Your third-rate character and the limelight

Aayush Dube


Disclaimer: If you have a lot of money, this blog piece can only be some ‘Let’s laugh at his miseries’ source of entertainment for you.

It was only recently that I decided I should do a series on filmmaking in a budget. So in the first part of this series, I wanted to touch upon this often neglected art of lighting. Last year I happened to intern at a company and this was when I earned my first money. I ended up spending all of it on getting lights and softboxes and what not.

Have you ever watched the credits roll at the end of the film and found yourself wondering ‘what the hell is a best boy/gaffer/grip/Lance Henriksen?’ The Gaffer’s job is to make the lighting in the film look. This means that he not only has to have mastery over the vast array of lights, lighting equipment, and lighting techniques that may be used while filming, but the position also requires knowledge of the set and requirements of the script and the director.

Lighting 101

When we think lighting, we think of huge softboxes, tall lights populating a huge panel, and everything that can be termed ‘out of budget.’ I had bought all the fancy equipments with the same thoughts. It was only recently that I discovered that it is the principles that matter. My first thought after that? “All the money! Gone?!”
On a somewhat more serious note, let me explain what I mean by principles. There is something called a 3-point lighting system. I am also including some screen grabs from one of the movies that did justice to the art of gaffing in recent times: La La Land, so that you can actually see whatever I talk about.

Imagine it like this. You are facing a mirror. Towards your right will be a key-light. We call it key because it literally lightens your face up. Then towards your left will be a fill light- to fill in all the shadows. Then there will be something called a backlight – No brainer, it is to light up your edges from the back. This is how all movies are shot. What is important to understand is that you don’t really need fancy setups to attain this. You have your principles in place, and a couple of torches here and there, and you are good to go. Color plays a key role here. Every color corresponds to a mood profile. Have a look at this color mood profile that is built on the basis of emotions we usually experience when watching a scene and then plotting it against the dominant colors in the frame:

In the next part of the series, I am going to write about colors from a psychological perspective and try to build a framework that will help you understand the correspondence between colors and emotions. Oh! And if you are one of the homework kinds, do read about the Diad and Triad color theories.

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