Filmmakers often ask me for advice on getting a day-for-night look. So I thought I'd outline my process here on the blog once and for all and make my day-for-night color correction (LUT) preset available for a free download.
If you are not familiar with the terminology, "day after night" simply refers to a production and post-processing process that processes the footage during the day as if it were recorded at night.
Logistically, night scenes can be very costly and challenging, which is why some filmmakers choose to shoot some (or all) of their night scenes during the day.
While it's not possible to perfectly reproduce a real night look without actually taking photos after sunset, you can be fairly close by making the right decisions in production and knowing how to push your footage in the mail.
A few years ago I wrote a short article about production that you can read here.
The above article describes the importance of lighting, framing and other elements on the set that need to be considered if you want to get the best possible results in the mail. For example, if you photograph your talent under strong direct sunlight, it is practically impossible to achieve a day-for-night look. One of the tips I outline in the section above is, if possible, to shoot during the golden hour or under clouds / shadows so as not to give yourself away.
Assuming you followed the protocol outlined in my previous article, your footage was shot in a way that is optimized for the day-for-night look. This means that you can effectively rate your material to achieve a realistic night look, either through custom adjustments or automatically using my color correction LUT.
Visit www.CINECOLOR.IO to learn more about my full range of color correction LUTs
Below are some examples before and after use that show my day-for-night footage.
The first is a picture I took in my car this afternoon. Here is the original picture, followed by the tiered version –
I deliberately chose this area for photography because it was relatively shaded and I didn't think I had many giveaways for the day. If I had one last look at it, I would probably add an electrical window to the sky to further destroy it, but for this post I just want to show you a quick before and after with only the LUT and no other adjustments.
Here are some photos I applied the LUT to. Of course, neither of the two shots should be day after night, but the effect creates a unique palette.
You should usually avoid showing a bright sky day and night when taking pictures day after night (this is often the greatest giveaway). But sometimes, even if you show it, you still look good, even if it can't be sold 100% at night –
HOW TO USE THE LUT CORRECTLY
Your film material should not only be recorded in such a way that it is suitable for the day and night, but it should also be prepared accordingly in color.
For this reason, I recommend using this LUT as a second step in your color correction process once you've already created a base note.
I wrote more about this in my article on the correct order of operations.
Your very first step, regardless of what software you use, should be to create a neutral base grade. In other words, make the necessary adjustments to ensure that your color balance, contrast levels, and exposure are accurate before doing anything else.
If your exposure is turned off, this LUT will not be applied properly. So take the time to create a base grade before applying it. After applying, you can return to your base note and adjust the exposure more precisely.
You will get the best results if you make these final exposure corrections for your first class (the base) and not for the same plane or node that you use to apply the LUT.
The LUT is available in .cube format (usable in all common video editing / color correction programs) and in .xmp format (for photographers who use Lightroom).
I also included a 6-page PDF with instructions on how to use the LUT with various software platforms such as FCP X, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Photoshop, Lightroom and Avid.
If you would like to download the LUT, click the link below to access it from the CINECOLOR website. Simply add the $ 0 LUT to your cart and check out without making a payment.
FREE CINECOLOR DAY FOR NIGHT LUT DOWNLOAD
Hope you all like the LUT!
Be sure to send before / after examples to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your results.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!