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It’s not you — movies are getting darker

Blame technology for how often you can’t see anything.

Edward Vega joined the Vox video team as a video producer in 2021. His coverage focuses on all things cinema, from the intricacies of film history to the nuts and bolts of filmmaking.

There’s a trend in movies and TV that you’ve probably noticed: Everything has gotten extremely dark, and for some audience members, too dark to even see.

A black screen with a faintly visible Batman in the center.
If you look closely here, you can only just barely see Robert Pattinson as the caped crusader.
The Batman (2022), Warner Bros.
Fighters in medieval armor with swords and shields.
An infamously dark episode of Game of Thrones.

It comes down to aesthetics and technology. The first one’s pretty simple: As popular content leans grittier and darker in tone (i.e. The Batman, Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, etc.) the visuals tend to reflect that.

But productions have also moved from shooting on film to shooting with digital cameras, and the way scenes get lit has changed dramatically. Shooting on film meant that you couldn’t see the final product until everything was developed. Under those limitations, it made more sense to flood dark scenes with light to ensure the footage would be usable. With digital cameras and digital monitors, it’s easy to see what the final product will look like — and that can embolden a cinematographer to film scenes darker and darker.

But how dark is too dark? And how do filmmakers ensure that their vision gets accurately represented on the screen you’re watching it on? Check out the video above to find out.

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