As a kid, I remember watching a Western and noticing something that caught my eye. (No, it wasn’t the hunky cowboys, that awareness would come later!) I was watching a fight scene that was supposed to be happening at night, but during a low camera angle l noticed clear blue sky above them. I thought to myself, “Awe, that’s not night! It’s daytime and they just put something blue over the lens!” Then I reasonably thought to myself that it’s probably hard to shoot at night, and so they had to do it that way. Yeah, I know. Nerd with a capital “N.” And yet, it would be years before I came out as a proud Post Production Producer!
This memory of “Early Post Tendencies” had come rushing back to me the other day after the DP told me he thought we should shoot an upcoming cemetery scene “Day for Night.” I couldn’t help but be hesitant at first, but after we discussed it further, I was onboard with the idea. We would use color correction to make the sunlit day scene look like a moon-drenched night.
Today had been the day I was finally going to catch up with the pile of paperwork back at my office. I was just digging into a mound of accounting when I got a call from Vanja, the DP. After a week of overcast weather, today we were being “blessed” with an exceptionally clear sunny day. The resulting hard shadows were wreaking havoc with our “Day for Night” shoot. (I briefly thought of that damn cowboy fight again!) Our crew had hung a giant square of silk in order to soften the light over our playing area. This had worked, except for the wide shots, where you could see the hard edge of the direct sunlight meeting the shade. Vanja needed to know if I could help it out a bit in Post. We discussed it, and I told him that from his description, I thought we could.
After hanging up, I looked at the pile of work on my desk and sighed. I couldn’t just “hope for the best.” It was time for a trip to the cemetery.
Once I got to set, I could see what Vanja had been talking about, but felt relieved to know that it did indeed seem very fixable. In color correct we could dial down the bright areas, then we’d use matte compositing to create dappled diffusion along what remained of the hard line. The Digital Imaging Tech showed me the mock-up of the “Day for Night” look they were aiming for and I loved it. It seemed very romantic in a Gothic sort of way. (And not a cowboy in sight!)
I was glad I’d made the trip. The truth is, after that kind of “can-you-fix-it?” call, “Hope” alone doesn’t help me sleep too well at night. Seeing is definitely believing, when it comes to whether or not I can “fix it in Post.”