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Shooting at Night
  • Hey everyone, this is my first topic though I've become a frequent on-looker to this greatly informative forum of gh2 users.

    I'm shooting my first film outside of college, whic will run about 40 minutes. However, I'm running into a rut on what I should do about my last scene, which occurs at night time (of course). I've looked at day-for-night tests and techniques, but none of them seem very reliable or believable. I went out with my gh2 last night and my asahi takumar 50mm 1.4f and tried to see what Mysteron could handle as far as ISO. There are a few street lights in the scene, as well as a dark field which my main character eventually enters. I am at a complete loss as to what to do to light these last two scenes. I want it to look as though the field is very dark before he enters, but then I want him to seem moonlit once he's inside of it. Also, when he is walking on the streets, there still just isn't enough light to properly expose him without getting above 3200 iso.

    If anyone has some suggestions for shooting at night, particularly when there is very very little light available, it would be a great service to this film!

  • 21 Replies sorted by
  • Driftwood's Canis Majoris Night patch works wonders on low-light scenes. The noise pattern is much more pleasing, and it actually captures a bit more light. ISO3200 is definitely useable with CM Night. With a little NR in post, even 12,500 could be used in a pinch, although at that point you'll need to do some serious grading to correct the green shift. Also, try setting your shutter speed to 1/25 or 1/30. Movements may look a little blurry, but you'll be getting substantially more light. Beyond that, your only other option other than manipulating the light, is to use a faster lens. f/0.95 transmits a bit more than f/1.4.

  • Thanks Sangye, that's very good information. I'll definitely be uploading Canis Majoris tonight and testing it out, and I'll play around with the shutter speed recommendations as well.

    Are there any lighting techniques that anyone could recommend as well? I'm going to use this reflector to gain some more light in the shots on the characters face, but beyond that are there any non-powered solutions for lighting that I could take advantage of, or any good ways of getting a power source on the road?

    I also have to light the inside of a car, and I know there are car lights that might be able to help out with the lighting for that shot and perhaps outside of that shot as well with filters.

  • I tend to like a hard light to simulate moonlight, I would try and edge light with hard source, then just fill it in to your taste .. it would be good to see what you come up with on the GH2 if you can shoot on the actual full moon.

    If you can get power, throw a 2K at it.

    Even nicer, depending on the scene shoot at the tail end of dusk

  • @Sangye I think 0.95 transmits a whole lot more then the 1.4. and the price difference between the two is in bigger part because of this.

    @RyanPW , if you can afford it definitely go for the 0.95.

    if not iso12800 looks very cinematic in BnW. 8/16 mm film like grain. Good luck!

  • Thanks for the info,never thought of this! But I liked some of the 8bit cracker scene music.

    I just think that a good lens that can go to 0.95 will be sharper at 1.4 (or f2), than a lens that can only go to f1.4(most of them). Very shallow DOF is an issue of course, depends on purpose and style, but for what I understand from the post it is somehow premeditated as a possibility(mentioning the 1.4 lens).

  • luxis, it really depends on the lens. But we are mostly using photo lenses to shoot video, which means that they are going to be perfectly sharp at video resolutions, even using the lens wide open. (1-2 megapixels instead of 10-20)

  • balazer, I come more from photography : ) As you said I think it depends greatly on the lens. I have a c mount 16mm film lens with f1.5 and if sharp image is desired it is useless for this purpose and creamy at least until f2.8 or even f4. I also have an old prime lens tessar 50mm f2.8 and it is not exactly sharp at f2.8. But we are getting off topic in a mistaken topic to begin with ; )

  • I urge caution with 1.4 and .95 glass, focus is extremely critical with glass like that. Unless all your scenes are static talking head scenes, I'd stay at 2.8 and rent lights. Repeat, rent lights!

  • @brianluce, of course it depends on the focal length and focus distance too. Depending on those two you might end up with a depth of field which is still doable and more importantly, comfortable to the viewer.

    But your advice regarding light is true in any case. Even if you can shoot in a very dark environment solely means you can make use of dimmer lights. But positioning and type of light will always be a very important factor not to neglect. It's just unfortunate it's not always possible to add lights in case your have to anticipate or so.

  • For street scenes I've shot at dusk before, when it's not yet totally dark but the lights have been turned on. Grade it for a darker look. It might require pulling a key on the sky and replacing it (see and for an introduction)

  • For street scenes I've shot at dusk before, when it's not yet totally dark

    I've done this too, but to the OP, be advised, you only have a short window to get your shot. And not only that, you light will be changing every few minutes and require near constant adjustment. Generally, unless it's a quick scene, I would avoid shooting at dusk or dawn.

  • If I were to rent lights, I would need a generator , no? I have a pretty decent arri light kit and again some reflectors which might help a bit. I think shooting at dusk would work if it wasn't such a long scene....I might just have to try for sky day-for-night honestly and play around with the colors in post. It will likely give me the best image quality, and shooting in the field won't be such a pain in the neck. I don't mind spending some time keying on my static shots and I'll just supplement the scene with some shoulder rig without the sky and it'll give a more believable atmosphere....I'll just have to think about traffic in that case...

    Who knows, maybe I'll just rewrite the scene so I'm not so cornered hah. Not the worst thing that a low budget filmmaker has ever done.

  • @RyanPW Have you seen this? : and the first video in that topic. It's about exposure and grading for a "night" look and might just be what you're looking for.

    @Shian does some excellent tutorials about exposure, and this one is available even if you're not a subscriber to his site so well worth checking out.

    You might also think (if you already haven't of course) of using RGB curves separately, so you can give more of a blue to the lower levels as a sort of "convention" of moonlight that we accept.

  • It's not the sky replacement that's the difficult bit for day to night conversion, it's all the lights and the specular highlights they cause.

  • I've never tried day for night, but I know some people are successful achieving it manipulating exposure in camera. Bottom line, test test test. Good luck with your film.

  • I mean, that's it's not that hard to make it look darker, but it's much harder to make it look like the street lights were on and the houses were lit up. If you just make it darker it looks like a power cut :) Brian is right.. test, test, test.

  • I'll continue to test things out for the scene since I have about 2 and a half weeks till the shoot and I'll post some videos of my findings in the meantime. Do you guys think a 5d would hold up better in these dark scenarios, because we also have that to work with as well. I'd imagine Canis Majoris would probably out perform everywhere except for color reproduction in this scenario, but I'll be testing that out tonight with my DP.

  • Is there anything you can do to shoot the lights at night and blend them into the "as night" footage? Just a thought. Although I can't imagine how that could be done without repeatable camera placement / 3D tracking, it would allow you pretty good control of the light sources and specular reflections (shot at night) and avoid the inevitable image noise of recording in very low light (because you'd shoot these accompanying parts in daylight but simulate night).

  • I'm thinking of renting a generator now...If I can afford it. Has anyone had experience using a compact generator to power a few lights? Any suggestions on this process?

  • Id be careful with compact generators. I had a bad experience about a month back with a 4400w generator on a shoot.. Ended up causing unusable flickering above around 150w. In the end we had to shoot with 150w or less of light and up the iso between 1250 and 2500, causing the video to suffer from a bit of posterization.