How I Learned to Appreciate the Lumens

Man, a filmmaking course was the BEST idea I’ve ever had, period. People kept telling me that it would ruin my cinema experience forever, and I guess at first I kinda did. Back in my early days, I was just constantly pointing out (in my head) all the tropes, camera tricks and filmmaking techniques in everything I saw. Ruined a few movies, I can tell you that much. But then I started to notice the genius (or lack of) in various movies and shows, and now it’s a lot of fun thinking about them.

Really annoying at the time though. Okay, so there was this Melbourne designer lighting expo near where I lived. Not that fancy floor lamps and chandeliers are really what you use in filmmaking, but I was curious, so I went along to have a look. Made me think a lot about lights, how you illuminate a place, all that jazz. At the time, the one thing that really annoyed me about TV was how everything was perfectly lit, all the time. There would be a scene in a cave, or at night, and if the scene was done RIGHT, then everything would be perfectly visible. not that I had any bright ideas for solving the problem, but it just really got to me, at first.

But then I went the expo, and that place was LIT. As you’d expect, the light was all over the place, saturating every surface, making everything visible. But still…it wasn’t overdone. The light had been perfectly arranged so that it lit the right areas, didn’t oversaturate the corners and wasn’t just irritating. You noticed it at first, but walking through the expo, I just…stopped. It wasn’t important to me after a while. The actual source of the lighting was still interesting, but I was no longer constantly thinking about how bright it was.

That’s the kind of genius that made me forget the unnatural lighting issue. Lighting in a scene isn’t just how you see things; it sets the tone, manipulates the viewer emotions without being obtrusive. THAT’S what i want to learn. And it took a whole lot of commercial LED lighting, attractively-presented, to make me see it. I guess art really does imitate real life.