May 26, 2020

How to Fake Temperature with These Lighting Tricks

faking temperature in film
You don't need to shoot in the bitter cold of the Arctic or the searing heat of Death Valley. All you need is lighting.

Temperature... it's may not be something you're thinking much about as a filmmaker outside of deciding whether to bring a big puffy jacket to set.

But sometimes, it plays a major role in your film, whether your scene takes place on the top of Mount Everest or along the rim of Mauna Loa. And since James Cameron has yet to come up with the technology that allows movie-goers to actually feel temperature, you're going to have to fake it.

How do you do that? Lighting. Check out this video from Aputure to learn more.

One concept that all beginner filmmakers should learn right out of the gate is that lighting doesn't just illuminate your scene, it also changes the way your audience views it. In the same way you can make a scene look "happy", "scary", "dream-like", or "depressing", you can make a scene look "hot" or "cold".

You just need to know how to employ a few simple lighting techniques.

Faking Heat

  • Color Temperature: You can change the color temperature of your scene by adjusting the settings on your lighting unit until you achieve a warm tone.
  • Hard Light: You can replicate the harsh light of the hot noonday sun by setting up a hard light in your scene that blows out the highlights.
  • Fog Filter: One cool trick Aputure uses to fake heat is adding a fog filter to their lens. It mimics the look of a hot, steamy heatwave.
  • Costuming/Makeup: Of course, to really sell the effect, you'll need to make sure that your characters look hot themselves. Get their hair a little wet, add some drops of sweat to their forehead, pit out their shirts.

Faking Cold

  • Color Temperature: Again, adjust the color temperature of your light until you achieve a cool tone. 
  • Soft Light: What does a cold day look like? Overcast maybe? This is why you might want to soften the shadows of your light with a diffuser.
  • Blue Gel: You can throw a blue gel over your light to really achieve that cold look. (You can do this for faking heat, too...just use a warmer gel.)
  • Bonus: Breath VFX: You know what really sells the cold? Breath hanging in the air. Chances are you don't have the budget (or desire) to use commercial air conditioners or chillers to actually make your set cold, but you can still achieve the look if you know a few VFX tricks.

What are some other methods for faking temperature in a film? Let us know down in the comments.     

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