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Night Exteriors ... Additional Information

Published : 7th August 2007

Just wanted to throw a bit of a general question out there...

I was looking through some older bits on my reel and have noticed that one of the things I find consistently hard and difficult to do is Night! ... mainly exterior's but by extension of establishing an exterior, the interior as well.

I've never been 100% comfortable with the "blue" moonlight feel. I've tried experimenting with flame greens and mixing in straws as well...but....would love to hear of any other recipes for general moonlight. Obviously if there are other motivated light sources (like sodium) then there's a bit more direction for a gel pack.

I still find that I also really struggle with levels as well. I try not to cringe as I look back at my work. Everything looks so....lit! (Ok, so I know it could just be me)

I've usually just tried to use a larger source further away and just edge things, but it still seems overdone to me.

Would love to hear any other insights and approaches for a general night feel....

Cheers.

John Brawley
DOP
Vicious Media
Melbourne Australia
+613 9500 2556
0417 087 564

Check my availability

http://ical.mac.com/brawlster/Cinematography


This is just a generalization and I'm sure isn't anything you don't know but for me it's an axiom that if you motivate even one or two really hot specular-ish things in a shot you can get away with quite a bit of indulged darkness elsewhere in the frame.....

Sam Wells


Would love to hear of any other recipes for general moonlight. Obviously if there are other motivated light sources (like sodium) then there's a bit more direction for a gel pack.

On a tungsten source I like 1/4 CTB + 1/8 plus green, it's quite subtle.

A gaffer I just worked with recommended something completely different; chocolate on an HMI source, make it a biggie cause it knocks the hell out of the light.

Dan Bronks
DP
UK


>>On a tungsten source I like 1/4 CTB + 1/8 plus green, it's quite subtle.

My favourite was from an article in AC about Peter James: 1/2 blue and white flame green. It's almost silvery. I loved the look. It's in many of his films, most notably "The Missionary."

The fun thing, though, is that I've seen people do wild and crazy things with all sorts of colours in night exteriors. One that comes to mind (from another article in AC) is the sodium vapour look that Roger Deakin’s used in Fargo : full CTO and half straw.

Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/
Local resources: http://www.artadams.net/local


My favourite was from an article in AC about Peter James: 1/2 blue and white flame green. It's almost silvery. I loved the look. It's in many of his films, most notably "The Missionary.

Sounds interesting. I'll definitely look at that combination next chance I get. For close ups I've bounced blue/green combinations off a silver lame, and had some lovely results but It's not really a practical solution for a wide night exterior. It depends sometimes on skin tones as to what works best, but I really try and do anything to get away from straight blue. You're right silver moonlight is the way forwards.

Dan Bronks
DP
UK


Dan

We must've used the same Gaffer recently, I also learned the Chocolate on HMI trick on my last night exterior. I was shooting so I missed the grade and therefore the full lesson but the moonlight had a sort of monochromatic/B&W feel to it, echoing silver which was what I was really after.

I've bounced half corrected HMIs into silver before with happy results, but truly silvery moonlight is very hard to achieve.

Shane Daly
UK DOP


I just watched "Envy" (W/ Jack Black and Ben Stillers-bizarre, funny at times but the post is about lighting...) On night exteriors there is a wonderful yellow/gold look -streets and in the bedroom etc.

I wonder how it was achieved(I don't think it could be accomplished through timing alone)

If anyone happened to see it and has an idea, please let me know.

Best regards,

John Babl
DP


I though chocolate was the preferred colour for creating vintage sepia tints.

Is there something wrong with traditional Hollywood blue moonlight? It's kinda traditional.

--
Clive Mitchell
http://www.bigclive.com


>>Is there something wrong with traditional Hollywood blue moonlight? >>It's kinda traditional.

Yeah, and I've always thought it looked hideous, at least in the heavy-handed big budget, really blue with fill way.

Some broad, wide moonlight blue from 3/4 back and a bit of other hopefully motivated fill or eyelight from the other side has always been better for me, leaving that really dark or black strip down half the face so that one eye gets the wrapped moonlight and maybe the other even goes black...

But it always seems better when there are other things in scene like headlamps, streetlights, firelight, something...at which point I then ask "why is there moonlight?” You cannot see moonlit objects when you have a bonfire or streetlights and city night-glow overhead.

The word "silvery" has been used in this thread and I think that as a goal is dead-on. Not blue, but silvery-cool, monochromatic.

When I walk in the country in a full moon I can see a lot, and far, especially at desert snow or ocean, but there's a lot of black out there. The monochrome obviously comes from the fact that our eyes see very little if any colour in lowest light, and I have always assumed that if black and white photography had not preceded colour in history, we might just shoot our moonlit- night exteriors in rich black and white, intercut with an otherwise colour story. But if you cut to B&W people think its something else, or just weird.

The Volkswagen Cabrio commercial where they stop at a party, then decide to drive on into the night- I always think THAT is what a moonlit night looks like.

I hate the problems inherent with movie moonlight, and always try to do something else as a source- flashlights, sodium vapour lights, whatever.

Anything but Big Hollywood Blue.

Royce Allen Dudley
DP/LA


Clive

Nothing 'wrong' with blue moonlight, it's subjective.

Theoretically moonlight should be blue (on tungsten stock) as it's bounced sunlight but I find it too obvious a flag for the audience. It telegraphs NIGHT! Walking around by moonlight doesn't look blue, it looks sort of grey (or Sodium if you live in The Smoke) and I just prefer a more desaturated, monochromatic moonlight. However, opening of The Rock looked great super blue, but that’s an exception IMHO.

Chocolate would go very 'sepia' and heavy on tungsten but not HMI.

Cheers

Shane Daly
UK DOP


Royce Dudley wrote:

>>Yeah, and I've always thought it looked hideous, at least in the heavy->>handed big budget, really blue with fill way.

I'm no fan of the heavy handed blue moon look but I think its often due to practicality...

having to light vast night/ext's, sometimes entire bridges and many city blocks. sometimes for anamorphic.

Sometimes trying to give your 10 focus pullers more than a 2, and back in the day on stocks as low as 100 ISO efficiency of HMI's and sometimes its easier not to gel all those lamps - which ends up punchy blue.

Its easier to put up a musco to 3/4 backlight a large area than to put up several balloon lights in the wind, with lights on the roofs faking many streetlamps, and so on. its sometimes a matter of practicality even on big budget films. the same problems of time/money still exist, and the DP can still be under enormous pressure to get it done that night, and not the next.

Having to shoot day-for-night has also contributed to the habit - the monochrome blue look helps sell it when you really need that help !

As was pointed out, moonlight does feel bluer, even with our more desaturated night-vision. and its a real difference when compared to warm interior practicals as well as sodium vapours. mesh that with the fact that Hollywood always wants to go "bigger is better" and voila, put 850 blue on all the HMI's, the studios will love it !

I don't analyse movie night looks to the point of "well the car
headlights would keep me from seeing the blue moon" - while it will ruin your night vision for a few seconds, our eyes quickly adjust and we know what was out there before the car arrived. human perception is not just the eye/lens, but our pre-conceived notions as well.

I think there's room to cheat.

Having said that, I thought Deakin's use of car headlights on a lonely stretch of road in 'Fargo' addressed just this issue in a great way.

There are exceptions to the blue night habit.

Mark Doering-Powell
LA based DP


>>The Volkswagen Cabrio commercial where they stop at a party, then >>decide to drive on into the night - I always think

That's a nice looking spot ! But, it's designed to a "T" - it's mise-en-scene as well as lighting don't you think ?

Sam Wells




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