The 10 Film Lighting Techniques Amateur Filmmakers and Videographers Need to Know

You are an amateur filmmaker looking to make it into the big leagues. You’ve decided to take part in your town’s annual film festival to get your name out there and get some practice in. you’ve got your actors, a camera, and stage props.

You can have all the best of these things but if you don’t make it look real, it will pull your audience’s attention to the wrong place. The best way to create a sense of immersion is to use film lighting to your advantage.

To help you get first place in your local film festival, here are ten lighting techniques that you should keep in mind.

1. Natural Lighting

If your film project has a small budget then we have good news for you. Natural lighting is free and you don’t have to move it at all. It’s the light that is already found at the location you’re at.

If you’re going to be using a lot of natural lighting in your project you’ll want to take a look around the area first. Remember the time of day you go. The lighting will be different in the mornings than it is in the late evenings.

As far as using natural light, you can’t move it like you would a spotlight but you can alter its direction with bounce cards.

2. Three-Point Lighting

Three-point lighting is one of the most basic lighting techniques in film. It involves lighting your actor from three points. Key, fill and back lighting all make up this technique.

We’ll get into a little more detail about how these three lighting techniques come together later. What you should know now is that using the three-point lighting system will stop your actor from fading into the background of your set.

3. Key Lighting

Key lighting is going to be the main source of light in any scene and it’s the light that shines the brightest in the 3-point lighting set up.

The main thing that you need to keep in mind when using the key light is to not put it near the camera. If you do, the lighting will become flat which is the opposite of what you want.

You can place the key light behind the actor. Doing this will make the scene come across as a little more dramatic.

4. High Key Lighting

High key lighting is a technique that will lower the lighting ratio in your scene. Using it will allow you to tweak the mood of a scene to your advantage.

High key lighting is made up of a lot of bright white lights to help reduce shadow. You won’t see many dark tones going on. It’s usually used to make a scene come across as a little more hopeful.

5. Low Key Lighting

Low key lighting is the exact opposite of high key. If you need your scene to be a little darker you’ll use low key. It keeps everything in the shadows.

Whereas high key lighting uses bright, white tones, low key uses darker ones. You’ll see this technique a lot in thriller movies.

6. Fill Lighting

The key light will create a bunch of shadows which is where the fill lighting comes in. It’s placed on the opposite side of the key light to get rid of or reduce shadows without overpowering the key light.

It doesn’t cast any shadows nor does it have any other stand out features.

Along with additonal lighting fixtures, fill lighting can also be created with the use of bounce cards.

Film Lighting

7. Backlighting

As the name suggests, the backlight is used to cast a light on an actor from behind. It helps keep your actor separate from the background and gives them a little more depth.

The great thing about backlighting is you can combine it with natural lighting. You can take advantage of the sun. If the sun’s rays are a little too intense to use as a backlight then use a reflector to lessen the impact.

You can change things up a little by casting the backlight at an angle. This is better known as a kicker.

8. Practical Light

Practical light is when you use lighting that’s already at a location or part of the set rather than bringing in a bunch of stage lights. This includes things like candles, lamps, string lights, even a small glare from a television could count as practical light.

Practical lights are used more as indicative lighting to draw the viewer into the frame rather than to light a whole scene. That’s not to say you it can’t be done to great effect, but before you decide to use them, you should always check your light levels.

Film Practical Lighting

9. Hard Lighting

Hard lighting is a technique involving a direct light source. The result is rough lines and shadows. This can be done with stage lights or even the sun.

You can use hard lighting to bring attention to an actor or object in a scene, cast silhouettes, or create a high light effect.

10. Soft Light

Soft light is less of a light source and more of an esthetic. It’s used to get rid of shadows in a scene with a small amount of light.

Using soft light can take a few years off an actor’s face and it can also be used as a fill light.

Film Lighting Techniques You Should be Aware of

You can gather up all the best props, actors, and cameras but without the proper lighting, your film will fall flat. It’s the bread and butter of any production.

Use some of these film lighting techniques to add a little bit of life into all your video and film projects.

Do you want your next film project to stand out? Need some fill or practical lighting solutions? Go here to check out our list of services.


Event Lighting: Tips to Make Your Occasion Shine

The events industry is booming right now.

Indeed, events in the business world alone draw around 1.5 billion attendees every year.

Throw in those from every other industry and it’s clear that huge numbers of events, of all shapes, sizes, and varieties, are taking place all the time.

Are you looking to hold one of your own? Well, the event lighting will be key to its success.

Lighting helps set the mood, highlight important features, direct foot traffic, and has a host of other important functions.

Go to any premium event and the lighting will be on point. It’s up to you to do the same for yours! Do it right, and you’ll be on your way to an unforgettable affair.

Wondering how to do it?

Keep reading to learn 8 essential lighting tips for your next event.

1. Get the Facts

Successful lighting is dependent on a solid understanding of the event itself.

You wouldn’t go to a fancy dress party without checking the theme first!

The same goes for your event’s lighting. Understanding exactly what you’re lighting is like finding the perfect outfit for a party.

How to light the occasion depends entirely on a plethora of factors. You should consider the location, the function itself (aka what sort of event is it? Corporate? Theatre production? A wedding party? Baby shower? Kids’ party? Etcetera), the number of attendants, and so on.

With the details decided, you have a better chance of creating a quality lighting experience.

2. Plan In Advance

Prior preparation prevents poor performance.

This rule for life most definitely applies when lighting an event!

Failure to plan is a recipe for disaster. You can’t just throw lights, colors, and effects around and expect a positive outcome. Instead, you need to apply due forethought to the occasion.

Planning the lighting is like an architect drawing up their blueprints. The vital step sets the groundwork for what’s to come. It’ll highlight potential challenges to overcome and guide the process to come.

The result is a more efficient process and cohesive, quality outcome.

Keep in mind the facts you’ve just gathered and set about planning how you’ll light it.

3. Focus on Key Locations

Here’s a quick point that leads from the last:

Every event has focal points of interest.

Be it the buffet table, the floral arrangements, the stage, or the microphone stand, some places need special light-related attention.

Reflect upon the crucial parts of your event during the planning phase. Taking this into account will prevent miscalculations, mishaps, and mix-ups on the day itself.

4. Pay Attention to Color

Never assume that all colors are made equal.

They aren’t! For novice event planners, this can come as an unexpected surprise.

Color has profound effects on the mood of event attendees.

It’s intrinsically tied to our emotions. Red, for instance, has connotations of anger, passion, heat, and danger. Likewise, bright white light can feel harsh and overwhelming; a soft glow is far more relaxing.

Getting the colors wrong can create the wrong impression at any event! Your guests can be walking around feeling blue, when you want them to be uplifted and inspired.

Reflect on the atmosphere you want to create. Keeping your overall theme in mind, set about using color to effectively implement the right vibe.

Here’s more information about the psychology of color.

5. Utilize LEDs

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can be a great asset to your lighting endeavors.

Now, they’re more expensive to buy upfront.

However, they’re also far more energy-efficient than traditional bulbs, which saves you money in the long run.

Even better, the quality of light is better, and you can cultivate any color you need for an event. That’s all good news when flexibility and cost are of the essence.

RGBW (red, green, blue & white) LED strip can be used to accent coves or tight spaces to highlight those key locations.

Check out our optoLED range of LED strip for a variety of solutions for most needs.

6. Leverage Visual Effects

Event lighting should never be dull (in all senses of the word!).

Creativity will be king when lighting the space. Think outside the box and incorporate effects to really make your event shine.

Gobos are one particular means of doing so. These pre-cut glass/metal patterns help you splash a space with novel moving shapes and colors. Dazzle your attendees with a dynamic lighting display that they won’t forget in a hurry.

Remember, the atmosphere is everything. The best events use lighting to manipulate peoples’ moods. Special lighting effects make that task far easier.

7. Incorporate Video

Technology has come a long way in recent years.

Lighting and video now combine to create some epic event effects. There are, of course, numerous ways to do this. However, the basic message is that incorporating dynamic video projections can work a treat!

You can create immersive experiences on blank walls and ceilings. Adjust video displays in real-time and take your guests into rainforests, oceans and outer space!

Video can be used to magical effect, and make your event stand out amongst others.

8. Experiment with Uplighting

Almost any event looks better with uplighting.

Think about incorporating it into yours.

This simple element supports everything from the atmosphere in the room, to the highlighting of particular areas. Bar areas, fabric draping, entranceways, water fountains, and other special features appear altogether transformed.

Uplights are a dynamic and aesthetically appealing addition. Even better, there’s a decorative effect that mitigates the cost of alternative beautifications! Your room looks amazing for a fraction of the cost.

Time to Make Your Event Lighting Shine

It’s hard to estimate the exact number of events happening annually around the world.

However, it’s fair to assume it’s a huge amount! Thousands of events are thrown in every industry and for every occasion each day.

A lot goes into holding a quality one. However, rest assured that the event lighting is a key component to success. Master the lighting and everything else is sure to run more smoothly!

Hopefully, the information in this post will help you make your forthcoming events shine that bit brighter.

Are you looking for professional support with this process? We can help. Contact us today to discuss your project with us.


What Is the Importance of Lighting in Theatre?

With a burst of passion and creativity, the performing arts can light up an evening. Behind each of these fantastic performances are hundreds of hours of tiny details, each of which holds the show together like glue.

No matter the type of performance, lighting in theatre is a needed pillar that drives performance from an idea to an inspired function. It is one of the technical lifebloods of theatre and it takes a lot more than flipping a switch.

Understanding how scenic lighting works, how it benefits theatre, and why it is so powerful is a big step towards understanding how to convey good performance art. Today we are looking at that subject. Read on below.

The Lighting Designer and the Power of Visibility

No matter the project, there is always some form of lighting designer (LD). This person, or sometimes persons, is in charge of crafting the lighting in the performance art in a way that turns the project from mundane to vibrant.

The LD crafts the importance of lighting through the power of visibility. This is not a simple matter of “Can the audience see the performance”, though that is an important factor.

The power of visibility is how light can catch the eye of the audience in particular directions. Through light, the LD can affect a wide variety of aspects from the audience, the mood, the focus and beyond.

The Details of Lighting in Theatre

Whether it is a play, musical or a performance art piece, the stage has many aspects that require lighting to bring it to life.

Lighting is more than a few lamps projected onto the stage. They can obviously include color, different arrays of light density, and timing of various light effects.

On top of this ‘main rig’ the LD can use scenic lighting to create a mood or a trigger to change from scene to scene.

Imagine an actor turning on a desk lamp. Along with the lamp lighting up they can also use this trigger to give purpose to changing other lighting on the stage.

Knowing how and when to put these together to create the right effect is an art form in itself.

Setting the Mood

Lighting to set the mood can be a simple enough concept. Dimming the lights can make the performance feel more dramatic or intimate. Bright and obnoxious lights can make the performance feel confusing and even terrifying.

Color theory can do a lot to affect the mood. Harsh reds can often mean danger and fear. Deep blues often have a calming effect.

Some art pieces can have a large variety of mood changes during the performance. This is a common theme for plays, which have corresponding stories to direct the mood as well.

With these tricks, the lighting can enhance the emotional core of any art piece, often with a simple change.

Showcasing the Scenery

Many art performances have some scenery or backdrops that set the scene, sometimes literally. These backdrops can range from minor importance and only there for effect, to the focus of an entire scene.

When scenery needs showcasing, lighting it up well is mandatory. Not only does this allow the audience to see the scenery, but it can help cast shadows or highlight certain parts.

With the right scenic lighting, you can also take the same piece and craft very different aspects to it. Shadows can create dark and moody scenery, where bright lights can make the scenery feel warming. All with the same scenery.

Putting lighting within the scenery can help create dimensions to scenic drops or flats to make them feel more realistic and three dimensional.

A Special Effect

For the special scenarios, lighting can make some dynamic effects that you can’t recreate in other mediums. The most common effects are crated with smoke.

The use of carefully placed smoke or fog effects such as smoke out a chimney or a low fog rolling across the stage add realism to a scene which draws the audience in even further.

Lighting can also recreate other dynamic effects like the weather. When the crack of lighting appears, the flash and shock are all lighting effects.

This can also simulate fire, explosions, or even the blur of motion or heavy rain and snow.

The use of projection in conjuction with the lighting helps to bring movement into a scene and when used well, tricks the audiences eye.

Creating Focus

Art’s purpose is to draw the eye. One of the main aspects of a performance is to showcase an art piece in a particular form.

Scenic Lighting can help draw focus to the right pieces at the right time, allowing the lighting designer to help showcase the proper pieces of the performance at the right time.

This can comes up in the form of spotlights or similar lighting. By blacking out or dimming the rest of the light, the audiences’ focus funnels to a particular spot or person in the piece.

How to Create Lighting Designs

Now theatre lighting can do all of this in so many wonderful ways. How do you get to this level of expertise? How do you integrate lighting into the various performances in a seamless way?

The expertise comes from training and practice. There are many degrees that can help you hone your technical skills. Blending it together comes from a few simple understandings.

Working With The Director

Most stage performances will have an overall director. This person, will help organise the overall vision and creative needs of the show.

The lighting designer will work closely with the director to deliver their design. The LD will be at most full run rehearsals to note the scene blocking and movements. This gives a detailed map of how the lighting will go into each part of the performance.

Whilst the lighting designer will create their own picture, the design is often a collaboration between the director and the lighting designer.

The Theme of the Show

Much of the dynamics of the lighting need to fit in with the performance itself. There is no need for dark and moody lighting if the themes are hope and joy.

This will be a case of the lighting designer reading into the performance. The creator or director will often have a guide for them to follow, but each scene will have obvious dynamics that the lighting designer then enhances.

Staging Needs

In the end, the last thing that you should never forget is simply lighting where light needs to be. The audience needs to see the piece, any actors involved need to see where they are going, and visual performance in the dark does nothing.

This makes the foundation of most lighting schenes based on the need to light the stage. It’s a simple start but makes for a great foundation to build all the lighting aspects onto it.

How to Light Up A Performance

Lighting in theatre is one of many powerful tools to create unique events and important art pieces. No matter what aspect of theatre you are showcasing, the technical side will always have a powerful hand in making it happen.

Scenic Lighting only enhances this tool and is being seen more and more as a necessity than a nice to have.

When it comes to the technicals of scenic theatre lighting, we here at Opto Projects have the tools and expertise to make it come alive. Interested in diving deeper into the world of scenic theatre lighting? Contact us today!


Pixel Strobe Build

Today, we take a look back on one of our first product designs – the OPTO Pixel Strobe. We designed these originally for the Australian tour of ‘We Will Rock You’, back in 2015. Associate LD, Richard “R2” Pacholski, wanted to gain more control than the previous spec of star strobes which covered the set.


The primary brief was to provide the same brightness and randomness of the star strobes, but with the ability to run controlled effects such as wipes and chases when required.

Electronics Pixel Strobe

Light Housing

How did we manage it?

We had previously completed a custom strobe build for ‘Matilda the Musical’ which, to integrate as invisibly with the set as possible and to keep the size down, was a bare PCB for the strobe head.

For this new project, we wanted to create a fixture that could be used time and again and withstand the rigours of touring. We started with finding an existing aluminium housing that could be adapted to work with our own custom electronics. We settled on a solid shell that was an off the shelf product, rather than having our own design custom machined.


silk screen printing


Once we had the enclosure, we moved on to electronics and control. The biggest issue we faced was finding a connector type that was both small enough to fit within the unit, but also with a high enough current rating to take the power required for the strobes.

When all the components were selected we did a prototype run of the design to validate the electronics, before moving on to mass production of the PCB. A few minor tweaks later and we were away!




Assembly LinePixel Strobes

Next, we moved on to finalising a few details of the over all product design – a yoke and back plate were designed and fabricated to integrate with the existing housing, and it all began to take shape. A quick trip to the powder-coaters and screen printers, and we had a product ready for final assembly.

At this embryonic stage of OPTO Projects as a company, we often struggled to find spaces to work. With the company directors based in two different cities at the time, this resulted in garages and lounge rooms being converted into assembly lines! With a willing workforce of partners, family and friends, the last push to get them assembled, tested and out the door went smoothly.


What we learned

As with all our projects, there were many things learned along the way. The key requirement for projects such as this – consisting of an extensive bill of materials and processes, from a range of suppliers – was planning and scheduling. We had a detailed road map on how we needed to accomplish this right from the start. With the tight timeline available for delivery, it wouldn’t have been possible to complete without that strict scheduling and organisation.

Freight times are never your friend, so always ensure you allow for much more contingency than you’d think, and be prepared to pay a premium for express shipping if it means other processes won’t be delayed.

Lastly be sure to test, test and test again. The only path to reliable products is comprehensive internal and external testing.  Feel free to get in touch if you have an idea we might be able to design and deliver for you!

Small high brightness pixel strobe chain, for thatre film and events industry


White Night Reimagined

In this week’s ‘In The Spotlight’, we look at a recent build OPTO Projects completed for Balooga Entertainment, which was featured at White Night Reimagined in Melbourne last week. This project had a tight turnaround, but working alongside great clients with clear ideas always makes up for time otherwise lost.

You want us to do what!?

When Graeme Haddon from Balooga Entertainment approached us to deliver this project, the brief was quite simple – ‘internally light the Buddha puppet with even coverage and keep the weight down to reduce strain on the puppeteers’.

OK, and how exactly?

AutoCAD design

To help achieve the goals, we looked at a variety of options that would give even coverage within the confined space we had to work with. After doing multiple tests with different light sources we settled on good old LED tape. This solution allowed us to get into the tight spaces such as the fingers and forearms giving us fairly even coverage. The biggest concern with this was the pixelation that often occurs when LED tape is close to the diffusion material. Graeme offered an alternate foam material that the puppet could be manufactured out of which gave great diffusion and helped to alleviate this issue.
As Graeme wanted to have the ability for colour wipes and control of individual parts of the puppet, we settled on using our optoLED RGBW Pixel Tape. The pixel tape formed the main “glow” of the puppet and worked in conjunction with the optoLED Pixel Discs used in key areas which needed featured effects. The palms of the hands and the eyes utilised only a few of the inside rings of the Pixel Discs and the headphones just the outer few rings. This flexibility meant we could easily match the sizes needed.

For the heart, we ended up using a full optoLED pixel disc which could again be pixel mapped to give more dynamic effects to this central focal pint. Although the external foam worked well for most situations it did cause some slight head scratching with this element. To get any definition from the heart, we had to stand off the the disc from the back panel to bring it closer to the puppets outer shell, all without causing a shadow from the LED behind. We created a standoff with a custom 3D printed washer that allowed us to bolt the disc to the metal standoff, without causing a short, but also allowing the LEDs under the washer to not be impacted.

The 3D printer was also brought into action for the LED in the arms. We designed some brackets to snap-fit over the structural rods which then held the extrusion evenly spaced around the circumference of the limb. This also gave us the ability to build the LED outside of the arm and just insert and clip into place (which also helps for maintenance).

3d Printing

We got this!

To get all this pixel tape under control, we went with two LeDMX4 Pro units from DMX King. Their small form factor and versatility made them perfect for this job. They also have the ability to replay a pre-recorded show from an onboard SD card via an external trigger, which was desirable for the client.

We did it!

In the end, we were happy with the result and although at times she was seen as a little scary (as The Age put it -“it will kill us all”), what more could you want from a 3m high puppet with frickin’ LED beams for eyes!

If you’d like any further information on this or any other project then feel free to contact us.


white night buddha