Film School: Shooting Day for Night

Turn day into night | Tom Antos Turn day into night | Tom Antos

The classic film-making technique for capturing nighttime exteriors – using daylight.

Film requires a lot of light in order to get a proper exposure. Before the days of low-light-capable digital cameras, this traditionally posed a problem for film-makers wanting to capture exterior scenes set at night. The solution: shoot during the day, with careful adjustments made both in-camera and in post-production to fake darkness – “day for night”.

While introducing this technique used to create night scenes in films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), whose day-for-night shots were achieved by underexposing their daytime shots, Happe Chappe notes that Mad Max: Fury Road‘s VFX supervisor, Andrew Jackson, instead requested the daytime shots be over-exposed, so that detail in the shadows would be retained during the colour-darkening process in post:

Try It Yourself

Cinecom demonstrates their approach to post-processing day-for-night footage in Premiere Pro:

Tom Antos demonstrates his approach (including not over-exposing your daytime footage) in After Effects:

Moviola has an eye to using the sun as a hard light source, and separating subject and background, before demonstrating post processing in DaVinci Resolve: