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About Lighting Contrast

In all productions it’s always important to control contrast, or the range of brightness in a scene. Lighting contrast result from the relationship of the key light, which casts primary shadows, and the fill light that fills in the key light’s shadow. In filmmaking terminology, the contrast of the lighting in a shot is often referred to as either “high key” or “low key.” Be warned right up front, these terms can be confusing as “high key” actually refers to low-contrast scenes and “low key” refers to high-contrast scenes. The soft, diffuse style of “high key” lighting is well-represented by the romantic comedy genre. The light is generally bright with few areas of under-expousure. In other words, the shadows are very subtle. “Low key” lighting is the style clearly represented by film noir black and white films, where there are a few key areas that are well-lit and many deep shadows in the frame. This type of lighting is associated with night, emotion,tension, tragedy and mystery. It’s a staple of thrillers and detective shows.

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