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Night Time Lighting

Martin Lepley

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Although in reality it doesn't really look blue.... but moonlight is often represented as a very cold bluey white light. So I would use a pale, cold blue. But really it is all down to your interpretation - and what the director wants...
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For a dark night (where the characters aren't meant to see each other) the deepest blue you can find - in the past I've used double sheets of Lee 120 in 2kW fresnels (changing the gel every night). For Moonlight we probably all have our own preferences - mine is Lee 117.
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It does very much depend on the overall scene you're trying to light, interior or exterior, naturalistic or not.


I'm going to assume you're a "beginner" based on the question, so to try and kick off some practical suggestions we can debate but might get you going, you could look at something like Lee 079 or a darker blue for your general "dark" wash, then something like Lee 174 in a lantern hung as a 3/4 backlight to act as a "moon key". I would also recommend putting a small amount of "warm" light somewhere in the scene because that gives a "reference" for the viewers brain to see the blues as blue - without a colour contrast, the brain can "white balance" a single colour and your blues will have less of an impact. So say light a small piece of scene off to one side in a low-level Lee 103, or even something much warmer - but keep that very localised to avoid diluting the "blue" part of the scene. Depending on your scene this could be a warm window or a small table lamp or candle if an interior scene.



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Play with some sepia as well, kg.


For me night time is all sorts of tones but all of them dim and blurry. I used candles lots and lots to announce night because once a human sees a flame he trips straight back to the cave. Table lamps do similar triggering but in all things lighting and theatrical it is the difference between light and the absence of light that works.


As with most creative questions there is no "correct" answer. There is also no incorrect answer and people really do need to play. Find your own answers. Everybody here has good suggestions. Use them but not as a solution. Use them as a launch point for your own learning.

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If I do a nightime scene then yes I would use a blue but I would mix it slightly.


I would use a dark blue but add some other colour but a darker gel...


Modern nightime scene for a street then I would use a Dark blue with a slight hint of dark orange..


Forest then dark blue with a hint of dark green but then I would use a special: This would normally be a profile spot high above and angled to the other side of the stage for the moon light and I would use 061 lee gel.


Everyone has their own preference on different night time scenes and there is no right or wrong way of doing something. Its just having a play around with what you think looks great because scenery, director etc will have a big influence too.

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Recently we did Daisy and the cliff top scene was lit with a combination of L119 L716 and L601 for the wash and just a tiny bit of L152 to pick out faces. Worked really nicely, with the strobe occasionally striking lightning. Edited by alistermorton
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But the moon is yellow, not blue, which is a mystery, who started lighting night time scenes with blue ?


If someone has a colour meter, could they let me know what colour is moonlight please ?


I continue to use blue night time scenes as that is what the audience expects. I use the Lee Filters Art Of Light and use the effect/colour description to choose a filter to suit the mood. Go to page 22 for the blues.


It is much easier experimenting now with LED's and a colour picker, than buying a sheet of colour filter, not liking the result and having to buy a different colour filter.


Budget LED fixtures cannot produce the full range of blues you want to try, but it still gives you a choice. I use Light Factory because it has a good colour picker and uses advanced colour heuristics to add combinations of what other LED emitters are available to add to the blue emitter. Off topic but to support the advanced colour heuristics use, I had a drama teacher tell me the other day that they did not want any more RGBW LED fixtures as they could only supply red, green, blue and white colours and wanted a wider choice of colours !


Also consider that the amount of light falling on the actor is quite small compared to the overall scene, so make sure that walls, floors etc can be used to help the night time mood, or atmosphere.


Check your choice of colour suits the costume designer as well as the director.

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