Lighting for Night Video Shoots

Lighting for Night Video Shoots

Night scene lighting is one of the grandest
of all illusions. Though getting good results seems easy, it only takes a few minutes on
set to realize that it is one of the hardest setups to get right. That’s why it’s incredibly
helpful to understand both the theory and practice behind good night scene lighting
in any situation before you get the crew together. To help you, we’ll show you how to light car
interiors at night, and how to achieve great results at night in an outdoor setting. With
this information, you’ll not only be able to create more efficient lighting setups,
you’ll be able to create artistic images as well. Of all night lighting situations, lighting
car interiors is often the most challenging and fun. Of course, that’s only if you have
the right equipment and know what to expect. If you’re new to lighting night scenes, the
first thing you’re likely to find is that any naturally occurring light is far too dim
for camera sensors to pick up without producing a grainy image. As a result, you’ll have to
use your own lights to mimic the natural light in your scene. However, in order to power
your lights and keep your talent safe, you may want to consider lighting your car while
standing still. This way, you can draw power from outlets and have more room to maneuver
your lighting gear. In our case, we decided to use a strong daylight-balanced light to
mimic the moon hitting our subjects shoulders and head. This light helped us to separate
our subject from the dark areas of the scene. Keep in mind that this light should be coming
from a fairly small source. This way, it will cast very defined areas of light and shadow.
Next, in order to see some details on our subject’s face, we placed a daylight-balanced
LED light inside the instrument panel. The reason for the LED light was to make sure
the wattage was low enough plug into our car’s power port without killing the battery or
blowing a fuse. This light ended up being bright enough to serve as our key light. Lastly,
we also set a large diffuser on the opposite side of our subject in order to bring out
a bit of detail in the shadows of our subject’s face. We used a dimmer to make sure this light
was much darker than the key light coming from the instrument panel. This dimmer also
allowed us to make the light flicker which added realism to our scene. At this point,
we placed a hard, indoor-balanced light to the side and above our talent to mimic passing
streetlights. By keeping the light balanced for indoor lighting we were able to make it
appear orange in color when hitting our talent’s face. We got a bit more creative by mounting
two incandescent fixtures on a boom pole to represent car headlights. With a volunteer
moving the lights behind and past our car, and another giving the car some movement,
our scene was able to look even more realistic. Of course, the most realistic way to get light
in your scene is to supplement some lighting inside of the car while driving it. Though
it’s impossible to completely control light in this scenario, it is possible to locate
a section of road with plenty of streetlights. This can give your subject more light and
make it appear as if the car is moving quickly. It’s important have an instrument panel LED
light and a daylight-balanced backlight in the scene so that there is some lighting to
separate your subject when passing through darker sections of the road. If you don’t
have a big enough power inverter to have two lights, you can always replace the instrument
panel light with a small, battery powered LED fixture found in most big box retail stores. One of the toughest scenes to light at night
is the outdoor scene. More so than any other lighting situation, outdoor scenes need to
be planned carefully so that natural lights are close by. For example, instead of having
your talent in the middle of a street or dark alley, it would be better to move them closer
to a building with its lights on. This way, you can use the soft light coming from the
building windows as a key light and a strong, daylight-balanced light far above and behind
your subject to mimic light from the moon. Another idea is to place your subject facing
a streetlight which can illuminate their face while placing a small amount of fill light
on the dark side of your talent’s face. In this scenario, you can still use a daylight-balanced
light as a backlight. One important factor to consider during the planning stages is
how wide your outdoor night scenes will be. The wider the shot, the higher and more intense
your moonlight will have to be in order to shed enough light on the scene. This is why
HMI lights are often used by professional lighting crews. These lamps can output up
to 12,000 watts of power, covering any scene with plenty of light. However, these lights
can break a budget rather quickly. As such, it might be a good idea to plan medium shots
and close-ups for your outdoor scenes. Lastly, you’ll want to think about your crews safety.
It’s very difficult to see cables and light stands in the dark so make sure to use sand
bags and gaffer tape to secure them to the ground. As difficult as it may sound, lighting night
scenes doesn’t have to be hard. With a knowledge of how to approach common lighting situations
as well as a bit of practice, you’ll soon be filming night scenes that look as good
as those in the movies.

42 thoughts on “Lighting for Night Video Shoots

  1. @oribali1 Videomaker offers a lower quality and minimal videos on youtube. If you want the full quality and full video library, you have to pay for the service on videomaker's website

  2. I will be shooting a scene in which a girl is sleeping in night and suddenly she wakes.So what must be the lighting and some other necessary things that are preferrable to shoot such a scene?how is it possible to reduce grains for such scenes when using a d-slr?

  3. Ok, i think you are using waaayyy too many lights for a few seconds worth of footage. Something like 10 lights in the car scene? I did like the idea about filming next to buildings with their lights on. However, yeah i doubt a semi pro would invest in that many lights (most have 3-4 lights max… Which u shouldnt need more than anyway). I wouldve filmed this actually on the road, with one LED light to illuminate the actor's face, and with the car interior light on to act as a rim light

  4. for those who wants a cheaper (but same effect) of the led lights, just download it at your smartphone. You'll also need any metal rod, case for your smartphone or tablet and tape.

  5. Pretty good lightning, but theres one thing that doesnt look good. Look the drivers hands at 2:58. The hands are much too lighted. That doesnt look naturaly. Is there a good way to avoid that?

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