How to shoot an outdoor night scene that is suppossed to look dark (ie unlit) at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Photon Management

Photon Management
Shine an ever-loving light on you.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old January 20th, 2007, 05:08 AM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 57
How to shoot an outdoor night scene that is suppossed to look dark (ie unlit)

I am going to need to shoot an outdoors scene, middle of the night, that needs to look like it is very dark with minimal light. I will be using an HVX200.

I was wondering, how can I go about doing this? I see it done in movies all the time and it looks great. Recently coming to mind is Mission Impossible III which I just watched. The night time rescue scene towards the start, the stuff in Shangai. All looks dark and night time ish, but excellent color/contrast, etc. Obviosuly they are using superb equipment, but how can I go about making these kinds of shots with an HVX200?

ie, what do I need to do for:

1.) Camera Settings
2.) Lighting
3.) Lens filters?
4.) Post correction

And furthermore, is anyone experienced with this and has sample footage of something that they have done?

Well any & all help, tips, etc. are greatly appreciated!!

NOTE: I should add that I want to avoid shooting Day-for-night. What will I need to do to achieve good results actually shooting at night?
Daniel Cegla is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 07:49 AM   #2
Trustee
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Little Rock
Posts: 1,383
Hire a Grip Truck!
No Power, then rent a locked generator as well.

Good Luck with your shoot!
David W. Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 01:12 PM   #3
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 57
Well, I am also curious as to how *I* would go about doing this, without hiring someone else. I want to learn for myself the technique and method of doing this.

So that I can apply that knowledge and be self-sufficient and find low-budget means of accomplishing this.
Daniel Cegla is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 01:23 PM   #4
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
The basic trick of shooting night work is to keep your predominant light source backlit or mostly backlit. The classic approach is to set a large source as high to the rear as possible which will rim the actors, trees etc. and give some ground texture. If you are shooting near buildings you can place the source in a window or on the roof. If you are limited to household circuits (20 amp) as opposed to a generator, use 1K open face lights; you can place several of them next to each other to give the maximum horizontal spread. A light sheet of diffusion placed across all the lights will help to unify them into a single source (no double shadows). If this is intended to be a moonlight source, you can add CTB gel as desired to cool off the look.

If you are unable to create a high backlight, consider using smaller units sprinkled around the background to pick out some textures (trees etc)--keep them at or under exposure)--and then light your foreground action as needed. In all instances, keep your frontal fill at least a stop down to avoid a "lit" look.
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 02:43 PM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Belfast, UK
Posts: 4,122
I'd get some assistance, rather than attempt to do any night scene of any size your own. On night shoots the cable runs tend to get quite long and unless you're working under controlled circumstances on private ground, you also tend to attract the local drunks and curious kids.

Backlight and pools of light work really well. Also, try to match into the colour of the ambient lighting, so that this can be used to carry your picture into the background rather than just having a lit foreground dropping off into blackness.

Unless you've got a big lighting rig, I'd imagine you'll be working wide open and given the sensitivity of your camera you may even have to use some gain. I'd keep the lens clean, but use a matte box and/or have a flag handy to prevent lens flares.
Brian Drysdale is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 03:00 PM   #6
Trustee
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Little Rock
Posts: 1,383
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Cegla
Well, I am also curious as to how *I* would go about doing this, without hiring someone else. I want to learn for myself the technique and method of doing this.

So that I can apply that knowledge and be self-sufficient and find low-budget means of accomplishing this.
If it's worth shooting, then isn't it worth shooting right?

Ever priced a few 12Ks for a night shoot?
It's much cheaper to hire a truck full of gear than it would be to purchase 1 of those lights!
Then you also have the chance to learn by watching a pro.
David W. Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 04:12 PM   #7
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 2,290
Quote:
Originally Posted by David W. Jones
If it's worth shooting, then isn't it worth shooting right?

Ever priced a few 12Ks for a night shoot?
It's much cheaper to hire a truck full of gear than it would be to purchase 1 of those lights!
Then you also have the chance to learn by watching a pro.
The problem with this argument is that you can extend it to all facets of production. Why not hire a pro script writer? Pro sound person, might as well rent a better camera too--how about a Viper? And don't bother with post, just take it to a Hollywood Post house. Talent? I've got the number for CAA. etc etc etc.

I don't know the specifics of your production or budget, but for a novice or expert, I'm a big believer in monitors! I'm amazed how many people don't use them. Before your shoot experiment around with night shots, study your results, see what works and what you like.
Brian Luce is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 04:51 PM   #8
Trustee
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Little Rock
Posts: 1,383
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Luce
The problem with this argument is that you can extend it to all facets of production. Why not hire a pro script writer? Pro sound person, might as well rent a better camera too--

Why is that a problem?
Even the most skilled surgeon needs assistance in the operating room.
David W. Jones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 20th, 2007, 05:35 PM   #9
Major Player
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 439
Clearly there are advantages to both approaches. Obviously you can learn more and faster by working alongside those with more experience. But, there comes a time to experiment too. Regardless, lighting believable night scenes is something many dp's struggle with their entire careers, regardless of budget and resources. Simply put, its the same struggle as all video/film production - our eyes read space and depth differently than film or video does. The challenge is making it believable and feasable.

I just saw the Deer Hunter again the other night, and something that occurred to me immediately was the style of night lighting. Its incredibly simple and local. Basically, Zsigmond enhanced the ambient light thrown by practical sources to give some definition to an otherwise inky black set. From fires in the streets to household lamps and steet lamps backlighting through doorways, it's a very clever use of relatively small sources. It looks "real," perhaps dirty but very real and believable. Let's face it, on a low budget it'll be touch to achieve a slick modern look, because even with a budget to rent an 18k, you also have to power it somehow.

Depending on your access to your location, it may be worth going at night and taking some still photos to study. Look for ways to subtly enhance the sources within the locations, as well as places to apply techniques like what Charles was talking about - ganging a few open face sources together to create separation.
Jaron Berman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 17th, 2007, 06:31 PM   #10
Trustee
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 1,158
1 5K is pretty cheap to rent, so is a small 6kw honda genie to power it, plus no long cable runs. then either get a tall boy stand which is about 18-21ft tall depending on exactly which one you get, plus a tutle base C-stand. remove the base and use the C as an extention netting another 8-9ft. You're 30 ft up with a good blast of light for doing these night shots... now all that said, you need to sand bag the thing, and should use some sash line to saftey it off if there is *any* wind. rental for the whole setup should be around $60-$70 + the genie. thats pretty cheap.

you can also rent small condors / or sissor lefts too. sorry but night exteriors call for big gear no matter what you might like. You can try running around placing 1K's all over the place, but without enough bodies and crew and cable, its not really practical.
Steve Oakley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 17th, 2007, 07:17 PM   #11
Major Player
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: NE of London, England
Posts: 788
What is the motivation for the (limited) light source? Moonlight, streetlights, car headlights, torches, fire? If there isn't one, can you introduce a light source to the scene without detracting from the story? Where is the scene set and how much of the setting needs to be lit?
Mike Marriage is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 17th, 2007, 09:54 PM   #12
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Steve:

I always try to design my answers on this forum based on the resources and experience level of those asking. I would be a bit concerned recommending the setup you describe with the 5K to anyone who is not experienced at rigging and safetying--all of that weight up on a tall boy (especially with that extension you describe) that high in the air feels dicey--wouldn't take much for someone to forget which way is loosy vs tighty, and down it comes. And wind can come up at any time.

While it is certainly true that long cable runs do require manpower and time (and other safety issues), even these can be worked around in the low budget/creative realm. A series of small units in the background could be powered via inverters in strategically parked cars (there are some powerful spotlights that are designed to plug into cigarette lighters that could be used), eliminating cables. A big fat backlight as you describe is effective for separation but it does present its own problems--over a long walk-and-talk there will be significant falloff (something that a series of smaller backlights can resolve, even if mounted next to each other; one flooded for close range, another spotted and aimed further down the street etc).

I just re-read the first post, and I see that that the game is to achieve a "dark look with minimal light". I saw MI3 but don't remember the look of the referenced scenes. I would however hazard a guess that a big wash of backlight may not be the desired effect for something like this, so I might stick to my recommendation of illuminating the background with pools or rakes of light so that there is texture throughout, and allowing the subject to play in halflight, under-exposed front fill and/or rim light to taste.

As an example of a number of small units lighting a good size area, I submit the attached frame grabs from something I shot a few years ago. I believe the largest units were 2K open faces through a large diffusion frame that were on top of the gallery that mostly played out into the street for a subsequent scene. Otherwise, I believe everything else was 1K or under, except for the edge light on the buildings behind the characters which I think was two 1200 HMI's.
Attached Thumbnails
How to shoot an outdoor night scene that is suppossed to look dark (ie unlit)-instant-car.jpg  
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 17th, 2007, 09:57 PM   #13
Trustee
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 1,158
anything you want it to be.... and maybe nothing at all. no rules here. if it looks good, it is. simple as that. moon ? sure, go 1/2 or F CTB but a HMI is better like a 4K PAR because you'll get twice or more the light from it than a 5K, but it'll run around $300or so per day, street lights ? cookie with slashes, yellow. Fire ? 1/2 or F CTB + flicker box.

Actor to director " So whats my motivation ?"
Producer" You're getting paid !"

motivated lights is a nice idea, not a requirement... do what looks good.
Steve Oakley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 17th, 2007, 11:01 PM   #14
Great DV dot com
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Lewisville, NC
Posts: 78
My article "Lighting the Darkness" may be of help --

http://www.dv.com/features/features_...cleId=23902918

tho' it would be more helpful if they put the gfx back in -- they seem to have gotten lost in changing servers.
__________________
John Jackman
www.johnjackman.com
John Jackman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2007, 07:40 PM   #15
Major Player
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Wurzburg, Germany
Posts: 316
Quote:
So that I can apply that knowledge and be self-sufficient and find low-budget means of accomplishing this.
I think without at least two or three tungsten 1kWs you don't have to start in the first place, that's just a fact.
A friend of mine once shot a nice night scene with a car in the woods - he also wanted to try it all himself, though he had help from a handful of friends (none of them had a clue about filmmaking). He rented a generator with three or four 1kWs and some smaller lights. The generator was 5kW so it couldn't have been much more lights.
The scene actually looked really professional in the end - I think it helped that the space was pretty closed with all the trees around and the car in the middle. Would it have been a wide open space I think he would've been lost with his handful of 1kWs.

As far as I can remember he lit the trees in the background from the side/back with a degree of CTB, put some soft light on the car as well as a spotlight with ctb on the hood of the car. The inside of the car was lit with something like a small kinoflo fluorescent.
Heiko Saele is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Photon Management

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:57 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network