Features and Columns · Movies

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.

More Videos Like This

Related Topics: ,

Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.