Warning: Strong, bloody violence. The following film contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. If you’re a horror movie fan; watch it on a larger screen, turn up the volume, turn off the lights and enjoy. Otherwise, please, DO NOT watch this film!
“Hey Antoni... Halloween is just around the corner, a huge full Moon is approaching, let’s do something really scary for a change!... Let’s shoot our own horror movie!” - Rafael (aka the Bard).
“Mmmm... a full Moon silhouettes horror story?, why not!” - Antoni (me).
This is how it all began.
And now, just a few months after the crazy shooting (it was so fun!), everything seems like a dream.
Here I am, sitting in front of my computer, writing these lines with the hope to inspire you, to show you how we made it... And how you can do it too!
Yes, just follow the 4 simple steps described in this article and you'll be creating your own stunning full Moon silhouettes videos before you know it.
This is our story, this is how the Halloween Full Moon Massacre was imagined, planned and shot.
These are all our secrets.
And you? What’s your story?
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein
“All you have to do is to run a 5 minutes play in front of a fast moving giant full Moon while the photographer, located more than 1km away, immortalizes the scene!... Easy, isn’t it?”
Ok, ok, I know, it doesn’t look like an easy thing to do. But, believe me, it’s much easier than it seems. It’s all about the passion you put in it.
The more passion, the better!
The idea of creating stories using full Moon silhouettes is not ours. Mark Gee's full Moon silhouettes video inspired us! Thanks Mark for showing us the way ;)
Mark's Full Moon Silhouettes is a real time video of the Moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. This is how he explains the idea:
"People had gathered up there to get the best view possible of the Moon rising. I captured the video from 2,1km away on the other side of the city. It's something that I hand been waiting to photograph for a long time, and a lot of planning and failed attempts had taken place. Finally, during Moon rise on the 28th January 2013, everything fell into place and I got my footage."
The video went viral, touching the heart of millions of people.
Because he caputured a remarkable story.
It's not about shooting lots of photos and videos. It's all about shooting truly remarkable stories.
And it all begins with an idea... Always!
At the very begginning of the brainstorming stage, you need to figure out 4 things that will help you unchain your imagination in the right direction: location, Moon size, movie Stars and performance time.
But let’s start from the very beginning. The first thing you need is your theatre.
Find your Full Moon theatre
By definition, the ideal theatre is a location where:
- You have plenty room to move. This maximizes the likelihood to find the right spot from where to shoot the full Moon rising.
- Your subject is located at an elevated position. You see the sky behind it.
- The moon rises in the east. Then, the shooting spot must be located in the west, leaving your subject in the east.
Our theatre is located in Punta Nati (Menorca, Spain), our most inspiring location. And the subject is a beautiful ancient hut used to shelter sheep.
Now go and and find yours!
Decide the size of the Moon
We’re talking about shooting full Moon silhouettes here. Knowing how big the Moon will be compared to your subject and actors is key to have a balanced scene.
Therefore, before you start brainstorming about possible performances, the first thing you need to do is to decide how big you want the Moon to be.
To do so, you need to figure out the width and height of your subject.
In our case, the hut resulted to be 10m wide and 7m tall.
And since we wanted the Moon to appear as big as the hut in the video, we decided to have a big full Moon with an apparent diameter of more or less 10m.
Simply take a paper and draw what you want. It helps a lot to see things crystal clear!
Also, as you’ll learn in step 3, the desired size of the Moon is used to calculate the shooting distance.
This is the distance between your subject and the camera that gives you the apparent diameter of the Moon you need in the video.
Calculating the shooting distance is a key step when planning the shoot.
The movie Stars
How many friends do you have?
I hope you have many, because you’ll need them all!
Maybe, finding people that’s happy with long walks, heavy bags and late night shootings in the cold is the most difficult task.
But I’m sure you have many friends that love you, isn't it? :P
We’d love to take this opportunity to give a huge SPECIAL THANKS to our movie stars: Aina, Pilar, Gemma, Anna and Carles.
Figure out the maximum performance time available
The last variable you need to calculate before brainstorming is the time available to run the performance while the full Moon is rising.
This is the time between the following two moments:
- The very first instant the Moon appears above the ground level of your subject.
- The moment the Moon will be so high in the sky that no silhouette is possible.
The easiest way to figure it out is by planning and shooting a test video. To do so, follow the detailed instructions in step 3, plan it and shoot it.
This is exactly what we did. We planned the shoot and gave it a try. Then, we studied every detail of the movement of the Moon and we figured out the right performance time: 5 minutes.
Finally, by jotting down the exact time the full Moon discovered the silhouette of each step of the hut, we could work out the performance rhythm.
This was key to write a good script.
Unlock your creative potential! Free the beast that dwells in you!
Mix your neurons with the power of your theatre, the beautiful full Moon, the movie Stars and the performance time.
Come up with a story to tell.
No matter what it is, it’s your story. Just tell it!
I promise, the goosebumps are guaranteed.
I must admit it!
We’re not professional script writers or movie makers.
Having said that, we came up with a way to perfectly guide the performance during the moonrise.
All you need is a list with the right time sequence and two Walkie Talkies.
How it works?
While the movie stars were performing, Germán (aka the Architect) was with me, right at the shooting spot, following the Moon movement across the LCD screen of the camera and directing the scene through the Walkie Talkie… Blood started to flow!
Here you have the script:
0:00 When Moon glow visible - SHOUT- Action Girls
1:26 FIRST HUT STEP - Countdown 4 seconds
1:30 SHOUT - Action Killer!
1:58 THIRD HUT STEP - Countdown 6 seconds
2:04 SHOUT - Killer out!
2:12 FOURTH HUT STEP - SHOUT - Action Boy
2:25 FIFTH HUT STEP - Countdown 5 seconds
- When the whole kid is visible - SHOUT - Boy Hide
- When the Boy hides - SHOUT - Action Killer
2:30 SHOUT - Killer out
3:06 When the both sides of the top of the hut are visible - SHOUT - Action Friend
- When Killer is out - SHOUT - Boy Down
- When Boy down - SHOUT - Action Girl
3:58 When the full moon is aligned with the hut - SHOUT - Killer kill
- When friend is almost at the top - SHOUT - Action Killer
Although not everything happened as planned, this script worked like a charm!
Without it, it’d have been impossible to run the performance at the right rhythm.
Awesome! You have the idea, the actors, the script and the date of the next full Moon. Now it’s time to take your phone, open PhotoPills and calculate both the shooting spot and the shooting time.
Let’s see how to do it, step by step.
Calculate the shooting distance
To be able to find the right shooting spot, you need to calculate the shooting distance that gives you the desired size of the Moon or, the also called, the desired apparent diameter of the Moon.
The rule of the thumb is:
“The shooting distance is more or less 100 times the desired apparent diameter of the Moon.”
This means that, if you want the Moon to have an apparent diameter of 10m in the video, you need to shoot from a distance of 1,000m.
But, If you want to calculate the shooting distance more precisely, you need to play with these two numbers:
- The desired moon size (10m in our example).
- The angular diameter of the Moon on the date of the shooting. You can get its value within PhotoPills’ Moon Pill: 0.554º.
What’s the angular diameter of the Moon?
“It’s the angle that covers the whole Moon as seen from Earth.”
Take a look at the following picture for a visual explanation.
Now you have everything to calculate the shooting distance. Just plug both numbers in this equation:
Shooting Distance = Moon Apparent Diameter / [2 × tan(Moon Angular Diameter/2)]
- “tan(Moon Angular Diameter/2)” is the Tangent function of half the angular diameter of the Moon.
For example, assuming that the full Moon has an angular diameter of 0.554°, then the equation results to be:
Shooting Distance = Moon Diameter × 103.42
So, if your subject is 7 m tall and 10 m wide, and you want a Moon with an apparent diameter of 10m, the shooting distance should be approximately 1,034.20m (10m × 103.42).
Finally, it can be deduced from the equation that, by simply multiplying the desired apparent diameter of the Moon by 100, it is possible to get a very good estimation of the shooting distance. Remember that all these numbers are not 100% accurate, you don’t really need to shoot from exactly 1,045.50m.
In fact, for the Halloween video, our shooting distance was 1.1Km, getting a slightly bigger Moon.
Find the shooting spot
Warning: This is an advanced tutorial. To fully understand this section, you need to have previously watched our video tutorials.
This is getting interesting, let’s take advantage of PhotoPills!
Step 1: Open PhotoPills’ Planner and bring the Observer’s Pin (red pin) to the location in study, near your subject. In this example, the location is Punta Nati (Menorca) and the hut is the subject. (Learn how to move the Observer’s Pin with this video)
Step 2: Use the time bar (under the map) to set the full Moon date (October 27th 2015) and the rise time (6:08pm). Remember that the exact date and time depends on your desired location. (Learn how to change date and time with this video)
Step 3: Place the Obstacle’s Pin (black pin) on your subject (the hut). (Learn how to use the Obstacles Pin with this video)
Step 4: Then, place the Observer’s Pin (red pin) in a shooting spot that is 1.1 km away from the hut. Make sure that you choose a spot from where the thick light blue line you see on the map (moonrise direction) falls right on the subject (the hut). Now tap on the Obstacle’s Pin and jot down the Pin to Pin ground level elevation difference (1.6º). This is the elevation angle between the shooting spot and the ground level of the hut.
Step 5: Calculate the exact time the Moon will be right at the desired elevation when aligned with the hut. Let’s see how to do it.
Going back to our example, when the Moon and Hut are aligned, the idea is to have the lower part of the Moon kissing the ground level of the hut. This gives us a beautiful silhouette of the hut.
Since PhotoPills provides the position of the center of the Moon for a given date and time (learn more about Moon info watching this video), we need to look for a time when the center of the Moon is above the elevation of the ground level of the hut (1.6º).
By how much? By half the angular diameter of the Moon (0.554º/2 =0.277º more or less 0.3º).
In other words:
“The desired elevation of the center of the Moon = Elevation difference between the Position of the ground level of the hut and the shooting spot (1.6º) + Half the angular diameter of the moon (0.3º)”
Summing up, the elevation of the center of the moon has to be approximately 1.9º (1.6º+0.274º).
Confused? The following picture explains it better!
To calculate the exact time the Moon will be aligned with the hut at the right elevation (1.9º), just move the time bar until the elevation of the moon is 1.9º, which happens at 6:21pm.
Step 6: The direction of the Moon at 6:21 is shown by the thin light blue line. Notice that this line is not aligned with the hut. Then, you need to adjust the Observer’s Pin position (shooting spot) to make it fall right on the hut.
Warning: when moving the Observer’s Pin (red pin), always double check that the Pin to Pin ground level elevation difference has not changed. If so, you must start over.
Figure out when to start the shooting
Fantastic, shooting spot found! Let’s see how to calculate when we should start shooting the video.
This is when the Moon will start to appear above the ground level of the hut. Actually, I recommend you to start a few minutes before!
Remember that the Pin to Pin ground level elevation difference is 1.6º. Then, the question is:
“What’s the elevation of the center of the Moon when the upper part of the Moon is just appearing above the ground level of the hut?”
This time, instead of adding half the diameter of the Moon to the elevation of the ground level of the hut (1.6º), you need to subtract it, getting the elevation we’re looking for: 1.6º-0.3º = 1.3º.
Step 7: Move time backwards until the elevation of the Moon is 1.3º. This happens at 6:17pm, which is the limit time the shooting should start. On the other hand, the thin blue line is showing you where the moon will appear above the ground level.
Step 8: Always check the light conditions you’ll have. The top information panel gives you the elevation of the Sun (-6.16º). This is just at the beginning of the nautical twilight. The Sun is low enough to shoot the full moon silhouettes.
The nautical and astronomical twilights are great for shooting Moon silhouettes. If you’re interested in learning more about natural light, take a look at this article: Understanding golden hour, blue hour and twilights.
This is exactly the planning we built for the full moon. Unfortunately, due to bad weather conditions, it was not possible to shoot on October 27th. So we repeated the planning for the 28th, resulting the video you’ve watched.
On the 28th, I started the shooting at 7pm, during the astronomical twilight.
I know that this is too much information to be immediately assimilated. But if you read it a couple of times more and practice a little bit, you’ll become a master. I promise!
DSLR camera (Nikon D7100), 500mm telephoto lens, 1.4x teleconverter, sturdy tripod, and a head (a Gimbal head is best).
When you get to the location, place the tripod right at the planned shooting spot and make sure it’s stable.
In PhotoPills, the Observer’s Pin shows you the shootings spot. But, what happens in real life?
Please, let me introduce you the true Observer’s Pin, right on the shooting spot! (mission accomplished)
Finding the exact spot can be tricky. Use PhotoPills’ “show your current location on maps” option to make sure you’re on the right spot.
But, since the phone GPS is not 100% accurate and knowing that even an error of 1 meter in the shooting spot can ruin this type of long distance shots, I always play safe.
For long distance shots, I use a second camera, lense and tripod to shoot a second video. I place this second camera about 1.5 meters far from my initial shooting spot.
Practice, practice, practice and you’ll find your way!
Remove the UV filter
Ultraviolet filters (UV) are great to protect your lens, but you don’t need an extra glass on your lens for this shot. Remove it!
Shoot in manual
Shooting in manual gives you the total control over exposure by adjusting shutter speed, aperture and ISO at you will.
Your desired composition determines the focal length to use. If you want to capture a big moon compared with the frame and the subject, use a focal length of 400mm, 500mm (or more, use a teleconverter if necessary) and go far away from the subject.
I used a 500mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter.
Exposure: ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture
When shooting a video, the way to work out the settings for the right exposure changes a little bit.
These are the settings (24 fps | 1/50s | 1050mm | f/5.6 | ISO 1000 | WB5500) and the steps I followed:
The first step is to set the desired recording frame rate. I like to shot at 24 frames per second.
The second step is to set shutter speed. In video, shutter speed is a direct result of the frame rate used. To shoot a video that looks smooth and natural, it is recommended to use a shutter speed that is twice the frame rate (180 degree rule).
Shutter speed = 1/(2×fps) = 1/48s
Since cameras do not include a shutter speed of 1/48s, you need to use 1/50s.
The goal is to collect as much light as possible during the 1/50s of exposure time. Therefore, you should use the wider aperture possible. But, in order to get a better image quality, I decided to close the aperture by one stop. My 500mm telephoto lens allows me to shoot at f/4.5, but I set f/5.6.
Notice that the 1.4x teleconverter reduced the amount of light collected by one stop, which gave me a resulting aperture of f/8 in terms of light.
I use the ISO to adjust exposure.
According to my experience, I got to the conclusion that, for the light conditions of the moment (astronomical twilight), with the sun almost 16 degrees below the horizon, I had to use an ISO value of 1,000. Which gave me the right exposure.
Having to predict the light you’ll have in advance is one of the big challenges when shooting video.
Also, on the one hand, when shooting a full Moon silhouettes film, the ISO cannot be pushed to high, because you don’t want to capture color or texture in the silhouettes.
On the other hand, if you lower the ISO too much, you’ll capture an underexposed moon, which is not cool at all!
My goal was to show the natural color of the Moon. In this occasion, a neutral white balance (5500K) worked perfectly well.
And that’s it!
You know everything you need to start telling stories through full moon silhouettes.
If you do so, you’ll probably have one of the best times of your life.
The brainstorming is fun, the planning is fun, but the pleasure you feel when shooting such a story is simply orgasmic!
Being out there, in the cold, enjoying the tension of the moment, directing the scene and watching the full Moon play live is just priceless.
After the shooting, I got home, and spent long hours with Germán and Rafael looking for the right music and sounds to make it even more terrifying.
And this is the result. We did our best. Now it’s time for you to judge!
I hope you enjoy the film, even the more explicit moments.
Ah! And if you wish to lear more about shooting the Full Moon, you can't miss our tutorial:
By the way!
Nobody got injured or killed during the shooting.
Happy Full Moon Silhouettes!