ZERO DARK THIRTY
Lighting the Raid
Once the compound was created, an intensive effort began to capture, as precisely as possible, what happened there on that fateful night. The trick was to carefully choreograph a lighting scheme and a shooting style that would simulate what the SEALs would have experienced in real time.
"The SEALs arrived on a moonless night -- the darkest night of the month - and we had to find ways to recreate that while also giving the audience enough visual information to know what is going on," says cinematographer Fraser. "We knew that we didn't want conventional night lighting, so we invented our own look. It's actually very, very complicated to create a 'no light' look."
"We looked at dozens of different ways to make a nighttime look, we did a lot of testing and we did a lot of talking about just how dark it should be." Fraser continues: Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that to really let the audience in on how dark the night was and what the mood was like, we had to do something fairly unconventional."
While a midnight inkiness abounds in the sequence, flashes of luminosity punctuate it, whether from explosions or other sources around them. "This is also part of the reality for SEALs," notes Fraser. "They crave light and hunt it out whenever it naturally occurs."
"We did that by wiring up a series of infrared lights, and then making them film-friendly. This turned out to be pretty accurate to what SEALs see because they also have mounted infra-red lights."
Bigelow shot most of the raid sequences twice -- once shooting night-for- night and again shooting with the Night Vision lighting scheme - all while dealing with local sandstorms that blew walls of dust across the set.
"We were shooting the night of the first-year anniversary of the raid, it was a haunting feeling," says Bigelow.
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