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Sushanta Barman

Lighting for overcast day

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Is it required to light for overcast day in a forest ? Lighting can be done for a mid shot or close but for wide it's not possible so will it look ugly? I have seen movies such as The witch ( which was done in natural light ) but it was superb, how can I achieve that kind of lighting ? And how do I have a good contrast between the characters and environment ? 


Here is two photo of our recent reckee shoot. 

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Don't cross-post to multiple subforums...

If you have the budget for very powerful lamps, like 18K HMI ArriMax's (daylight) or 12-light Maxibrutes with spot globes (tungsten, for a late afternoon effect), you have a fighting chance of creating some sunlight effect in the woods, but if it is bright overcast, even those might not be bright enough except in close-ups.

It helps to rig these powerful lamps from condors to create a backlight, they are more believable as sunlight this way.

Look at "Little Buddha" to see how Storaro uses powerful tungsten lamps in the woods to create a sunset effect.

The short answer is, no, even for big-budget movies it is very hard to add artificial light to wide shots in overcast weather to create realistic sunlight unless it is heavy overcast and you have very powerful lamps.

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I had a big street scene in "Westworld" with three cameras shooting wides, mediums, tights, etc. -- we shot all day into sunset and past it.  It was overcast until noon and then the sun came out and then it went behind the buildings by the afternoon.  I had two 18K HMI ArriMaxs on a condor behind the main building but the overcast was too bright to let the HMI's do much of an effect, but as soon as the sun went down and it started to become magic hour, then the HMI's recreated a good sunlight effect.

So these frames from dailies show the overcast weather in the first half of the day, then the high noon sunlight, and then the late afternoon backlight augmented by the HMI, with just the HMI creating the backlight by the end of the day for the last close-ups.

So the first frame with Jeffrey Wright in close-up has the 18K HMI's on his head in backlight but they can't compete with the brightness of the overcast daylight, but the last frame of Anthony Hopkin's close-up shows the same HMI's now reading very strongly because the daylight is weaker in comparison.





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Thank you Sir for the insight, I am a film school student and I don't have the access to a 18k hmi, I am going to have a three 350w led,  one 1k led and one 4k hmi and skimmers. I want the light to be overcast, and no hard sunlight in the shots but is the natural overcast light enough for the wide and mid shots ( to have a good kind of rim light in the back of charecters and the face with good highlight ). I want to have good face light and contrast between the charecters and the environment. 

The first frame that I have posted how do you think I can make it more pleasing using ?

The first frame that you have posted I want thak king of lighting( soft, diffused and the rim light which is over the shoulder and head )

Sorry I will not post again in multiple subforums.

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I also have long following  shot of two charecters walking forward and talking both are in same position and camera is in front them following. I want the good face light and dont want to have shadows under the eyes.

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Sorry I thought your question was how to light an overcast day shot to look sunnier.

If you want an overcast look and it’s overcast, then you don’t really have to do anything. You could hold a white card under the face to bring up the eyes. You could walk some large black flags to darken one side of the face.

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If the look you're going for is a calm overcast your forest test shots actually look pretty nice to me as is.

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I think that shooting in the forrest under a clouded sky comes down to mainly 2 things.

1. Negative. To create visual interest under the very flat and at times boring grey skylight, it is always very pleasing to add negative fill to your actors. This works by subtracting light instead of adding it. Most of my daytime shoots outside nowadays seem to work mainly with that and adding a bit of bounce back. For a medium shot like the first one you shared, even a 4' x 4' floppy flag right next to the left side of the frame would to wonders. As your foliage doesn't seem to be too dense, you could even get away with bigger butterfly frames, like 8' x 8's or 12' x 12's.

2. Blocking. Ideally, you want to stand somewhere, where the natural environment around you shapes the light to your advantage, so beneath a thicker tree, creating a bit of shade. This molds the light in much the same way you would with a floppy, only in a much more natural way. I have added this picture to show what I mean. We shot directly under a giant tree (you can actually see it on the left side of the frame). Behind us and to the right of us was thick foliage, through which very little ambient daylight came. It was a very overcast day as well. We added a 8x8 of black cloth to the right of frame (not nearly as close as you would think looking at the picture, the trees did most of that job) and thats it. The light on the left side of his face is just the ambient daylight creeping in from under the tree.

Another benefit of finding something to shoot underneath is that the light falling on your subject is coming more from the side than from above, which generally looks rather flat and unflattering. Side light kind of enhances the texture of anything and as such can be rather interesting on faces in general. 

Also: another good idea is to be looking into dark spots, something very clearly visible on the last two stills from Mr. Mullen. This creates further contrast and draws the eye towards the brighter part of the picture (your foreground / the actors).

Obviously, there are tons of way to shoot day exteriors. You can find more on Patrick O Sullivans Wandering DP Podcast, here is a link to one article which details the process fairly accurate. 


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