Die Hard Scenes Breakdown

I have used the following video as a method to breakdown the approach to lighting throughout the entire film. Die Hard (1988) is primarily filmed interior alone meaning lighting can be more stylised and controlled. Breaking down this lighting design is great for the interior sequences of this film, however it doesn’t attribute to filming outside during the day as Die Hard is also set during night. The fact it is set at night changes the approach to light as consideration to the time of day needs to remain constant, none the less it was an interesting watch and got me think of how to approach lighting.

Do note this video covers the entire series of the Die Hard films, not just focused on the 1988 classic. I have broken down the approach to lighting for some of the sequences presented.

Blanks (Die Hard 2)

Primarily an exterior sequence the fire from the explosion becomes the dominant light source. This generally floods the entire scene and could possibly be enhanced through additional lamps. The warm colour temperature contrasts nicely against the snow. For the closer shots the higher contrast is apparent as it builds upon the practical light of the fire.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 18.01.21


Barefoot On Glass (Die Hard)

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 18.08.56
The moonlight is replicated as a key light on every subjects face, enhanced from the windows in the room. As the shot gets closer it allows more control and direction of the artificial source to create definition on the subject. The above screenshot shows how the moonlight becomes a backlight source to bring the subject away from the background for added depth. The gunfire, explosions and sparks all act as additional methods of illumination.

Unknown Confrontation (Die Hard)

Simple lighting trickery is done in this scene to reflect the position of each character. Despite the protagonist not knowing he is talking to the antagonist, the lighting reflects each characters social position. For the protagonist the lighting is very generic and in keeping with the pace of the film. For the antagonist light is throw upwards to project a larger and powerful shadow against the wall behind him. It is a very subtle effect and appears as an extension of the office lighting, but the connotation behind it has a powerful meaning.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 18.08.24

Final Confrontation

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 18.19.58


The final sequence sees the entire colour palette very red and warm due to the surrounding fire, explosions, and emergency warning lights. Of all the practical lights scattered around the ones that are emphasised the most relate to the position for each subject. For example the above screenshot you can see that a practical light becomes a back light for the antagonist, adding a sense of depth to remove him from the bland and smokey background. Furthermore the darkened almost silhouetted face conforms with the western association of dark figures being threatening.

The screenshot below provides a further sense of space, you can see the hotspots in the scene and how they cast light upon the protagonist. The red back light works perfectly for close up shots of the gun taped to his back, highlighting this as a key prop in the sequence. Then the yellow light from the corridor acts as a key/fill to work parallel to the darkened antagonist. Furthermore the associations of each colour works with the character – red for evil, yellow for good.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 18.20.22


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