The post contains spoilers for episode 5 of "The Last of Us."

Now halfway through its first season, HBO's "The Last of Us" has already delivered heartbreak, hope, and plenty of on-screen horror. This week's episode, though, ratcheted the show's action to a whole new level as Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) narrowly escaped the wrath of a group of forces led by Melanie Lynskey's Kathleen. Along the way, they ended up trapped in the middle of shootouts, fiery explosions, and an attack by a group of Infected led by an infamous beastie known to game fans as "the bloater."

All of the action unfolded by the light of the moon, making some of the show's most horrifying bloodbaths look eerily beautiful despite the carnage. Ahead of the episode, /Film spoke with episode cinematographer Eben Bolter about the tricky art of lighting night scenes, in which "every molecule of light is controlled." Along the way, he revealed the great lengths the production went to in order to shoot and light epic scenes taking place partly on a soundstage. Bolter calls the scenes in the back half of the episode, set in the cul-de-sac of a Kansas City neighborhood, "a massive, expensive undertaking" that was shot "for about four weeks of nights on end."

It Was 'Probably The Hardest Thing I've Ever Had To Light In My Life'

The filmmaker also says the cul-de-sac scenes were, in his words, "probably the hardest thing I've ever had to light in my life." The reasons for the difficulty were myriad: For one thing, Bolter and the team had an ambitious plan for the scene's lighting, one that would look naturalistic as opposed to more polished and cinematic — lighting that he says may look "too lit, and too slick, and too fake." For another, the Alberta weather didn't exactly cooperate with anyone's best-laid plans, leading the team to get innovative with their lighting solutions.

Plus, as the filmmaker points out, the scene wasn't shot in a small space as most moonlit scenes tend to be for practicality's sake. "I wanted to scale up the concept of how I would've lit it on a small scale, on a huge scale," Bolter says, describing a 2,000 foot cul-de-sac that was built on a back lot from the ground up — concrete, houses, and all. The cinematographer had a pretty specific vision for the lighting, telling /Film:

"I wanted to have a very soft, ambient toplight, which gives you a 'room tone,' as I call it. So a kind of generic ambience that's directionless, that just allows you to see. And then I wanted to circle it with lights completely, like a football stadium, just all the way round. Just always, whichever way I'm looking, I have the ability to backlight the cast."

'We Were Out In The Middle Of Nowhere'

Bolter says an "awful lot of planning and an awful lot of subtleties" went into creating a setup with a hard backlight and soft toplight, which would prevent the scenes from falling into the too-dark territory of shows like "Game of Thrones." The plan wasn't helped, he says, "by the Calgary snow which arrived that we didn't want." As a result of the snow and wind, the team behind "The Last of Us" ended up forgoing the most common lighting solution for a scene like this one, instead opting to create their own entirely new lighting system. He continued:

"If you're in an interior, like a soundstage, we would just rig them in the ceiling. But we were out in the middle of nowhere. In Calgary, the wind can get up to 100 miles per hour. So if I was using balloon lights and the wind gets up, they will have to come down, we would have to stop filming. And we had too much to do, we couldn't do that."

Instead, Bolter says, they "had to kind of invent a new light solution, which was four huge grids of 100 lights, with no fabric, so the wind could just pass through them." This strategy stopped the buffeting winds from slowing down production by impacting the lights. It also sounds like a pretty massive set-up to pull off. "In total, we had 400 of these lights on these huge cranes hanging over the set, which gave us the soft ambience but without any fabrics," Bolter says. "So that when the wind got up, and it did get up to 50, 60 miles per hour, it just passed through them and we could keep filming."

This sounds like an impressive — if daunting, pricey, and time-consuming — undertaking, and I think it all pays off in the final product. Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) leave part of Kansas City in ashes this week after a showdown that brings home, for perhaps the first time in the adaptation, just how deeply brutal both the humans and monsters of this world can be. And thanks to the creatively constructed artificial moonlight, the episode looked gorgeous — even at its most violent and devastating moments.

"The Last of Us" airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max at 9:00pm ET.

Read this next: The Last Of Us Trailer Breakdown: Fireflies, Clickers, And Melanie Lynskey

The post Calgary Winds Forced The Last of Us Crew To Invent A Whole New Lighting System [Exclusive] appeared first on /Film.