Blinded by the Light

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Light illuminates, right? Not always.

There are a number of ways light can be used to hide things you don't want others to see.

Maybe the most common is the old "bright room before a dark room" trick.
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That's pretty simple. You force someone to go through a bright room, ruining their night vision, then the next room seems MUCH darker to them that it does to the dark adapted eyes of the actor in there. I have heard of, but never seen, "baked potato" rooms. Apparently the entire room was papered in tin foil. A strobe light was run in there, and of course not one photon was lost except through the eyes of the patrons. I have heard an actor might be in there in a Mylar suit, and could jump up and scare people. I hope welding goggles or something as dark were included in the suit. Even if they were, I think as an actor I'd still wear an eyepatch on one eye to retain night vision in that one. Yaarr!

The fog filled room is another common variation on the bright room.
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The room is filled with fog and brightly lit. The fog diffuses the light so much that you can see almost nothing. Everything is just pure white. Actors can get pretty close before you know you are there. Then, when you go into the dark again, your night vision is gone. Pretty devious.

Less often used is the technique of casting intentional shadows.
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A strong light can be used to highlight some set dressing. This casts harsh, dark shadows behind that object, whatever it is. Anything - or anyone - and be hidden there. Our eyes are drawn to the light. When they are, they adapt to the light. Deep shadows get even deeper. For anyone hiding in that shadow, everyone else is visible. This works best in rooms where the walls and other surfaces are non-reflective. Put a black box in the middle of a baked potato room and shine a light on it, and you won't get a harsh shadow, you'll get light bouncing back form every direction!

You can also use this technique to cast shadows so you can light them how you want. The legendary SkullandBone used shadows and lighting to combat a pesky new streetlight the city put up. I, myself, lined up my headstones so that light on the middle row cast shadows on the back row and left the front row dark as well. Then I lit up the tombstones with candles and/or spotlights. I got my green ambience and I also got each stone lit up nicely. I tend to set up my "photo ops" in a bright light, so they will cast shadow on my tree, where darkness is preferred.

Using light to highlight areas of interest can obscure whatever should not be seen. I had a prop that was manually moved, like a puppet. To make that work, I needed a lever that was high enough up to be clear of any obstacles. I painted the lever black, of course, then I lit up the prop above the lever. That lever was still there, but the well-lit areas made it effectively invisible.

Here's a trick - put some kind of scrim, screen, or other material on a wall. Use it to cover a hole in the wall. Shine a light on it, ideally at an angle. Enough light should bounce back that they cannot see what is back there, but the actor can.

What is your favorite way to use light to hide rather than illuminate?

Happy haunting!