Entertainment, Hollywood

How Do You Light a James Bond Film? DP Hoyte van Hoytema & Gaffer David Smith on ‘Spectre’

Benjamin B. from American Cinematographer brings us a glimpse into the lighting design that goes into a major motion picture.

For most of us, it’s hard to even imagine using thirty 20k’s (and 5 weeks of rigging) for one shot — but for some in the studio world, it’s just another day at work. Hoyte van Hoytema (Let the Right One In, Interstellar) recently talked about his approach and philosophy to big budget lighting. Gaffer David Smith also shared his lighting plans, and it’s amazing to see the kind of meticulous effort that goes into rigging each scene.

Key grip Gary Hymns
Credit: Jonathan Olley, François Duhamel, Stephen Vaughan and Jasin Boland, SMPSP, courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc.; Danjaq

For scenes in a grand hall, they used 50 space lights in a softbox and a silk dyed with 1/4 CTO into it — and that was just for ambient light. Van Hoytema argues that using many light sources “enriches the space” and also noted that when you have many lights already rigged, it’s faster to apply backlight once you move angles. For this scene, Hoytema was worried about the contrivance of silhouetting the bad guy, but was able to find a creative solution by having his face only revealed when he looks right at Bond.

Director Sam Mendes on Going Back to 35mm for ‘Spectre’

Van Hoytema prefers to do things in camera, and also expressed his love for “nondescript ambient light coming from above.” This is exemplified by his use of Translites (an illuminated image backdrop) to immerse the actors in the scene. Just look at all those damn Flobanks…

For this setup there were hundreds of daylight balanced Panalux Flobanks lighting the Translite from behind, giving it the feeling a very VERY huge window.

Spectre Ice Q Lighting Diagram
Credit: Courtesy of David Smith

For much more in-depth breakdowns, photos and lighting diagrams, visit Benjamin’s article on the ASC

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