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Old March 7th, 2005, 07:27 PM   #1
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how to light darkness

I'm shooting this scene where one character wears night vision goggles, and the other is unable to see anything because it's in a dark room. How do I show the room, when I'm not showing the POV from the nightvision goggles? Light it really faintly with blue gels? I can' remember how this was done in Silence of the Lambs, guess I'll have to rent it...
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Old March 8th, 2005, 03:51 AM   #2
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Well, no ideas there, but here's what I suggest for the night vision POV stuff. A lot of the stuff just looks really corny.

1) Up the gain as high as possible, and add more grain in post. Real night vision is grainy as hell.
2) Try and blow out your highlights, or underexpose your shadow, or if you can, both. NVGs are very contrasty.

If you've got a lot of cash to drop, you can actually pick up actual night vision adaptors for just about any prosumer camera... say a grand and a half. They're hell to work with, though.

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Old March 8th, 2005, 08:37 PM   #3
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Two things:

Just about every CCD by nature can pickup IR light from an IR illuminator. So technically, any 1 or 3-CCD camera can see IR light if it is provided, and no other light exists. That creates the weird black pupils on people with green light all around them, since it is dark for them, their pupils are wide open, but then the camera can see very clearly like daylight.

My suggestion is to shoot the scene clean with a normal dynamic range and exposure, and then later in post, like Colin said, add grain, a green tint, blow the highlights a little. These are all easy AfterEffects effects, and that way if you don't like what you had in the can, you can change the look. Just make sure you clearly light the actor's face, so if you have to add contrast later, you can still see their features well.

You will find that for the darkness shot, you will have the best luck with underexposure, but you have to have something white in the frame that acts as a point white object. That will add contrast to the frame, and make a denser negative, by creating dynamic range in a lowlight setting. Watch "8mm" and fast forward to the last bit where Nick cage is wandering through his house in the dark.
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Old March 8th, 2005, 08:47 PM   #4
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Thanks, I'll rent "8mm" and check it out.
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Old March 12th, 2005, 06:04 AM   #5
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Rush: I'm wondering, aren't the IR block filters on these chips
supposed to remove the ability to see IR light?
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Old March 12th, 2005, 11:35 AM   #6
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I would reccomend using backlight edges to create contrast. Having plenty of dark areas in the frame vs the more filled-in night vision look should work.
Here's a thread about night vision.
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Old March 12th, 2005, 01:37 PM   #7
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Hmmm, think he had the night-vision fake figured out... it's getting that "it's pitch black in here" look that seems to be the problemo...

As I recall (could be wrong) much of that climactic night-vision scene in "silence" was actual pitch black, with her heavy breathing adding suspense (I remember being on the edge of **my** seat, anyway).

If the location has any elements that would "make sense" as a dim light source, like a window to the outdoor night, silhouetting against deep blue with some vague details may be a good bet. This may also be an area where the performance does a great deal of selling the idea. Bumping into things, eyes not truly 'focusing' on anything, that sort of wild-stare looking-everywhere face. Walk around in a pitch black room and make some mental notes on what you're doing physically, and especially facially.
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Old March 12th, 2005, 10:15 PM   #8
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Depending on the scene but could you use the shot totally black as in can't see a thing but every now and again have a small source of light show up. eg. a car light passing showing thru the window illuminating character or furniture etc or a flourescent bulb that keeps flashing on for a moment like when there about to die
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Old March 14th, 2005, 06:43 AM   #9
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Those are some great ideas.
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Old March 14th, 2005, 09:52 AM   #10
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Depending on the location, you could have blue light spilling in from a window and be very hard edged (non-diffused). It could throw a window pattern or not, and a small amount of soft fill light-- then iris down to taste.

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