Everyone appreciates a bit of mood lighting in their lives. You may not be aware of it, but lighting can play a large roles in people’s mood and comfort levels. Have you ever been eating dinner at a nice restaurant and all of the sudden all the lights get dim? Were you aware that you were being manipulated by something so simple as a change in lighting? Studies have shown that one of the effects of sexual arousal is dilation of the pupils. When the restaurant dims its lights, it’s actually creating an environment in which your pupils dilate, making you more sexually attractive to your date since they associate pupil dilation with sex. It just goes to show that a little bit of mood lighting can go a long way. Other types of lighting can also influence your mood, such as the type of lighting in your home. Most people, given the choice, would probably prefer to have a nice warm glow in their home as opposed to the harsh fluorescent lights that, well, just do not flatter. These subtle differences in lighting apply to visual media technique, especially in advertising and films.
A director’s choice of lighting effects can greatly influence and add to the overall mood and tone of a movie. Let’s take the Harry Potter movies, for example. In the later movies, the director made the smart choice to adjust the lighting techniques and use them to create the serious mood needed to tell the story properly. He techniques such as filters to create a more grim, gloomy setting, and also created lots of shadows and darkness. These all contribute to the overall feeling of mystery, intensity, and anxious excitement.
On the other end of the spectrum though, there are movies such as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days that utilize other lighting techniques that create a brighter, ‘lighter’ mood. It’s pretty obvious that visually, this movie is very different from the aforementioned one. There is a lot more light, and softer, warmer light too. This contributes to the overall feel of the movie, letting the viewer bask in the comfort of a happy-ending RomCom. The movie manipulates our perception of this reality even further by using a lighting (or perhaps even airbrushing) to make all the actors seem physically flawless.
Even though they are forms of manipulation, these techniques do enhance the viewing experience and influence the emotions that we feel during said viewing. I do feel that it is a positive aspect of media manipulation, and a successful one at that. There are other manipulation techniques that were mentioned by Klosterman in his article “Ha Ha,” he said. “Ha Ha”, but I do feel that he was a bit harsh in judging them. He discusses the use of laugh tracks in sitcoms, saying that they are completely useless and even harmful to the television culture of our time. While I do agree with him about the harms and faults of laugh tracks, I also feel that laugh tracks and similar techniques can be beneficial to a viewing experienced when used correctly and proportionately. I was watching a few videos on YouTube of sitcom clips with the laugh tracks removed, and they were just awkward and painful to watch. I find the jokes funny, but when presented in such a serious and almost rude way (which is how the jokes are received without the laugh tracks) definitely takes the comedy out of the sitcom. Sure, laugh tracks make us feel like we should find something funny, but is there really something so wrong with that? Laughter is one of the most beautiful things that one can experience in this world, so why not have as much of it as humanly possible!