punctuated, supported, or counterpointed by the deliberate and artistic
use of lights in the scene.
Designing with Shadow
Designing with light is only half of the toolset. You can design with
shadow as well. That which we choose not to light is equally as impor
tant as that which we choose to light. We may wish to hide some
information until later, perhaps only allowing information to leak subcon
sciously into the scene. We may wish to be more deliberate than that,
excluding important information so that the viewer will wonder why and
will focus more on that missing information. There is little that draws a
viewer into your story better than genuine curiosity.
Take a man standing half in the shadow of a dark, dead-end alley.
Now that you have that image in your mind, what are you seeing?
Are you seeing the half-illuminated face of a man or are you seeing the
dark, silhouetted shape that resides in shadow? Certainly the illumi-
nated half tells us that there is a man in the alley. We are given that piece
of the story up front: There is a man in the alley. Then the questions
start to rise: Why is there a man in the alley? Why is he half in the shad-
ows? Is he trying to hide from something? Or maybe he’s stepping into
the light on purpose, maybe he’s trying to make himself more visible so
the old lady walking home won’t be frightened of him.
There are many different ways you can use shadow to accentuate
elements in your scene, to draw the audience’s eye toward, or away
from, scenic elements.
Lighting a Scene vs. Lighting an Object
In the world of visual effects, CG artists often find themselves creating
and illuminating individual elements to be composited onto photographic
background plates. In a case like this, the artist will be attempting to
simulate the lighting environment found in the plate. If, on the other
hand, you are the designer and your scene is entirely, or even largely,
CG, then the design becomes infinitely more complex and infinitely
Lighting a scene means understanding the story and the technical
requirements. It means being able to interpret the emotional intent of
both the writer and director. It means being able to implement a lighting
design that supports that intent. If you are a lighting TD or a lighting art
ist with experience in visual effects and you wish to move on to lighting
all-CG scenes, be aware that lighting individual CG elements for visual
Part III: Creating Lighting ··································