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Lighting night exterior w/o gels


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#1 filmmakermilan

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 05:15 PM

I'm supposed to light an outdoor scene that takes place late in the evening. I was wondering what people thought about shooting without any gels on the lights.
I read an issue of AC in which John Toll I think it was, said that strictly using white light at night looks the most natural. An example of it was in Mystic River during the night scene at the river. It looked rather nice I thought.
I'm just wondering what your opinions are on this because I'm always told as a student to shoot in moonlight with a full and half blue. I am trying to go for a natural look so i'm just curious into everyone's thoughts...I'd appreciate your comments
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#2 Chris Cooke

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 07:35 PM

Gelling night exteriors (or using HMI's and balancing to tungsten) is typically the most natural because the sky is quite a deep blue at night to our natural eye. A person like John Toll is to cinematography somewhat like Tolkein is to writing (not quite, but you get the point), he can get away with "breaking the rules" and people will still like it because he's proved himself. On the other hand, cinematography is an art that doesn't have quite as hard set rules as writing. So, do whatever you feel suits the story. I've seen films where the talent had white light on most of them but they were backlit with a little blue or there were blue hilights in the background. That looked kind of nice. A night scene (that is motivated by moonlight) is very hard to look believeable without a little blue in the picture.
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#3 filmmakermilan

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 08:42 PM

thanks for the advice. Moonlight really is a factor in this scene so i'll use the CTBs. I just dont want to make it look TOO blue
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 04:54 AM

The blue moonlight effect is a shorthand, a staple of the film industry. It signals "night" for everyone. For me it almost always looks a bit cheap - some guys like Adam Greenberg, ASC on T2 (or the fantastic Near Dark) get away with it and make it really beautiful - but mostly it annoys.

Three guys are outstanding at night cinematography in my book and that's Emmanuel Lubezki, Harris Savides and Darius Khondji. Check out the white, white, white night-lighting in Lubezki's beutiful Great Expectations. Or Savides slightly dimmed, brownish nights in The Yards or The Game.
Or any Khondji-film. Absolute masters.

The late Jean-Yves Escoffier, ASC also had some interesting night stuff - Rounders hade some yellow-green night exteriors that looked great.
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#5 filmmakermilan

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 06:47 AM

thanks frisch, i'll definitely check out those cinematographers.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 09:20 AM

I've got some night exteriors coming up in the desert - it's hard to NOT use some blue. White light in the middle of nowhere tends to look like streetlamp lighting. It's much easier to use white or warm night lighting in an urban film.
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#7 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 10:37 AM

All I can recall is a video shot by James Hawkinson in the desert (it was featured in an AC article maybe 2-3 years ago). Unforunately I can't remember for what band or director.

But it looked beautiful - he had this huge raking sidelight from a musco or some Dino in one shot across the dunes and it created such a graphic image. As I recall it that light was white-ish.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 10:46 AM

All I can recall is a video shot by James Hawkinson in the desert (it was featured in an AC article maybe 2-3 years ago). Unforunately I can't remember for what band or director.

But it looked beautiful - he had this huge raking sidelight from a musco or some Dino in one shot across the dunes and it created such a graphic image. As I recall it that light was white-ish.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Yes, that sounds cool for a music video... but did it feel like moonlight? White light always tends to feel like there's a big tungsten source off-camera to me, unless it is really underexposed. Moonlight to me, ideally, should feel steely, silvery bue-gray, which is one reason I like it when used with an ENR-type print process.

I'm not sure why a cold, blue-ish light can't be attractive anyway... The only thing that tends to look cheap is uncorrected HMI moonlight, but even that all depends on the context.
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#9 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 01:13 PM

    I read an issue of AC in which John Toll I think it was, said that strictly using white light at night looks the most natural. An example of it was in Mystic River during the night scene at the river. It looked rather nice I thought.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


On "Vanilla Sky's" night exteriors the tungsten lights had half-blue, and the hmi's had half-orange.

Wasn't adding eigth green to the ctb in fashion a few years ago?

Edited by J-Ro, 09 August 2005 - 01:14 PM.

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#10 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 04:29 PM

I'm not sure why a cold, blue-ish light can't be attractive anyway... The only thing that tends to look cheap is uncorrected HMI moonlight, but even that all depends on the context.

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No, of course it can. Maybe it's the uncorrected HMI that gets to me, maybe it's the mixing of different temperatures. What Greenberg did so brilliantly in T2 is that everything in the frame was steely blue - I think that was what made it so beautiful. If he'd mixed it up with a dash of warmth here and some tungsten there it would probably not have been as effective. But if I don't recall wrongly it was actually you that pointed out that fact years ago here on this forum :D .

I mean, how do you light a desert anyway? You might as well do something a bit whacky.
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#11 filmmakermilan

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 05:21 PM

we're going to be using tungsten balanced fresnels and the idea of a steel kind of blue sounds great to me. Would using only a half blue give off that effect? The full and half to me makes things TOO blue, which isnt necessarily bad, but not what i'm going for. Plus i lose more light that way which i cant afford in my situation.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 05:24 PM

we're going to be using tungsten balanced fresnels and the idea of a steel kind of blue sounds great to me. Would using only a half blue give off that effect? The full and half to me makes things TOO blue, which isnt necessarily bad, but not what i'm going for. Plus i lose more light that way which i cant afford in my situation.

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Janusz Kaminski used 1/4 Blue on tungsten lights for "The Lost World", which worked well.

Truth is that you could do what "Sleepy Hollow" did, which is light with ungelled tungsten and add the blue in post color timing. As long as it's the only source in the scene and all one color, you can shift it in any direction.
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#13 filmmakermilan

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 10:37 AM

I remember Titanic looking poor :P Thankfully I own Sleepy Hollow and T2, so I'll look those over, as well as the other films mentioned. I think you've all given me enough. I will let you know how it turns out in the end.
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 10:44 AM

Perhaps try just a slight hint of blue, eighth-CTB perhaps if they make that strength. I think the best moonlit looks I'v seen are the ones that are almost white, but have just a hint of that classic film-language blue night. "Ronin" had some nice night stuff lit white or almost white.
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#15 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 11:06 AM

All I can recall is a video shot by James Hawkinson in the desert (it was featured in an AC article maybe 2-3 years ago). Unforunately I can't remember for what band or director.

But it looked beautiful - he had this huge raking sidelight from a musco or some Dino in one shot across the dunes and it created such a graphic image. As I recall it that light was white-ish.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



The video was for the song "Minerva" by The Deftones, and it was directed by Paul Fedor. And yes, it is beautiful. I think Hawkinson said he and Fedor were inspired by the concert film, "Pink Floyd-Live at Pompei"

You can watch the video at Yahoo Launch
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 11:16 AM

Something is seriously wrong with that link...

All I could get was commercials no matter how many times I tried to select that video, and then I couldn't close that site -- I ended up having to hit Control-Alt-Delete to close down Netscape!
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#17 Bob Hayes

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 02:39 PM

Sometimes, when I shoot tape, I?ll just use tungsten and white balance with a ½ CTO on the card light. Pull the gel and shoot.
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#18 filmmakermilan

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 03:08 PM

Sometimes, when I shoot tape, I?ll just use tungsten and white balance with a ½ CTO on the card light.  Pull the gel and shoot.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

How does that look? I'm pretty sure I've white balanced on a beige wall to make it look blue
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#19 James Brown

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Posted 11 August 2005 - 03:34 AM

How does that look? I'm pretty sure I've white balanced on a beige wall to make it look blue

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


How does a beige wall make it look blue?

James.
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#20 filmmakermilan

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Posted 11 August 2005 - 08:52 AM

i think it was beige that we white balanced on. I could be wrong. anyway, everything turned to a different hue because the camera interpreted another color as white, thus changing its vision of all other colors. I'm talking about shooting on video btw

Edited by filmmakermilan, 11 August 2005 - 08:53 AM.

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