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Day For Night Monochromatic Filter

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Andrew Seeman
Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 5, 2013 at 9:45:17 pm

I decided I wanted to try my hand at doing Day for Night shooting. I know the basics of the technique in shooting DFN (avoid the sky, no harsh direct sunlight, etc) and am very eager to get out and experiment a bunch.

I ordered a Formatt "Day For Night Monochromatic #1" filter because, reportedly, they help get a more natural night look, but have been unable to find any information on how exactly to modify the footage in post. The most I've been able to find is that it will work "with the correct color timing in post".

Not exactly the specifics I would need.

Has anybody actually used one of these before? If so, what did you do in post to take full advantage of the filter?


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Rick Wise
Re: Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 5, 2013 at 10:16:01 pm

Check the description of this filter at BHPhotovideo.com. Frankly, I don't think you need it. First, you can make direct sun look like moonlight provided you expose correctly. Works best as a rim light or 3/4 back. You can also make the sky work, with some work. Shoot some tests. Try underexposing by one and then two stops. In post, darken any blue sky. Then desaturate all the colors. Then adjust exposure to you liking. You can apply a day-for-night post filter if you like, but with some tweaking in your NLE you should be able to get there without it. There are lots of tutorials on the Internet on this topic.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 5, 2013 at 11:18:19 pm

Yeah, I'm with Rick, who is almost always right (like how I threw in that "almost," Rick?)...

I don't think you need the filter either.

To take it a step further, I wouldn't underexpose or filter it it any other way when shooting, either... aside from because careful with lighting I'd do all of the day-for-night work in post. And yes, as Rick said, use direct sunlight, not shade (just in the right direction).

Some of the best day-for-night work I ever saw was in the movie Cast Away. I would have sworn Tom Hanks was really on the beach at night, but some behind-the-scenes footage (and a look at the raw camera footage) revealed it was all shot in broad daylight with no underexposure.

You can start from scratch in post to build a day-for-night look with filters, but using one of the existing plug-ins will save you a ton of work. I'd readily suggest Magic Bullet Looks from Red Giant, which has an excellent day-for-night filter in the package (and tons of other stuff you will like too). Just the default settings on it are quite good, and there are many parameters you can tweak if you'd like to refine it.

T2

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



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Rick Wise
Re: Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 5, 2013 at 11:33:23 pm

And I'm almost with Todd, who is himself almost always right.... (Back at you, Todd...) I still think underexposing by at least a stop gets you a leg up. But with digital manipulation, not essential.

This topic does bring up another one: what is "believable" moonlight and night illumination. Cinematographers are all over the map on this one, from rather bright moonlight scenes to (the ones I prefer) quite dark ones. Actual moonlight is extremely dim. The moon itself is bright, but the inverse square law works here too: by the time the light reaches our earth, precious little of its intensity is left.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Andrew Seeman
Re: Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 9, 2013 at 4:42:42 pm

Rick and Todd,
First off, thank you both SO very much for you many valid points and abundance of solid info on DFN shooting! Your knowledge is invaluable, and I'm sure I will be able to put it to use.

In response to the very first comment, that I should check the description at bhphotovideo (where I bought the filter from), the description on it's use are as follows:

"This is a special effects yellow-green filter that removes most of the red from the image. In this way, your daytime shot takes on the cool tones of a night shot. Inasmuch as the color balance of the image is strongly affected, care needs to be taken when using this filter."

and then later on...

"Cool Day for Night is based on the perception that moonlight is cool, therefore bluish in color
To produce this effect Formatt uses a shade of lavender for visual coolness while maintaining realistic flesh tones
Monochrome Day for Night is based on the theory that lower light levels will reduce the sensitivity of the eye, creating a more 'silvery moon' type effect; this filter effects the color balance of the image so fine tuning of color timings is essential"

Now, if you're anything like me you read that and think "Wow! How intriguing! That sounds like a powerful and fun tool!". The problem for me, though, is that it's none-too specific when it comes to what the "fine tuning of color timings" is supposed to be.

You see, the main reason I posted about this filter was not so much because I was looking for general DFN shooting techniques (of which, you are correct, there are many posts out there), but because I was hoping someone, somewhere, had used this specific tool before and had figured out how to take advantage of it. I think, though, that in a roundabout way you gentlemen have cemented the answer I was afraid of: No, nobody really uses these monochrome DFN filters and probably with good reason.

I did do a few test shots, but had little success in making them to my liking in post. If anybody would like to see some image comparisons I would be happy for the help in following this rabbit-hole a bit further (maybe there is something to redeem the filter?). If not, then I think I will be looking at my B&H return policy for this $72 dandy...


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Rick Wise
Re: Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 9, 2013 at 5:25:27 pm

Suggested next steps: shoot another test without the filter. Try setting the white balance to tungsten, which will make everything very blue. Also shoot it set to "daylight." Bracket exposure: "normal," under 1 stop, under 2 stops, for each color balance. Then import into your NLE and play.

There are off-the-shelf DFN effects filters for most NLEs. Return the filter and with the money buy one of them. Play some more.

If exploring on your own this way is not your bag, find a local editor who has the experience you are looking for.

My two cents.

Rick Wise
Cinematographer
San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.RickWiseDP.com


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Andrew Seeman
Re: Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:16:40 pm

I am all for experimenting scientifically on my own, and if it wasn't for being so busy during the day I would have had these up sooner. While I will still need more time to do some proper tests, I did get the chance to do the following test shots near the end of my work day today. Other than resizing, these are the original images. Shot on a Panasonic GH3 with SLR Magic 12mm mFT lense in NORMAL picture mode.

1. T/8, ISO-1600, 5600k


2. T/2, ISO-1600, 5600k, Monochrome Day For Night filter


3. T/11, ISO-1600, 5600k


4. T/1.6, ISO-1600, 5600k, Monochrome Day For Night filter


5. T/1.6, ISO-1600, 2500k, Blue shift: 9, Magenta shift: 9, Monochrome Day For Night filter


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Todd Terry
Re: Day For Night Monochromatic Filter
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:41:53 pm

Well I think that shows pretty clearly that the day-for-night filter does not give an actual day-for-night look. It might give you a leg up as a starting point for the actual color grading, but I'm not sure if they would really help or not actually.

I haven't used it in a long time, but this thread got me curious enough to look at it again...

I just threw up a still frame and applied the Magic Bullet LOOKS filter using their day-for-night preset (the settings they actually call "Days of Night") to see what it looked like.

Keep in mind this was not shot for day-for-night, so it's not even remotely lit like I would if I was purposely doing day-for-night. Also, I didn't tweak any of the myriad Magic Bullet settings (there are tons), as I wanted to see just what the default look would be. The default is, in my opinion, very heavy handed, but is a starting point and shows what it can do.


Here's the result...



Not good by a long shot, but I think it shows that with a correctly lit scene and with the right tweaking of the post filtration, that you probably aren't gaining anything by doing in-camera filtration.

T2

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



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