The opening scene of Sunset Dreams is set at dawn. Like all opening scenes, it sets the tone. I wanted a gorgeous golden sunrise – not just because it’s pretty, but because Sunset Dreams is set at a bleak, dilapidated holiday park and showing that these places can still be beautiful was a theme of the piece. Also because it’s pretty.
Our plan was to shoot sunset and sell it as dawn with sound and costume cues. Predictably, despite our best schedule juggling, we were forced to shoot the scene during thick cloud. Our DoP Andrew Rodger and I decided we’d replace the sky in post.
To sell the sunset, we shot the scene with the sun behind the actors. Standard best practise in bright sunlight, because backlighting adds shape to your foreground (it also means your actors don’t have to squint), but even blanketed by thick cloud the sun still throws a bit of directional light – you can see it here on Barbara’s shoulders and hair. It was this teeny, weeny fringe that we figured would sell our sunrise sky replacement, even without the benefit of lights strong enough to compete with the sun. Andrew dialled in a LUT that would allow for a smooth, gradated matte and with the planning done on set, post production was simple.
You can see an excerpt from the shot above, ready for the grade. I like this shot. And it holds a special place in my heart because we didn’t have to get up at 4am to shoot it.