Indie Filmmaking: Creating Moonlight

Indie Filmmaking: Creating Moonlight

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As filmmakers, we have to film scenes in all kinds of situations. One of the more challenging things to shoot is a scene that takes place at night. You have to consider where you are going to motivate your lighting from, whether it’s practical lights, the moon, or something else. Additionally, you have to decide the best way to create that light, within the space that you have. Today, director of photography Hunter Gulan walks us through how to shoot night interior scene on any budget, using high end and low budget lighting gear.

In this video, Hunter shows us the steps he takes when shooting a night interior scene. First, he establishes a character inside the room, sitting in the dark. This allows for more attention to be put towards the moonlight coming through the window. Next, he adds a second character entering the scene, coming through the door when the lights turn on. This causes him to create a lighting gag for the lights to turn on during the shot. Lastly, he shoots a wide shot of the scene with the lights on. In this shot, he contrasts the cool moonlight with the warm interior light.

The main techniques we will be discussing today are creating moonlight, creating color contrast, and working smarter and not harder. Creating moonlight refers to the way one shapes their lighting to appear as natural moonlight. This usually means creating a soft source that is slightly blue, to look like the moon. Creating color contrast means lighting a scene with lights that are two different colors or color temperatures. In this example, there is contrast between the warm light inside the house and the cool blue light outside. Working smarter not harder means thinking about how best to convey information with imagery, while shooting your scene in the most efficient way. In this scene, the lighting gag was done in a close up shot to save time, as opposed to lighting the entire room.

Whether you’re lighting in the direct sunlight, or in the middle of the night, there are some lighting techniques that will apply anywhere. Soft lighting is going to make your subjects look good no matter where you are. Color contrast is another thing that can always be used to enhance the look of your film. Just keep in mind, wherever you are, and whatever you’re shooting, you can always use lighting and your environment to help tell your story.

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