Thread: Lighting at night (outdoor)

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  1. #1 Lighting at night (outdoor) 
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    Here's a quick question to all of you cinematographers that have experience shooting outdoor night scenes.

    To better explain the scene, here's a photo I took from the street with my smartphone.

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...cfdda7012c.jpg

    I'll have one actor sitting on the ground, in front of the store with the owl and another actor sitting down in the other store. On the right there's a cute little restaurant as you see in the picture.

    What is the cheapest way to get a good exposure on the actors, besides using a very fast lens and a light sensitive camera (camera will be the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k)? LEDs are still too expensive to rent. I was thinking maybe 2x 1k tungsten fresnels to get good exposure on the actors skintones. And they would match with the yellow light from the lamps much easier than HMIs (I think the lamps are probably at 2800k). I would probably have to gel the tungstens...

    What do you guys think? My experience with night exteriors is limited, so I'm hoping someone more experienced could chime in and share their knowledge.

    Thanks!
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member DPStewart's Avatar
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    How far away will you shoot from? How wide a shot? Like this one? Or closer in?

    This wide shot is very much a "flat wall" as far as the camera is seeing, so those 1k lights could cast some strong shadows from the actors and make it look like they are indeed having lights shown on them.
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    Dane, I will be shooting close to the actors. There will be some wide shots, but I don't think I'll need to light those as they will be as wide as this photo I took. But most shots will be close to the actors.

    Edit:

    Camera will be close to the actors, placed between them, so you can see the street, car lights, etc.
    Last edited by david evans; 08-21-2017 at 06:27 PM.
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  4. #4  
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    Will the café still be open/lit when you shoot? Could that provide enough for an edge-light effect, perhaps cheated with an extra small LED out of shot? Maybe something to just provide some catch-light in the eyes, as if coming from a street lamp, and then leave the overall exposure quite low?

    The more I study night or interior cinema stills, the more I see surprisingly low exposure levels on faces, usually with a 'checker board' approach - some light picking out one side of the face, but the real sense of the character coming from their silhouette against a wall or other background elements. Could that work here?
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben View Post
    Will the café still be open/lit when you shoot? Could that provide enough for an edge-light effect, perhaps cheated with an extra small LED out of shot? Maybe something to just provide some catch-light in the eyes, as if coming from a street lamp, and then leave the overall exposure quite low?

    The more I study night or interior cinema stills, the more I see surprisingly low exposure levels on faces, usually with a 'checker board' approach - some light picking out one side of the face, but the real sense of the character coming from their silhouette against a wall or other background elements. Could that work here?
    Yes, the café will be opened and lit at the time of the shooting. I think we must be careful when judging movie stills, because most of what we see is graded footage and not necessarily the originally exposed footage. I think you always need to aim at good exposure, especially for skin tones, otherwise it won't look good. This is even more so with film cameras that need a lot of light to get a decent exposure. Recent digital cameras have a different sensitivity to light, but I still think I'll need to bring something for the faces. Not sure how I will get it balanced with the color temp from the street lamps. Probably 1/4 CTO on the tungstens will do the trick, or at least put it in the ballpark...
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  6. #6  
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    I'd throw a larger light (be it a 1200w HMI, or a Tungsten units if you want it to be a "streetlight") shooting up into a 4x4 ultrabounce up high to give you some good base exposure.
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  7. #7  
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    What about LED lights? They are much more discreet. And since I will be shooting without a permit (it's allowed in my city, as long as I'm not filming other people or shooting a film that will be released in theaters with commercial profits, etc), I don't want big lights that will draw unnecessary attention. What about LED lights pointed at a wet ground to bounce back to the actors? Or to follow robmneilson's tip, they could be pointed at a large 4x4 bounce (I have one of those big circular 5 in 1 bouncers that I could use...).
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  8. #8  
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    Battery powered LEDs all the way. We use them in setups like this all the time because they're discrete, easy to move and dim. Obviously there are challenges if you're fighting street lighting vs correcting for it. And why the need to bounce, up or down? If you're going to be shooting close with angles showing car lights etc, then you're going to have a mix of color temps, it's just the nature of the beast.

    Unmotivated light is so common in so many night shots. For instance, two things that everyone accepts that always gets me - people driving by with glowing light illuminating them as they drive. And the ubquitous space helmets, in countless films, that are filled with inside lights illuninating the astronauts faces, which of course is the opposite of logical.

    If you're going to shoot the establishing shot in raw and balance in post then I'd choose the creative style that you like the most and just expose and CC for the actors. You could "pretend" that there's light coming from the cafe and put an LED spot or flood coming from that side. You could postion one above each actor and it could feel natural from lights above the doorways. I have a simple Aputure 4 light kit (2 spots 2 floods) running on Sony batteries with a wireless remote that I used to shoot a commercial scene in a very simialr envirnoment recently.
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    Great stuff jimagine, thanks for your tips. Here's a still that exemplifies the kind of lighting I'm after (look at Samuel L JAckson):

    http://dl9fvu4r30qs1.cloudfront.net/...-the-champ.jpg

    I know he's not sitting down against a wall like in my scene, but the overall concept of lighting is what I'm after. I can see some frontlight on his face that falls off very fast on his cheek. Is it being flagged or is just a thing with dark skin tones?
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  10. #10  
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    I was thinking on renting the Nanguang led flex planel kit which would include two panels. People love these LEDs and their color accuracy, although I've never used them. What do you guys think? Maybe flooding them at 3/4 of the face of the actors, diffused, to get the look on the still I posted in the post above? Maybe getting a 1/4 or 1/8 of a CTO on the LED panel (already balanced to 3200k) to balance with the street lamps?
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