Film Tone — Filmmaking Techniques for Directors: Ep1


When we walk out of a movie, we often talk about the
way it made us feel. It was depressing,
it was shocking, or it was uplifting. Maybe it was simply fun. But the question is how do filmmakers
create these feelings? “I’m glad you like my comedic movie.
Exactly how I intended.” One of the main
ways is with film tone. Film tone in this case,
literally means brightness. Just look at this Superman. Now, look at this one. Same character, but just by turning the
brightness way down, the viewer has a completely
different emotional experience. You can put it to the test by desaturating any visual. And you can see how bright
or dark the scene really is, and what kind of feeling
that elicits in a viewer. There are three ways you
can affect visual tone. Lighting,
exposure and art direction. Lighting is simply
how you light a scene. Do you want high
contrast and shadows? Or do you want to create an
even low contrast appearance. Exposure is how much light
you allow into the camera. You can choose to
crush your blacks or blow it out. And lastlly, art direction is how much tonal
difference there is in your set dressing, props and wardrobe. Now that we’ve
covered the big three, let’s dive deeper into each. We’ll start with lighting. Watch the lighting in the
scene from “Raging Bull.” It starts out evenly lit. Just like every other
fight up to this point. We can clearly see both subjects as they pummel each other. As Jake tone Sugar Ray, he still well lit, but notice what happens with the
lighting, in the next few moments. Let’s watch that again. In a single shot, the lighting scheme is altered and the tone changes
along with it. We see Sugar Ray
engulfed in shadows, creating a larger-than-life
silhouette. He’s monstrous,
imposing, dangerous. As the lighting darkens, we brace for impact. Now there are various camera
techniques of play here, but the shift in lighting
really packs a punch. Next up, exposure. We saw how controlling
lighting can create a contrast of brightness. Now, let’s take a look at how you can
do it by adjusting camera exposure. Take a look at this early
scene from “The Godfather.” This was shot by legendary
DP Gordon Willis, nicknamed The
Prince of Darkness. Just look at how underexposed
the first shot of the movie is. Don Corleone is
barely a silhouette, and now he’s
revealed in reverse, and his eyes those
windows to the soul. The dailies for “The Godfather”
was so dark and underexposed that the executives at
Paramount began to worry. This is a scene about how the
Godfather deals in violence and death. But the slivers of light
through the windows blown out because outside his
daughters getting married. A traditional family out in the
light, in public, and the mafia behind the
scenes casting shadow. At this early point in the story, Vito,
Sunny and Tom are all inside the darkness. But Michael is outside
with his girlfriend Kay. Bright and properly exposed. Uninvolved with the
family business. “This is my family case.
Not me.” This shows us that visual and thematic
contrast to the rest of the Corleone’s. Throughout the film,
we watch as Michael descends into darkness both in terms of plot and
in terms of brightness until he finds himself here. The Godfather is a master
class in using the tool of exposure to manipulate
brightness to tell the story. Third on our list – Art Direction. You can also control the
brightness and feeling of scene using props,
set dressing and wardrobe. Take a look at how the Matrix
plays with brightness here. The scene is a
bright white setting, but it’s an immediate contrast with
Neo and Morpheus dark wardrobe. And even when set
dressing is introduced the shades are darker. Later in the film
when Neo needs guns. “Lot`s of guns.” The black-and-white art
direction create tension. Now, let’s look at how
Kubrick used contrasting tones within art direction
for “The Shining.” Here, Jack is sitting
at the bar room bar, his frame is populated by darker
elemens, dark tables, door trims, even his outfit
has darker tones. Now, see the contrast
when we cut to reverse. It’s a totally
different set design. Kubrick frames the
ghostly bartender in light to seduce Jack into the evil
world of the Overlook Hotel. And that light is justified
with art direction. So to recap,
you can control the feelings of your scenes by
controlling the brightness. Bohem, when you throw
conventions on their head, perhaps to create irony. “-I mean really ready? -I guess so. -Neat. We’ll start tomorrow.” The Coen brothers are masters at
contrasting brightness with emotional tone. Here its a bright
day, flatly lit. And then this guy shows
up, dressed all in black. The wardrobe in art direction
here are practically screaming. He doesn’t belong here. He doesn’t fit and then he goes and does something like this. The Cohens also do the opposite. They’ll set comedic moments
against darker lighting and moody atmosphere,
making us laugh when we perhaps shouldn’t. The end effect – dark humor. So here are a few tips
to get you thinking about how you might use tone. First plan out what type
of tonal range you want. Is the story going
to be dark or bright. Are there any pivotal scenes or moments you want to contrast
from the rest of the film, so you can draw
attention to them? Storyboard with
these things in mind. They`ll help you convey the
emotions each scene requires. And also think about it when you’re creating
a script breakdown and you’re plotting out the lighting
& art-direction requirements. Next up, we’ll explore how production design can
enrich the world of the film, and create memorable
moments like this one. Just click the link
in the description and we’ll see you
in the next video.

Comments 33

  • Great video

  • excellent video! make more videos like this please!

  • Outstanding video especially as I'm preparing to direct a film. I'll be using this to help me communicate my tonal vision. Thank you.

  • Bro, you forgot to mention the importance of DI(Digital Intermediate) process.. Nowadays we can't imagine a visual tone preparations without DI. Great Cinematographer+ Production Designer+Colorist makes a film visually stunning…

  • I recently stumbled on ur channel and I must say….this is one of the best you tube channels I have seen in recent months…your contents are amazing…I see potentials for massive growth in months to come…just keep churning out great contents…Love from Nigeria

  • Very good! I'd like to point out Michael Hanneke's remake of Funny Games which subverts this techniques using very bright cinematography and art direction to create tension and uneasiness.

  • Pretty good video, but I feel you are only covering half of the equation. You are only covering tone in the finished look of the film and not talking about the more crucial element of the tone of the story. The worst offenders of tone confusion are usually not ones who screw up the proper lighting but the tone of the story.

    For instance if your film is really lighthearted and meant to be a fun comedy, but then one of the main characters is brutally murdered and the rest of the film is about revenge and has zero jokes from that point on. Now, shifts like this can be pulled off, but the point I'm making is that consistency of story tone is a must!

    A good example of great story tone would be Hot Fuzz. It's a comedy but ends in a super action shoot out. It works for a variety of reasons but one of which is that they are constantly foreshadowing the action to come and even shoot the film in more the style typically used for an action film instead of a comedy.

    However, a bad example would be the riverboat scene in Willy Wonka. This scene is so inconsistent with the feel and tone of the rest of the film that it stands out like a sore thumb. And, even though it is rightfully hailed as a great movie, pretty much anyone you talk to will acknowledge how strange and out of place that scene feels in comparison to the rest of the film.

    The best rule of thumb is, never do anything that would be seen as out of place with the story you are trying to tell unless you can somehow write in a convincing justification for doing so.

    TL:DR: Good explanation of tone in the look but story tone is really where the battle is won or lost

  • Very informative!
    Love it! Sub'd it

  • Great video!

  • Cheers for your free tips:)

  • I saw Ur video ABT scheduling n all but I want that particular program so I can make my movie schedule in that … please suggest

  • may i ask you that what app you use at 05:43?

  • Nice!!! Thank you!!!👍🏿👍🏿👍🏿👍🏿

  • StudioBinder can you ask

  • Great video what program was that at the end of the video for script writing.

  • This is no different from literary analysis that names all the devices employed by an author, but in reality, in the process of crafting the work, none of this is really thought about. It mostly boils down to instinct most of the time on how a director/writer envisages a scene or scenes. I remember in doing my very first short of just being committed to my guts and my eyes.

  • Thank you. This helped me a lot for my Media exam

  • what movie 5:50?

  • love your videos

  • Unreal how much better Superman character is when he's bright. He's supposed to be a hopeful symbol, kind, and compassionate … not batman dark.

  • 4:25 I thought you said this was The Shining not Passengers?

  • 1:43 which movie it is, please tell.

  • Great video.. I want to know detail information of 24 crafts

  • Could you please include the movies the background clips come from?

  • How can a channel about film crop movies from their original ratios?

  • Please talk about #zacksnyder direction

  • We've got ourselves a Bryan Cranston fan

  • What scripting app did you use at 5:45?

  • After watching the video iam even more confused….Never going to make movie

  • 4:49 Was that Walter White from Breaking Bad??🙄🙄

  • It is good work with more information, pls upload many videos—-thanks

  • You know when I first started making shorts.. I thought all you need to know was about 3 things. Shutter speed, ISO, and F-stop plus maybe some audio tools, boom poles, lav mics, etc etc, and a good message to tell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *