Research-The Eye in Low Light

So when trying to describe the overall look we were looking into for our room I literally could only think of the eyes’ vision in low light. That kind of speckled, fuzzy vision  that we get when there are dim lights on, normally at night time, like if you wake up in the middle of the night. (The gif below kind of reminds me of what I see- like static in the eye).

giphyStatic. (, 2016).


A render of a room by Niall Donnelly. He was very helpful in recommending what to look at to created this grainy look.

To understand how this is actually created in film, we thought it be best to understand how this is created by the human eye.


The human eye structure. (, 2016).

Basically we see as light enters the eye in rays and is passed through the various layers. Light enters through the cornea, its refractive power bend the light so that it freely passes through the pupil, which is in the centre of the iris. The iris acts as the ‘shutter’ in the eye- dilating and enlarging with varying levels of light. It then passes through the lens- which alters its thickness to focus the light. The light then passes through a gel like substance known as the vitreous humour (this gives the eye its shape). (Work? and Warren, 2016).

The photons of light then hit the back of the eye, known as the retina. This acts a the film in a camera, capturing the light rays. The retina is covered in a layer of light sensitive cells. These cells, when hit, activate signals which pass along the optic nerve, before they reach the brain.(Work? and Warren, 2016).

The retina contains five types of neurons; photoreceptors, bipolar cells, ganglion cells, horizontal cells and the amarcrine cells. The cell bodies in these neurons are stacked in alternate laters. The information flows in a direct three neutron chain- photoreceptor to bipolar to ganglion cell- to the optic nerve. (Lambert, n.d.).

How does the human eye see in the dark?

There are two main cells found in the retina- the rod and cone cells. Cones perceive the colour in bright light, whereas Rods perceive black and white images and work best in low light. Rods contain a chemical called rhodopsin, which is a key to night vision. It absorbs the photons in light to perceive it. When it does this, the chemical splits into a retinal and an opsin molecule. These molecules later recombine, but at a much slower rate.

When the eye is exposed to a bright light, the rhodopsin breaks down. If the lights suddenly turn out, like in our animation, the ability to see in the dark doesn’t happen immediately. The cones can’t work in dark conditions, so are useless, and the rods are broken down, so cannot function. It takes a few seconds for these to recombine to function properly. This applies a lot to our own animation as Lumo Fumbles in the dark. It’s clear that her eyes have no yet had time to reform the rhodopsin, so therefore won’t work. (Jones and Jones, 1995).


Lambert, K. (n.d.). Clinical neuroscience.

Work?, H. and Warren, C. (2016). How the Human Eye Works | Cornea Layers/Role | Light Rays. [online] NKCF. Available at: [Accessed 9 Apr. 2016]. (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Apr. 2016].

Jones, M. and Jones, G. (1995). Biology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Apr. 2016].



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