Film Tone: How to Set the Mood
How to use lighting, exposure, and art direction to create a tone and voice for your project.
FILMMAKING TECHNIQUES: EPISODE 2
Film tone in a nutshell
In this first episode on Visual Storytelling we take a detailed look at the three main elements that affect tone in anything you're filming: Exposure, lighting, and art direction.
Not only can these individually manipulate the tone of your project, but it's often the relationship between the three that really makes a scene pop and conveys a unified voice.
Give it a gander to learn how some of the masters (like Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg) did it, and how you can as well.
The Trident of Film Tone
The first thing you need to do is decide how much light you're going to put in the scene. If you're shooting outside, you might not have much control over this. If you're on a soundstage, you have total control. This can affect the contrast, brightness, and the overall mood of your scene.
Next, you need to decide how much light you actually let in the camera. That's exposure. Whether you choose to overexpose something (think: Waking up in a UFO after being abducted, someone stepping outside for the first time in years), or underexpose something (think: The Corleone family in the Godfather series), or just properly expose the subject. All of this affects the tone of any scene.
Now you need to consider what the physical space actually looks like. Are we in a low-rent, cheap office space in Scranton, Pennsylvania? A high-rise New York apartment with a wall of windows? All this coincides with story, but imagine if The Office had been in a bright, sunny, modern office. That's a totally different show. That's a tonally different show.
Grab your FREE Film Tone Worksheet
Before you go into production, make sure you have a unified film tone set for every scene with this free worksheet.
Download your free film tone worksheet.
Establish your tone. Find your voice.
Just enter your email address and we'll send you the film tone worksheet!
Read more about storytelling and film tone
Cravin' more? We knew you would. Take a look at our deep-dive guide to the story circle.
LEARN MORE ABOUT:
- The eight steps and how to apply them to your script
- The universal language of storytelling
- Helpful story circle examples
Interested in the classic archetype that inspired it all? Check out our breakdown of Campbell's Hero's Journey.
LEARN MORE ABOUT:
- The in-depth twelve-step process
- Examples of major films that use the Hero's Journey
- How YOU can apply the Hero's Journey to your script
Connect with us for more freebies
Like Our Page
Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.
Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.