The intersection of technology and aesthetics in contemporary cinema

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Elokuvataiteen maisteriohjelma
The continuity of change in the film industry is evident, with cinematographers seeking new forms of lighting expression and production efficiency while manufacturers aim to sell. However, the rapid pace of technological development means that professionals often rely on personal preferences and recommendations from colleagues to create appropriate lighting setups that serve the needs of the story. Since content and form of expression are interlinked, technology enables new practices of emulating lighting for cinematographers. Although, there is a misconnect between the needs of cinematographers and manufacturers, which can result in the oversaturation of just one type of lighting that the industry focuses on, such as the soft light of LED lighting. It is important to remember that there are multiple ways of emulating lighting, even if newer practices have surpassed older ones. New technology should not necessarily replace old ways of working but should instead be an addition to the already plentiful ways of expressing through light. One aspect of this research is examining the impact that technological advancements in camera equipment have had on the art of lighting. The historical origins of the symbiotic relationship between camera and lighting technology are traced back to the late 19th century with the invention of the first moving image camera, the Kinetographe. Moreover, this thesis highlights significant lighting inventions which remain ubiquitous on contemporary sets. These fixtures have been adapted and developed over the years, offering more possibilities for contemporary filmmaking than they did in early cinema. It is essential to recognise that new technologies continually drastically influence how we perceive, and just as we make the technology, technology guides our decisions. By observing the details and paying attention to the connections between lighting technology and productions in contemporary cinema, we can create a working method that aligns with the vision of storytellers and avoids the negative impacts of technological advancements on film as an art form. This is not a study that can be completed and forgotten; rather, it requires continuous exploration throughout a cinematographer's life to facilitate contemporary and authentic expression through lighting in cinematography.
Ronkainen, Rauno
Thesis advisor
Harvey, Jonathan
cinematography, lighting, film, led technology, lighting technology, led lighting
Other note
Media files notes: A Day Without Prohibition, 2023. An MA thesis film for Aalto University. Description: Two young women decide to defy the dancing prohibition set by the Finnish government by organizing a secret graduation dance in war-torn Helsinki in 1944. Media creators: An MA thesis film for Aalto University.