American Cinematographer - June 2018 - 20

Field Guide
Sunlight and Daylight
When I was working on my first book,
A Shot in the Dark, I sat down with
astronomer Jeffrey Crane, Ph.D., and talked
to him about the real color of the sun. It was
a much more complex discussion than one
might imagine. The color that we see of the
sun varies greatly depending on our location
on Earth, as well as atmospheric conditions,
weather and the time of day - the latter of
which refers to the angle of sunlight in relation to our atmosphere.
We all know that the color temperature of daylight is supposed to be 5,600K (on
average; some sources cite 5,500K or
6,500K), but when we shoot in the real world
on a regular basis, we realize that in actuality,
sunlight is rarely 5,600K. It varies during the
course of the day, and based on cloud coverage and pollution. I've seen desert sand
storms in the distance that dropped the color
temperature of the sun so drastically we
couldn't keep shooting; there was no way to
balance the color to clean daylight.
So when real sunlight fades and you
have to create your own, or when you find
yourself on a stage having to create convincing sunlight, there are a few things to keep in
mind. The primary key to creating believable
daylight is in understanding that the color
temperature of daylight is actually derived
from two sources: direct sunlight and ambient skylight. It's these two distinct sources,
each with its own color temperature, that
create the daylight we see every day.
I was pondering a way to illustrate this
when I noticed the late afternoon sunlight
coming through the closed curtains in my
living room. One portion of the curtain was
backlit with a bright, warm glow, while the
other portion was cool and dim. There it was:
the two colors of daylight.
When I'm trying to replicate daylight
- whether for an exterior or interior - I'll
generally use two sources. The first, my ambient-skylight source, is generally a cooler color
temperature than the second, my key "sun"
source. Often this approach involves creating
a large, soft, cool ambient sky bounce -
Ultrabounce and grifflon, aka griffolyn, are
great for this, as are space lights - along
with a hard, direct, warmer "sun" source.
During a demonstration in San Jose
20

June 2018

for the Bay Area Professional Videographers
Association, I improvised this technique with
a 650-watt Arri Fresnel through 1⁄4 CTB
bounced into a white textured ceiling as my
ambient skylight, and an Arri 300-watt Fresnel, clean, as my direct sunlight. I focused the
300-watt unit to full flood and put the edge
of the field angle on model Amber Myers, the
talent for the demonstration, at about her
shoulder height. This placed the actual center
of the light just between her and a kitchen
counter, so that I achieved a little upglow
from the counter and a fading hot-spot on
her torso that looked like high sunlight
coming through a window; by keeping the
light from hitting her face directly, I could
allow the hot spot to overexpose slightly -
for a more natural "hot sunlight" feel -
while maintaining proper exposure on her
face. The combination of the two sources
created an absolutely believable daylight
look.
To accentuate this look, I aimed the
bounced 650-watt Fresnel so that it and the
300-watt unit would share a common directionality. This way, both sources felt as though
they were coming from the same large
window off camera. I also added a 150-watt

Fresnel from off camera pointing right at the
microwave oven behind Myers. Without this,
the darkness in the background belied the
daylight ambience.
The camera's white balance has to sit
somewhere between the two color temperatures to get them to read correctly. If the
clean tungsten is around 2,900K and the ¼
CTB is around 3,200K, I'd set the camera
around 3,000 to 3,100K so the former registers as slightly warm and the latter reads as
slightly cool. (A quick aside: The theoretical
color temperature of tungsten-halogen
fixtures is 3,200K, but with the exception of
a brand-new bulb, it's almost never the realworld case.) Of course you can accentuate
this more, if you like, warming the warm
source even more - but don't go too far
with the cool source or it won't look as realistic.
It's the combination of these two
sources - a soft bounce, generally cooler in
color temperature, to mimic ambient
daylight, and a more direct and generally
warmer source to mimic direct sunlight -
that creates a very believable daylight look.
- JH

Daylight actually comprises two color temperatures: the
warmer direct sunlight and the cooler ambient skylight.

American Cinematographer



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - June 2018

Contents
American Cinematographer - June 2018 - Intro
American Cinematographer - June 2018 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - June 2018 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - June 2018 - 1
American Cinematographer - June 2018 - 2
American Cinematographer - June 2018 - Contents
American Cinematographer - June 2018 - 4
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