Bipolar… but exciting.
That’s how I feel when two different emotions struggle for my attention.
Like a pleasure of drinking a hot cup of Costa Rican coffee, while watching a cold rain blasting the street. Coffee is hot. The rain is chilling like hell.
You can see the box of a restaurant is filled with a warm light (multiplied by the cigarette smoke). And the whole city outside is filled with a grayish moving gas of the rain.
You can see these two worlds are connected by the thin glass of the window.
They play, and they fight.
Imagine it and I guarantee that you will feel a bit bipolar too. Like Hunter Thompson watching Derby while being high.
What I find super exciting (from artistic standpoint) in such situations is drama. Drama, created by play. Drama, created by different lighting styles, seen at once.
Drama, created by colliding atmospheres in your artistic Hadron Collider.
• The drama breathes life into your artworks.
• It ignites the feeling in your audience.
• It makes your espresso hotter (on the background of a really cold rain).
After following these 3 simple steps, you will learn how to create a super dramatic lighting.
Step 1. Start With a Dramatic Experience From Your Life
I’m sure you live an interesting life. Even if you don’t think so.
Just remember some situation that had that kind of conflict to it. The situation, that drags you in two different directions, emotion-wise.
Even if you want to create a sci-fi cargo bay, start with something from your life.
Maybe you will remember that storm in early 2000’s. The black clouds are getting nearer, blocking the sunlight. You are waiting for the bus in a thickening grayness. And when the bus arrives, you notice that the old junk is literally full of light.
Good old fluorescent tubes in action.
Apparently, the bright bus brings the whole different atmosphere to the pre-storm setting. It brings drama.
That can be your experience.
And my experience is being caught in the rain and finding shelter in the coffee house.
Step 2. Visualize the Initial State of Your Imaginary World
Think about it.
When you see some conflicting lighting scenario, there is always a starting point. There is always an initial uninterrupted reality.
Bam! And then comes something outlandish and spice it up.
Then comes the bus, and it penetrates the darkness. Or then you find a coffee shop, and it creates a conflict with the rainy landscape.
There is always a starting point.
So first, visualize that initial state of your imaginary world. And if it rains, make it rain so hard that it gives us goosebumps.
Visualize the cold atmosphere of the rainy street, creeping in the building. Cover windows with shivering droplets. Do whatever you need to elicit a certain emotion. Aim at the goosebumps.
Feel the mood and stick to it for now.
In the next step, you will flip the switch.
Step 3. Add a Conflict to Your Lighting
Flip the switch.
Now when you have established the mood, it’s time to add a conflict to your ligting.
If you created a heavy rain wrecking havoc outside the window, illuminate the interior with a red torchère.
What about your sci-fi lab, base on Mars? Throw in a capsule with Earth lighting simulation. Natural and cool.
And I want to emphasize something. The conflict isn’t just about complimentary colors. It’s not necessarily based on the image composition at all.
The conflict is based on atmospheres and your feeling of tension between them. To create a dramatic lighting, you need a good conflict.
A smoking hot cup of Costa Rican coffee in your hands. Moth, swarming near the lamps. And a wet asphalt, blasted with the heavy rain.
Over to You
You can’t measure the temperature of a color with a thermometer. The idea of warm and cool color is all in our minds, but the effect of color temperature on the viewer is real anyway. — James Gurney
Now you have a taste of what it takes to create a dramatic lighting.
And I bet you already have envisioned something special. Something, that will help you create the strongest lighting conflict ever.
Go ahead and create it.