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”.

Using Get Out (2017) as its case study, Insider examines why it’s so difficult to shoot night scenes during the day:

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 Andrew Jackson, VFX supervisor on Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), instead requested the daytime shots be over-exposed, so that detail in the shadows would be retained during the colour-darkening process in post:

It’s more about evoking a similarity to the truth rather than an exact carbon copy

Cinematography at Night | From the Frame

From the Frame looks at techniques used by cinematographers such as Roger Deakins, Greig Fraser on Dune (2021), Erik Messerschmidt on Mank (2020), Hoyte van Hoytema on Nope (2021), Jarin Blaschke on The Northman (2022), and Eben Bolter in The Last of Us (2022)…

… and as mentioned in the above video, here’s one of those revealing BTS twitter threads from The Last of Us DP Eben Bolter (click through for more):

Try It Yourself

To demonstrate how this technique is used most effectively in stylised visual storytelling, Barrett Kaufman applies a quick colour grade to shots from the trailer of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024):

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 begins with using the sun as a hard light source, and separating subject and background, before demonstrating post processing in DaVinci Resolve:

Color Grading Central demonstrates more techniques to Turn Daylight into Moonlight in DaVinci Resolve:

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