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Day for night interior against large window with available light


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#1 Scottie Mei

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 08:51 PM

Hi, I am shooting a short with F900/3, and I needed help to figure out my lighting. the scene takes place in a warehouse type of apartment loft building with few 7'x5' windows in background. the director wants moon light to be the only light source for the scene, and still be able to see the city's "NIGHTSCAPE" through the window.that's not all, it is going to be a day for night scene with available light. I tried pitching the idea of ND the windows and use scissor lift,condor or balloon light to to light those windows from outside as it is a 3 story building, but the is no budget for those equipment. Also, I will only be able to gel those windows from inside. my idea is to ND down the window and gel them with 1/2 CTB and have the production designer dress those windows with roll down curtains and have those curtains half way down. that way, I won't have to deal with the sky, but I will loose the ambient light in the apartment. I am not sure if my idea is going to work. please let me know if anybody out there has any ideas. I am shooting in a week and I am dried out of ideas. I have attached a picture I took at the location to give you some idea of how it looks like.thanks very much
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 09:03 PM

Is there a city-wide black-out in the story? Because day-for-night works better out in the wilderness where there are no other sources than the moon, not in an urban environment where you would expect a streetlamp, etc.

Your idea of blinds or curtains to hide the sky portion is a smart one. You may also get away with using some ND grad filters on the camera lens, besides the ND on the window.

Now the only argument for using ND on the windows is to darken the interior enough so that you can balance the view with artificial lights. But if you aren't using any lights, then what's the point? Just treat it like shooting day-for-night outside and use ND filters on the camera. Here's sort of an example:

Posted Image

You'll be surprised if you did want to balance with lights just how much ND you have to use and just how bright your lights have to be. Think of it this way, an ND.90 filter on a camera outside on a sunny day may get you an f/5.6 on 50 ASA film in direct sunlight. So an ND1.2 on the windows, pretty dense, will get you a normal exposure for the view at f/4 -- you'd have to shoot at f/8 to make that look like moonlight.

So imagine interior practical room lights having to be at an f/8 at 50 ASA to be "at key" compared to the underexposed moonlight outside!

If the room lights have to be on, you may be better off doing angles towards the windows at magic hour and then tenting most of the daylight out for the reverse angles.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 09:08 PM

How are you going to sell a "nightscape" with a daytime view? You won't see window lights in the buildings across the way in the daytime...

You're going to be hard-pressed to preserve the view out the window AND use the window light as a key, even if it's supposed to be dark. Getting an exposure from the ambient light coming through the windows means the view will naturally go hot. ND'ing the windows will then just kill your key light...

You don't need CTB on the windows to make them go blue in daytime. You can white balance for tungsten and daylight will appear full blue, or white balance for 4300 and have it go 1/2 blue. If there are any tungtsen lights on the set that you want to appear "correct," then you would WB for tungsten and actually add 1/2 CTO to the windows for the window light to go 1/2 blue.

I recently gaffed a short like this; F-900, nighttime skyline seen through office windows. We shot a "split" schedule, starting by blacking the windows and shooting away from them in daytime, then after sunset turning around and taking advantage of the natural view.

Here was our view, taken with my digital still camera (hence the blur). Can't do this with ND!
DSC04229.JPG

Your attachment doesn't seem to be here...
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#4 Scottie Mei

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 09:44 PM

How are you going to sell a "nightscape" with a daytime view? You won't see window lights in the buildings across the way in the daytime...


Hi Michael,
thanks! I was thinking ND the window and using X'mas tree light mix with some household tugnsteng bulbs hanging outside of the window and open up the lens and longer lens to create some nightscape illusion. since there will be a courtain roll down half way I might get away with it, but it was just an idea. i am not sure if it's going to work. let me know if you have any thoughts
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#5 Michael Nash

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 09:49 PM

The Xmas tree lights outside the window will have to be seen only on long lenses, with the action staged well away from the windows. If they start to come into focus at all they'll tend to look like Xmas lights on a window... If they're too close to curtains or blinds they might cast glow on them too.
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#6 Ken Minehan

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 10:21 PM

This could be a possibility. How low is your budget?
If you're shooting in the bright of day, i think i might black out all the windows so you have control of all the lighting. Then for the the large window, can you green/blue screen it (if it's a tight room, blue would be better cos less reflective)? that way for the interior of the room, you can light it with tungsten practicals and soft ambient light. Later, you can comp in the Night skyline.

This is just an option.
What do you guys think?

Ken Minehan
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 11:06 PM

The Xmas tree lights outside the window will have to be seen only on long lenses, with the action staged well away from the windows. If they start to come into focus at all they'll tend to look like Xmas lights on a window... If they're too close to curtains or blinds they might cast glow on them too.


Not to mention that Xmas tree lights on the outside of ND1.2 or heavier gel would hardly read anyway, exposure-wise -- it's daytime out there! You're better off using the window as a mirror (which is another problem with that much ND) and reflecting some tiny lights inside the room off of the glass. But again, a lightbulb reflected over a day-for-night city is not going to look realistic.

Like I said, you're talking about a very stylized version of night in a city, not realistic at all. Which may be OK. Why not go back to the location and see how it looks at night out the windows?

Why can't you shoot it at night? You may be able to rig something just outside the windows above the frameline, like a blue-ish Kinoflo tube, maybe from the floor or roofline above using a menace arm, light to a very low light level with fast lenses and expose as much for the background as possible. You may even get away with a longer exposure time and some mild gain boosting on the F900, ala "Collateral".

I'd take a day-for-night still photo and show the director and confirm that that's really what he wants it to look like.
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