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Lighting for a night scene

Seth Baldwin

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An upcoming music video is in the process of budgeting, the script requires mostly night scenes, euthanizing moonlight. The main question I have is:


How on earth are scenes like this lit? perfectly even lit scenes like this. I understand you'd need a big source most likely through a 12ft diffusion frame but this is a ridiculous amount of light for this forest scene, which also confuses me because the trees are still silhouetted as if the source was directional but yet everything is so soft. I don't understand how such a large set can be lit so softly yet with so much contrast. Does anyone have any theories to how this lighting setup was achieved in a floor plan?


Of course I'm not setting this as a goal for this project, nothing of that scale but I find it incredibly interesting non the less.








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That could be a set, with a bunch of space lights.

But chances are it's just some very very very very large balloon lights or lights going through 20x20s.

It's hard to tell from the photos, on my screen, but it almost looks as though the forrest just "ends" in "black" in all the shots-- so it could well be a set-wall you're seeing.

In that case it would be a series of space lights perhaps through a fully over-head diffusion.


I don't think it was day for night.

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Yeah I don't think it was day for night either, Skin tones are too clean for that,


If this is actually a set, it is the most realistic looking set I've seen. to get full size looking trees on a set would be almost unbelievable


Yeah that's a really interesting put, a large blimp light, It definitely feels like one large single source from above, as I feel having several 20x20 frames may mess a little with shadow direction unless they used bounce light, which I also doubt.

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"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" built a similar forest set. The foreground tree trunks don't need a canopy of branches and leaves above, leaving more room for light to get through.


That's the main problem with real forests, blockage from branches and leaves when the light is above them, or getting a lighting balloon punctured by a tree branch. So the trick if you have to use a real forest is to really scout for the best configuration, you almost want a field right in front of a row of trees to light the foreground action against trees, and then just a few rows of trees with another field or road running behind that to put up any backlight or higher top light for the background.


But essentially you are talking about a lot of soft top light.


Now if there are a lot of tree branches in the way, the other thing I've done is use them to clamp Kinoflos to them pointing down, slightly angled as a toppy backlight. I've also run a string of paper lanterns through a forest path, you can use daylight LED bulbs in them for a blue color cast. But that only works on tighter shots, for a bigger wide shot you'd need a larger softlight and then again you are talking about balloons or building a "moon box", a 20'x20' or larger frame of diffusion with lights behind it (Skypanels are useful since you can shift the color and dim them easily, but I've also used Kinos like Image 80's behind the diffusion.


Or if you have the right space, a big white bounce frame hung over the area, 20'x20' and larger, and bouncing into them from the ground. That only works for foreground when you have the space to work, back behind a row of trees you'd probably have to use a diffused light source hanging from a condor or construction crane.

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In my opinion, the snow is doing a lot of heavy lifting for these frames. Its the brightest object in the frame and exposed pretty dimly, so for anything to not be silhouetted it would have to be white as well. It gives the trees and figures something to stand out from. The atmosphere in the background helps with seperation as well.


If you lit that scene that way without snow, you wouldnt have as much contrast, things would tend to blend together. Backlit haze would help a lot with seperation. But I think to achieve comprable contrast without snow unless have to be brighter and more directional, giving trees an edge with the light, etc. Just a thought, I could be wrong.


If you check out the ASC Instagram this week Jo Willems posted some of the day for night forest work from Hunger Games: Catchin Fire, which has a similar vibe to these scenes, sans snow. Might be worth looking at.



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