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Shooting at night


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#1 Gary Mc Nally

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 06:03 AM

Hi,

Im currently in the pre-production phase for a short 5 minute student film and am having trouble planning one scene that will need to be shot outside in a feild at night with very little lighting equipment.

I was wondering if anyone had any tips for how a nightime scene can be shot with an XL1, or if a night time effect can be created in a daytime enviroment?

Thanks in advance for any advice,
Gary
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 11:44 AM

I think this is one of the most common questions we get, and it's hard to answer. Lighting large areas at night is expensive even on a film with a budget, yet for some reasons, film students keep writing scenes that take place in a field at night far in the countryside and then ask how they can shoot it with no generator or large lights.

First of all, what access to power to you have? What size generator can you afford if there is no power? Do you have to record sound for your scene, requiring a silent generator? Are there any other sources of light in the scene other than "moonlight"? (Car headlamps, flashlights, torches, etc.) Is it possible to pick a field next to a power supply?
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#3 Jason Eitelbach

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 12:48 PM

I shot my first film outside in the country with a Bolex, night for night with effective iso 100 speed film, a few Lowell open faced lights and mole teenie-weenie kit.

I wish that I could have had some fresnel lights because when we would strike those 1K open faced lights they would just throw light everywhere we would have to flag them off big time.


What sort of lights do you have access to. Is there a rental house in your town you could get some from? It's possible that you may be able improvise some lights as well.

On my film we used two opened faced 1K, 3 open-faced 650's, every flag, silk, net and bounce board we could get our hands on. I also had a china ball, a few clip lights and a couple of 100-watt copy stand lamps on an articulated arm. We ended up needing every light. I was lucky that we were shooting at an outdoor theatre, which had a ton of power going to it because of the two huge 35mm projectors in the booth.


Give us more info and I bet that we can figure out what you need, when are you shooting? Do you have to go out and pre-light? Night for night is very challenging, but it can be very fun and certainly VERY instructive.

You must light through the scene as best as you can. Don't let you actors fall off into a black void. That's why you might want a lot of little "improv" fixtures to throw a little behind people, just enough so the background reads.

Good luck,
je
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 01:05 PM

It helps to start out with thinking what the logical source of light would be in the scene. Anything like moonlight should be a large light far away to create an even spread and not look focused on a small area, but practicals like a streetlamp, car headlights, flashlights can motivate using closer smaller lights.
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#5 Will Novy

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 02:57 PM

In digital you can shoot day for night. There are certain filters for doing so and even final cut has a inexpensive version of a day for night "filter" it can generate. The trick that I have heard is to silk the actor so that no hard shadows show on the ground and to get rid of ALL hot spots however possible. I havent tried this with the XL-1 but im sure that there will be some sucess. Also try white balancing for a more blue tone to help with the effect. Hope the shoot goes well!
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 04:12 PM

Well, if there is a moon in the sky, why wouldn't it create shadows on the ground? You're just substituting the sun for the moon afterall.

The standard tricks for day-for-night are:

Shoot in backlight or whatever creates the most shadows as possible. Avoid the sky. Darken the sky (when unavoidable) with ND grads & Polas. Underexpose. Add more light (like from reflectors) to faces, shadows, etc. where you want detail after underexposure. Shift the image towards the blue. Avoid deep focus.

Day-for-night can also be done in overcast light for more of a dim soft light, like on a cloudy moonlit night. Dusk-for-night is similar except that it allows you to have practicals look realistically bright, but it is too short-lived for more than one or two shots.

Which brings up a couple of the problems of day-for-night: (1) It's hard to avoid the sky often; (2) Practicals expose too dim to be realistic when they would probably be the brightest source in the frame; (3) It looks best the darker you make it, but then it looks too dark for TV viewing or to see what's going on.
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#7 Will Novy

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 03:26 AM

I guess it all depends on the DP as well on how the outcome will be. As for the sky you are correct, but since he says he is shooting out in a field I doubt there will be any practicals so they arent a problem. Underexposing for day-for-night is tricky especially if shot on film, you have the risk of losing data that otherwise can be dimmed by telecine or editing software. but, once again i agree, use ND grad filter when shooting the sky and avoid the sun in the shot if possible for sake of having too bright of a main source.

Edited by BilliamFilms, 23 February 2006 - 03:28 AM.

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