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A tale of a gaffer and mirrors

Ok, enough with the small talk. You know when you turn on set and the DP tells you "Hey, we have to block all windows and shoot night at 2PM!" And when you speak real quick with the AD and she kindly tells you that the schedule can't change and the night shoots have to be done in the middle of the day. Well what do you do.

Well you take a moment and a cup of coffee.

I worked on a production that this situation was very much a present problem. I had to light a scene for the DP in the middle of the day and make it look in the middle of the night. The first thing I do is to black any of the sun light that might be flooding the room. I quickly grabbed some black bolton and doubled it up, with strong spring clamps the big window in the room was taken care of. Black bolton is a brilliant thing to have. If you don't have the budget for a set of flags and c-stands make sure you have a few big pieces of black bolton and strong clams to use for shaping and blocking of light.

So after the window was already taken care of, even though the door can be closed I add a black curtain from the same black drape to block the additional light that might bleed in the room and bounce from walls, objects, you know - just to be sure. And when the room is now pitch black we can add light in. The key thing about lighting a night scene is that there is a big contrast even when there is a lot of light. During the day the sun is very bright and the light goes everywhere where at night the moon acts as a huge bounce board and the shadows always stay darker even when particle lights are present. For that shot the DP need it to be very moody and drastic to fit with the scene before. So a single K light will be the key (you see what I did there? - jokes.) So I put a light on set - a 300W Arri fresnel. The light is full spot and barn doors closed up with 1.5x of CTB. I used a large piece of black wrap to block any light that can spill on to the set. I put that light back as far as I possibly could away form the opposite corner of the ceiling that is away from the talent.

Than (don't tell art dept, I think they didn't mind it anyways) I went upstairs and took

a mirror of the wall - a long, thing profile mirror, nothing to it. I got some of my trusty gaffer tape and made a few crosses on it than just reflected the light from the light on to the talent. And ta-da you've got it - moody night looking shot in the middle of the day.

But the good stuff do not stop here. In the movie was another shot where the same talent wakes out after a very disturbing night with a huge raging storm outside (how we did the storm is a case for another post). The DP wanted to spice it up and do something interesting so I thought - What about my mirrors?! And just said - "hold your hat and give me 24min."

I ran and grabbed another one of those mirrors. looked at the room and the lovely sun was flooding everything nicely - time to shape some light. I first blocked two out of the three windows that we have there. The DP wanted some for this shot - amazing! We smoke it up just to see it and how much light we have with the smoke in because as you know the smoke drops a few stops on the exposure. It turns out the sun is great and the light was very nice. I got my mirrors and found where the sun bleeds in the room and just started twisting around and placing it on the right places to get those nice splashes of light on the talent and the bed.

If you live next to an open area and in the morning you have cars parked close by you will see this effect when the sun reflects just right on the windshields near by.


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