At Lights Online Film School we teach our students that it’s equally as important to know how to use shadow as it is to know how to use light.
Shadows serve many purposes and come in an assortment of stylistic designs to support a filmmakers creative vision. A vignette is one of those lighting designs.
A vignette is simply a gradient of darker tones located around the edges of the frame. This lighting effect can be achieved on set during filming process, or later on during post production. Using a vignette can you help accomplish many things, including:
1. Establishing the mood of a scene
2. Isolating a particular part of a shot
3. Vignettes can also help you add texture and the illusion of a third dimension in a two dimensional medium.
When working with static shots many cinematographers would rather incorporate a vignette (if the scene called for it of course), into the lighting design on set. They would achieve this effect by lighting the edges of the frame with less intensity than the center of the frame. This helps create a gradient of light that trails off as it approaches the edge of a frame. Since audience’s are generally drawn towards the lightest part of the frame first, the vignette helps to further isolate the brightest parts of the composition (i.e. the main subject).
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Here in an example that uses natural light to create a vignette.
Alternatively, you may choose to include a vignette in post production. There are often vignette template effects in popular PC and MAC editing suites. However, you may also choose to design your own custom vignettes using the manual lighting effects these software programs supply. Here is an example of a vignette created in post production.
If you have a short film that has successfully incorporated the use of vignettes to help you accomplish any of the goals discussed above, please feel free to post links to them below.