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-   -   Shooting the "moonlight" look (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/14111-shooting-moonlight-look.html)

Alex Dunn September 4th, 2003 12:28 PM

Shooting the "moonlight" look
I'm debating whether it is more advisable to shoot a night scene color balanced to a cool blue, or rather to shoot it as true to reality as possible and color it in post. Anyone have experience both ways? Are there any drawbacks to compositing the blue in post?

John Hudson September 7th, 2003 02:45 PM

I am surely no expert and am learning as I go. That being said...

I think it depends on what the scene entails. Are there any light sources other than the moon available in the shot? Is it in the city, the country, etc?

I think I would want to shoot as true as possible and then correct it later. If it's an outdoor remote shot, maybe you could try ONE chinese lantern to mimic the moon?

I'm an idea man.

Frank Granovski September 7th, 2003 03:30 PM

Alex, you want to shoot a scene with the moon in it? What you can do is wait for when the moon is very large and appears large in the low to mid horizon - harvest moon? And shoot it in the evening while the sun is still up. That should give you enough light to work with. If you want a soft look, use a softening filter, a night look, a blue filter, or both.

Charles Papert September 7th, 2003 05:06 PM


The blue moonlight look is only one way to go--it's considered almost a cliche at this point. Many films these days use a more neutral moonlight color, very slightly cool or white rather than the deep stylized blue, unless you are going for that effect rather than a naturalistic look. The trick is to have warm tones elsewhere in the shot if possible--campfire, candles, car headlights, whatever as the contrast will make the moonlight appear bluer. If the whole frame is cooled off, the effect is diminshed somewhat.

If it is impractical to color your ambient light sources (in other words, to gel whatever light is illuminating the background) to the blue you desire, you can add additional warmth to the foreground and then shift the tones back in post. For instance: If you have a neutral (straight tungsten) ambience and you add full CTO to your foreground lighting, then either white balance to the CTO (better) or color correct later, you can end up with an effective 1/4 CTO look on the actors (slightly warm) and 3/4 CTB on the background (slightly blue). Then you can isolate and dial up the blue if desired at the color correct stage.

John Jay September 7th, 2003 06:11 PM

just 2 points to add

you dont say what camera you will be using but you should shoot aperture wide open (ND if necc) - its surprising how many day for night movies are out there where everything looks f16 at night ,supposedly :) (super fast grainless stock ? - nada)

also remember focus goes off in low light so detune sharpness down to its lowest value or blur in post - your choice

Matt Gettemeier September 8th, 2003 05:27 PM

Fantastic point John Jay! That's something I would have overlooked! I'm fortunate to be able to reduce detail massively in my cam and I wouldn't have considered doing that but you're certainly right.

We went for a moonlight look in a couple shots this past week and basically we just doubled up a daylight correction gel. Two layers. I also had night blue but it definitely looked too blue if it landed directly on anybody.

Jason Chang October 21st, 2003 06:45 PM

Moonlight Look
Try using a LEE 140 "Summer Blue" color gel with your key light. This provide you with the night color temperature without the cheesy blue look. I also suggest a monochromatic day-for-night camera filter made by Harrison & Harrison. The optical engineering company is located in Porteville California. It is the most affordable filter you will find. ($60)
You can also rent a filter from Panavision. However, you will be required to leave a $1,000 deposit. No matter what you do, please remember to add a FROST gel for your key light.

John Locke October 21st, 2003 07:07 PM


I'd never heard of the Harrison & Harrison "Day for Night" filter. Sounds interesting...though if it's only adding blue, you can do the same thing much more cheaply with gels. I tried to find photos of before and after using the filter, or even photos of the filters themselves, but couldn't find any.

I did find this information:

DFN-1 (Color only for low-contrast situations)
DFN-2 (Color with lowering of contrast to remove sharp edges in medium-contrast situations)
DFN-3 (Color with more low-contrast to soften sharpness and crispness in high-contrast scenes)

So, obviously, the "color" referred to would be a bluish tint while the 2 and 3 filters also affect contrast. Again, the same thing can be acheived with Tiffen filters or a a filter/gel combination.

Jason Chang October 21st, 2003 07:29 PM

The Harrison & Harrison Monochromatic Day-For-Night filter does not give your video a blue tint. It was originally developed for a German film production company. I convinced the optical engineer to make me a filter for my Canon XL1. It works!! I shot a scene in a cemetary in the afternoon to look like night. The filter had an effect on the color temperature in the scene, but it did not cast a blue tint in the video itself.

The LEE gel I mentioned previously was designed for theatrical lighting, but it worked wonders for me on a shoot.

K. Forman October 22nd, 2003 06:58 AM

Jason- Any chance of getting some sample images from your filter?

John Locke October 22nd, 2003 07:58 AM

Me too, Jason. I'd like to see a sample if you wouldn't mind scrounging up something for us to see.

Jason Chang October 22nd, 2003 10:08 AM

The links below show two still photos from my shoot. The 1st is without color correction. The 2nd has a little blue added to midtone. I will post more pictures when I get the footage back from my producer. By the way, how do I get good looking stills from my dv footage?



Charles Papert October 22nd, 2003 10:46 AM

Do you by any chance have something that shows more background? The big challenge with day for night is the wide exterior shots--that's usually where the "give-away" occurs.

Alex Dunn October 22nd, 2003 11:41 AM

<<<-- Originally posted by Jason Chang : I convinced the optical engineer to make me a filter for my Canon XL1. -->>>

So . . . is this something WE can get, or is it a one of a kind?

K. Forman October 22nd, 2003 12:56 PM

Jason- How did the flame from that lighter come out?

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