Exposure

SHOOTING OUTSIDE: SUN, RAIN, CLOUD, NIGHT AND ALL THE REST!

Q&A'S PRE-2004 UNTIL LISTED

Do you prefer shooting indoors or outdoors? What are the biggest
differences between the two (from the cinematographer's perspective)?
--Shawn K.

The biggest difference is that if youíre working outdoors you are in an
ďuncontrolledĒ situation - sun, cloud, wind, rain are all major factors in
disturbing, enhancing and generally making your day interesting.

A. Sun
Obviously this is the ďkey lightĒ and it has a habit of going through an arc
of around 180 degrees every day, more in summer, less in winter.  Then it
changes itís altitude, and its intensity (haze, cloud etc). It also changes
colour temperature considerably during sunrise and sunset.  If a gaffer did
all this to you in the studio you might want to have him replaced.. but when
youíre outside you just feel humble and work with the options. These are:
1. Arrange the actors to be back-lit as this is kinder on them visually (if
youíre making that kind of film), and easier to light artificially when the
sun goes away (this applies pretty much anywhere except California.)  This
always poses the cross-cutting headache - do you go for one actor back-lit
and the facing actor front lit, or do you cheat?
2. Rent an enormous Grip Truck and an Army of grips, a Musco Light and
several cranes with huge silks attached: with this gear you will be able to
light an area about 100 yards square in a manner that looks semi-natural all
day long.  Use this option if you have an unlimited hollywood budget, you
like a lot of gear, and you like a semi-natural result.
3. Spend a lot of time scouting the locations with a compass and a sun chart
or sun program.  Then work with the Director and the 1st AD to figure out
what to shoot when.  This was an essential ingredient on One Fine Day where
we had to make 55 shooting days look like 1 Rainy day in New York.  We
always had a street ďround the cornerĒ for when the sun came out so we could
continue in shade.  I also had a crane with a very large silk!  In Hi-Lo
Country, my compass was used to site the angle of the main Farmhouse and
Barn so that the light would work for me.

B. Cloud
Cloud comes in all shapes and sizes so think of it as variable diffusion
with differing colour temperatures of bounce - how much of the sky is blue,
how much is cloud and is there sun? If thereís lots of blue then the shadow
area (if the sun is out) will be very blue in comparison to the source (the
sun). When the sun bounces off the ground it will fill in the shadow with
whatever is the colour of the ground (Snow? Desert? Street? Grass?).  This
colour will mix with the blue coming from above (if there is any). Next time
you put a reflector near a face it might be worth thinking about what colour
is the natural bounce and then making that relector warmer or cooler depend
on what effect you are after - natural or artifical?

C. Rain
Rain is generally not visible if itís only falling lightly, unless you back
light it.  If youíre going to be on a location for more than a day in a
rainy area, itís worth wetting down the first day, in case it rains on the
second.  Sometimes people have rain standing by in case it rains for real
and then you want to continue with rain, but this is a very expensive
standby! Making rain is another story.

D. Wind
This can cause a lot of trouble when using condors/cranes at night to put
lights on.  They er.. fall down if the wind blows too strongly so we try to
avoid that.  Producers donít like if you just quit a night shoot Ďcause itís
too windy so you have to have a few options up your sleeve - like a cover
set.  Wind can play havoc with hair, clothes etc so you might want to
consider wind direction when bringing on the gorgeous girl with the waist
length hair, or have a giant something to block it with and ropes to match.
Wind can also mess up the camera move when youíre on a crane..

This piece seems to be running out of control so Iíll only say a few other
things about Indoor Work. (Except that I havenít really covered Night
Exterior, but thatís a whole other thing.)

Indoors is obviously more controlled - whether I prefer this I have no idea.
I donít like shooting endless Night Interior during the day because I find
it messes up my body cycle, ie my body doesnít understand what happened to
the laws of nature - night/day etc. Day Interior is fine because although
itís artificial, at least it feels like you had a day. Indoors Studio is a
whole different thing to Indoors Location.  Itís tough to shift the wall
back three feet when itís made of concrete. But thatís another topic.

2005

How do you film in the rain - water-proof cameras, umbrellas, digital or special effects, something else? ??--Michael

There is a gadget known as a rain deflector. This is a cunning device that puts a piece of spinning glass in front of the lens. As it spins at very high speed the water gets shaken off it the moment it touches it with the result that you never get to see the water, except what is falling in front of the lens. Umbrellas tend to make things worse as the rain then streams off the front edge. A better way to do it if you can't afford to hire a rain deflector is to use a 4x4 piece of wood or cloth and slope it backwards so that the rain that drops off falls behind the camera, not in front of it.

I'm directing / producing my first feature film next summer; an independent thriller made and set in the UK. Most of the action takes place at night, externally and so to avoid the costs of lighting and electrical equipment I am considering the use of day for night shoots. I plan to shoot on DV tape and then correct the footage later in the digital edit. Some scenes, however, require specific lighting which can only be achieved at night. I guess my questions are: Is it necessary to shoot through a filter / special lens to get the desired day for night effect, or can it be done later by digitally altering the film? How do I match up footage shot day for night and footage shot at night? Are there any pitfalls of shooting day for night that I should be aware of???--Adam

I think someone needs to write a book about day-for-night photography! I said something about this in a previous answer, so I will address this short reply to the part of your question: How do I match up footage shot day for night and footage shot at night? As you are finishing on digital, this will give you a lot more control over the image than if you were printing. If you can, try to shoot the wider day for night shots first, and then you can see what you got which will act as a guide for the lit stuff. Generally speaking, the contrast may not be as great, so the night work may take a bit more fill light than you might use for night. Then, think about the color of the key light as opposed to the color of the fill light. Are they the same? Sun bounces off it's surroundings and comes back with the tint of whatever it hit. If it was a grey building it won?t change color much. If it is red earth it will. Make a note of the color difference so you can match it in the lighting. If the contrast and color match reasonably well when you light the scene, then anything you do later to both sets of material should fall into place. Day-for-night is not for the faint-hearted! Remember that it only really works in the countryside where there are no light sources.

2006

While describing her film a director talked about an expansive outdoor shot of a carriage arriving at an English castle that was made "day for night". What does this mean and how is it done? How did they make day look like night? It looked like nighttime to me!??-Gia

Day for night is just as it sounds: you shoot in the day and make it look like night by one of several different techniques. Here is a list of what used to be possible before the CGI process came along and made it a bit more versatile.

Day for Night is possible when:
Shooting in the countryside with no light sources, or one or two small light sources (like a window) that can be "beefed up" sufficiently to make it look as though the room is lit. This really doesn't work in full sunlight, but can work OK in deep cloud or at dusk.

Shooting a smaller shot in town where there are no windows or street lights to give the game away. This makes for pretty limited occasions, although on bigger films you can cover over a street with large blacks and then light underneath it during the day to make it look like night. Strictly speaking this is not what is usually meant by "day for night".

The technique would be to underexpose the film by 2-3 stops depending on how adventurous you feel and then explain to the timer that it is a night shot, in case they try to make it look like day! It's always worth a test as the technique is quite tricky and very location dependent. Digital stills cameras have made it easier to asses how it is going to look by playing around with a still and Photoshop. Any budding cinematographer should look at learning Photoshop as essential, because the tools are all basically the same as those used in digital grading.

With CGI involved (i.e. computer grading), you can do a lot more because you can select an area of the frame - like the sky - and make it a lot darker than it looks on the neg. Also you can isolate windows and doors and make them look "lit". All this costs quite a bit, but if it is time saved on the set, or means that you don't have to shoot at night then the producer might be grateful for suggestions. Knowing what can and can't be shot day for night is very important in today's cost-conscious productions. A cinematographer who makes intelligent suggestions about how to achieve the look of a film both from an artistic and an economic point of view stands a better chance of being employed!

I often watch movies and half the movies I seen in my life is that why are roads or grounds are wet especially night scenes? Is there a purpose of this?
Peter

Whenever you are getting ready for night shooting a good production manager will ask you whether you want "wet-down" hoping that you might be bold and adventurous and say no. I shot a very expensive Coke ad in the '80?s in NY and they forgot the wet-down. There were several thousand bottles of Perrier on set for some reason so I got the crew to empty them on to the street. Every time I went to NY for the next few years, production managers had heard that I only use Perrier for wet-down for the extra "sparkle"! Ridiculous.

One reason it is used often for night shooting is that it makes the lights reflect in the street and pavements: the shop lights, the street lights, the car lights - all these sources "liven-up" because what would have been a dull grey or brown/black space has pin spots and reflections which makes the image much richer - especially in black and white.

It's tempting to not use it just because it is used so much, and because if you are making a film about a hot night in the desert it might be inappropriate. This is how you judge whether to use it or not: will it "stand out" as being wrong because of the context or will it improve the images because of the lighting enhancement, without necessarily saying to the audience "it rained but now it?s stopped".

There is another practical reason: if you are going to shoot a film like One Fine Day where you shoot for 55 days and have to make it look like One Day, what happens if on one of those days it really does rain? In these circumstances it is safer to make it look wet so that the days it does rain do not stop you from shooting.

I'm shooting a music video on digital video where I need to create a rain storm. Not having access to the equipment and software to do it digitally in post, are there effective ways to mimic this effect on a low/no- budget set, and also to not have to change my shot selection to consist of only tighter and flatter shots?
Neal

It's very hard to create the interaction of rain on people and objects: even in major films this is never done in post but on set. It is relatively easy to create the "foreground" rain ie rain streaking down the frame. You can create this "element" quite simply by shooting water from a garden hose or similar against a black background, preferably with some back light from the sun or a light, and then keying this over your subject matter. The problem is that if you only do this then it will be obvious that none of the rain is actually falling on the subject. Wetting down the set or location will be essential.

I'm not sure what you mean by "not changing my shot selection?" but the fact is that somehow if you want the band or whoever is the unfortunate subject in front of the camera, there is no getting away from the fact that if you want it to look like it is raining you need a reasonably powerful water sprinkling system (or wait for rain!), and if you want a storm you will have to add wind and lightning which rather takes it out of the low/no-budget scenario. This is one of those situations where you either have to find the money to do it right, or change your ideas to fit the budget.

Do you prefer shooting indoors or outdoors? What are the biggest differences between the two (from the cinematographer's perspective)?
Shawn

The biggest difference is that if you're working outdoors, you are in an "uncontrolled" situation--sun, clouds, wind, and rain are all major factors in disturbing, enhancing and generally making your day interesting.

A. Sun
Obviously this is the "key light" and it has a habit of going through an arc of around 180 degrees every day, more in summer, less in winter. Then it changes its altitude, and its intensity (haze, clouds, etc). It also changes colour temperature considerably during sunrise and sunset. If a gaffer did all this to you in the studio you might want to have him replaced... but when you're outside you just feel humble and work with the options. These are:

1. Arrange the actors to be back-lit as this is kinder on them visually (if you're making that kind of film), and easier to light artificially when the sun goes away (this applies pretty much anywhere except California). This always poses the cross-cutting headache--do you go for one actor back-lit and the facing actor front lit, or do you cheat?
2. Rent an enormous Grip Truck and an Army of grips, a Musco Light and several cranes with huge silks attached: with this gear you will be able to light an area about 100 yards square in a manner that looks semi-natural all day long. Use this option if you have an unlimited Hollywood budget, you like a lot of gear, and you like a semi-natural result.
3. Spend a lot of time scouting the locations with a compass and a sun chart or sun program. Then work with the Director and the 1st AD to figure out what to shoot when. This was an essential ingredient on One Fine Day, where we had to make 55 shooting days look like 1 rainy day in New York. We always had a street "round the corner" for when the sun came out so we could continue in shade. I also had a crane with a very large silk! In Hi-Lo Country, my compass was used to site the angle of the main farmhouse and barn so that the light would work for me.

B. Clouds
Clouds come in all shapes and sizes, so think of it as variable diffusion with differing colour temperatures of bounce--how much of the sky is blue, how much is cloud and is there sun? If there's lots of blue then the shadow area (if the sun is out) will be very blue in comparison to the source (the sun). When the sun bounces off the ground it will fill in the shadow with whatever is the colour of the ground (snow? desert? street? grass?). This colour will mix with the blue coming from above (if there is any). Next time you put a reflector near a face it might be worth thinking about what colour the natural bounce is and then making that relector warmer or cooler depending on what effect you are after--natural or artifical?

C. Rain
Rain is generally not visible if it's only falling lightly, unless you back light it. If you're going to be on a location for more than a day in a rainy area, it's worth wetting down the first day, in case it rains on the second. Sometimes people have rain standing by in case it rains for real and then you want to continue with rain, but this is a very expensive standby! Making rain is another story.

D. Wind
This can cause a lot of trouble when using condors/cranes at night to put lights on. They er... fall down if the wind blows too strongly so we try to avoid that. Producers don't like it if you just quit a night shoot 'cause it's too windy, so you have to have a few options up your sleeve--like a cover set. Wind can play havoc with hair, clothes, etc. so you might want to consider wind direction when bringing on the gorgeous girl with the waist length hair, or have a giant something to block it with and ropes to match. Wind can also mess up the camera movement when you're on a crane.

This piece seems to be running out of control so I'll only say a few other things about Indoor Work. (Except that I haven't really covered Night Exterior, but that's a whole other thing.) Indoors is obviously more controlled--whether I prefer this I have no idea. I don't like shooting endless Night Interior during the day because I find it messes up my body cycle, i.e. my body doesn't understand what happened to the laws of nature--night/day etc. Day Interior is fine because although it's artificial, at least it feels like you had a day. Indoors Studio is a whole different thing to Indoors Location. It's tough to shift the wall back three feet when it's made of concrete. But that's another topic.

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