View Full Version : day for/as night technique?

20-May-2007, 21:05

So if anyone's seen the most recent zombie movie 28 Weeks Later you'll notice some hella awesome day for night scenes. TOTALLY RAD' and BEAUTIFUL!

I understand the basic idea of underexposing to make things darker (or blue filter and polarizer when shooting color) but I'm wondering if there might be more of a technique than just underexposure. e.g. does it make more sense to expose normally and under develop (maybe n-2) or to under expose and develop normally? etc.



Mike Davis
20-May-2007, 21:38
2 stops down is what we were taught in film school. But it depends on the film stock and the situation. The film can be pushed and flashed to bring out more detail. But you lose contrast when you flash.


Donald Qualls
21-May-2007, 13:33
Underexposing will make the image dark, but with normal contrast. Underdeveloping will make the image somewhat dark, but reduce contrast.

If you look carefully at real night lighting, you'll see it's usually high contrast -- there'll be a light source, and there'll be very deep, black darkness, with many stops of difference between. Reducing development won't yield the high contrast typical of night images; in fact, you might consider increasing development to N+1 or even N+2, and reducing exposure that much more, so you get empty or nearly empty shadows while keeping the contrast with the (still dimly) lit mid tones and letting the brightest areas (reflections, light sources) almost block up.

Antonio Corcuera
22-May-2007, 08:30
At school we used a high contrast setting (under a large tree with midday sun for example) and 2 screw-in polarizers.

Dan Chung
30-May-2007, 13:31
What I do is I overexpose the film and pull process or underdevelop. What this does is it puts more info on the shadow areas. Sure the highlights will get more exposure but its going to be blown anyway. This technique decreases the contrast but as Donald said, night scenes are very high in contrast. see my night photos www.danchungphoto.com

Donald Qualls
30-May-2007, 20:24
Dan, "Day for night" technique is used to make an exposure that looks like a night shot, but do it in daylight (sunlight becomes moonlight, give or take). What you're doing sounds like real night photography, an entirely different bag of tricks.

John Kasaian
31-May-2007, 07:31
I took a gander at your website and all I can say is WOW! I think your nocturnals are wonderful! Thanks for posting the link.

I've never made a "day for night shot" on purpose :o but the technique was used quite frequently on old b&w western films---most likely any chase scenes or ambushes that happen at "night" never did.

31-May-2007, 07:58

There is good information about day for night on cinematography.com. Here are a couple of recent threads, including a couple of posts from a member of the American Society of Cinematographers:



If you do a search on that site, you will find additional threads, some dealing with film and some with high definition video. I suspect that you will have to register to do a search. If you don't want to do that, you can probably use Google to search the site if you use the right search terms.

There are also discussions about day for night, including technical guidance, in Nestor Almendros's A Man with A Camera. See, especially, the chapters on Francois Truffaut's The Wild Child (1970) and Terrence Malik's Days of Heaven (1976, for which Almendros won an Academy Award). The book is out of print, but can be obtained via the on-line second hand books sites, such as abebooks.com. It is a wonderful book. If you want, I could scan the relevant pages from Almendros and send them to you.

It's kind of interesting to compare Almendros's day for night in Days of Heaven with Rodrigo Prieto's approach to day for night in Brokeback Mountain (2005). Coincidentally, Days of Heaven was shot in rural Alberta, as were Brokeback Mountain's more stunning sequences. Note David Mullen's comments, in one of the above threads, about the relative appropriateness of day for night in urban and rural areas. Mullen is best known for his work on the Polish Brothers films, especially Northfork (2003), a film that was shot in colour, but heavily desaturated.

Truffaut's wonderful film Day for Night (1973, La Nuit americaine in French) takes its title from the technique.


31-May-2007, 09:58
In my post above, the second thread has a link to a show reel called Day for Night from the website of this Vancouver post production house: http://www.nwfx.com/reels.htm

I just had a look at the sequence. Quite a cool demonstration of doing day for night in post.

The American Cinematographer articles referred to are in the January 2006 (Brokeback Mountain) and May 2006 (The Proposition) issues. The quote from the article on The Proposition is in the thread. About Brokeback, Prieto told American Cinematographer:

"We had to shoot one long dialogue scene that was set at dusk in the middle of the day. I created a fire effect on the actors' faces that was really, really bright to compete with the daylight in the background. I used an 81D filter plus heavy NDs on the lens so the background would look slightly blue and soft-focus, as though the day was about to end. We blocked the daylight from the actors with a black 12-by-12 overhead frame, and I brought up the exposure of the firelight effect on their faces to the same level as the background daylight, then underexposed everything to make it feel like dusk."

31-May-2007, 15:29
Funny that this comes up now.

A few days ago, I was channel flipping and hit on The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, there are a lot of scenes at night, and I was thinking, these must have been shot day for night. They have a certain look, which I like aesthetically.

There's also some pretty interesting editing in the film that violates some basic rules to good effect.

3-Jun-2007, 11:24
28 days later utilised more often than not a crapload of post production with colour correction after a very clean shot had been created. All of it was done on Canon XL1' with 35mm adapters then lighting added in post so the overall effect could be controlled. With controlled windows of time this is the only way Boyle secured shutting down london where he needed, along with the obvious motorway closures.

I have to say, most post I have done like this is great fun and a proper challenge when creating mattes. Much better than all the bluescreen/greenscreen stuff I have done recently, which is plain boring.