How to turn Day into Night in Camera
How does one take a neutral coloured, bright, broad windowed pub in the middle of the day, and turn it into a moody, romantic and colourful restaurant at night? It all comes down, to lighting – and this is Minute Tip Monday. Day to Night is a technique as old as filmmaking itself, it’s the technique whereby you shoot during the day and adjust certain things either in camera or in post to make it look like night-time. This has the advantage of first of all, not shooting until 6am, and secondly, not being in the dark in the first place.
When we were filming on Bump, we had to turn a pub called “The Cock Inn”… yes, really, feel free to giggle… in the middle of the day, into a romantic restaurant. The pub was very neutral toned and wasn’t exactly designed for that romantic setting we wanted, we had to make this look like it was a romantic evening dinner date. So, here’s what we did. First off, if you want to do any kind of lighting setup, one thing you need to do is know where your natural light is coming from. In this case we had natural daylight spilling in from the window, which we cut off. You can usually do this using a blackout curtain or duvetene or a special material called “blackwrap”. But of course, the total budget of this film was virtually non-existent, so instead we used tin foil, which does the job in a pinch by cutting off the light entirely. You can easily stick it to the window, with a short spray of water. We did this several dozen times until two of the three windows were covered entirely.
Next was covering the top down lights with the same, this first cuts out any nasty harsh direct light intruding on the shot, allowing us to replace it with our warmer soft key lights. It also prevents sound from having to deal with harsh shadows created by the boom microphone by cutting that light out.
Now we kept a little light coming in from one of the windows, which at 5600 kelvin, is white, but when the camera’s white balance is set at 3200 kelvin or lower, to match the colour of our tungsten key lights, this light turns blue. See, all light has a colour temperature, from orange to blue. Your camera sets what’s called a “White Balance” to determine what exactly is the colour “white” in its image, our eyes correct for this automatically but cameras have to process colour based on input, so you have to tell it, what colour temperature the lights are. The lower colour temperature in “KELVIN” the more naturally orange a light is. The higher it’s kelvin, like natural daylight, the more it shifts toward blue.
Look around at home for cool white lights usually LEDs and older warmer lights and you’ll begin to notice the difference yourself.
So, we set our camera’s white balance to match our lights, which were warm tungsten lights, meaning they had a colour temperature of 3200 Kelvin. Naturally an orange light, but when the camera’s white balance is set to 3200 matching the light, it registers the light as “white”. This means the daylight, which is a higher temperature of light at 5600 kelvin, comes through in the camera as a blue light, which we used to give the perception of moonlight spilling through a window and giving the idea that it’s the evening.
We did run into an issue when the sun actually did go down, so we replicated this by putting “Colour Temperature Blue” or CTB gel over another light and putting it in place. We also did the same thing in “Sisters of House Black” for one of the scenes. Next we set up our Key light on the actors, we used a softbox to get a nice soft light on the actors and made sure our lights were tungsten, so, a low kelvin, so they’d appear normal and white, while the daylight, what little of it we let in, would be blue in the camera.
Next, we had a running themed colour of red, which works great for romantic settings. So, we put a red gel on an LED panel and splashed it across the backwall giving the bland grey background a nice romantic mood to the scene. This background light also helped separate the actors, as our subjects from the background itself, creating colour contrast. Lastly, we also had two practical lights turned on in the background, to give the idea that it is the evening and the lights need to be turned on. This also had the added benefit of also being the “backlight” to separate our actors from the background.
Let’s quickly break that down.
We set our camera’s white balance to 3200 Kelvin, matching our softboxed tungsten key lights on the subjects.
We used our low kelvin white balance in camera to make the daylight and its high kelvin blue on the camera’s and make it look like moonlight.
We cut off most of the daylight, so it wasn’t too bright using tin foil and sprayed water. We cut off the overhead lights that wouldn’t turn off with blackwrap.
And we splashed the background with a red gel on an LED to separate the actors with two beautiful practical lights to make it seem like it was the evening.
And so there we go, it’s all about controlling the light by cutting it off in various ways, and using the natural colour balance of various temperature lights and the way your camera interprets that light with it’s White Balance, to turn a bright pub into a romantic evening setting all while shooting in the middle of the day.
Mastering colour balance can be a great way to master the mood of your scene and we talk about all kinds of creative filmmaking things on the Leon Unity channel, so if you like that consider subscribing it really helps us out. We also have the Leon Unity discord server, where you can join us and other creatives for a chat or just hit us up on twitter, Instagram or facebook. If you liked this video, hit the like button and share this video to help us grow a community of filmmakers and storytellers – and tell us in the comment box below what other kinds of real world filmmaking tips we can give you from our adventures on set.
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