How to think about the "Sun" when planning a film shoot
10 ideas to consider when thinking about daylight
Know when the sunrise/sunset times are for your shoot
Once the dates are locked in it’s a good idea to put these times on your stripboard either as a single strip at the top or as a strip for each day. It’s helpful for the Director, DP, Gaffer, Key Grip and the ADs to know when they are in danger of not having enough light. You can typically get these times from most weather apps or by googling it with the “city/date/sunset” phrase.
Discuss the sunset times with the DP
Discuss with the DP the known sunset times and when they believe they will have to stop filming. There could be numerous factors, such as the type of camera, the scene, matching shots, equipment availability, etc. In general, if the sunset is at 7 p.m., you can probably aim to stop filming around 6:30 p.m. unless you are aiming to get that golden hour shot.
Prioritize scenes that are daylight exterior
You will most likely run out of daylight before you run out of night work, unless you are filming a certain type of project that is night heavy such as zombie tv show. It’s a good idea to frontload the schedule with daylight exterior scenes and get them out of the way.
Check the weather 10 days out every few days
While things could change, its a good idea to know about potential issues with the weather in advance. If you know you need good lighting for a certain set of scenes, then being able to juggle those scenes if the schedule allows will benefit everyone involved.
Consider where the sun position will be at certain points in the day
Yes you may know in general where it will be but do you have the precise info if you happen to be filming in an area that gets limited direct sun like an alley etc? You could use one of these apps (Sun Tracker AR, Sun Seeker, Sun Surveyor, Lumos or Helios Pro) to help you figure it out.
Determine if any of your scenes can be shot at magic hour
If you do have scenes that can be shot during this time, it’s a good idea to strategically place them in the schedule. If you have 10-20 magic hour shots you will want to sprinkle these throughout the schedule as you may only have time for 2-3 a day.
Figure out if you can film any of your morning scenes in the evening and vice versa
You might need to film morning scenes during the evening on occasion when your call time adjusts to later in the day and you miss out on the precious morning light. It can be tricky, but it will work on most occasions.
Give ample warning when you are losing light
When it’s the end of the day, you want to make sure that you give a strong reminder to the Director that the sun is setting and you expect ____ amount of light based on the DP’s intel. This knowledge can speed things up and limit the number of takes during this period of the day.
Know what times are not good for direct sunlight
If your DP insists on avoiding direct sunlight for certain scenes or the entire project, you may want to be flexible and have interior scenes ready to go in the middle of the day so you can adapt to their request. The alternative is to have the grip department work to diffuse the problem if the scene is contained enough.
Be strategic about having as early call time as possible
The earlier the call time for the next day, the more sunlight you will have and the more your day will be protected. The issues in having an early call time as the week progresses is dealing with actor turn-around, crew turn-around, and a tired crew. It’s important to find a balance between allowing for enough sunlight without burning people out.