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anax276

Shoot in the dark or fake it?

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Dear forum,

I would like to shoot a scene set in a dark room (only lit by a torch/flashlight). (It’s supposed to be a burglary scene.)

The problem is: If I shoot in the dark, I will have quality problems, since I’ll have to use high ISO on a Panasonic GH5.

What would you do? Shoot in the dark with high ISO and try to fix it with a denoiser or shoot with more light and fake the darkness in post?

And no, I’m not going to buy a GH5S or a Sony for this! 🙂

 

Thanks for any tips!

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Wait. Shooting a dark scene does not necessarily mean crazy high ISO.

You really need to think about what you are exposing for. Do you want to see beams of light, with body shapes looming out of the shadows? Or is it important to see the actors faces, even when they are in the dark parts of the set?

Darkness is suggested by high contrast, not just by making everything dark. So the trick is to get some specks of bright light hitting just the things you want the audience to see.

Also, it's common for dark scenes to be lit slightly higher than intended and then 'crushed' somewhat in post (the shadow values taken down). This allows you to preserve a bit of detail in the shadows without the crazy ISOs you are correctly trying to avoid. 

The problem you will have with this last method is that, as I mentioned before, the real trick is to preserve high contrast, and if you raise the shadows, you also have to raise everything else - in other words, your flashlight and accent lights will then have to be pretty powerful.

Spot metering is your friend.

Do some tests. Grade the tests.

A monitoring LUT might help on set if you are doing a kind of 'day for night' job.

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Atmosphere (fog or haze) is very often used to give torch lights those volumetric beams, btw.

One more point - the most important aspect of these kinds of lighting setups is the modifiers.  Particularly you will need quite a range of flags to control where your highlights end up, and to protect the rest of the set from stray light.  If you can't get hold of professional ones, you can improvise these with bits of thick cloth or cardboard.  But *IMPORTANT* be aware of fire safety using these materials alongside hot lights.  

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I say properly lit it and "fake" it, cause if you can figure out and master it you will have some really valuable skills from it.

Go watch some classic movies with night scenes, you can be pretty sure most if not all of them are lit, take elements you like from those and try to figure out how it was done.

You can still get away with pretty low amount of light and small LED even with crappy color will do fine, you are going to have very low saturation at night anyway. a bunch of 1$ light meant for closets for example, be creative.

Forget the 180* rule, if you ever walked around at night any movement will blur very fast, so cranking it as slow at it will go can work for that feel, and save you a stop of light too.
It will also limit some of the "strobing" you will get from bright lights or highlights when panning.
 

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2 hours ago, anax276 said:

Dear forum,

I would like to shoot a scene set in a dark room (only lit by a torch/flashlight). (It’s supposed to be a burglary scene.)

The problem is: If I shoot in the dark, I will have quality problems, since I’ll have to use high ISO on a Panasonic GH5.

What would you do? Shoot in the dark with high ISO and try to fix it with a denoiser or shoot with more light and fake the darkness in post?

And no, I’m not going to buy a GH5S or a Sony for this! 🙂

 

Thanks for any tips!

Do this:

1. Light the room enough with soft lighting to maintain exposure at ISO1600 at most with reasonable contrast between areas. Don't go higher than that, because you may need to bring down exposure to ISO800 later, if need to, to ensure there is no noise in shadows. Also ensure none of the lights are anywhere near the frame and are super soft. 

2. Fill the room with smoke (the fastest and easiest way is to use a Vape/ eCigarette) and spread the smoke around to make a Very even but thin layer. Ensure that there isn't any moving air once you fix the smoke in the room.

3. Use a strong torchlight and see how glary or contrast the light it. Adjust the smoke and light intensity accordingly.

4. Maintain a cool colour temperature in post, to give it the correct night look. It's shouldn't look warm. Also try and set the lighting similar to the torchlight so that the colours don't dance around.

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3 minutes ago, sanveer said:

Do this:

1. Light the room enough with soft lighting to maintain exposure at ISO1600 at most with reasonable contrast between areas. Don't go higher than that, because you may need to bring down exposure to ISO800 later, if need to, to ensure there is no noise in shadows. Also ensure none of the lights are anywhere near the frame and are super soft. 

2. Fill the room with smoke (the fastest and easiest way is to use a Vape/ eCigarette) and spread the smoke around to make a Very even but thin layer. Ensure that there isn't any moving air once you fix the smoke in the room.

3. Use a strong torchlight and see how glary or contrast the light it. Adjust the smoke and light intensity accordingly.

4. Maintain a cool colour temperature in post, to give it the correct night look. It's shouldn't look warm. Also try and set the lighting similar to the torchlight so that the colours don't dance around.

I would expose to the flashlight(I rather shoot at iso 400 then iso1600). Then light the room to fill darkness. Crush the blacks on post. Use haze instead of smoke. 

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I guess it depends where you are, but very few places are completely dark, even at night. Street lights, other house lights, passing cars... even in rural areas moonlight can light a room. I would seriously consider punching a hard light with a CTB gel through a window (as far back from the window as is practical) to mimic that light, exposed at one stop under, and expose for your flashlights maybe a half or a full stop over. 

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