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How to film a night scene in day time?


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#1 Jalen Coleman

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 12:25 PM

I'm shooting a film outside in the day time and I was wondering how do I make it look night time?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 03:16 PM

I'm shooting a film outside in the day time and I was wondering how do I make it look night time?


"Day for Night" only really works when you can believe that the moon is the only source of illumination, which is why it tends not to work in urban environments, for example, unless during a total power outage. You are basically making sky and sunlight feel like moonlight. And since the sun is naturally very bright, you can't have any practical sources like flashlights, car headlamps, etc. expose brightly enough to be realistic once you darken the shot to look like night.

The basic tricks are:

1) Underexpose the shot -- by how much just depends, but remember you can always darken things more in post, so don't overdo the underexposure.

2) Shoot in back, 3/4, or side light for maximum shadows (though in real life, the moon can be front-lighting the subject just like the sun can -- it can even be dead overhead).

3) Shoot at a wide lens aperture for less depth of field (most true night photography is never at high f-stops.) You'll need heavy ND filters to do this.

4) Avoid the sky as much as possible. If a clear day, in side-light you can sometimes get a Pola filter to darken a blue sky enough, but an ND grad filter will help too in combination. But in general, avoid the sky unless you can replace it in post.

5) Add a blue-ish tint. This is a matter of taste, some people aim for a pale blue-green (cyan), some like a deeper blue. The easiest way to get a blue cast is to shoot daylight on tungsten-balanced film without the 85 correction.

6) You can also mix dusk-for-night shots when you need a practical source to expose brightly. But dusk is always soft light, so overcast day-for-night blends better with dusk-for-night.

7) Once everything is underexposed, you may (in contradiction) need more light on some areas of the frame to make them stand out or have enough shadow detail. Think of it as a night scene where you had a big backlight from an HMI but want selective areas to have more fill to see what's happening.
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#3 Jalen Coleman

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 03:57 PM

Thanks David
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