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Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside

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Randal Plunkett
Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside
on Nov 23, 2009 at 10:54:13 am

Hi everyone I directing a short film in the next eight weeks and a large portion of that takes place on country roads and in a car at night. Now my question is, whats the best way to do it? I m using a sony fx1 camera. I am of course limited on equipment I have access to a generater and some lights how can i get a good image with out it being too dark and grainy? Any help will be appreciated


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Michael Palmer
Re: Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside
on Nov 23, 2009 at 2:14:48 pm

"how can i get a good image with out it being too dark and grainy?"

You will need sufficient lighting for the FX1, hire a good DP, try using LED lights
http://www.flolight.com/

find a rental house in your area and beg them for help.

Try not to add more than +3 gain.

Or use the PMW-EX1,EX3, these cameras are great in low light and offer 24p.

Good Luck
Michael Palmer


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside
on Nov 23, 2009 at 2:50:36 pm

Don't scrimp on safety, especially at night, when doing car stuff. Don't make your actors drive and act at the same time, use a tow rig, for example. A side benefit of that is, the towing car/truck bed can also house some supplemental lighting on it. The "poor man's process trailer" is a u-haul front-wheel car-towing rig or car trailer, pulled by a van or pickup.

The big mistake first-timers tend to make on their first night shoot is to think black = night. When they see how many lights it actually takes to make a *convincing* night shot, they are stunned.

One thing I would suggest is to shoot closer to dusk, if it works script-wise, than in full darkness, then play with levels in post.


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Peter Rummel
Re: Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside
on Nov 24, 2009 at 5:22:11 pm

+1 on the safety note. Don't do anything too dangerous. A tow rig sounds like a great idea.

It's easy to light a small scene with a generator and a modest light kit. But then you're left with a couple of lit characters in a dark, dark hole. The traditional big budget hollywood method of doing "night" is to use unbelievably powerful lights on cranes, gelled blue, to simulate moonlight. I'm guessing you don't have these resources. I'd recommend staging your locations carefully, with some light source in the background. A country road could have a street light in the background. Maybe a farmhouse, or a small town in the distance? Something to give depth to the scene. As for the characters themselves, if they're near a car they could leave it's lights on. Or they could have powerful flashlights. Use your lighting package to supplement these sources. Think back lights. A dark shot sometimes simply looks underexposed - but if you have, somewhere in the frame, a bright source (headlights, distant streetlight) then it more believably reads Night.

I heard once that the "X-Files", which did a lot of night shots, had the largest lighting package in its day. The point is lighting a night scene is much more involved than a day scene. Good luck, and let us know how it goes.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside
on Nov 24, 2009 at 9:41:37 pm

This guy:

http://www.dv-forums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=37264#post37264

has a lot of great information to share, and after you look at it, I don't ever want to hear a complaint that MY posts get too long.:-P


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Randal Plunkett
Re: Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside
on Nov 25, 2009 at 10:55:02 pm

Wow thank you so much this will really help me on my film, it has really given me alot of ideas to which i m extremely grateful


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Richard Herd
Re: Lighting a Night scene in the coutryside
on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:24:00 pm

Hard to define "good image" because the tone and mood are determined by the script. Is this a horror movie? A romantic comedy? Your choices will be affected by the story.


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