Arc lights in early filmmaking caused “Klieg eyes”

Indeed, a recent study from Cornell University has found that light levels in film have markedly declined from 1935. This can be attributed realism, storytelling, and mood, but it also speaks to an under-acknowledged fact of lighting, its impact on actors.

Arc lights in early filmmaking caused “Klieg eyes” from the intensity of their ultraviolet radiation. With the development of more sensitive film stock, incandescent, tungsten, and halogen lamps largely eliminated this.

In the decades since, as film stock has become more and more sensitive, light levels on set have declined consistently to ease the physical burden on actors and allow them to concentrate on performance; as with glamour lighting, this is a way cinematography serves their interests.

With the rise of digital cinematography today, lighting can be more minimal than ever, while allowing filmmakers to achieve effects, as in night shooting, that will provide grist for exciting innovations for years to come.

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