‘Refuge’ is the First Narrative Film Ever to Be Exclusively Lit by Moonlight; Recorded with Sony’s a7S

Jun 24, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

‘Refuge’ is the First Narrative Film Ever to Be Exclusively Lit by Moonlight; Recorded with Sony’s a7S

Jun 24, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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Refuge

The Sony a7S is well known for the quality of its groundbreaking high-ISO video, with an endless amount of test videos posted online.

Back in September of last year one video rose above the rest when Carbon Studios released a short film lit entirely by moonlight, aptly named ‘Moonlight’.

Blown away by the video, a director by the name of Sam Shapson said he “felt compelled to apply what they’d accomplished to narrative”, and the result is the first narrative film ever to be exclusively lit by moonlight. Of course this film was also recorded with the a7S.

Unlike ‘Moonlight’, however, which was mostly recorded using ISO 12,800 and just two scenes used settings of up to 32,000, ‘Refuge’ was shot at ISO 51,200.

The resulting video is, unsurprisingly, far from perfect, but the camera’s low light capabilities are absolutely incredible.

“After concluding that we would bring no lights, we found that large bounce cards would be absolutely key. This allowed us to literally bounce moonlight to fill in the deep shadows cast on the talents faces,” Sam told Sony Alpha Rumors.

The team then began monitoring the moon and weather for several months until they had the right conditions, but the difficulties had only just begun:

“Lemme just say that while producing a low-budget, two night shoot in a remote location is one thing, doing so without allowing ANY light spill whatsoever is something completely different. Miraculously, my team and I managed to get everything we needed while avoiding any light from astronomical twilight, city spill, or our flashlights — which we generally discouraged using to keep our eyes dilated”.

Watch the film below to see for yourself just how impressive the Sony’s low light capabilities are:

Now that you’ve seen what can be achieved at ISO 51,200, just imagine what the Nikon D5 will be able to record with a native max. ISO of 102,400 (extendable perhaps to over one million), if the latest rumors are true.

The six minute SciFi thriller was shot over two nights in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest using a Sony a7S, Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder, Canon Cinema Primes and a Metabones Speedbooster.

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s Carbon Studio’s ‘Moonlight’:

[via Sony Alpha Rumors]

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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8 responses to “‘Refuge’ is the First Narrative Film Ever to Be Exclusively Lit by Moonlight; Recorded with Sony’s a7S”

  1. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Very interesting short.
    But somehow, the digital noise in Refuge looks way harsher than the Moonlight video.
    I mean, it’s still plenty impressive, but there’s a very noticeable difference. Vimeo’s compression? Perhaps it was darker. Dunno

    1. Sam Shapson Avatar
      Sam Shapson

      Thanks Renato! Even 9 months later, I’m still absolutely in awe of what the Carbon Studios guys pulled off with Moonlight. As I ran my own tests, I immediately noticed a differences in noise quality. Though originally wondering if they’d benefited from a bit of city spill, the light direction seems like its from the water and the very light sands in their location itself. Lastly, I’m definitely a little guilty of pushing the grade a touch further for a more dynamic look at the expense of a grainy feel.

      1. Renato Murakami Avatar
        Renato Murakami

        Thanks for the reply Sam! Congrats and thanks for doing something all we fans of the A7S wanted to see! xD

  2. Sandrigo Zoilo Avatar
    Sandrigo Zoilo

    Manuel Glaser das is was für dich :D

  3. Chris Adval Avatar
    Chris Adval

    technically these samples are great to know its possible, but artistically and logistically for filming, they look like it was shot in day light with some editing making it a tad darker, if I were shooting it at night time I’d think I want to make it look like its dark. Maybe the skies in the sample was a bit too clear and gave harsh moon light making it feel more mid-day light. Great if we miss a shot in mid-day I guess?

    1. Sam Shapson Avatar
      Sam Shapson

      To be honest with you Chris, I pretty much agree. The intention wasn’t exactly to establish the benefits of shooting in moonlight.

      By telling a story in the most extreme low light conditions possible, we aimed to demonstrate that for independent filmmakers a new flag has been planted the ground of whats possible. For the first time in history, if your eyes can see it, your camera can shoot it. For me, at least, that realization has officially changed the game.

      1. Chris Adval Avatar
        Chris Adval

        I agree, I’d get this camera for sure and use it whenever I cannot shoot in the day for whatever logistical reasons I’ll shoot at night and not have to worry too much :-)

      2. Anton Avatar
        Anton

        Congratulations to you. You will never master light if this is your path. But, I don’t care, and as I see, you too. So, carry on.