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The Roger Deakins Guide to Film Lighting

Lights, Camera, Deakins!
Roger Deakins film lighting Blade Runner
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on November 4th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching Roger Deakins breaking down how film lighting works.

It is hard to speak about Roger Deakins without slipping into hyperbole. He is, quite simply, one of the best cinematographers working today. Whether he’s collaborating with the Coen brothers or Denis Villeneuve, the fact of the matter is the man’s a genius. Maybe you’re an aspiring cinematographer or just a fan. But when Deakins offers tidbits about how he does what he does, we’d all do well to listen. Especially if he’s talking about light.

Distinct, evocative, and expressionistic lighting is one of Deakins’ signatures. His resume is written in exposure and shadow, in warmth and coolness, in gels and refraction. When people think of Deakins’ work, I imagine they think of the blistering, Mars-like haze of Blade Runner 2046. Or perhaps the stark frigidity of Fargo. Or maybe even the shadow play of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.

It makes sense that Deakins’ work feels defined by lighting because, as the two-part video series below testifies, for Deakins, lighting is all about making an audience feel something. Being familiar with the technical side of things is important. But, fundamentally, lighting is like most things in cinema, a science and an art; an expressive muscle, trained by experiencing light itself.

These two videos cover everything from Deakins’ philosophy, to lighting night scenes, to the critical challenge of capturing character in the human face, to the creative joys of browsing bulbs at Home Depot. Together, they are the perfect watch for anyone curious about how a master approaches the foundations of his craft.

Watch “Roger Deakins on ‘Learning to Light'”:

Who made this?

StudioBinder is a production management software creator. And they also happen to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).