Oliver Stapleton: 'Dingle' Branches

From American Cinematographer, Enchanted Forest by Chris Pizzello (May 1999)

"I knew that the forest was supposed to feel artificial. The lighting concept was intentionally very artificial, with these very warm golden night exteriors, so I wasn't bothered by that. And then Oliver figured it out. He said, 'Nothing's moving.' And that was a major, major [discovery]. How are we going to make the forest move, yet not ruin the dialogue?"

- Michael Hoffman

Stapleton's solution was a simple but effective illusory technique known in England as "dingle" lighting.

"In England, when you set up a branch in front of a source and you get the shadow of a tree, we call it 'dingle.' In both of the forest worlds, dingle was one of the psychological tricks I used to make the scenes feel like night without going too dark. That way, I could use directional light that would feel like moonlight, rather than just having soft light blasting all around the place. Through the whole movie, I could be seen carting around dingle number 1, dingle number 2, and so on, like a kit of gels. I had branches of certain leaves and certain shapes that I would use in different situations, depending on whose face was in the scene and what kind of effect I wanted. I don't think I made a single shot throughout A Midsummer Night's Dream without some sort of branch in my hand!

We then had to figure out how to get a sense of movement in the frame. Fans make too much noise, particularly the ones they make in Rome! Instead, we had dozens of Italian crew members holding pieces of wire strung between all of the leaves and trees, and they would shake them to make the woodland move. They did this for weeks on end, which was quite tedious! But I had to make sure that was always happening, because if there was no movement in the trees, the scenes immediately felt quite dead and stagey."

- Oliver Stapleton, BSC

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