Advice needed on best digital lighting


New member
Hi. I am new to film making but want to make it my profession. I really need to know what the best kind of software is in order to create really professional looking digital lighting. I want my films to have that 'I-am-a-movie-not-a-home-video' look. lol. As I plan on making horror films I think I'd need some pretty dramatic lighting as well.


i'm not really sure what you mean by software for lighting.

If you're looking to learn how to light, I'd go pick up some theatrical and movie lighting books at the library or a bookstore, and study up. Then, go ahead and practice with the lights. A lot of this is practicing...just do it, as they say.
Lighting is lighting -- it's not a film vs. digital issue. You make some adjustments for the contrast range of a particular film stock or digital system, but in general, you have to light something for the look you want to create in terms of lighting. You want dappled blue moonlight coming through a window, for example, you have to light that whether in film or digital. You want a shadow pattern on a wall, you have to light for that.


I think everyone when the first start want to learn how to get the FILM look which is what your talking about. The home video look is because it is done on video (minidv, vhs, so on). Hollywood Movies are done on 16mm or 35mm giving them a more professional look but its VERY VERY expensive. Do your research there are ways to get that look through programs and a lot of color correction. Alot of it is having a good camera and shooting in 24p.


New member
Ok, cool. So, I have heard that I can shoot on a DVcam and then have the movie printed onto 35mm, would that induce a more professional look or would it need to be shot on 35mm straight off?
Thanks for the advice, it is great.
First of all, if you want a traditional 35mm look and can afford to shoot in 35mm, then you should shoot in 35mm. But I'm assuming that 35mm isn't even an option for you.

DV transferred to 35mm looks like DV transferred to 35mm. Now sometimes it can look OK, but it will never look like 35mm. But some of the better 24P standard def cameras may give you something closer to a Super-16 look transferred to 35mm. An SDX900 DVCPRO50 24P image will transfer better to 35mm than an DVX100A Mini-DV 24P image.

I'm just talking technically. Obviously, artistically, it takes a lot of skill to create a professional-looking movie no matter what format you shoot on (perhaps even MORE skill if the format is poorer in quality.)

Surely you've seen some DV movies in the theaters to judge that quality.

But transferring something to 35mm in itself does not add any "professional" look to the image.

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
This Sort Of Question is Common.

This Sort Of Question is Common.

I attended a lighting workshop by Gil Hubbs, ASC, and this is the same kind of question that came up there and many other times. "How to make video look like film." Now, this is in my own words but if I understood and remember correctly he was saying something like vidieo is not film but that Video shooters tend to have a way of lighting that is like a template.

Digital video will never be film but that there are differences that happen because “some” people don’t put as much into the lighting for digital video as others do for film. He said that some of the DVideo lighting he has seen included people walking off a room for light placment positions so that the light placement was done by square footage.

He said that if you want to have a better quality look you want to light based on what is going on in the scene what your interpretation of the sceneis and what came before and what was goin to come after. You want to create a mood or see something, some action, in the scene that you bring out with lighting. I think when you are lighting for your digital videos you really want to put thought into it. You don’t want to use a systematic lighting method unless there is something you want to achieve in your story with it. Each story is different and each scenes have elements that need to be put together in a cohesive way that tells the story in an interesting way.

I don’t know if that is clear or helpful but I thought I would make a stab at it.

As I've said before, lighting is lighting. It's not a film vs. video issue except in a few cases where certain lighting tricks do not work as well with video if they rely on a lot of overexposure.

If you want a face to be lit like a Rembrandt or Vermeer painting, you are going to use the same lighting regardless of the format. The only difference will be in subtle things like the amount of fill light or how much color gelling to use, etc. If you want to copy the lighting of a scene from "The Godfather" (like an overhead softbox key in a dark wood-panelled room) or "Blade Runner" (such as a xenon sweeping through a window in a smoked room), then you are going to use lights that recreate that look regardless of whether you are shooting in film or video.

So if you want to be good at lighting, study great lighting regardless of whether you are shooting film or video. Study the light in nature, study the light in great paintings and photographs, study the lighting in movies with great cinematography, etc. Really learn to SEE light in all its glory, all its variations. Adjusting for the particular contrast range of a process or format is more of a last step compared to having the overall concept. Learn to exercise your visual imagination.