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night-for-night photography in LA CUCARACHA (1959)


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Ok, I found a good film clip that shows what real night-for-night photography looks like.


This is from La Cucaracha, a Mexican classic revolutionary film from 1959, that will be shown on TCM late tonight (early tomorrow).


The Cinematography is by the great Mexican photographer, Gabriel Figueroa.


Note that there is plenty of light on all the faces, although, in real life, there usually would not be. However, we don?t notice that the light is artificial, because it seems to be natural and coming from the camp fires.


Notice that nearly everything behind the actors is black, since this was photographed at night and the cameraman wanted the background to be black.


About 4 1/2 minutes into the clip, a battle starts, and notice that the flames from the rifles and the cannons are very bright. This doesn?t happen in a film that is shot day for night, because all the flames are filtered down so they are not bright at all. In fact, camp fires don?t show up well in day for night films.


Notice also how Figueroa uses a lot of dolly shots, with a very natural-seeming camera movement, with NO hand-held shots. Notice also that he uses a lot of creative side-lighting. Note also his very good use of color in this film.


In the scenes in the village, after the battle, notice the shadows of the trees. Figueroa used natural sunlight back and side lighting for this scene, filling in faces with artificial lights and reflectors. In a lot of the daytime scenes, you can tell by the shadows that the sun is behind and to the side of the actors.


Director John Ford used Figueroa to photograph THE FUGITIVE (1947). John Huston used him to photograph NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964).


I think these classic Mexican films would be far more popular here in the US, if they had dubbed English instead of sub-titles. Dubbed by people with strong Mexican accents.






This next film clip shows some day for night film of The Battle of Poltava, which, according to Wiki, started at about 3:45 AM at night, well before sunrise. But this was obviously photographed in bright sunlight and filtered down (or f-stopped down) to under-expose the scene to make it seem like a night scene


Notice at about 2:48 into the clip, the flames coming out of the rifles and cannons are not very bright, since they were photographed in bright sunlight, during the daytime, and not at night. Also, notice the overall flatness of the lighting, with no bright faces and no black backgrounds, since all the light is coming from the natural sunlight. The objects in the foreground are just as dark as the objects in the background (indicating no artificial light at night), and there are no camp fires. No faces are lit up more than any other face.




Here is some spectacular true night for night photography at about 1hr 21 minutes into this clip of WHAT PRICE GLORY (1926), directed by Raoul Walsh. Notice that the director shows the Germans using bright spotlights at night to light up the battlefield, and that helps make the night-time artificial light scenes seem normal and properly lit, at night.




Edited by: FredCDobbs on Jul 7, 2013 6:25 PM

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Just watched the first part on TCM, filmed at night. The sound was not very good, it was difficult to understand them. B-)







Now, the second part is being shown with subtitles. The battle was over with in less then a minute.

This part of the movie does not appear to have been shot at night like the first part was. (some parts were shot durning the day, most at night) I have to admit, the colour is very good, seems more natural compared to 60s coloured movies that sometimes have a 'washed out look'.


3:15 AM...another battle, this one is REALLY something, I see what you mean now ! :)


Edited by: twinkeee on Jul 8, 2013 4:22 AM

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Yes, night for night film looks normal, because it really is night.


But day for night looks awful, especially once you know what it is, because the sky is usally bright, and there is nothing black or in the dark in the film, because it was filmed during the day, in bright sunlight, and just underexposed to make it all look dark, but to me, it always looks like day for night, and very unnatural.


In the night battle scenes in MAJOR DUNDEE, we can't even see the muzzle flashes from the guns or cannons since they were filmed in bright sunlight and filtered down so that all the scenes were too dark to see anything.

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