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Dan Goldberg

Lighting for Bedroom Night Scene

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Hey all,

 

I'm currently enrolled in a student film festival, and requrie a night scene in a bedroom. My actor will be sleeping and then wake up to a sound. What is the best way to make the moonlight look natural, yet have it dark enough to add suspense?

I find it slightly difficult to light a room for a night-scene, especially for low-budget films as the ones I do (seeing as I am a university student, and my pockets aren't as deep as I'd like :( ).

 

Any suggestions? There is one window to the left of the camera (or to the right of the actor). Any help would be greatly appreciated!! :rolleyes:

 

Thanks!

 

Dan Goldberg

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light from the outside, through a frame of diffusion, and make sure the window frame, curtains, blinds, flowers and whatever cast some soft shadows on the bed and actor. you may have to move the light and diffusion further away to get that. if the walls are white you probably have to use negative fill camera left and flags to avoid washing out the scene. since it's a night with no sun to compete with you don't need a huge unit; a blonde will do fine. i like to treat moonlight as white if it's the only source, but if you have practicals in the scene it has to be bluer than them to look right.

 

good luck,

 

/matt

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I agree, I dont like moonlight at all. I hate it when I see a movie and the moonlight overpowers the light from a house. But if I have to use moonlight, like being in a forrest at night then I like to put half blue and calcolor cyan 15,makes great looking moonlight

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Thanks all. :D Good idea on the calcor cyan! I'll give it a try.

 

The walls are a light blue, and as for the light diffusion I have PERFECT translucent white curtains already. I just seem to have trouble with how MUCH light actually should enter the room.

 

What are you shooting on? How big is the room? What coverage do you plan on?

 

Sony HDR FX7, approximately 10ft x 10ft. For the most part, only the bed and the headboard will be in the frame, however (as it is still early in pre-production) I have yet to decide whether to have the camera follow the ctor out of the room after hearing the sound or not. If I do decide on camera movement, then definitely two full walls of the room will be in the shot.

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Look, if the room lights are off, then the source of light (in order to see an image) is probably coming through the window (unless it is leaking from some other room), which means it is either an outdoor practical (porchlight) or a streetlamp, or moonlight.

 

So you can justify almost any color: white or slightly warm (for tungsten porchlight), orange (for sodium vapor streetlamp), deep cyan (for mercury vapor streetlamp), or pale blue (for moonlight.)

 

And a neon sign could justify all sorts of colors -- deep green, flashing red, etc. The house/apartment could be near a freeway or parking lot, with occasional sweeping car headlights.

 

I would decide on what camera angle you need and then arrange the bed in relation to the window and the camera angle, depending on if you want the shot backlit or side-lit.

 

I wouldn't close a white curtain over the window because then it would just get very hot and bright without really penetrating much to the subject. I would leave the curtain open. You could have venetian blinds if you wanted.

 

As for diffusing the light, that just depends. Something falling in from the outside like the moon or a streetlamp could be quite hard. Moonlight in reality is not a soft source. You don't want it to be too soft or else it starts to look like overcast daylight or dusk instead of night -- you want to maintain some contrast.

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I'm guessing if he's sleeping there are no practicals on.

 

A pretty basic setup that normally works pretty well is a subtle soft key light and a hard kicker thats gelled slightly more blue. But as David's stated, the moonlight IS technically a hard source, so the suggestion above applies only for when "the moon" is above and behind the subject, and not hitting him directly as a key.

 

Add some fill for detail and don't forget some splashes of light for the background to help with depth.

Edited by Evan Phan

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You can diffuse the light(s) outside the window and go for a more "sourceless" or ambient quality of light, still coming in through the window. Real "nightlight" actually behaves that way, as a composite of multiple outdoor light sources. Spend some time observing different rooms of your house at night with the lights off and you'll see what I mean (after your eyes have adjusted to the darkness). You'll still want to keep the light directional though, so that you still get discernable shadows and sufficient contrast. "Soft" nightlight doesn't mean flat, it just means it's not motivated by one single hard source.

 

Regardless of hard or soft light though, be prepared to add some fill in strategic areas from inside the room. If you're going for a really dark look, the fill side may go completely black -- in which case you may need add a subtle rimlight for separation, or "warp" the keylight around a face a little for certain angles or shots. If you decide on a lower contrast ratio where you would see some detail on the shadow side, then you have more leway to justify your fill as return (bounce-back) or ambience (soft overall light).

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as for the light diffusion I have PERFECT translucent white curtains already.

won't work. you need the diffusion closer to the light, outside the window. otherwise the entire window essentially becomes your light source, which removes direction, fills shadows, and washes out the room, exactly what you don't want.

 

/matt

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won't work. you need the diffusion closer to the light, outside the window. otherwise the entire window essentially becomes your light source, which removes direction, fills shadows, and washes out the room, exactly what you don't want.

 

ah good point. I've doen that before and that could be one factor as to why I have such difficulty for night scenes :( . Thanks!

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I'm doing the same exact scene in about 4 days. Minus the waking up part.

 

I'm putting a 1200w PAR with a wide lens w/ 1/2CTO through a window with venetian blinds. There will be a room lamp that that is slightly warmer than 3200k to motivate a warmer rim light, kino. I'm shooting HVX/M2 and I'm balancing 3200k.

 

I will say that I'm getting tired of doing "window" moonlight and I would rather do a night scene that is all just practical-motivated light. In reality the house we are shooting in has no street lights and definitely no moon light so this is just fantasy. However I think I'll wait until I'm on a sound stage to try the all practical approach.

 

My previous attempts have ended up in a jungle of cstands and flags, not worth it. Dedo lights I hear are very clean an focusable for this kind of a task. I don't have first hand experience with them though.

 

Good luck.

 

Cheers,

 

Matt :ph34r:

 

PS: I'm just waiting for the day when the scene is BEDROOM INT in Las Vegas. I'm going to go nuts with the different colors coming through the window. CSI Miami here I come, hah.

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I will say that I'm getting tired of doing "window" moonlight and I would rather do a night scene that is all just practical-motivated light. In reality the house we are shooting in has no street lights and definitely no moon light so this is just fantasy. However I think I'll wait until I'm on a sound stage to try the all practical approach.

 

PS: I'm just waiting for the day when the scene is BEDROOM INT in Las Vegas. I'm going to go nuts with the different colors coming through the window. CSI Miami here I come, hah.

 

Very true. The house is merely supposed to be in a surburban neighborhood, facing the backyard, so no streetlights. However, as much as I love interior light, it is the middle of the night, the moon is high, and I need some source of light. He wouldn't have any lights on in his room, so I assumed I'd use moonlight.

 

As well, due to everyone's great ideas, I'll probably put venetian blinds on the window rather than curtains. I can picture a really nice shot with the horizontal streams of light between the blind across the bed. What do you think?

 

And as for the Las Vegas thing, I completely agree. Neon lights and flashing signs, that would be awesome. :rolleyes:

Edited by Dan Goldberg

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As well, due to everyone's great ideas, I'll probably put venetian blinds on the window rather than curtains. I can picture a really nice shot with the horizontal streams of light between the blind across the bed. What do you think?

 

I think you'll need some atmospheric haze to see streams of light...

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Very true. The house is merely supposed to be in a surburban neighborhood, facing the backyard, so no streetlights. However, as much as I love interior light, it is the middle of the night, the moon is high, and I need some source of light.

 

Well there are those situations where you have to "cheat" a light source, like when someone is hiding in a closet or in the trunk of a car, or a night interior where there's no appropriate "source." In those situations you sometimes have to draw from whatever indirect or ambient light there may be (like the thin crack of light bouncing up from under the closet door, or the indirect light of "nighttime"). I often think students rely much too heavily on source lighting, when indirect and ambient light makes up such a large percentage of what out eyes see (not to mention the 100's of great films that are lit this way). Think about all the movies you've seen set in tunnels, caves, and sewers where there's an ambient "texture" on the walls, despite there being no real logical source. It's a cheat based on the way indirect and ambient light continues to bounce around at low levels.

 

But your idea of moonlight through venetian blinds is a good one and will work very well for this type of scene. The harder light of a "source" gives you the opportunity to have harder/more dramatic shadows and a higher/more dramatic contrast ratio.

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Guest Aaron Farrugia

ive always disliked blue moonlight, to me moonlight is white, and night is nearly completely desaturated

hmmm

hey what if you shot on daylight balance and used daylight sources as white moonlight and let your practicals, and tungsten sources go warm?

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ive always disliked blue moonlight, to me moonlight is white, and night is nearly completely desaturated

hmmm

hey what if you shot on daylight balance and used daylight sources as white moonlight and let your practicals, and tungsten sources go warm?

 

Sure, but why not just shoot with bluer moonlight and whiter practicals on tungsten stock and filter for warmth or time in post for warmth, thus losing the blue? Either way, what you're talking about is a color temperature difference, that the moonlight has a higher Kelvin than the tungsten practicals.

 

The problem is that using white light for moonlight doesn't necessarily mean it will look desaturated.

 

Some blue-ness to moonlight has the advantage of cluing the audience as to what the light source is -- a white light at night could be a streetlamp. Blue is "symbolic" of the moon, and has been before cinema was invented. Silent b&w movies used to tint night scenes blue. So it's not necessarily about realism (although true moonlight is 5500K like sunlight, since it's just a reflection of sunlight, which is quite blue on tungsten stock.)

 

If you have access to alternate processing tricks or digital color-timing, what's nice is to use some blue or cyan for moonlight and then pull most of the chroma down to a silvery blue-grey.

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Guest Aaron Farrugia

sure theres heaps of ways of acheving the 1 thing

i dont think i explained myself properly

what i meant is that i would rather shoot moonlight as white and if i was shooting a night scene, that is just lit by moon light, i would time out alot of the colour, as this is what i feel most replicates the cones in our eyes at low illumination but its all sujective, depending on what your shooting i guess

as for cluing the audience, thats a whole debate upon it self, as to how much credit you give your audience and how much you really need to give away.

 

ive always felt there is a large enough difference in the quality of light from a hmi source to a tungsten source to warrant using it as a moon light and have that subconcious difference in quality ( of light that is)

but as i said then again its all subjective

 

althogh i do like the look of the gels Guillermo Navarro used for moonlight in Pans labrynth...

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I'd have blue softlight for the background, and then some white hard light for key and fill. Some patterned filters for the white lights to turn them into window shapes.

Edited by Daniel Ashley-Smith

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ive always disliked blue moonlight, to me moonlight is white, and night is nearly completely desaturated

hmmm

hey what if you shot on daylight balance and used daylight sources as white moonlight and let your practicals, and tungsten sources go warm?

 

I'm not sure. Couldn't that look slightly off? I'm not the most experienced in lighting, so I'd be worried my levels would be off and it would be too easy to tell what I did. I guess I feel that I want it a night scene, so to save me some trouble, I'll shoot at night.

 

I've been experimenting with blue and cyan, and I am pleased at the results. I'd prefer to make it as natural as possible, since I want the scene to feel natural, as if there is nothing wrong.

 

And David, as for the haze through the venetian blinds, I realize I'd have to do that as well. MY problem is the levels of each light source and also colour, though your suggestion about using cyan is looking really good! :)

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MY problem is the levels of each light source and also colour

 

As my last Gaffer used to joke (partly to rib his son who worked on the electric crew) "Hey, if this job were easy, we'd hire relatives to do it."

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Venetian blinds work quite nicely as an effect if the cast moves through the slats of light they project into a space. In that case haze works against you.

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Venetian blinds work quite nicely as an effect if the cast moves through the slats of light they project into a space. In that case haze works against you.

 

hmm I was wondering about that. I could see how a sharp bluish light through the blinds could be good. Do you think it would be interesting if it was cast over part of the character's face as he's sleeping? I can imagine him, when he hears the sound, to suddenly open his eyes. It'd be an ECU shot from straight above him. What do you think?

 

I know I'm asking a lot of questions, so I greatly appreciate your comments and suggestions. I think I've decided on the lighting, but just how it should play a part in the scene, like I explained above. Thanks!

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When light designing with venetian blinds I would take a look at rooms in the house and note how natural (sun/street lights) fall on the walls.

 

Quite often when people put up movie lights through blinds they come at funky angles and get distorted or the shadows are too large. Its obviously a matter of taste but I like keeping the blinds tight and level. That usually means keeping the lights pretty high and at least 10ft from the window.

 

If you have cranks or mombo/combos on wheels its easier to adjust to get the right tweaks. I've spent the better part of an hour messing with two HMIs because we had to stem up and stem down to move them around, plus focusing, geling, and bagging.

 

Careful with hazers, you'll have the fire department there to help you pack up your equipment if you don't check the alarms.

 

Matt :ph34r:

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won't work. you need the diffusion closer to the light, outside the window. otherwise the entire window essentially becomes your light source, which removes direction, fills shadows, and washes out the room, exactly what you don't want.

 

/matt

 

 

 

Your answer leads me to an important question I've always had. I tend to use windows as source lights, but am faced with the problem that they become overexposed. The same thing as when you use a practical as a key light. To get the exposure you need, the lamp has to be very lit and will therefore appear overexposed. So, is it really a good idea to use a window as a light source when the window is in the frame? Wouldn´t it be better to place another light next to the window to reproduce the effect of light coming in from a window? Thanks.

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