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Replicating Sunlight - Tungsten


Andrew J. Fann
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Hello Everyone,

I know every way under the sun (no pun intended) to replicate sunlight with an HMI for various times of day, but what would yo do to replicate it if you only had something like a tungsten fresnel? I'm just curious how all of you would replicate sunrise, midday, and sunset with tungsten. Thanks in advance! Also, sorry if this has been asked before.

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I think about sun as more in the tungsten range. I usually shy away from HMI for raw sun unless I need the punch that LEDs just can't do today - not if you need it to be hard. I have always found HMI with full CTO or even half CTO to feel unnatural and green, especially if the globe is old or the gel is old. I can get behind an HMI through no color straw or a light CTO, but that just takes the curse off, it doesn't feel like warm late afternoon sun.

A lot of times I start sun in the 3000-3500 range, but I might push to 3800 if it is a location shoot and the ambiance is cooler. It mostly depends what we decide as a camera balance, and the time of day in the script. For winter months on location I'll shift cooler, since sky ambience gets much cooler than the summer.  On stage I'll often I'll push sun to 2800-not because that's what matches reality, but because the lights I'm using bottom out at that range. Actual sunset can get much warmer as sunset approaches. Occasionally in that scenario I will offer switching to a non-kelvenic RGB color or gel to get an effect. Rarely do DPs take me up on it, and most times its more like I'm daring them to get crazy. If you've seen the movie grandma's boy, sometimes I'm saying to the DP "I don't give a f***, I'll go to the looney bin with you". I've never regretted going there if they are willing and it works with the story.

Mostly, regardless of the actual temperature we settle on, my thought process is based on how far away the raw sun is from the sky fill-and that is regardless of whether I'm on stage or location. Mid-day sun is fairly close to sky ambience, and as you get closer to sun up or sun down, the sun's temperature stretches toward the warmer end and the ambience moves toward cooler. At the end it's a choice how far apart those two are, and where your camera's balance lands. It is also a choice how close to reality you choose to go-before LA I came from Alaska, where a winter solstice (2 days from now!) can be 1800K sun/15,000K sky ambience. That is great if your going for something stylized or impressionistic, but if your on a set that is monochromatic, or going for a desaturated look, maybe you want to be more conservative.

If you're just trying to balance the look you're going for with the lights you have on the truck (or the back of your Jeep) then the tail might wag the dog. In that case, I suggest going with the Looney Bin option and going unfiltered tungsten. You won't get placed in movie jail, I promise.

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I've done plenty of location work where I've mixed a strong tungsten light for sun with natural daylight ambience. It often doesn't look as orange as you'd think because color saturation is linked to exposure, so an overexposed orange light looks paler than one that is exposed normally or underexposed.

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