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Very Low Budget Lighting Method for Shooting at Night

Hey guys,

I'm shooting a very short film which is intended to be a sort of "introduction" to an upcoming larger film I'm writing. It'd be more of a test on lighting and other film-making methods, but I need some tips on lighting.

The scene is set in the night, so is it best to film in the day time, or at night with lighting? I have a Sony HDR-SR11 which I'll be using for the shoot. As for lighting, I have nothing but I should be able to rent/buy some. We're not shooting for a while as I need to plan this properly. I wouldn't want grainy underlit footage.

So what are the best methods? Soft-boxes? I don't have much experience at all with lighting.

Thanks in advance!

Thanks for the help. We're shooting this Sunday. I'm a little worried about how the footage is going to turn out.

Test the specific setup you'll be using before the day to make sure it gets the image you need... pull it in and verify it works! Once the crew and actors show up, you don't want to spend time making technical fixes on their time.
excited to see some test shots with the new cam.. I think that, combined with the lights you have will get you where you need to be..

also, like Knightly said, you can darken in post so a bit over lit wont be a problem.. so long as you dont BLOW out
We shot last night, turned out ok. I didn't get the chance to get a lens with a lower f number however I had a nice wide angle f3.5 I was using. Did the trick most of the time. I was a bit worried about cranking up the ISO but at some points I had to. I guess it's all part of the learning curve, but from what I can tell the footage is pretty damn good.

Will get some screens up for you later. :)
Sorry sorry sorry!





that last one looks suspiciously like a real gun! The holster wear marks etc...

nice shots.
Well that's good then! Thanks, some shots are too dark but they do work and what needs to be seen can be seen. I'm happy considering I've never shot at night before (with lighting).

Great acting too. :yes:

Any suggestions for colour grading on dark footage for this kind of film?
In final cut pro, I added them to a time line, then added nothing more than 3-way color correctors and desaturate lows/highs.

Most of them I use the limiting controls to mask out the flesh tones separately from the rest of the shot allowing me to effect them separately. Then I just add some colors to the flesh and some to the non-flesh... in the zombie shots, I chose red instead of the more orange flesh tones and punched up the reds, then desaturated/colored the rest of it a bit of either sickly greens/cyans or blues for a colder night-timey feel.

I'm going to try using blender to process an image and a short movie clip as well to see if there's a reasonably powerful alternative to either final cut or shake for this sort of work (although there's no motion tracking in blender for doing more complex corrections ( like eye color adjustments ).
Blender does work for stills, I think I'll need to import a movie or image sequence on a plane in the 3d world, then be able to open it in the node editor... The mattes and color separation for separate grading will be harder in blender, but the color plugins are quite powerful and there are other cool abilities with it:
(watch around the 3d bits to see the power of the interface which is free and can work on images, so perhaps is useful as a higher end color correction thingy for folks who can't afford the bigger tools and want to stay legal (piracy wise).
You can use a bunch of different filters using FCP, Adobe After Effects, or pretty much any professional editing program. You can also find many different tutorials and presets that are free to use all around the web. However, depending on the mood that you are going for, this might not be the best option. Filters often give a film a more artificial look, which can come off as fake to some. However, shooting at night is much more difficult. If you have the time and energy to accomplish some good lighting at night, then you will reap the benefits. Here are some tips:

1. Experiment on your lighting. Make sure to run some tests, whether you are using studio quality lighting or DIY lighting. Go to Home Depot and find some interesting lights that you can use. Work lights work the best, but make sure you grab a dimmer and a battery adapter so that you can film outside.

2. Make sure to use dimmers, gels, and filters as much as possible. Too much light on a subject can reveal that any light being reflected on that particular subject is coming from a source that is outside the film. Keep it balanced, and you should be fine

3. Make sure to use at least 3 different lights: a key, filler, and a backlight, but this is open to experiment.

4. Have fun with it!

Hope this helps a bit!