Shooting a movie scene lit only by moonlight has been a dream for generations of filmmakers. Unfortunately, it was unattainable in practice, for the most part, up until now.
Stanley Kubrick might have shot Barry Lyndon with available light 40 some years ago, but then again that was Kubrick and a studio movie with a fitting budget to boot as well as some pretty special lenses, but that’s a whole another discussion. Even celluloid, which was the standard medium for more than a hundred years wasn’t capable to achieve formidable results in those terms without sufficient light levels for proper exposure due to the physical limitations and organic properties of the film stock. This is another example that show us unambiguously how far the technology has come so far.
The video produced by Carbon Studios demonstrates perfectly why the A7s was proclaimed ultimately as the “Low-light King”.
Moonlight | Sony A7s ISO test from Carbon Studios on Vimeo.
The goal of the team was to set out and shoot a short film that was lit entirely by moonlight. The entire shoot took only an hour and a half on the coast in California. The first two scenes were shot at a different location a few days before the moon became full.
The first scene was shot at 1/25th, f/1.4, 25,600 ISO. The second scene was shot at 1/25th, f/1.4, 32,000 ISO. The settings for the rest of the video were around 1/30th, f/1.4, ISO 12,800. There were not any color grading, noise reduction, or sharpness added to the material. All of the clips are straight out of the camera shot in the PP2 setting.
As any other camera, A7s is far away from perfect, however we should admit that the low-light capabilities of the camera are undeniable. Those surreal night exterior 4K images could impress even the biggest skeptics. Furthermore, the behind the scenes shots captured by the crew that produced the project could give us more clear idea what actually they saw in practice on the locations.
The images are quite inspiring and surreal. With those unlimited low-light capabilities I’m sure, sooner rather than later, we will see even a full-length feature film shot in a similar way. This is one of the unarguable reasons why as filmmakers we should always try to push the limits of the tools that we have at our disposal, rather than complaining too much about the downsides and their limitations.
Just try to imagine how “Moonlight”would look on a giant cinema screen projected in true 4K resolution. I’m quite sure that the experience would be quite unforgettable and more immersive than even 3D. The technology has reached a point where it really gives filmmakers unlimited capabilities to turn into reality even the boldest ideas they have in their mind. Now the limits and boundaries are set by our imagination, not by the technology.