One work around is to shoot 'Day for Night', which involves shooting the scene in sunlight (works best shooting on cloudy/overcast day) and then grading in post to make the image look a little like twilight. I tried this early on when I started making films and really hated the results, I've always found it better to shoot in darkness and bring in whatever light I can. The result is always a far better image.
Having a budget usually solves this problem by hiring huge spotlights and generators to help make up for the lack of good light, but this is expensive and something that is usually saved for large budget productions. If you, like us, are usually make stuff on spit and buttons, then you'll need to come up with more creative solutions to work around your lack of light.
Here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of shooting at night and how to take that into account when you are looking for your location.
1. pick your location wisely
On Legacy of Thorn, when it came time to shoot the infamous 'bridge scene', I spent months looking for a bridge that we could shoot on without being disturbed that would also give us enough light to cover the action. The first one we tried, we scoped during the day, took note that it had street lights above it and figured it would give us enough light. On returning in the evening, not only did we find that most of the street lights were broken, but it was also a well known hangout for crackheads who made themselves a problem very quickly.
We eventually found something closer to home that fit perfectly and although it had some street lighting, we still had to make up the difference with our own portable flood lights.
2. portable led lights
On shooting Cleaver : Rise of The Killer Clown, we were shooting a scene in a car, in the middle of the night, in a residential area. The last thing we wanted to do was pull a generator out there, or we certainly want to run cables across the road. The street lamps gave us some coverage, but nowhere near enough once our actress was in the vehicle. In stead we matched the street light colour on LED's with gels and just used whoever was free as light stands. It matched the natural light, but it gave us the extra light we needed to make the scene more visible.
These lights are great in place of having to drag a noisy generator down and even then it takes an expensive generator to run even our low wattage work lights, never mind our red heads or spotlights. Using these also means that should we need to, we can use a smaller generator to run other low power things like charging stations and smoke machines.
P.S. Before I could afford my own portable LED'S I made some for about £5/$7 each, find out how HERE.
3. fast lenses
When shooting the infamous 'Bridge Scene' on Legacy of Thorn, even with choosing the best location for light and having the portables there, I still ended up shooting almost every shot on my Canon 50mm f/1.8 to get a better image. The downside of this is that the depth of the image was very shallow, but the upside was that I got a better image and because we were shooting in a wide open space it meant that the close focal length didn't impact what I wanted to get too much.
These days if we're shooting outdoors I try to plan my shots around the widest opening lenses that I have. Its not always possible, but its worth thinking about.
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