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Posted by t3h WC, on 2008-06-07 05:53:59

Sunset background—please help.

Most of the scenes in a short I'm working on take place in a graveyard. The graveyard has some trees and a cliff and a small brick wall, but it still shows a huge piece of sky. I was thinking of putting big panels and paint them with the strange peach-yellow-orange-red combination sunsets usually have, and use cotton for the clouds—But there's a problem. How do I make the sun? It must be clearly shining, and the characters will have to look sunshine-y. So, basically, I have two questions: 1 – How do I recreate that golden-like light characteristic of sunsets? 2 – How do I make a sun that looks bright, like the first one, and affects the clouds well? Any tips would be really useful. Thanks in advance. ^^

Posted by Boy Oyng, on 2008-06-07 12:33:36

Several ways to handle this. If I were doing it... I'd get a big panel for a backdrop, paint it a gradation from whitish at the bottom to deep sky blue at the top. Mount the backdrop so it is separated from the rest of the set by a foot or two. Mount lights under the set in the separation between set and backdrop, pointing upward at the backdrop. I'd need lights with an even spread; no hotspots. Fluorescents might do, depending on lots of factors; or softlights; or a row of heavily diffused incandescents. I'd put red or orange or amber (or even an overlayed combination of those) colored gels over the lights pointing up at the backdrop. I wouldn't use cotton for the clouds, probably (although it's been done that way well by others; you just have to separate them from the background). I think I'd paint the clouds onto the backdrop, with the proper lighting/shading. I might try to do that while the set was lit the way I wanted it to look. As for the sun, I'd probably composite one in during postproduction using photoshop or aftereffects or even any reasonably good editing program. If that was impossible, I'd try to cut a hole in the backdrop, put diffusion and a gel over the back of the hole, and then light it from the back. But I think that would be harder to do well. Another possibility, depending on your software, is to bluescreen a sunset sky into the final. For the set itself, I'd put orange or red gelled backlights and rim lights, and I'd fill with blue or purple gelled lights of much lower intensity. In other words, you want your main exposure and highlights to be red/orange and your shadows to be blue. If you're lucky, Nick H and Mysterious Ron will step in, both of whom have done this more than I have. If you look at their demo reels on Stopmoshorts.com, you'll see examples similar to what you're looking for. Notice the lens flare in Ron's shot that shows the sun. I'm guessing that was added in post. Good luck

Posted by Nick H, on 2008-06-10 01:48:00

Usually, I would paint the whole sky, sun, clouds, and all. I might hit the sun with a little extra light, like an old slide projector with a circle cut in a piece of foil and put in a slide mount. Put it slightly out of focus to soften the edges. For a moving sun, you could aim a projector at the backcloth, projecting a bright round shape. It will burn out the painted image to white if there are no dark clouds painted where it goes. If the projector is on a geared head it could be slowly pivoted so it actually goes down during the shot. Of course, actual cotton clouds with light hitting from behind would show the changing direction of the light. You might be able to mount the projector on a tripod with a geared centre column so it is being moved down a little each frame. The trick is getting the light hitting partly from behind, but not seeing the light or tripod... probably the actual sun would be off to one side. Once, I made a sun object in Lightwave3d, a ball that had a fully luminous surface and edge transparency. I laid the painted sky in as a background image, with the sun object in front. It could just as easily be a 2d sun image. Put it on a top layer in Photoshop or AE or Mirage. In AE or Mirage, move the layer over time. For another shot, the sun was only partly visible, going down behind a skull, so I put a round lightbulb on a hinged plank and lowered it frame by frame until it was out of sight. You could only see the round part of the bulb, not the neck which was always behind the skull. I have turned a blue sky into a sunset purely by using coloured lighting gels, but usually I use a cloth painted as a sunset. If you are taking long exposures, like 1/2 second, then you can use flouro lights down low behind the set, to add an extra glow to the horizon. (Don't use flouro for short exposures like 1/60th of a second, they flicker.) I lay strips of pink or orange lighting gel over the flouro tubes. Or you could shoot a real sunset...