12 May How to Crush Your Magic Hour Video Shoot
Magic hour is the time right before sunrise or right after sunset where the light in the sky is perfectly diffused. Many cinematographers and photographers love this brief window as it provides soft lighting for their subjects.
Last fall we were shooting in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York and much of our documentary was filmed during the blue hour (twilight) and magic hour. While this time of day provided beautiful imagery at the shoot, it also required some proper planning to make the most of that soft beautiful light. We’ve got some tips on how to get it right!
Where in the World…
First and foremost, think about what time of year it is and where you are in the world. This will help you figure out when the magic hour is going to happen. It is fast and you need every usable moment so if you don’t know exactly when to expect it and how long it is going to last you will find yourself chasing that light. The Golden Hour website is a great resource to determine magic hour anywhere in the world.
So now that you’ve determined how long magic hour at your shooting location (way to go!) you can start to think about topography. Are there mountains, lakes or is it flat? Light refracts and bounces and disappears faster depending on the landscape, so keep this in mind.
Next up… Weather!
If you have read any of our blogs, we are always bringing up the weather. We should admit that we are weather nerds (Kaydee does quite the weather person impression) but we are also producers and every producer knows how quickly the weather can sour a shoot. So as always, check the damn weather before you hang your hat on a single sunny day that turns wet and dreary. (There’s no magic hour without the sun!)
So now you know where you are going to shoot, how long magic hour is and that the weather will be picture perfect – no rain, snow or Cloverfield monster! It’s time to do a location scout.
This is a great time to reference our previous blog Location Scouting for Branded Content. You (the producer), the director and the director of photography (DP) should take some time and go see the location at the time of magic hour.
Keep in mind that if you are shooting either later in the month or the year the time of magic hour may drastically change. When you are out at that location during magic hour, take note of where the sun rises and sets, how long you actually have to shoot, which direction you plan on the action taking place and where it’s starting to go dark. Most director and DP’s are out there thinking about the shots, as they should. You should be thinking about how fast that light is changing and what is going dark. Your crew will be in the dark quickly – literally and figuratively – and anything lying around will be harder to find, including people.
Make a plan to light a path and bring proper work lights and flashlights. If you are on a bigger production, the grip & electric team will have these but for those working with a tighter team, make a plan on how you are going to see when there is no more light.
Scheduling the Shoot
Now you know how long magic hour is, when it occurs, and what it will look like and what direction you will be shooting. You’re doing great! You’ve just got one thing left to do – schedule the shoot day. Make sure that when you are on-set everyone is ready to go to shoot whatever needs to be captured during magic hour, roughly 30 minutes to an hour ahead of time. The last thing you want is to scramble to get that shot and to have to scrap a shooting day because of lack of prep.
Voila! It’s perfect!
After all your stellar planning (and the DP’s great eye) your magic hour shoot went perfectly and you have beautiful footage to edit!
If you are looking for more information on shooting during magic hour, Premium Beats has a great blog to set you up. Or if you are interested in how it all turned out for us in the Adirondacks, check out the Above it All trailer here.
Be sure to tune in next month when we talk about the importance of production design! Sign up for our email list to be notified when our tip of the month is released along with other video knowledge!
Until next time!