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

Lighting 'Spectre' with Hoyte van Hoytema
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.

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.

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

Here's a behind the scenes look at Spectre (which, incidentally, was shot on film):

Video is no longer available:

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...

Lighting 'Spectre' with Hoyte van Hoytema
Flobanks light the Translite from behind Credit: Jonathan Olley, François Duhamel, Stephen Vaughan and Jasin Boland, SMPSP, courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc.; Danjaq

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
Spectre Ice Q Lighting DiagramCredit: Courtest of David Smith

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

Your Comment


The street shots are just ambient light?

December 16, 2015 at 7:25AM


Can't even imagine the power draw from that lighting setup. That thing is insane.

December 16, 2015 at 8:19AM, Edited December 16, 8:19AM

Alex Everingham
Video Editor

DJI Phantom shadow at 3:45.

December 16, 2015 at 4:24PM


Ha! I saw it. Good catch.

December 17, 2015 at 12:18PM

Dantly Wyatt
Writer, Director, Content Creator.

Holy cow

December 18, 2015 at 1:15PM

Sean Voysey
Creative Director