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Old July 9th, 2008, 01:24 PM   #1
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Sunset Scene

Hi guys, a have a fairly lengthy scene (most likely around 7 minutes) that takes place at sunset. The location is a long, empty road in an open rural area, so plenty of sky will be in every shot making it even more important for a realistic sunset look.

I don't really have any experience shooting during the magic hour, but I have a feeling the light will fade much to fast to get enough shooting done. I'd rather not be rushed.

The only idea I have in mind so far is to shoot on an overcast day where harsh shadows are a non-issue, and add filters in post to give it a much warmer look. However, I'm concerned about the actors' skin tones. It should also be noted that some of the shots will be from the hood of a car, which I've heard somebody say may be an issue on an overcast day. But will this mean I'll have to overexpose the sky to expose to the actors? This won't work if that's the case...

Do you guys have any good suggestions on shooting sunset scenes? I've done numerous Google searches but have yet to find anything that fully answers my question.
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Old July 9th, 2008, 04:58 PM   #2
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Rent some HMI lights, use a daylight white balance, and expose so the sun is a nice reddish-gold ball. If you're shooting people in a car, you can rent the little Kino Flos that you can tape all over the car. You'll have to light the scenes, or you'll have mainly silhouettes.
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Old July 9th, 2008, 05:33 PM   #3
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Are you talking about lighting during the magic hour or an overcast day? I'm worried about the time constraint for shooting during the magic hour so if possible I'd like to cheat it if it's convincing enough. It should be noted that the location I have in mind isn't very local and I'd like to shoot it in 2 days maximum (if possible).

Also, how is it that I'll be powering the HMI lights outside? I don't have any money to shell out for a generator.

Thanks for the quick response though.

-Ross
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Old July 10th, 2008, 02:04 PM   #4
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light at sunset can swing around in color temp pretty radically.

when the sun is near the horizon, its 4300k heading towards 3200k or so... I've used straight tungsten a few times for fill . using a 5200/5600K HMI may require adding some 1/2 or full CTO. if you go 5200K that will make for an extra warm sunset which is a good thing. once the sun goes down, it can go back to 5200-6500k.

HMI's get powered from a gennie.

another option is white or silver reflectors. since they are using the same light, its always color temp correct, and no power required.

sorry but since you can't stop the sun, it runs the show, you have to be 100% ready to go when it happens. I've watched crews miss shots because they didn't understand this. you want to be sitting waiting for it to happen, not running setting up gear and missing it. that means being there early enough. you've got 15-20 minutes with the sun at just above the horizon. being ready means 2-3 takes and going home with a smile, not being ready means maybe you get one take, cussing if you got it or not.
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Old July 11th, 2008, 11:22 AM   #5
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Hmmm... I guess what I'm really trying to ask is the best way to fake the warm evening/sunset look without being blatantly fake. Having only 15-20 minutes to shoot probably just won't work. I'm going to have to hire actors for no pay who probably won't appreciate having to go to a far away location for what will likely be a week straight. I just don't foresee it working.

Thanks for the replies nevertheless. I'm sure they'll be of help in the future :)
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Old July 11th, 2008, 07:16 PM   #6
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you shoot your money shot with the sun in it at the critical time which is probably a wide shot with a long lens, the rest gets shot around that. pretty easy to set a light or two to match the sun's angle at the horizon to match in with Cu's. up north magic hour really does last a good hour, further south its a lot shorter. even before the sunset you can do Cu's. there was one time I did a CU shot in a studio 2 weeks after the outdoor shot and it matched in ok.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 01:52 PM   #7
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You might want to shoot the wide, establishing shots under actual conditions and fill with a gelled HMI.

Then for closeups you could consider shooting in a studio with green screen. If it's lit properly and set up to match the establishing shots, it'll look very convincing. You'll be able to get full control of lighting, and give your actors every opportunity to give their best performances.

I've done a lot of green screen work to put our talent in an outdoor environment, and I've yet to hear someone say that they knew it was shot in a studio.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 10:04 PM   #8
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Ross,

I would rec that you set up way before sunset (presumed that you have got everything planned out) and solve all the issues that you may have then (sound, etc). Get the wide shots first, taking note of the direction of lighting (or you can simply get a few screen captures off the captured footage as reference) and shoot your closeups another day with lighting setup to mimic the light during the sunset.

As a matter, you do not have to shoot your closeups at the exact same location as your background will most prob be not covered within the range of the DOF to be recognizable.

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Old August 9th, 2008, 12:18 PM   #9
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I guess I need to make it clear that HMI's are out of the question; an outdoor power source is not in the budget whatsoever. Living way down south in Florida, the magic hour really isn't an hour at all, and the location is over an hour round trip for me, let alone the actors who will probably live much further away. It should also be noted that close-ups are far and few in between written in the script. Most of the shots will inevitably have the sky in there.

Will shooting on an overcast day and color correcting to look like susnet in post have any chance of working? This seems to be my only feasible option as of now.
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Old August 9th, 2008, 07:12 PM   #10
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"Will shooting on an overcast day and color correcting to look like susnet in post have any chance of working?"

No.

Even if you do a complete digital sky replacement in post, your talent won't be lit like they are in sunset lighting. You must get some lights to cast that horizontal hard light that happens during sunset and you will likely want to add some amber/yellow color so that it gets the same tint as the sun when it is going through lots of atmosphere. You could probably shoot establishings during sunset and get maybe 30 minutes after sunset to shoot CU shots with your lights and the early evening sky faking sunset.

How are you getting to the shoot? Are you riding horseback and/or walking? If not, you have a 12V power source with you that can supply at least 300W of energy if you get an inverter. 300W is about a dozen compact fluorescent lamps that could easily give you the amber rim light you need to make the early evening sky seem like sunset.

How long is the sunset scene? It sounds like you are implying that an entire feature needs to be shot at sunset. Do rehearsals before going on location and even on location before sunset and you should be able to get 3 takes of 5 minute scenes on each shooting day. If you add your own lights and shoot just after sundown for CU shots, you get another 3 takes. Unless your sunset scene is longer than an actual sunset, you should be able to get it in one day unless it is extremely dialog or action intensive requiring multiple setups.
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Old August 9th, 2008, 07:32 PM   #11
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Thanks for the response Marcus, a lot of what you said was really helpful. Yes, the whole short feature (which I project at about 15 minutes) takes place at sunset, of which more than half will require shots that include the sky. And yes, there are also a lot of different camera setups and lens switching to the point which I felt it necessary to storyboard the first 3rd of the story in detail.

So essentially it sounds like I'm going to need to suck it up and shoot the scene at sunset. Am I correct in this assumption? How will I maintain a consistent exposure throughout?

Are these compact fluorescent lamps something I can get at, say, Lowe's or Home Depot and do you have a link to an example of what I should look for? I'm not sure if they will be very practical for the long shots and medium long shots which make up the bulk of the script though...

Also, how difficult would it be to expose to both the actors and the sky?

Sorry if some of these questions seem a bit amateurish, I've never had experience shooting outdoors at sunset and exhaustive searching on Google and these boards have turned up nothing of great help.
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Old August 10th, 2008, 01:40 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross Goodman View Post

SNIP

Also, how difficult would it be to expose to both the actors and the sky?

Sorry if some of these questions seem a bit amateurish, I've never had experience shooting outdoors at sunset and exhaustive searching on Google and these boards have turned up nothing of great help.
Ross,

You're biting off a LOT here. Yes, it will be difficult to expose for both the actors and the sky. Because the sky will be changing rapidly throughout "magic hour."

Plus, if you have a cloudless day, then you can be guaranteed that if you need pickups, your pickup day will have clouds. Even if both shooting days have clouds - the chances are they'll look totally different. In fact, if you shoot a wide establishing shot at 7pm and shoot medium iso shots of characters at 7:20 not only will the light be totally different, but the cloud formations will likely be different as well.

This stuff won't be all that evident until you try to intercut those scenes in post - where similar angle cuts between the wide and medium shots will get you clouds that appear and disappear as you alternate shots.

Suffice it to say that it's not easy to shoot a long sequence at a specific time of day outdoors. Not if you want more coverage than just a long single wide shot and maybe some cutaway close ups that you can match with careful angles and lighting.

Remember cameras so nothing but record reflected light. And when the light is changing rapidly over time, it's a LOT harder to achieve shot to shot consistency.

Good luck.
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Old August 10th, 2008, 09:40 AM   #13
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Even if both shooting days have clouds - the chances are they'll look totally different. In fact, if you shoot a wide establishing shot at 7pm and shoot medium iso shots of characters at 7:20 not only will the light be totally different, but the cloud formations will likely be different as well.

This stuff won't be all that evident until you try to intercut those scenes in post - where similar angle cuts between the wide and medium shots will get you clouds that appear and disappear as you alternate shots.
You've pretty much voiced my fears Bill. I was afraid of this as well =/. I don't think I realized what I was in for when I wrote the script.

Any other suggestions perhaps for faking the time of day when the sky starts to turn orange?
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Old August 10th, 2008, 07:08 PM   #14
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Bill is right. That is a very challenging setup with wide and medium shots with different setups all at sunset. As I see it, you have a few choices:

Re-write the script.

Shoot with the sky overexposed and do sky replacement. You need to use something like After Effects that can do motion tracking to keep your sky linked to your foreground. Shooting with the exposure keeping the actors lit correctly and letting the sky overexpose means you won't need to worry about fill lighting the actors. I would probably try to use gold reflectors to give a yellow rim light on the talent to help join the fake sunset with the daylight actors. In fact, I would shoot with the actors slightly underexposed so the gold reflection is more prominent.

Rehearse the heck out of your scenes and production then shoot at sunset with a huge white reflector as fill, maybe the side of a white truck and a few little reflectors for closeup shots. Exposure will be tricky so you will need to be well practiced with your camera work before heading out with cast and crew. I still would want a few hundred watts of daylight fluorescent as fill to keep a high color temp fill with the golden rim light from the sun.

*********************

I realized later that overexposing the sky may not work right for you. I use the V1U that has CMOS chips that don't smear like CCDs. Too much light in the lens or glare will cause problems for me, but regular smear is not a problem. You will probably only be able to overexpose the sky by about one stop before you start to smear your subjects. It may still be a workable solution for you to do a luminance key to replace the sky, but it would be easier if you had a clearer delineation between subject and background by overexposing the sky to white.

Last edited by Marcus Marchesseault; August 11th, 2008 at 04:52 AM.
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