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Underexposure For Night


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#1 Anthony Caffaro

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 12:51 AM

Whats a good way to usually underexpose key at night. I understand it depends on what the scene calls for, etc. etc. But I'm talking abotu a basic scene, one in which all the practicals are off and its night. I could motivate sodium vapor from a street lamp onr moonlight through windows and such but would a stop in a half be a safe way to make the key on the face feel like night and let the darker areas go more like 2 1/2 stops. I was also thinking the same for EXT. scenes in the woods or areas not lit by lamps.

I understand when I want an extreme like a silhoutte, a blackout effect, or an extreme hot spot but its that middle ground that I just don't know what would be best. I assume when I went something dark at key or bright but not distracting a stop and a half would be good. Because 4 stops I'm losing detail, 3 would be for blackout/silhoutte extreme hotspot, 2 could work, but 1 1/2 lets me save more detail for post.

If anyone has some feedback that would be great.

THANKS
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 01:07 AM

Sort of depends on the look you want and the contrast of the scene, and how big your windows are. If you had no fill and very dark shadows, then you may want the streetlight effect to be nearly at key, but limited to very small areas of the room so most of the frame is dark.

But if there were huge rows of windows so that most of the room was lit by this streetlamp and there were very few shadows, then you may want the key to be more underexposed. And by how much depends on how frontal or backlit it is.

And if you add more fill so the shadows aren't black, you may want your key to be more underexposed because a brighter key and a lot of fill would look too overlit.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 01:25 AM

How dark do you want it to look? There's your answer...

Not to be glib, but there's a lot of leeway in making something look dark. "Can't see" dark? "Eyes adjusted" dark? Full moon? No moon? You already know the latitude of your stock, so figure how bright you want your key-level subjects to appear in frame. Keep in mind that the fill side may be totally black, so you can often get away with a lot of underexposure and still have those areas show up against the surrounding black.

Why don't you shoot some bracketed exposures with a still camera or video camera with manual iris control, and see what you like? It's good to learn the different "looks" because you'll need to shoot "dark" as all kinds of levels eventually.
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#4 timHealy

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 08:35 PM

I read something years ago about Vilmos Zigmond that when he underexposes an actor he is careful to keep something in the frame exposed normally or keeping something bright in the shot like a bare light bulb in the distance. Even out of focus, it helps to give the scene something to judge the rest of the shot by. Then you can have your actor as dark as you dare.

Best

Tim
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#5 Douglas Sunlin

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 12:09 PM

Not to be glib, but there's a lot of leeway in making something look dark. "Can't see" dark? "Eyes adjusted" dark?

Hey, that's an idea. If your character is going from bright light to darkness, wouldn't you start with "too dark to see" then lighten it up as his eyes adjusted?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 12:35 PM

Hey, that's an idea. If your character is going from bright light to darkness, wouldn't you start with "too dark to see" then lighten it up as his eyes adjusted?


I've done that before, make the first shots darker and gradually add more light during the sequence.
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#7 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 12:53 PM

"I read something years ago about Vilmos Zigmond that when he underexposes an actor he is careful to keep something in the frame exposed normally or keeping something bright in the shot like a bare light bulb in the distance. Even out of focus, it helps to give the scene something to judge the rest of the shot by. Then you can have your actor as dark as you dare."


Having even a pinpoint of bright highlight like a light bulb makes the blacks look richer and less murky.

Michael's suggestion of shooting bracketed exposures with a still or video camera is a really good one.
There are no hard and fast quantitative rules for lighting, a lot of it is a question of taste and what YOU feel reinforces the mood and psycho-emotional impact of the film you are working on.
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