Lens Flares in Movies

Even though lens flares are usually mentioned in the same breath as J.J. Abrams nowadays, their use in motion pictures is hardly something new. However, they do seem to be more abundant, so there’s no better time to explore the history of lens flares in movies. Did you know there used to be an unwritten rule against seeing lens flares in movies? Find out more about lens flares, including the different types there are, in an informative video after the jump.

Here’s the history of lens flares in movies from Vox:

For those who aren’t knowledgeable about how cameras and lenses work, the video does a great job of explaining how and why lens flares happen. And if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, they also tell you how to get different kinds of lens flares on film.

The really interesting part is hearing about how lens flares were so carefully avoided. In Citizen Kane, director Orson Welles went so far as to coat his lenses with a substance called Vard “Opticoat” that ensured lens flares would not be seen in his production, which was important due to all the lights that had to be used to create his famous, innovative deep focus shots in that film. To have lens flares in a film was to look unprofessional.

That all changed with rising, experimental filmmakers in the 1960s, who were breaking all sorts of rules in movies. Cool Hand Luke was the first popular movie to bring lens flares into the image on purpose, as a way of depicting the intense heat that comes with being in a chain gang. And then movies like Easy Rider, Planet of the Apes and The Graduate followed, and there was no going back after that.

The question is, do we have too much lens flare in movies nowadays?

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