed with that particular look. Those neon colors are often associated with the night life, characters who deal with vices and drugs. It's been done by many filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn with films like 'Drive', 'Neon Demon', and also by director Harmony Korine with 'Spring Breakers'.
The only films I can think of that used such excessive color were Italian giallo films from directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. But those neon colors you normally see in strip clubs and night clubs, which is where some of the scenes of all those films you mentioned take place. I think it just deeply depends on the location. Robby Mueller (may he rest in peace) also used similar colors in Paris, Texas with scenes when Harry Dean looks for his ex-wife. So, it's certainly been done before. I don't think its anything new.
I mean just compare Italian giallo slasher 'Blood and Black Lace' with 'Neon Demon' and there are noticeable influences.
I think you meant A24. I don't mind this sort of obsession, when it leads to such great films, produced by the company - their selection is almost impeccable, so I wouldn't accuse them of anything unoriginal or repetitive. The Paris, Texas is another good reference, certainly when you compare to Lucky. Lucky is some sort of overview on Harry Dean Stanton's career and as his role in Paris, Texas was probably most notable out of them all, there are a lot of connections between the two movies. Definitely the scene with neon lighting and the spanish singing. So, there you have it, that's one example explained. And when we take under consideration the fact that there is nothing random in films, then we should also take notice, that filming locations have to be discovered and chosen in the first place. How often is the location picked because of the visual aspects? Pretty much every time, but yes, picking night clubs is a way of justifying the usage of unnatural lighting, but these days many light sources on the streets are being exploited to light a scene, particularly in the night. And it seems to be more and more stylized and unnatural in my opinion.
I'm sorry to post this music video, I'm an old country music fan, I like Kitty Wells and Skeeter Davis, but you will notice the younger generation of cinematographers don't watch any actual classic films. This is what everyone is doing, which is why you see the younger generation expressing themselves so openly with techno-like colors. It's something of a light show. This particular musician Drake has hundreds of millions of young fans, so younger audiences are used to this kind of stuff.
I still definitely think it comes from music videos.