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Different Moonlight 'looks'


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#1 David Regan

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 11:44 AM

I just got done a day of shooting, where we shot several scenes that were night interiors lit by moonlight. However due to scheduling, most of the shooting occured during the day, so I had to black the windows and motivate the light from inside. However during the last setup of the day, it had turned to night at that point, so we were able to put a light outside the window as you can see. Obviously these are two very different looking shots (at least they are from different scenes/locations), and I really prefer the 2nd one best. Any thoughts/comments/suggestions on the two would be appreciated, or advice on getting a better moonlight effect when forced to have all your lights in the room, because I really think both shots can be improved alot, albeit they were done very differently.


This first shot was the shot light during the day. I had a micky cut down with a net, through 1/2 CTB and 1/8 plus green. The windows were blacked out, however I pulled off just a corner of the black to allow some sunlight in, which went blue due to my color balance. (This was shot on HVX200) My biggest beef with it is its too high key, It feels flat. I was having trouble controlling the spill of the light, in such a small room. In retrospect I probably should have used smaller, more controllable sources, i.e fresnel and only lit certain highlights. Any advice on this would be appreciated.


This 2nd photo is obviously a lot closer to the lower key look lacking in the first photo. Outside we put a Micky gelled with 1/2 CTB (No HMI on this shoot unfortunatly) Frame right is the door which is slightly cracked open, with another Micky with 1/8th CTO, flagged to prevent any spill (Also in retrospect should have been a fresnel for harder edge I think) Then there is a 1K through 1/2 CTB bounced frame left, which is providing the ambient light level on the far wall. Finally a 300W fresnel with 1/2 CTB is providing the blue edgelight on the left of the actor. I think this one works much better, but again, comments/critique is most welcome.
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#2 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 03:31 PM

I like them both actually David! Maybe not cut together like You've posted but at different times they both work well especially the 2nd frame. The highlights on the mantelpiece
in the 1st frame are a bit of a give away but your scrutinising 1 frame which an audience doesn't! But I'm curious, why moonlight? and why slightly blue? I've had this discussion
with many directors and they just feel it seems right. I think if you have no tungsten light sources in the frame then moonlight doesn't look blue it looks white, with an ever so slight green ting. I say why moonlight because it depends on where the scene is set, in an urban setting how much moonlight do get coming in through a window? When i lived in the city i seem to remember only the orange glow of the sodium vapour street lights, but if it's a rural setting then moonlight is more motivated.

Anyway I'm rambling.

You caught the mood.

Kieran.
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#3 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 04:02 PM

Looking at it again David the 2nd frame is perfect with that edge light on the arm, like a door is open just behind him where a light is on in the hallway!

Sorry for rambling!

Kieran.
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 04:45 PM

Overall it looks pretty good.

The first one just needs to be exposed darker. Also, the color is too "neutral," with more warmth than what our eyes see in low-level light. Look at the saturation in the wood, the scissors, and the red object in the basket in your pic.

This is simply brought down in exposure, and I took the red saturation and master saturation down:

screenshot4.jpeg

Regarding "why blue?" -- aside from the fact that audiences recognize the film convention of "blue=night," the rods and cones in our eyes react to color differently in very low-level light. In very dim light we lose the ability to distinguish color, and everything starts to appear slightly bluish and very desaturated (and slightly soft-focus as well). So very low-level "night light" in a house interior often does look a dull bluish, even if the actual sources outside are warm in color.

I think a lot of the confusion comes from people using the term "moonlight" to describe night light, or night time ambience. Night time ambience is usually a big mush of different colored sources from all directions, but when it's dim enough it all goes a soft silvery-blue to our eyes. So you just have to decide how dark (or dim) you want the scene to appear to be -- dark enough that we don't see color, or bright enough that we can distinguish color; in which case, is it blue moonlight or warm sodium light?
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 05:04 PM

There's nothing really wrong with the first one -- it's just the classic case where it looks better to (1) shoot in backlight indoors, meaning towards the windows, because you have more shadows in the frame, and (2) shoot towards the source, in this case, the window to show that it is night. However, in the course of covering a scene, it may not always been possible to stage every angle looking towards the source (the windows) so once you've established that the windows are the source, then you can have angles that are side-lit and even front-lit if it is logical. The solution when the light gets to a flatter, more frontal, angle is to break it up more with shadow patterns so that you create areas of darkness in the frame.
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#6 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 08:21 PM

I think the big difference between the two shots is in that first photo, the edge between light and shadow is much softer than what was created by the backlight of the 2nd photo. Also, it would have helped a bit more perhaps by having a white reference in that first shot, as you did in the 2nd.

Before I even read the post I saw the first photo and immediately thought it looked like something shot in daylight with a tungsten white balance. But it's just a matter of what you do in post, it can easily be manipulated to look closer to the 2nd shot.
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#7 David Regan

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 10:37 PM

[quote name='Michael Nash' date='Sep 19 2007, 05:45 PM' post='194526']

The first one just needs to be exposed darker. Also, the color is too "neutral," with more warmth than what our eyes see in low-level light. Look at the saturation in the wood, the scissors, and the red object in the basket in your pic.

This is simply brought down in exposure, and I took the red saturation and master saturation down:


What do you mean by too ''neutral?'' As in it needs more variety, i.e. the 2nd photo with the warmer hallway light? And regarding the saturation is there any way to handle that in camera? (I wasn't sure if thats what you meant by 'brought down in exposure') or is it something handled better in post? Its curious I hadn't thought about that before in regards to moonlight lighting. It also interests me because I have another shoot for the same film this weekend, day interior this time, but a lot of the woodwork/furniture is very warm which gives the room a very warm feel from the reflected light, and I was hoping to take it down and make it somewhat colder, to fit the mood of the scenes.

And to Kieran, Its a good point about how the location affects the light, fortunately this location was not only set in the country but actually was shot there too, so it worked out in this case. Plus the much better answer to 'why blue' Michael provided.
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#8 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 01:17 AM

I like them both. THe only thing I would change is a eye light on the first frame.
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 04:48 PM

I like them both. THe only thing I would change is a eye light on the first frame.


That's pretty much my view. I would have probably either dulled down the stuff on the dresser or replaced some of it with less reflective items, too.

Edited by Chris Keth, 20 September 2007 - 04:49 PM.

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#10 Raymond

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 12:50 PM

The Stuff on the dresser in the first pic kinda gives it away that its day. The subject looks amazing, but yeah theres to much light on the objects on the dresser i think.

Edited by Raymond, 28 September 2007 - 12:51 PM.

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