Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting Day-For-Night ... NEW Information

have a commercial shoot next week where I need to do some car shots along the Pacific Coast Highway day-for-night. The boards show it as a night shot where you see the ocean and full moon reflected plus some others. Being that it is pitch black out there I suggested that d-f-n is the only way to go with VFX adding some headlight sweeps and the full moon.

I haven't shot much d-f-n lately and wondered if anyone had any suggestions such as the newer filters that are available or other hints. We will be shooting S35mm, colour negative, all going to telecine for TV use only in the US. All suggestions are welcome.

Roberto Schaefer, asc
Venice Beach, CA.


I have used the Tiffen Cool Day for Night for a very cool and typical day for night. The Tiffen Monochromatic works also really well, taking out the yellow-green of the filter in telecine. A little more believable to me but less magical.

My favourite is the Tiffen Cool Day for Night with a very light green filter stack. Next favourite is shooting at dusk with a slight green filter but probably a bit of a danger for a car commercial.

Another thing I have wanted to test but have not had the chance are those 2 colour polarizers and a little telecine. Forget who makes them (Hoya?) but they were used in the remake of "Planet of the Apes".

Stan at would know if there is anything new out there.

I don't work for Stan or Tiffen.


Sean Kirby
director of photography

Thanks Sean for the ideas.

I own a full set of the 2 colour polarizers from my music video days. I'll test them out too. What underexposure do you usually use? 2 or 3 stops seems to come to mind....

Roberto Schaefer, asc
Venice ca

Full moon , so using the sun as that ? If not I would just pile on grads !

Must depend on the shots and angles , sorry if it sounds to basic ? but it still works sometime !

John Holland , London?

>>What underexposure do you usually use? 2 or 3 stops seems to come to mind....

In the old days with the older, more contrastier film stocks (5247 comes to mind) 2 stops of under exposure was the norm.

Today you might be closer to 3 with the newer stocks.

Bruce Johnson
DP Los Angeles CA


I shot tungsten stock in the day uncorrected, and under exposed between 21/2 to 3 stops depending on the strength of the backlight in the shot. I used Fuji 400t low con stock pull processed a stop to keep the contrast down. I needed some grading, and it was in some woods with lots of trees and some smoke which helped, but it looked pretty convincing.


Dan Bronks

In case that was confusing I rated the stock at 200EI (over exposing a stop) and then under exposed 2 1/2 to 3 stops on top.


Dan Bronks


Usually, I go about 2.5 and take the rest down in telecine but very much depends on how subject is lit, separated etc., and where the brightest points might be. Also making sure nothing goes off the top end (or very little)

Let me know if you they the pola's. Thought they might be interesting way to deal with small bit of sky in DFN.


Sean Kirby
director of photography

Try 2 polas stacked, rotating one for the desired effect. Test. Worked for us in Hawaii.

Steve Peterson, IA6001stAC retired

>> shots along the Pacific Coast Highway day-for-night...

Maybe have a look at Cronenberg's *eXistenZ* - there is a DFN car shot in a rural setting and I seem to recall some commentary from Peter Suschitzky.

It's not very realistic, but an interesting use of the technique.

David Perrault, CSC

Sean Kirby wrote:

>>Let me know if you they the pola's. Thought they might be interesting way to deal with small bit of >>sky in DFN.

Hi Roberto...

I think straight underexposure works best...about 2 stops....then the rest in the grade. I had to do something similar and tried the polas. It was sometimes effective, but there was a bit of a gotcha.

When you have a lot of sky and a wider lens, you tended to get a sweet spot of *polarising* where it goes a deeper blue, depending on your angle in relation to the sun. So, just like with a single polariser you can really see this dark patch of sky as you pan around. Except when you've stacked two of them, it’s *really* obvious...!

The shots were unusable and we went with statics or smaller pans. We just windowed and tracked some headlight beams in the grade and it worked well. With a budget you could easily do this as a post VFX too.

John Brawley
Sydney Australia

Hello Roberto

Funny as I did exactly this shot for a romantic comedy last month on a coastal road in the south of France. I used the Tiffen DFN and it worked well for what we needed to get, a couple of pointers that may help you:

Depending on the look you need and your local conditions a DFN may be too blue. Moonlight, like sunlight, varies all over the world and so I have no idea whether that specific filter may work for you. As suggested, shooting uncorrected tungsten stock is often close enough. I think the moon is waxing right now so maybe you can take a still of it and grade it back to white to see how much blue, or other colours, you may need to add into your shot.

A pola is extremely useful to the DFN look to deepen the shadows

Whatever type of underexposure you go for, try and achieve it using filters and/or shutter as a shallow DoF will help sell the night feel. f2.8 is as high as I'd go. (Again, unless the desired look is cartoony/graphical)

After you have done your main shot, mark the position and come back at night to do a headlight pass, this will at least give a good reference to the VFX people, who could even just track the lights into the original shot rather than having to create it.

Try to also shoot a sun on water reflection pass using the same filters you've decided to use, again for VFX to paste underneath their moon.

If anything else comes to mind I'll get back to you.

Enjoy the shoot

Roger Simonsz
nocturnally in Paris


It would be great to see links to some of these pieces you have all mentioned.

Also Roberto it would be great to see how it turns out in the end. Any chance you could let us know what you do and post a link?

Ruairi O'Brien,

ruairi o'brien writes :

>>....Also Roberto it would be great to see how it turns out in the end. Any chance you could let us >>know what you do and post a link?...

will try my best to post images but will definitely let you know what I do. I'll shoot a test on Monday to look at Tuesday for the Wednesday shoot, time permitting. and thanks to all so far for the thoughts. They are mostly what I had planned to do but since everyone is so creative and comes up with new methods I didn't want to miss the train on this one.

R. Schaefer, asc
Venice beach, ca.

This was a short but helpful thread for all reading it.


Rick Lopez

Website :

Roberto Schaefer asc wrote:

>> ..where I need to do some car shots along the Pacific Coast Highway day-for-night..

I remember about a hundred years ago, I took a lighting workshop taught by Vilmos Zsigmond. He did one day-for-night shot that looked amazing. He over-lit the actors in the foreground with large tungsten light sources with double CTO on them. He then shot this day exterior demo with tungsten film stock and with no 85 correction on the camera, slightly under exposing for the faces, thus under exposing the background by well over two stops. It looked like total weird crap on the set, with the faces over bright and very orange. The next day, when dailies rolled, all of us newbie’s gasped when the shot came up.

Untimed, the 16mm footage looked perfect. Could have been shot at 11PM at night with what looked like very subtle warm street light on the actors. He made an effort to keep the sky out of the shots but suggested that we could use a strong polarizer to help darken the sky if needed. I think to this day this is one of the nicest, most believable DFN shots I've seen.

Rod Williams
Motion Picture and HD First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California
(707) 778-7524 Home
(415) 309-3407 Cell

Sorry Ruairi, I don't think I can post the shots I mentioned for a while, the film only just wrapped and is in post now.

There is a different kind of DfN shot on my reel at In the first segment, the movie set in an art gallery, the last two shots were done DfN as we weren't allowed to turn the lights off in the museum and we weren't allowed to shoot at night and there was no way I had of blocking out the huge window. So it was basically a fully lit space and I used the technique described by Rod earlier of vastly over lighting the bits I wanted lit and using the ambient light as fill. I was shooting on Fuji 500D Reala and I used a blue, not DfN, filter somewhere in the 80 range.

Roger Simonsz
daytime in Paris

Thanks for that Roger, Works a treat.

Always good to be able to see an example of what people are talking about.

Enjoyed the rest of the reel too. Thanks!

Ruairi O'Brien,

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