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Forums Cinematography Successfully Achieving an “Evenly Dim/Evenly Dark/Evenly Moody” Look

  • Successfully Achieving an “Evenly Dim/Evenly Dark/Evenly Moody” Look

     Chris Santucci updated 1 year, 2 months ago 7 Members · 10 Posts
  • Logan McIntyre

    April 23, 2019 at 3:37 am

    Hi everyone. I’ll be shooting a short film this summer that’ll require several scenes with a more or less “evenly” dim/lowlight look indoors. Scenes that look like moonlight or dusk interiors, but the source of light is not coming from an onscreen source, and the light source is evenly flooding the interior.

    It’s hard to find samples of this online, as most dusk or moonlit interiors often display an obviously harsh, single source onscreen, but I found one below from a Magnavox spot made by a Miami-based video production company; specifically in the spot’s second half:

    They have some other “dim/moody” cinematography in other parts of their portfolio, as well:

    So, I’d like to ask you all two things, based on the spot in the link above:

    1) How do you think they were able to achieve the even, dim-to-dark look of the second half of the spot, without almost any grain in the footage?

    2) There’s a scene where they go from a somewhat illuminated party, to near total darkness. What’s the best way to achieve that, so it looks natural, and you don’t have any crazy peaking or underexposure on either end of the transition?

    We’ll be shooting on a RED Epic-W Helium. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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  • Blaise Douros

    April 23, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    How do you get dim-to-dark stuff without grain? Simple–light it like you would normally light it, and underexpose by a stop or two. Soft, colored lighting, especially blue, gives the impression that light is dimmer than it actually is, as well.

  • Mark Suszko

    April 23, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    That, and finish it off in the grading step. It’s important to show some motivator for the notional light source in most cases of “day for night” or “night for night”. Blue is the mainstay, but it’s nice to have some little fan or shaft of yellowy tungsten crash across a scene from a motivated source like a lamp, a nightlight, the crack of a door or a sliver of window shade, or lights off instruments or appliances or a TV.

  • Gary Huff

    April 23, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    If you underexpose your image you will get noise. Best thing to do is to use underexposing as a guide, but shoot properly exposed, then underexpose in post.

  • Rick Wise

    April 23, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    Mark’s suggestion of a small splash some sort of warm light in a blue-night scene helps address this phenomenon: if a scene is lit entirely by only one color, in a short while the viewer’s eyes see that color as “white.” But, if there’s something in the scene that is another color, the eye retains the dominant sense/connection to that one color. Look at submarine “dive” sequences when the sub is under attack: most of the light will be red and flashing red, but there’s always some white or blue in the shot as well to keep the redness fresh to the eye.

    Rick Wise
    MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
    San Francisco Bay Area

  • Blaise Douros

    April 24, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    To be clearer, I probably should have said “expose it darker.” What I meant is that rather than exposing for 75 IRE on skin tones, a dark scene will just require a darker exposure.

  • Todd Terry

    April 24, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    I’m gonna chime in and agree with most everyone here, I think.

    Looking at those samples, my guess is that it was exposed more-or-less normally and lit more-or-less normally (although with quite flat lighting) and all the darkening was done in post. In some cases there where noticeable hair/back/splash lights that could have been a fair bit hotter than you might normally light (in order to preserve them after post). It might have been originally shot a little on the dark side, but if so I doubt it was much.

    No doubt the finished product looks radically different than it would have to the naked eye on set.


    Todd Terry
    Creative Director
    Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

  • Gary Huff

    April 25, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    [Blaise Douros] “To be clearer, I probably should have said “expose it darker.””

    Yes, I understood that, but noise is not just a function of ISO, it’s also a function of starving the sensor of light. So if you don’t want noise, you should expose properly and then pull down exposure in post.

  • Blaise Douros

    April 25, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    But…just because an exposure is dark won’t make it automatically noisy. It will only become noisy if you went too far, and you’re trying to brighten it back up in post. I wasn’t suggesting underexposing and brightening in post. Just exposing darker than one normally would, in order to provide the illusion of a darker scene.

  • Chris Santucci

    June 26, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    Gary is right. Anything at 40 IRE or below is the danger zone.

    [URL=””]Cinematographer Cameraman Camera Operator Director of Photography Buffalo, New York[/URL][URL=””]

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