Lighting for Film and TV


Studio at BBC TV Centre in 1960 (from The Independent)

Lighting for TV and Film production is constantly evolving, in the same way that lighting for theatre is changing. 
However, they are very different crafts. 

Film lighting, in the early days, was about massive light sources, to provide enough light for the film cameras. When colour film was first used, the light levels had to be even higher. Studio soundstages were places of huge light sources and huge amounts of heat. 
As technology moved on, film stocks became far more sensitive, and light levels could be reduced.

In both TV and Film, the job of ‘Lighting Designer’ does not exist in the same way.
Some TV productions have a ‘Lighting Director’. >STLD Beginners Guide to being a Lighting Director
The Director of Photography is responsible for the technical processes that capture the image as the Director requires. This includes selecting the lens,  and all aspects of where the camera is positioned and how it moves, as well as instructing the Gaffer and Board Operator where to put lighting and how it should be controlled. 


In the same way as the McCandless Method is taught as a way to light theatre, there’s a standard method for lighting for video. It’s based on three light sources, one brighter than the others, which is known as the Key Light. Others are known as Fill Light.

Light is still used for atmosphere, as well as having a more straight-forward

Further Information

Lighting for Television (Strand Lighting)

BBC Low Energy Lighting Guidelines

Notable TV Shows

Wolf Hall (2015) 
Shot with Arri Alexa camera which meant traditional TV studio lighting was not necessary. Candlelight was used as the main light source in many sequences. [ref: The Guardian]. The cinematographer Gavin Finney is interviewed on the British Cinematographer website


Society of Television Lighting and Design (UK)