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Day for Night


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#1 Ashley Barron

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 07:59 PM

Hi,

I was wondering what is the best method for shooting day for night using a digital camera (possible the Sony HVX). Also, what does it require - is it an exposure or color issue?

Any advice would be deeply appreciated.

Thank you for your time,
Ashley.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 06:13 AM

That'd be the Panasonic HVX-200, no?

The easy way to start is simply to underexpose, but there's a lot of accepted custom and technical stuff involved.

Theoretically, moonlight is the same colour as daylight - it's sunlight being reflected off the moon, and the moon is effectively neutral grey, so the colour doesn't change. If you take a sufficiently long-exposure photograph in moonlight, it looks exactly like sunlight with a black sky, it's spooky. That said no current motion pictire camera system has sufficient sensitivity to actually shoot in moonlight, so you'll have to use something else.

This means you have effectively two options: shoot when it's sunny, and assume the sun is actually the moon. This works OK until you want to have artificial light sources in frame, such as a flashlight; the flashlight then has to be enormously bright to be appropriately brighter than the sun ("moon").

Or, you can shoot in overcast conditions, and play it one of two ways. Either put a very big movie light in to simulate moonlight, or assume that it's an overcast night. Either case still requires that any in-frame artificial light sources be very bright.

In any case you will wish to avoid showing any sky, unless it's in a shot where you can be sure of doing a clean special effect to remove it; the night sky is dark, and the day sky is bright, and you will not be able to do much about that in camera beyond the careful application of grad filters.

Colour-wise, the tradition is that night is blue. This isn't necessarily very accurate, since we're looking at reflected sunlight, but there are justifications for it - if you balance to tungsten artificial light that's in frame, moonlight is then bluer than that. In cities, night tends to be salmon pink or bright saturated orange, depending on what sort of street lighting is in use. And the human eye is most sensitive in the yellow-green, so yellow-green objects (apart from white) tend to be the most visible in reduced light.

So night is either red, blue, or green. Sorry if that's a bit ambiguous...

Personally I'd shoot for the dimmest possible overcast day, make special measures to give everyone hyper-bright mains-powered "flashlights" based on comparatively powerful movie lights, possibly powered by cables running up sleeves, or whatever, avoid showing any sky (or plan on special effects sky replacement) and filter or colour balance a bit blue.

But really I'd shoot at night.

P
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#3 Paul Bruening

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 11:22 AM

Hey Phil,

Reading your recommendations got me rethinking this matter. I've been running along and not questioning my idea base on DfN. I'm inclined to think that the viewer will accept the inaccuracy of presentation as long as it looks like all the other stuff they've seen. There are a few tricks of the trade that are only partial representations of reality. Day for night is one of those. I think it can really look horrible if done without consideration. The tricks you mentioned will help on that. I like the angle out the sky trick. I like the shoot in overcast trick. I like the blue color trick.

But, what can be done in post with DI these days to make DfN look better? Can you composite or color replace the sky color?

I can't come up with any more AE type tricks. There's bound to be more available. What do you have in mind? I'll keep musing on it.
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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 11:28 AM

I tend to associate bright moonlight with a silvery quality. If you shot in full sun the shadow angles might seem like full moon. The light being equal throughout the frame would also be like full moon. Then, in post, knock out almost all of the color, give it a slight blue tint, just enough to make the image more silvery than blue, chop the mids out of the gamma, reduce the luminance overall, and peak the whites to make the image just a tiny bit spectral.

What do you think?
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 12:35 PM

The problem with shooting DfN in full sun is that you are then relying on your sun to be the moon. This is fine, and easily achievable with filtration or exposure settings. The problem is that to have it look anything like night, it needs to be very underexposed. This means you will need to light your scene, possibly simulating the presence of something like firelight, flashlights, car headlights, or whatever else. These lightsources will then need to be very much brighter than full sunlight in order to register properly, which may be a problem.

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#6 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 01 October 2008 - 01:49 PM

i tried it in HD with a 750 and partialy missed the trick why i didn't trust on under exposing knowing i could do it in post : big mistake.

few things that don't work :
- direct sun on white or clear objects
never let anything to clip in the image.

underexpose a good 3 stops and then fine tune in post.

things that works :
desaturate your image in post the moon light don't render colors.

i'm not a fan of blue nights experiment with the color grading i did a green one desaturated that was interesting

i hope it helps
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#7 Will Earl

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 12:46 PM

I remember doing a day-for-night sequence for a '48-hour' film a few years ago. Shot handheld in the early evening just after the sun had gone down - but still light enough to shoot. Most of it was messed with in post. Did all the cliche DfN stuff, desat, cooler colour temp, and for one wide shot which showed a cityscape, some hills and the sky I tracked in a 2D moon. I thought it work quite well at the time, although if I looked back it now I'd probably laugh.

There is a Video Copilot tutorial on the subject. Might give you some ideas.
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