Saturday, June 20, 2015

Best Advice I Received While in Film School: Embrace Magic Hour

Natural light is amazing, especially in the summer. We cannot live without it, it illuminates the world around us, and it delights us with its color spectrum. As manipulators of light, we learn to embrace its properties while controlling its path. We tell stories with it, but often we rely on artificial providers of light, believing natural light to be insufficient or weak for our purposes.

That’s why indie filmmakers should pay homage to the beauty of natural lighting by embracing the “magic hour.” Magic Hour is roughly the minutes after sunrise and before sunset. The sun is at a flattering angle in the sky, resulting in reduced shadows over the face and beautiful natural coloring.

I consider myself a mise-en-scène filmmaker, which means I prefer to use my surroundings rather than edit a look in post. Mise-en-scène filmmakers embrace a cinéma vérité or “true-to-life” style filmmaking. Planning your shoots around magic hour makes use of the beautiful lighting with little manipulation. I took the following photographers about 4 minutes into magic hour. 

Magic hour. Actually #nofilter.
Slightly different exposure.
The following video was also taken at magic hour. Note the color in my skin tone and the vibrant greens. Skin tones tend to have either a blue or green undertone, which magic hour brings out nicely. The result is glowing skin.

Although daylight is bluer than indoor tungstens, magic hour light is usually a subtle orange. Mobile, Alabama, nearly has perpetual summer, so depending on the climate and season, your location’s magic hour may be grayer/bluer or warmer in tone.

I use the Magic Hour app which tells me an hour before magic hour occurs and when I am in the magic hour. It’s my favorite astronomic tool for field videography/filmmaking. 

Happy Filmmaking!

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