Category 5 – Night for Day

I like working with Directors that demand a lot from their DP’s. Rob Cohen is that type. Always looking for something innovative… be it a technical operation or artistic endeavor. He’ll usually challenge himself to shoot his films with techniques that have not been done before. On our first meetings, we discussed a few unusual ideas that fall into this category. One was the use of night-for-day photography (yes you read that right) for our moody storm scenes. Since our entire film takes place during daylight hours in the middle of a giant hurricane, we had discussed the idea of shooting the entire movie night-for-day… but discarded that plan as unreasonable given our indie “little-big-film” budget. There was one sequence where the storm turns to its fever pitch in a series of scenes on our small-town-America main street. Faced with cloudless summer days and no way to block the sun to that scale on a film this size, Rob made the aggressive call to shoot that sequence night-for-day. We only had 4 days to put the lighting together and our resourceful unit production managers worked around the clock to get us the balloons and cranes we needed to execute this effect over a vast space. Plus, all my lighting had to be rigged above Elia Popov’s Category 5 hell-raiser-set-buster 100mph fans and fat goose-rounder rain.


It was a crowded sky but thankfully Elia and I got along well. The sequence involved actors moving from the street, along rooftops (Toby Kebbell pictured here) and up a 60-foot radio tower. This technique allowed moving water and atmosphere to create about 80% of our finished sky. VFX will have a much easier time finishing these skies than they would have trying to paint out blue skies and inevitable hard shadows. Plus, we got the mood we wanted and put the audience in the middle of a lethal storm, the likes of which few have lived to tell about.

TowerShot on our lighting pre-focus on the Sunday evening preceding our first days shoot on Monday. JemFX SFX cranes and stunt cranes will be added between my three came positions. Lesson learned the hard way: Get there early and claim your airspace!

Our hard-working camera and grip crews and excellent balloon electrics made this sequence what it is. It was wet and uncomfortable but we got footage that could not have been made by any other means.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s