Production Lighting: 6 Tips for Filming at Night

Adequate lighting is important with any film production. This is especially true with filming during the night. The amount and quality of light lets you see the elements included in the scene. Filming at night poses numerous challenges. How a camera sees and records a scene during the night is different as to how a person sees it. A filmmaker has to effectively illuminate the scene so that the camera will be able to record the various important elements without losing the effect of being shot during nighttime. Here are a few tips in order to be able to effectively illuminate the scene for filming during the night.

1. Use Reflectors and White Cards to Reflect Light

With filming during nighttime, the colors are subdued or less intense. Moonlight can also provide some illumination but only a limited amount of it. The light from the moon also appears bland. Filmmakers use blue filters to correct the light reflected from the moon. Use additional artificial lighting sources such as LED or even fluorescent tubes to add illumination at the scene.The video camera must have a fast lens in order to absorb the little amount of natural light available during the night. Use reflectors to bounce off the light onto to your subject or segments of the scene. If no reflectors are available, large white cards can also function in the same way.

2. Use Snow

If you decide to film during winter, the snow can act as a natural light reflector. Light bouncing off the snow illuminates the scene. However, it is important to note that snow is less efficient in reflecting light as compared to reflectors and can also be expensive to purchase and use.

3. Wet the Ground

Water placed on concrete can act as a good reflector. This is good especially when working with cityscapes which can provide a good level of illumination. Light reflected from streetlamps, neon lights and even cars can provide additional lighting or add interest to the scene.

4. Highlight only a Few Small Areas

Do not flood the scene with light or leave the scene too dark. Pick areas to illuminate and distinguish from the darker background. When shooting landscapes, highlight trees and fences. Use small artificial lighting sources such as lanterns, fluorescent lighting tubes or even light reflected from the headlights of a car. Depending on the strength of the light and the intended effect, these can be reflected using white cards or toned down by placing them behind a screen.

5. Do a Test before the Actual Shoot

Test different scenes with different light sources and reflectors before doing the final shoot. This lets filmmakers plan ahead on which light sources and reflectors can achieve the desired effect. Have the test shots played on a TV which will simulate the sets that will show the program material on.

6. Shoot during Dusk or Twilight

These times replicate a nighttime effect while providing more natural light for filming. Filmmakers will need to rehearse how to efficiently use the time and light during these times as this phase only lasts for less than an hour.

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