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How should one expose for blue hour (dusk) using a light meter?


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Shooting a blue hour scene without a calibrated monitor only using a light meter.  The scene is not in a full silhouette so will need to see the subjects faces. 

For a shot similar to the one below (Burning), If I am taking my light readings by taking an incident reading on the key side of my subjects face, how underexposed I should go in camera? or would it be better technique to expose the skin tones properly and bring everything down in post?

 

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("Burning" - Directed by Lee Chang-dong - DoP - Hong Kyung-pyo)

 

Secondly for a shot like the one below (Army Of Shadows) where everything seems to be generally underexposed, where should I take my light readings from and how many stops under would you advise going?

 

 

 

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("Army Of Shadows" - Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville - DoP - Pierre Lhomme / Walter Wottitz)

 

Hope this makes sense, many thanks!

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What camera/format/codec or film stock are you shooting on? And who will be handling the color grade? If it won’t be you, then communication of your intent is very important. 

For color negative film like 5219 500T, I probably would not underexpose more than 2 stops since the film holds highlights so well but shadows not so well. If possible, shoot a grey card at the head of the roll exposed properly and color balanced properly, so the person doing the film scan knows what to set to. Then you can pull the 85 filter to get the blue look and underexpose the film so it comes out dark.

For something like an Alexa, Venice, or Red shooting raw, I would decide on a Rec.709 viewing LUT in prep and then expose while viewing that. Shoot tests in prep at different ISO/EI settings to decide how much noise you like, then stick to that setting while shooting. You can then change your white balance settings in-camera for the blue look and underexpose to taste. I would try 3 stops to start with and go darker as necessary. Raw footage tends to get noisy quickly when underexposed, moreso than Prores.

If you’re shooting a codec with a baked-in white balance like Prores, and you have a nervous director or producer who doesn’t want to commit to the blue look, then you can also make a blue look LUT instead of changing your in-camera white balance. I really hate to do that, but it has saved my bacon before on one project when the director and editor decided to shift some shot footage from one story location to another. A blue ‘London’ scene became warm ‘San Francisco’ so we had to push the grade in the opposite direction. That would not have been possible (or would have looked pretty bad) if we had baked in the white balance. 

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10 minutes ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

What camera/format/codec or film stock are you shooting on?

Thanks a lot! I shall be shooting on the alexa mini in prores. 
 

Looking at the still from ‘Burning’, would you recommend solely shooting actual blue hour to get this look and use the wb to reinforce the blue tint to taste? or would you say that the look is quite easy to fake with white balance and underexposure at any time of day? As long as diffusion is used to soften hard sunlight? (8x8 or 12x12 frames)

thanks!

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1 hour ago, imran qureshi said:

Thanks a lot! I shall be shooting on the alexa mini in prores. 
 

Looking at the still from ‘Burning’, would you recommend solely shooting actual blue hour to get this look and use the wb to reinforce the blue tint to taste? or would you say that the look is quite easy to fake with white balance and underexposure at any time of day? As long as diffusion is used to soften hard sunlight? (8x8 or 12x12 frames)

thanks!

I think you should shoot it at the right time of day.

If you shoot while the sun is up, the landscape will still be hard lit and won’t match the light on your talent.

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The light during twilight gets bluer by the minute and if you record ProRes, the color temperature is baked into the recording so it helps to get it close to what you want. Since it can take time to create different color temp settings in the Alexa beyond what is already there, I have the ACs pre-build a couple of settings. Early twilight, I might start at 3800K or 4000K for a blue look... but soon I’ll jump to 4300K, 4800K, 5500K before it’s gone completely. The exact values aren’t important, the idea is just to keep the image from getting super blue.

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7 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

The light during twilight gets bluer by the minute and if you record ProRes, the color temperature is baked into the recording so it helps to get it close to what you want. Since it can take time to create different color temp settings in the Alexa beyond what is already there, I have the ACs pre-build a couple of settings. Early twilight, I might start at 3800K or 4000K for a blue look... but soon I’ll jump to 4300K, 4800K, 5500K before it’s gone completely. The exact values aren’t important, the idea is just to keep the image from getting super blue.

Brilliant, thank you! Enjoyed your ep on the team deakins podcast by the way!

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