Day for Night Shot Scene

Creating clouds and moon

Hoolywood Special Effects

Hollywood used the day for night shot during the 1950’s and in the 60’s. The day for night shot was often used when a production budget did not allow for lighting a night scene.
    To make the scene appear it were night, the DP would close down the camera aperture allowing less light to be exposed on the film. After the film was processed and played back on the projector it appeared the scene was shot at night.
    There were a few pitfalls involved that ruined the entire scene when the DP and the film director were not cautious of the external environment. Often there were heavy shadows and sun flares beaming off chrome bumpers and glass. The budgets were low and production cost did not allow to go back and shoot the scene over. During those years nothing could be done to correct the problem in post production. The audience may have been fooled into believing the scene took place at night, but today’s audience is much more savvy.

     Today there is equipment that can remedy such problems and allow a day for night shot to be effectively performed in post production. The equipment is a mixer with a T-bar controller and using a simple dissolve transition to create the day for night shot.
    A few things need to take place during the production. The camera aperture will not need to be closed off. Everything will be corrected in post production. It is important to reduce the contrast ration in the scenes. There must not be any heavy shadows or sun flares from shiny objects. Contrast ratio can be reduced by shooting in the late evening, early morning, or on a overcast day. This will also remedy sun flaring.
    Shoot the scene accordingly and take it back to the studio for touching up and completing the day for night shot. Once the scene is edited it is ready to make the transition from day to night. This will require a poster board of either dark blue or black depending on how dark the scene. Video the poster board for a few minutes or however long the edited scene timeline last. The edited scene is source B and the poster board is source A. Pull source A up and using the T-bar and the dissolve transition, slowly dissolve the scene over the poster board. It works well and if the scene is too dark or too light it can be brought back to the editing room for more touching up.
    There are a few more tricks to add complete realism to your production that even Hollywood does not know about and that is adding heavenly objects in the sky such as the moon, stars and clouds without the use of CGI (Computer Generated Images), and it is simple.
    Stars in the night sky can be easily duplicated by adding glitter in spots on the poster board. Use a dim hand held light to illuminate the make shift stars by passing the light over the glitter. This adds the effect of flickering lights that are seen as stars at night. Use the video camera’s manual focus and slightly blur the images to soften the look and add more realism to the production.
    The moon is also an easy task to replicate. Find a good image of the moon and run it off on the printer. Do not cut it out, the extra paper surrounding the moon will serve as wide border to tape the sheet to the poster board. Set the moon on top of the poster board and trace the circumference of the moon to the poster board using a pencil. This will leave an impression on the poster. Be sure of location and where the moon is to appear. Location on the poster board is important not to have the image of the moon hanging in front of a building. Cut the circle out of the poster board and tape the moon to the back. The moon is now ready for rear illumination using almost any lighting behind the poster board.
    Making clouds pass in front of the moon takes a little more effort. A fish aquarium is needed to complete this trick. Place the aquarium on a stand or a table to elevate it slightly. Fill the fish tank with water. Notice the tiny bubbles clinging to the glass walls. Reach in with one hand and gently release the bubbles from the tank. Tape the poster board to the back of the tank and set up a rear illumination for the moon. Set up the camera on the tripod and mount it in a transverse position or sideways. This set up will allow the moon to look as though it is horizontal during the playback. Another simple tool for this project is using a turkey baster. Fill the baster with milk, gently place the tip just below the surface of the water and slowly release the milk into the tank to create a passing cloud effect.  
    Once all of the data is recorded it is ready for the editing room using the mixer with T-bar controller and the dissolve transition. Play the edited scene and using the dissolve, slowly begin adding the night sky to the production until the desired effect is achieved. A twenty to eighty ratio can be used when placing the moon behind branches of trees. Eighty per cent edited live action to twenty percent night sky scene. Dissolve the edited live action on top of the recorded night sky to have an effective layered and believable day for night shot. These special effects techniques are an affordable and believable.

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Comments 6 comments

Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 5 years ago from Minnesota

Thanks for the great information. Very interesting:)Hit many buttons.


Marlin 55 profile image

Marlin 55 5 years ago from USA Author

Thank you Minnetonka


bethperry profile image

bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee

Well, how interesting. I didn't even realize film makers used or sought such techniques!


Marlin 55 profile image

Marlin 55 5 years ago from USA Author

They don't Beth. I came up with the day for night shot in post some years back and found it to be much more effective that I could actually add the moon and stars into the shot as well. It added so much more realism that I thought I would share this technique with other effects artist and film makers.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

This is interesting Marlin. Up and interesting. It is cool how they did all of this when technology wasn't fully there yet. Shows how you make due with what you have. Wow, that is your idea. I just read the other comment. Marlin, have you gave up on all your projects? I ask cause it seems as that is your passion. Just wondering where you stand at, this time right now. Would you be willing to try a movie if you could?


Marlin 55 profile image

Marlin 55 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you lyricwriter. I have been asked in the last year to act as a DP and edit a film, but I tell you it is a lot of hard work and when it is a low budget production it is not hardly worth all the effort that goes into it. I would work on my own. I just finished another Spirit Qwest video on youtube @ Marlin2002, if you would like to watch it. I'm currently writing a book for smashwords and should have it finished and published by next month. As always your comments are very valuable to me.

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