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Jon Cibella

Naturalistic Night for Day Lighting Through Windows

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Hey everyone! Long time reader, first-time poster.


Recently, in a number of films I've been watching, I've seen a vast amount of ways to light through windows. I brought this subject up to a lighting professor of mine and we've been having discussions on it since. I know that to create realistic and natural window lighting, you need to use a mixture of hard and soft light to represent the sunlight and the soft skylight. Of course, the mixture and positioning of these depend on the time of day you're going for. I haven't had the time to do any tests of my own, but I will attempt some soon.


I have a few questions when it comes to this topic: 1. Have any of you done this in the past and how have you accomplished it? 2. What type of fixtures and diffusion have you used? 3. Do any of you have any experience using tracing paper on the window itself? And if so, is there a fixture that would still be able to push hard enough light through it to represent the sunlight?


I'm completely okay with windows blowing out, especially when working on low-budget projects where you don't have the resources to light whats outside the window.


Thanks!

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If I need to light an interior night-for-day, and don't have a particularly big lighting package, my general go-to is 216 (Full White) diffusion over the windows.

It's dense enough to create a really even coverage (no obvious hot spots), and provides a nice "blown-out" white outside the windows.

But sheer curtains and blinds are your biggest friends when it comes to that kind of scene.

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When I shoot night for day interiors I try and establish a sunny and shady side of the room/house depending on the blocking or mood of the scene. I also try and imagine what time of day and what the weather is like outside. This helps me determine contrast both in color and luminance. Although it tends to be harder to accomplish, I try not to entirely burn the window; retaining some sort of detail increases the believability of the image.

Assuming I want to create a sunny day this is how I treat the sunny side windows.

-As Mark suggested sheers are your best friend when shooting night of day. They are great to break up a plain window.

-Each window gets a M90 with Lee 251 and some sort of warming gel (1/4, 1/2, CTO or CTS depending). I used to be an 18K guy, but as we need to move faster M90s with a little diffusion work and pack a nice punch. This represents the sun

-Each window gets a M40 or M25 bounced into an 8x8ft ultra bounce that is above the window. The light is gelled with 1/2 or 3/4 CTB. This represents the Skylight.

-Each window gets treated/skinned with a Hampshire or Lee 252 1/8 Diffusion. This allows the shaft of daylight to enter the room, but glows enough that it looks like day time outside. Depending on the angle you might need an additional layer. Also if you have some help from Art Dept you might have some details (tree branches, fire escape, flower box....) that you can feel. This gives a greater sense of depth.

I hope this helps

-Lastly make sure the grip dept separate all the shafts of light so that you only get one shadow.

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Thanks guys!

 

I have noticed that most scenes involve sheer curtains or blinds on the windows, so I will definitely remember that trick.

 

Yon - Since you're gelling and mixing these color temps, what do you usually set the color temp at in the camera?

 

From the setup you've mentioned, I would only gel the M90's with 1/4 CTO and set the camera color temp at 5600.

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I usual work with a base color temp setting of 4800K.

The light source that is emulating Daylight (M90 in my example) will get a warming gel 1/4 or 1/2, or sometimes 3/4 CTO. Between 3500 to 4800K depending on the time of day I am trying to create

The light source that is being bounced to emulate the skylight get a cool gel 1/2 or 3/4 CTB. This puts the skylight somewhere around 10,000K, again, this is to taste according to the time of day I am trying to create.

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Once you've put tracing paper or other thick diffusion on the window you won't be able to get any hard light through that window. But, often this is what you want, especially if you don't have a lot of lights to put through the windows. The other alternative is to have a big soft source outside the window at a distance far enough to allow you to fit some hard light through the window at the same time. Of course, these light sources will need to be moved at times so that you don't see them through the window.

 

If you're shooting at night or on stage, and you need to see the windows in frame, the tracing paper idea works well. If you need the light through the window to also light the room, you're going to find you get a bit of lens flare from the bright windows. With the tracing paper/diffusion on the windows technique, I also try to hang lamps out of frame, above the window, to light the room so the windows are not so bright in comparison.

 

Another technique is to use blinds on the windows. Adjusting the louvers of the blinds is a quick way to adjust the amount of light coming through the window, but still see the detail of the louvers over the window in frame. This is especially useful when there is real daylight or sunlight coming through the window, and you're on the 20th floor and there is no other easy way to control it :)

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Some examples:

1. Real sunlight with ND 1.2 on windows and two kinoflow 4x4 above the window to light the room.

NSr1.1.jpg

 

2. Diffusion on window with practical (tungsten lamp) also lighting the actors.

NSr1.4.jpg

 

3. HMI through 4x4 diffusion backed away from the window (sheer curtains) with Kinoflow above the window to light deeper into the right side of the frame. In the original file one could see the buildings outside the window, but for this "flashback" sequence the windows were blown out in post and an glow effect added (+grain:)

NSr3.1.jpg

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One more example.

 

HMI bounced off foam core outside the window. Behind the woman on the far right side of frame is an LED panel set to tungsten, to simulate the light from the practical lamp on the table. There might have been a very small bounce fill light from behind the camera, but I can't remember. I've used the tungsten lights inside to indicate the late time in the day for the story. Hope these examples help a little :)

 

NSr5.2.jpg

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Thanks Bruce! Those were all great examples.

 

I remember seeing a DP use soft sources above windows some time ago and I love the look it gives. Sheer curtains and blinds are great for increasing the believability of a blown out window.

 

If you were to put a harder source through a window at night to create direct sunlight, what fixture would you use?

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Thanks Bruce! Those were all great examples.

 

I remember seeing a DP use soft sources above windows some time ago and I love the look it gives. Sheer curtains and blinds are great for increasing the believability of a blown out window.

 

If you were to put a harder source through a window at night to create direct sunlight, what fixture would you use?

I would use a fresnel light powerful enough to get the desired effect. If you are shooting with a tungsten white balance in your camera, tungsten fresnels will be fine. I would avoid open faced lamps as they don't flag well for making shadow. At ISO 800, I think you'll find a 2k lamp is often enough, but it depends on the size of the set.

 

If you want to watch some clips... Towards the end of this reel there are interiors of the house (while under construction and when completed) that was shot on a stage with a large photo backdrop. We shot it all with tungsten lamps and I think it took 70 lamps to light the set (including lighting the backdrops)

 

https://vimeo.com/40297871

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If you were to put a harder source through a window at night to create direct sunlight, what fixture would you use?

You should use the biggest source you can afford, and place it as far away from the window as you can. Remember, real sunlight is coming from 93 million miles away, so the beams are perfectly parallel, and there is no fall off in intensity.

 

If you're on a budget, and need to run from house power, then tungsten Pars are probably the best bet for creating hot slashes of light. Fresnels will be easier to cut if you want hard edges, but they wont have the same intensity as a par.

 

If you have the money for HMIs, then 1.2kw PARs and M18s can do a lot of work for you, and the extra intensity will allow you to place the lamps further away from the windows to reduce fall off.

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I think the bigger issue is what you do when you're stuck with a magnolia-painted lounge with huge windows, no money, no M18s and no hope...

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I think the bigger issue is what you do when you're stuck with a magnolia-painted lounge with huge windows, no money, no M18s and no hope...

You cover the windows with diffusion paper and use a bunch of cheap and cheerful 2kw Blondies, and bump up the ISO on your camera.

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