05 Jul 5 Filmmaking Tips & Tricks to Shoot in the Dark
Filmmaking Tips For Video Production Shooting at Night
Here at VMP, we love sleep. We REALLY love sleep. We love it so much. This deep love probably comes down to the fact that sometimes, when the project calls for it, we get deprived of sleep. But as sucky as that is, sometimes it’s worth it. One of the most memorable sleepless nights was when filming with the Emergency Services to create a series of e-learning courses designed for SES Training. One module, in particular, required night scenes to demonstrate safety procedures and equipment. As you might know, it is quite challenging shooting at night as your footage can appear grainy and unfocused with unbalanced tones. Usually, cinematographers will shoot day for night, schedule during dusk/twilight or just avoid it all together, however, here at VMP, we love a challenge!
Now because sharing is caring, (and we care a lot), we have put together a few tips and tricks for anyone venturing out for a late night video production shoot!
1. Preparation: Don’t be caught out in the dark
Times whatever you have scheduled by two and pack enough batteries for that! Stock up on batteries for lights, camera and don’t forget trusty AAs for torches which you should provide for the crew and talent. You may think the torch on your phone will be sufficient but it’s not worth using all the battery and risk losing the only source of communication. An alternative is to use generators which is a handy device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. VMP was fortunate enough to use the generators from the SES to power our lights way late into the night!
2. Lights: You kind of need them
A camera in a low light setting, (even the much improved new tech), won’t be able to capture the same clarification as the human eye. If you have the resources create pools of light from artificial lights (Read our previous VMP blog on 3-point lighting), to prevent a spotlight effect.
When setting up your shot, try and position some in-camera light sources within the background. This breaks the black infinity backdrop which can look a little harsh and kind of boring. If you are in a city you can use things like street lamps, traffic lights and traffic. If you are in a bush setting like the VMP shoot were you can use the moon or better yet create one! We had our C-stand at its highest heights and used a deep blue gel for a visual kick – instant moonlight! Another cool trick is using water within the frame. Reflecting light from wet surfaces not only illuminates your shot but also makes it visually more interesting!
NOTE: If you are shooting something like weddings, news reports or a documentary, you can attach a light on the front of your camera. The sun gun is very direct and can be harsh but does allow for quick ‘run and gun’ filming.
3. CAMERA: Know your aperture
To successfully shoot at night the number one aim is to let as much light into the sensor without destroying the image quality. To achieve this there are several different elements to consider with the key components being the f-stop, ISO and shutter speed. As there are so many cameras out there with different quality settings, here are some general guidelines:
- An aperture between f/1.2 and f/5.6 is the recommended setting while shooting in a low light setting.
- Bump up your ISO although try not to go over the native ISO of your camera!
- Adjust the shutter speed to 1/50 and be mindful of lights flickering and movement.
- Be mindful of the type of lens to use. Using a wide-angle lens with a fixed focal length (prime) is recommended as the iris will be wider, therefore, allowing more light in.
- Also, be sure you are filming in manual focus as your focus will drift!
Before recording, make sure to run through the blocking with your actors. You don’t want your talent to give the best performance of their lifetime to find out it was all lost in a shadow! Use markers to give the talent an idea of the frame. This can be done with drawing a line with some chalk, sticking some tape to the ground or pretty much anything you can find lying around – a pen, stick or rock.
5. DON’T FORGET: Keep your crew happy :)
Now as obvious as it is, remember to cater for your team! If you are going to be shooting late into the night you will have to keep everyone happy and energized! Provided plenty of food and water and don’t forget about COFFEE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hopefully, we have shed some light into the dark and dreary realms of nighttime shooting!
If you would like to read more about this shoot, click here for our February newsletter.
VMP is a Brisbane video production house which specialises in all forms of media production. Our services range from television commercials to promotional videos, corporate videos, online video production, e-learning projects and more. Delivering quality screen productions for over 20 years, VMP is one of Brisbane’s leading video and film production companies. We are your one-stop shop for corporate video production Brisbane. For more information, a quote or just a chat about how we can deliver your message more effectively, please don’t hesitate to contact us or check out our studio!