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Orlando Mercado

creating a moon light

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Hello cinematography community. I have a question. What would be the best way to create moonlight shining on person in bed sleeping. There are no windows in this room so the moon light would have to be assumed is coming in from a window. What light you think works best?

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Large soft source, dim and blue but still slightly directional.

 

Though you could also just do a full on "darkness" in the room, being a sourceless ambient blue light (normally a top light) maybe 3 stops down. I would also try to have an eye light if they're sleeping, or some kind of motivated light-- maybe an alarm clock-- just to give yourself a little contrast.

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It depends on what type of moon and were the moon is in relationship to the window-character.

 

A full moon casts hard shadows. In this case, I'd mix hard and soft. Say, for example, two vistabeams outside the window for ambient and an HMI fresnell also outside the window and aimed at the character for shaping. Maybe a 2.5kw would be more than enough? I'd place it as far and as high as I could from the window so as to keep shadows parallel and falloff unnoticeable. Also, I wouldn't bother about getting the moonlight colour right on set unless you've some practicals.

I'd keep the vistabeams slightly colder than the HMI, which would be my whitepoint, then play with diffusion (very very tiny indeed!) and exposure from the fresnell to shape the character.

You could definitely downgrade the luminaires in cost/power, although these sources will give you a good basic stop and a falloff that's easy to play with.

As for fill, I'd move a poly in and out according to the size of the shot.

Mind you, this is all for a low key and high contrast situation.

Edited by John Miguel King

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Here's a frame from similar situation I shot last year. A mid-sized bedroom, with no window shown, but moonlight implied:

 

2JMze44.jpg

 

We shot this at about 10am so the actual window in the room was blacked out and the sole source of light was a small daylight-balanced Z96 LED panel with only 3 individual diodes left uncovered by gaffer tape:

 

HDV-Z96-440.jpg

 

^

one of these little suckers

 

The whole thing was a pretty low-tech affair, but it worked, and having most of the diodes on the LED taped over meant the multi-source shadows you usually get from LEDs weren't really an issue.

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Cheers Mike, the camera was at its 800 ISO base and the lens was at about T/2.8 from memory. The light was only about 2m away from the actor but even with just three diodes it was still dimmed down.

 

Keeping the exposure so low (and the aperture so open) was necessary to keep excess spill off the light-coloured wall behind the bed, to keep the shot low-key.

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You can create a window shape with some black flags in front of a hard source. You can hang venetian blinds in front as well, or wave a leafy tree branch, etc. You can use a softer light and the use larger flags from farther in front to create some soft cuts to box it in, direct it a bit.

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You can create a window shape with some black flags in front of a hard source. You can hang venetian blinds in front as well, or wave a leafy tree branch, etc. You can use a softer light and the use larger flags from farther in front to create some soft cuts to box it in, direct it a bit.

So you reckon mixing hard and soft would be unnecessary in a case like this? My guts tell me soft is needed to raise ambient but maintain direction within what's believable.

 

Thanks a lot.

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Whether your moonlight is hard or soft is an artistic choice based on the needs of the scene, just as whether you light a day interior with hard or soft daylight.

 

And whether you mix in some soft ambient fill with hard moonlight is mostly a matter of contrast, how much do you want. Again, it's a choice, there is no right or wrong answer. I often use some soft fill that is very underexposed so that the shadows have a little dilm detail in them but that's just me -- if the scene needed a starker look, I wouldn't do that.

 

Moonlight can be hard on a clear night, it can be semi-soft on a hazy night. On an overcast night, you generally wouldn't have moonlight in reality so a super soft moonlight is a bit of a stylistic cheat but it often "feels" like one's impression of moonlight, probably because out in real moonlight, the rods in your eyes are working harder than your cones (so you perceive less color) and your iris is wide-open so things feel a little soft, but in reality it's a harder source. But moonlight coming through a window and perfectly lighting a face in bed is a cheat anyway...

 

I took a picture of my car parked under moonlight in the desert and you can see it's just like sunlight only dimmer. Here it is underexposed by three stops, camera set to 3200K:

moonlit2.jpg

 

Here it is exposed fully:

moonlit3.jpg

 

So lighting an interior for moonlight is similar to lighting it for daylight, just with more contrast (since there isn't as much skylight mixed with sunlight), less exposure, and a cooler bias (if you want that).

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Thanks David, I appreciate you taking your time to give such a cogent explanation to an apprentice.

I've recently ditched a mistake i used to make (or what it seems in this stage of my learning) which was filling from camera side. I just almost never manage to get it right! It's this the reason why I'm tending now to mixing sources from the same spot. Seen it in a couple of jobs with great DPs and the penny dropped...

Thanks again.

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Firstly Sorry if it is the wrong place to place my question. I would like to shoot moonlight ambience. Can anybody pls tell me how many lights, what kind of lights and what KV lights needed?. Also, any filters needed to create that soothing effect? And What all the precaution one has to take to make this look evenly lit, natural moonlight look?. Scene is such that the group of people sitting around in the night discussing things wearing silky drapes. It is a scene about thousands of years back.

Experienced cinematographers kindly help because we are making a movie with a very small budget.

Thanks in advance.

 

Shiva

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I think moonlight in interiors works more for isolated locations where light pollution isn't a factor, it just seems false to me when I see a film set in a modern setting, where moonlight is so pronounced - especially in an interior setting. Most of the light that washes into a dark bedroom at night would come from outdoor lighting of a house or a street lamp, but hardly moonlight.

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