Monday, September 6, 2010

Film Night Looks Nothing Like Real Night

So this Friday we get to film a chase-through-the-woods scene. So, in prep for this scene I've been watching a show that had more chase-through-the-woods then there are calories in a box of Kripsy Kremes, LOST.

Thanks to some A-Mazing BTS, I've been able to get a glimpse of how the pros do it. And the secret is...light! When shooting a really dark, gritty scene, light the crap out of it. Don't believe me? Check out some of these screen grabs.

Here we see two cameras and a hand full of high direct lights with no filters, or soft boxes on them. This is some harsh lighting, but it's up high and pulled back so it becomes nice and diffused. Sort of like, well, this guy.

Check out this still of Jorge Garcia and Josh Holloway. Note how some of the lights are there to simply light the back ground, and give depth the woods. This looks so bright doesn't

But wait, check out this still of Mathew Fox fighting Terry O'quinn. Again, a wide shot that looks too bright. But through the alchemy of post processing, lets see that same shot from the cameras perspective after a color grade.

Now that looks like some sexy night. Heck, I even took that shot of Mr. Garcia and Mr. Holloway into photoshop and got a similar result by a simple levels adjustment here.

After we finish our shoot, I'll post stills of the shots, before and afters as well as some wide shots to show what we did. It wont look as good as Lost, but it'll come close, a heck of a lot closer than if we just used 'available light'.

Gillvane from had a really good take on what it takes to convey darkness in film: contrast. Here's what he had to say:

A difficult concept to get is that in a movie, darkness is about shadows, not the amount of light. The most common mistake people make trying to make a shot look dark, is using less light. The amount of light is not important, it's the CONTRAST RATIO!!
What you want, is things that are well lit, and things that are black, with some stuff in between. That makes a dark shot. Everything lit to an f1.8 does not look dark, it just creates grain in film, or video noise in digital.
But if you get 3 or 4 fstops difference, contrast ratio, the audience will see it as dark.
it really doesn't matter how bright, or how dim, the contrast ratio is what sells it.
So one side of your face is really, really bright, like f16. It will still look dark if the other side of your face is f8.
and if one side of your face is f8, it will look dark if the other side of your face is f4.
But both sides of your face lit to f1.8 just looks dim and grainy.
The problem with interior shots is spill and reflection. If you light up one side of your face to f16 indoors, you're probably going to get so much light bouncing off the ceiling, walls, etc., that the the other side if your face is a 14, which won't look dark.
That's why to get darkness in interior shots, you end up using a lot less light, to avoid all that spill and reflection, but still it's not the amount of light, but the contrast ratio.

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