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Night scene lighting

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Cameron Kahler
Night scene lighting
on Jul 5, 2011 at 3:15:58 am

I am shooting a scene at night, in the forest and want there to be no visible point of light lighting my scene. in other works I want ambient light to light the scene and for there to be no drastic shadows. Is there anyway to use diffused lighting to get this effect? Thanks.


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john sharaf
Re: Night scene lighting
on Jul 5, 2011 at 4:03:21 am

Cameron,

Sound like moonlight to me. If you have $$$ then you want helium balloon lights (Airstar). If you have no $$$ then you must shoot day-for-night. Backlight the scene, underexpose and color it blue.

JS



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Todd Terry
Re: Night scene lighting
on Jul 5, 2011 at 3:15:48 pm

Well first, as with in any scene (daytime, nighttime, whatever) when adding an artificial light source you need to ask yourself, "Where is this light supposed to be coming from?" In the case of a night forest scene, it might be from lanterns, flashlights, car headlights, or nothing but moonlight. You then need to make sure that your added source has an apparent logical origin.

Sounds like you want a scene that has no artificial apparent light source (no campfires, flashlights, or anything), just moonlight.

If that's the case, you say "light the scene and for there to be no drastic shadows." Well, that's a little bit backwards from the way it's usually done. For a moonlight scene you normally want shadows, sometimes very harsh. Remember, someone in direct moonlight is pretty much the same as someone in direct sunlight (there's just much much less of it)... the shadowing is harsh and defined. If you shoot with a high maybe slightly diffused instrument (say, a China ball), you'll get a good simulation of moonlight and the shadowing that it creates. Add either in-camera filtration or modify it with heavy filtration in post and you'll get a decent approximation of moonlight. If you diffuse the instrument too much, you'll get no shadowing and everything will just look like a big pile of blue mush.

Revisit the Zemeckis movie "Cast Away" if you get a chance. Many of Tom Hank's "moonlight on the beach" scenes were done day-for-night... and he was shot in blazing direct sun with no diffusion at all. It made for a perfect moonlight look.

Another one to see is "True Grit" (the new one, not the old). Roger Deakins lit tons of night scenes in that... including many that had light sources that, if you analyzed them, had no reason to be there. But he made it work beautifully.

One other, if you can find it, is the John Sayles movie "Matewan." Haskell Wexler did lots of great night shooting in that.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Alan Lloyd
Re: Night scene lighting
on Jul 7, 2011 at 2:23:16 pm

I had to create rooftop moonlight in a basement studio in Minneapolis for an internet show (Transylvania TV) I was working on. Lots of blue, strong directional lighting from above and behind, and just enough fill to give good definition.

Also, for the same show, on a different day we had to create an "outdoor castle courtyard in Transylvania" night scene. So we began with the moonlight and added a few semi-motivated things, plus the occasional "branch-aloris" for proper shadowing.

Night stuff is fun. Really, it is.


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