Follow TV Tropes


Stop Motion Lighting

Go To

Lightning flashes and a scene is illuminated, it flashes again, and again, each moment a new frame in a story played out in silhouette. It may be a grisly murder, it may be a fight scene, but whatever it is we only see it in stills as a light flicks on and off.

Usually involves strobes or lightning but can be slower. Can be an artistic form of censorship, for example if a murder is taking place we might only see tiny fragments of it.

When the "flash" in question is a camera, the freeze effect might actually be photos.

Related to Lightning Reveal, Dramatic Thunder, Light-Flicker Teleportation, and possibly Thunder Shock.

Not to be confused with Stop Motion animation, although this trope could certainly be used in stop motion.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • One of the more famous scenes in Macross: Do You Remember Love? is the duel between Max and Miria, which eventually takes them inside the airlock of a Meltrandi warship. They shoot out all the interior lights through stray bullets, and the rest of the battle is only illuminated by brief flashes from Bullet Sparks or sparks caused by the two Mecha crashing into each other.

    Comic Books 
  • Done beautifully in book three of Bone when Fone Bone, Thorn and Gran'ma Ben are on the run from the rat creatures in the middle of a storm. Lighting flashes light up the otherwise pitch black backgrounds, giving brief glimpses of the rat creature horde closing in, as well as when the Red Dragon appears and chases them away.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Clownhouse, one of the antagonists is shown passing by one of the protagonists while a lightbulb flickers.
  • The Dark Knight Rises features Batman jumping a Mook as gunshots illuminate his approach.
  • Equilibrium. First fight scene is illuminated entirely by muzzle flashes from the protagonist's pistols.
  • Father Malius' awakening from two decades of non-action in Happy Hell Night is show via continues flashes from a polaroid camera.
  • Revenge of the Pink Panther has an attempted murder in a night club while the strobe light is on.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The episode "Uprising" features a climactic shootout in a blacked out room lit by a flickering generator. Cue a delightful montage of Mooks getting their asses kicked.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Due South featured a gunfight in a dark hallway during the series finale. The only time the characters could be seen was when they were illuminated by one of the (many) gunshots.
  • The Mandalorian: In the episode "The Prisoner", Mando sneaks up behind Mayfeld down a long corridor with flickering lights, and with each flicker he gets closer... and closer...
  • In Smallville, Checkmate, there is an epic one when Clark breaks down the doors of a chamber where Chloe is Bound and Gagged, beat up the agents and catch a bullet in front of Chloe's face while the scene flashes due to a power breach.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons module I10 Ravenloft II The House on Gryphon Hill. At the conclusion of the adventure the PCs are desperately trying to stop the Creature from achieving his goal. They are forced to follow it through a thunderstorm, where the only illumination is from strokes of lightning. Each flash reveals a specific scene.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • On one Looney Tunes short, Sylvester makes a formula for making a Personal Raincloud to use on the dog guarding Tweety. But then he spills it and the room is darkened by the resulting cloud. Outside, the windows are dark, but the flashes of lightning occasionally show a fleeing Sylvester.
  • Several episodes of The Simpsons, including "Homerpalooza", where (in a flashback) we see teenagers installing a strobe into the back of their car. They turn it on and dance to music - the rest of the scene is shown as a series of stills as the light comes on and off, spoofing a similar scene in Dazed and Confused.
  • One episode of The Tick had The Deadly Bulb attack in darkness, where we only saw several freeze-framed images when his lightbulb-head flashed in the darkness.
  • In the Family Guy eposode "Ready, Willing And Disabled": while fighting during the night over the money, Meg, Chris and Stewie are occasionally seen only while there's lightning. And while most of the flashes show them fighting, one reveals them dressed and posing for an "old timey" photo.

    Real Life 
  • Fireflies.
  • A strobe light easily demonstrates this. If you can't get one, blinking your eyes really fast while watching someone move is a reasonable simulation, but you shouldn't do it too long.
  • This is how zoetropes work. They're basically rotating models of lines of subtly different figurines standing in for frames of animation. When spun and synced with the proper strobe frequency, the figures look like rows of animated objects, since the sporadic lighting "freezes" the spinning zoetrope at the right pattern to make it look like the objects are in motion, while constant lighting would just make it look like a rotating blur.