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Night Vision Effects

Published : 4th January 2007

I've got a project coming up which has a 'night vision' style sequence of soldiers in a supposedly pitch black location and was wondering what experience people have had of using image intensifiers. We are shooting the series on Super 16 and Panavision, who are supplying the cameras, have a PV mounted intensifier, which I am about to test.

At the same time, I know we could easily find video cameras with a night vision style mode, or render the effect in post, so wonder if I'm just making life difficult for myself?

The director is happy for us to 'cheat' and have some light in the set, so long as it feels very dark and moody, and she is concerned that if we use real night vision equipment it will make working very difficult as it will be...very dark!

Any thoughts?

Jake Polonsky
DoP London
www.jakepolonsky.com


I have used some of the night vision systems that are intended for video cameras, which have C-mounts and which will lock right onto a Bolex without any problem. But the image quality is too good.

You might consider using one of those things, recording to videotape, then shooting off a green long-persistence monitor for a nice smear to it.

Barring that, you might consider just shooting in daylight with a video camera, then shooting off a long-persistence green monitor.

Don't worry about the flicker; it's part of the whole look.

Scott Dorsey
Kludge Audio
Williamsburg, VA.


There are several very convincing plug-ins for post that create this look. I would shoot video and run it through an effect in post. I'll try to find a specific night vision plug-in to give you a name, but I am positive I've seen one. Maybe in GenArts' Sapphire plug-ins or Boris RED for AE.

Maybe something from DigitalFilmTools.

If you want to shoot it with film, infrared black and white film would give you a cool look.

Steve Hullfish
Verascope Pictures


I did a night vision effect a while back by shooting on Black and White Tri-X, underexposed it by two stops and pushed by two stop to kick up the grain. Also, I framed the action in the middle of the frame and zoomed in about 40-50% into the frame. Finally, I had the colourist add a nice emerald green for the night vision effect. It worked great. This was on day exteriors that were meant to be night.

Good luck,

Scott Spears
LA based DP


At OpTex we had versions of our Mini Image Intensifier that that an Arri Bay mount - so there would be no problem is putting a PL mount on for Super16.

I don't know if there are any units out there in the USA but Les Zellan at AGC would know.

Cheers

Brian Rose
UK Based Technical Manager


On one production we used the green screen monitor on a Steadicam for a quick night vision shot. The material was shot a Digital Betacam, since it was supposed to be from a helicopter there wasn't any sky in the shot, so that wasn't a problem. It didn't look 100% like the real thing, but was close enough to tell the story.

Brian Drysdale,
DP & Steadicam
Belfast


Hi Jake, I've used a video image intensifier with an old beta sp camera. Used with an infra red filter on a Zircon 6 million lux torch. Worked great. You can use them with dodgy beta or high def, you get a nice noisy grainy 'gained' image. If you did use a low level flood over the whole area you will be amazed by the amount you can see.

Cheers

Dan Bronks
DP
UK


class="style15">>>I've used a video image intensifier [...]If you did use a low level flood >>over the whole area you will be amazed by the amount you can see.

I'll second that. Years ago I tested the image intensifier that Optex had in combination with a couple of infra-red lamps. Despite giving off little more than a dull red glow to the eye and being little bigger than a Dedo (they ran off a PAG battery belt) the effect was akin to swinging an 18k about. To be honest it would have been preferable to have had a slightly less efficient intensifier and reduced noise to the image since blasting infra-red light about the place is so easy.

This company http://www.primetv.com/ had some interesting infra-red units a while ago, including some very broad 'flood light' lamps that they'd built for a TV show.

The physics of infra-red makes it rather tricky to control mind you. Flags, fresnel's, diffusion, etc, all affect the light but it's a bloody messy business.

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.


Used with an infra red filter on a Zircon 6 million lux torch.

Dan,

what sort of torch is that, and where would I find it?

To be honest it would have been preferable to have had a slightly less efficient intensifier and reduced noise to the image since blasting infra-red light about the place is so easy.

And Tom, the Panavision intensifier has a gain control dial on it so you can do just that - it actually has a kind of auto-gain control too to protect itself from damage.

Jake Polonsky
London DoP
www.jakepolonsky.com


class="style15">>> I've used a video image intensifier

If you want a rough image(soldiers POV etc.) I would consider using a Sony consumer(or prosumer)

Camera in the night vision mode with an infrared handheld lamp attached to the camera. HDV version could be used if you’re going for theatrical release.

By far the easiest and most economical solution whilst rendering "real" night vision....

Best regards

Jens Jakob Thorsen
Director of Photography
Denmark
+4540508840
www.jensjakob.com


class="style15">>>Years ago I tested the image intensifier that Optex had in >>combination with a couple of infra-red lamps...the effect was akin to >>swinging an 18k about.

---Once my brother was showing me his night vision scope.


Clicking an infra-red remote was akin to setting off flash bulbs.

Leo Vale
Pgh PA



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