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lighting At Night in the Woods

Our First Scene

So our first scene is going to be in the woods at night. Pretty much pitch black. We have bought lights from lowes and they seem to work great to “light up the night.”

I was wondering if anyone had some tips and tricks from experience shooting in pitch black.

@Scoopicman you did this really well with your Hag in the Hills, any ideas?

Thanks! Since we were already using an on screen lantern, I just added one LED light for simulated moonlight. I put a blue gel over the LED. It's just a $30 light, but it worked well. I used a stand and put the light as high as I could. For the woods, you want the lights pretty high, so the trees look natural. Yes, you can put blue gel on the Lowes lights.

I love all the cheap Tac flashlights that are available now. Having the actors shining those around can light up the scene.

Light coming from one direction (the moon) will create important shadows on one side of your actor's face. Visible highlights and dark shadows can make a night scene. I've done a few:

I was in my garage, standing in front of a greenscreen, for this test shot. Light was kind of close, but illustrates what I'm talking about:

Fog will catch light and spread it around. Again, light from one direction:



It doesn't have to be blue gel, depending on the supposed source, such as streetlights or porchlights. I actually used some Lowes lights outside the windows of these scenes. Coming through curtains or blinds, they look pretty nice.



For your forest closeups, you can even hold a branch (with or without pine needles) in front of the light to cast shadows or break up direct light.
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One other thing. I saw an indie movie, called WITCHES NIGHT, at a festival. It had some good looking night scenes. I asked the filmmakers how they did it. They rented a cherry picker lift and shined a 2K light down from it. It was a great alternative to what Hollywood uses, which is usually a crane with a 20,000 watt panel of lights shining down.

Nowadays, you can use a Sony A7s and get a nice look with minimal light. I don't have that camera, so I opened my BMPCC shutter to 360 degrees for some shots.

For some static establishing shots of the forest, cliff, landscape, etc., you can set your frames per second to 12fps to let more light in. I try not to bump the ISO up too high or it gets grainy. I had it at ISO 5000 and 8000. for HAG IN THE HILLS, using an f2.8 lens. I accidentally shot BRAW footage, where ProRes would have been better for low light (grain).
Having some atmosphere such as smoke or fog (as previous poster Scoopicman mentioned) will help to raise the ambient light levels. Often times for wide shots a high angle light used as a back light or edge light to simulate moonlight (the amount of blue you add-or don't add- is up to you and the director to decide) When you do close ups you can keep the back/edge light to give some separation from the background and add a subtle, soft bounce light (matching the color of Moonlight you picked) so that you can see your actors' performances