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.