hard-light-soft-lightFilmmakerIQ (no date) ‘The Basics Of Lighting For Film Noir.’

For this research task on ‘Lighting’ I have decided to try and find out how lighting is used in ‘Film Noir.’ I feel like doing this will be really beneficial to me when trying to improve my overall knowledge of Film as a whole, as I feel like I would not often watch films under the genre ‘Film Noir.’ I am also really interested to try and find out more about how lighting is use effectively in a black and white film to create more emotion, volume and contrast in a scene.

The first thing I have decided to do is find out more about what ‘Film Noir’ actually means, and what a film under a the genre ‘Film Noir’ would involve. After doing a lot of research I have found out that Film Noir is a movie or TV show about crime, that uses lighting and shadows to create and dingy and tension filled atmosphere.

I then decided to move on to finding out about all of the different types of lighting techniques that are used in film noir to create such an effective outcome.


This is another word for ‘low key lighting.’ Overall, this means emphasizing the shadow and lighting of a shot to create a huge amount of depth in a shoot. A black and white film could seem very flat and boring, but using ‘low key lighting’ can create a lot of depth and can make a scene really visually pleasing.

Hard light: 

The most common type of light to use in a film noir is a ‘Hard Light.’ Hard light leave are sharp shadow. Because the light is hard is doesn’t soften out at the edges.

Soft Light:

Soft light isn’t used very often in Film Noir, and so when it is used it can create an really big impact on the screen. Soft light is often used to show women as being famous or hazy. It could suggest that the women are not as sharp as men, and that men are higher up than then, but that is just a suggestion.

Here is a diagram showing the difference of hard soft light.

hard-light-soft-light.jpgFilmmakerIQ (no date) ‘The Basics Of Lighting For Film Noir.’

Shadowy figures:

using shadowy figures is a really iconic part of “Film Noir.’ To create this you need to create a really intense lighting setup that will project the shadow of the actor on the the wall behind them.


Gobos actually stands for Go Before Optics. Gobos are cutouts made of plastic and sometimes metal that can actually be inserted inside of the light fixture to create amazing crisp and sharp shadows that can really give a scene as extra sense of importance and significance.


Similar to gobos, cucoloris are much more commonly known as ‘cookies’. Cookies are actually piece of metal or other materials such as wood or even plastic, that are cut out and go between the subject and light fixture. You can buy them, but it is often better to make your own as it can be more effective as you can make them in whatever pattern you want. This is yet again another way you can use lighting and make it your own.



Film Noir is famous for focusing the light on a character’s eyes and eyebrows. This is really effective to get the audience focusing on one person specifically, and getting them to look into the characters eyes. It is a great way to focus in on a character’s emotional state.

To create this you can use barn doors (wings that can attach onto your light fixture ) or flags, which are basically like solid cookies.

Primary Research: Watching a ‘Film Noir.’

As I have mentioned in other blog posts this week I actually decided that I was going to watch ‘Strangers On A Train’ (Alfred Hitchcock 1951 ) so I could learn more about ‘Film Noir’ and how the lighting is used throughout. I want to start by saying I thought this movie was absolutely brilliant. There were some amazing twists and turns and the ending is perfect.

Another reason I thought  the movie was incredible was because of the amazing variety of different types and ways of lighting things throughout the movie. There is one scene that stood out to me, and that I remembered throughout the whole movie. This is the scene Bruno Anthony is following the Guy Haines’ wife before he murders her. In this scene she is in a ‘Love Boat’ which would go through a love tunnel. Anthony follows behind in another boat. In the tunnel we see their shadows getting closer and closer, and then Anthony’s shadow is towering over her. This is signifying how much more powerful he is than her, and is in a way foreshadowing her death. This use of shadows is so effective, and has stuck in my mind ever since I saw it.

8427071_orig.pngMrs Robinsons VCS site ( no date ) ‘Strangers on a train.’


Overall I feel as if I have learned a huge deal about not only the lighting techniques used in Film Noir, but about Film Noir as a whole. This research project has helped me to have a more detailed understanding of how lighting can improve a scene so much, and how just a small chane in the shadows and lighting can change the whole mood of the scene.

Harvard Referencing:

Webster, M. (No Date) ‘Film Noir | Definition of film noir’ Available at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/film%20noir  ( Last Accessed: 26th September 2016 )

Pooky (2016) Shadows, ‘lamps and criminal underworlds: Why film noir looks so cool’ Available at: https://www.pooky.com/inspiration/light-and-shade/shadows-lamps-and-criminal-underworlds-why-film-noir-looks-so-cool ( Last Accessed: 26th September 2016 )

FilmmakerIQ (no date) ‘The Basics Of Lighting For Film Noir.’ Available at: http://filmmakeriq.com/lessons/the-basics-of-lighting-for-film-noir/ (Last Accessed: 1st October 2016 )

Mrs Robinsons VCS site ( no date ) ‘Strangers on a train.’ Available at: http://missrobinsonvce.weebly.com/strangers-on-a-train.html ( Last Accesed: 1st October 2016 )