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What is Day for Night?

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 11/24/2009

Learn about how to transform day into night for digital video projects.

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    Making Day Look Like Night

    Film and video production is often about making things that are not their in real life appear in your story space. As a filmmaker it is up to you to craft your images to serve your purpose, and to do this you have to follow a whole host of filmmaking techniques to mimic the world you are trying to create for the audience.

    Night situations are often very difficult because you have make them appear as they are actually taking place at night while at the same time actually allowing enough light so everything can be seen. A technique that is often used in filmmaking and can be done in most situations is called day for night.

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    Underexposure, Filters, and Position

    Day for night, quite literally, is taking the day and making it look like night. In this way the day is posing as night for your situation. To pull off day for night you use a combination of two filmmaking elements: specific exposure and filters.

    You usually start by underexposing the image, and then you add different filters to change both the quality and sharpness of an image. In this way you try to mimic light that appears at least in direction as if it could come from night sources. Then through underexposure and filters you change the color and intensity of that light, making it look easily as if it could have come from a night time source in the dark environment of late hours.

    The easiest way to do this is if you have a very bright natural light as this works well to mimic moonlight. Try to shoot outside when there are sharp shadows and fast fallow because this will help even more with the moon effect. Try to utilize the graduated filter in these situations and you can usually get away with underexposure at around three stops.

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    Light Gels

    You can also try to use gels on light kits and bulbs if this works. A blue light is often used to filter over and give a "night" colored light. This is often used in set based television with a live component, such as situation comedies. It does not always look real but it is a form of indication of environment to the audience.

    Of course, you could also wait to film that scene at night, known as night for night, which comes with its own set of problems.