Technically known as "photoflood" bulbs, Photoflood Lighting fits into a normal lighting outlet but produce far more light than normal bulbs, often up to 500 watts (Halogen equivalent)—about 4500 lumens. (Ordinary lightbulbs tend to top out in the 120W range.) Unlike the common incandescent light bulb that produces a warm yellow-orange glow, they provide a super-intense white light that makes florescent lamps seem downright cozy.
Most of the time, any well-financed movie will use off-screen lighting equipment and technical support to avoid this, but due to budget problems or practical considerations (generally involving the size and shape of the set), photoflood lighting will occasionally be substituted for actual light bulbs in the light fixtures that appear on film, to provide adequate filming light without additional equipment.
The result is a lighting aesthetic that more accurately resembles a high school gymnasium than an intimate setting. Photoflood lighting most often affects period pieces, but the trope also particularly stands out in industrial or military settings where bare bulbs are common.
The easy way to tell the difference between an authentic light bulb and a Hollywood example is if a light source seems strangely intense and much whiter than it would in real life. In addition to bunkers and submarines, photoflood lights will most typically be found in scenes relying on diegetic light in an otherwise dark room.
Compare Hollywood Darkness.
- The police station in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is lit with Hollywood bulbs until they all get shot out.
- In the historical epic Downfall, Hitler's bunker is lit with the intensity of a 21st-century hospital.
- In the opening credits of Kelly's Heroes, the jeep possesses an unseen bulb of unusual intensity that just happens to illuminate Pvt. Kelly's face.
- In There Will Be Blood, the bowling alley in the final scene features this.
- The Titanic's hallways are rather dazzlingly lit for a 1912 ocean liner.
- In The Warriors a New York City park is lit up bright enough with photofloods so that the gangs could stop and have a fight scene.