How Jordan Peele’s NOPE Delivered The Best Day For Night Shots In Cinema

Of any film that has attempted to shoot using day for night tactics, none pulled it off better than NOPE. But director Jordan Peele and DP Hoyte van Hoytema had to use some incredibly innovative techniques to get there.

If you’re not familiar with day for night, it’s simply the practice of shooting scenes in the daytime and color correcting them to appear as if shot at night. This can be hugely beneficial to productions of all types, saving loads of time and money by avoiding overnight shoots and limiting lighting gear.

Day for night techniques have been used in cinema for many decades. You can spot these shots on countless films from classics like Lawrence of Arabia, all the way through to present day blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road.

While the overall day for night look has evolved over the years, the techniques have largely remained the same. With some notable differences between older film capture / processing methods and newer digital approaches.

I previously shared a tutorial all about achieving a realistic day for night look. It covers color correction techniques, and other essential considerations if you are interested in experimenting for yourself.

Each film that has ever attempted to pull off day for night shots has had a different result. Some are far better than others. But as I said above. No film has achieved the level of realism and aesthetic quality with day for night as NOPE.

Below is a quick breakdown of how it was done.

65mm Film + 65mm Digital

Typically, day for night shots are captured on a single camera. The environment is optimized as much as possible (shooting in overcast conditions, avoiding too much sky detail, etc.), and color correction is applied to the shot to sell the look.

While this traditional workflow can yield decent results, there are often some obvious giveaways. Notably, highlights that are way brighter than they should be.

Imagine working with footage that was shot on a bright sunny day. You can drop the exposure as much as you want in post and tint the color to blue, but the sky is always going to look brighter than the foreground. Which is not in any way reminiscent of reality.

To avoid this common giveaway on NOPE, a custom camera rig was set up with not one, but two cameras. A 65mm Panavision large format film camera, and an Arri Alexa 65 with infrared sensor.

Since the Alexa captured infrared images, all of the brightest areas of the shot were inverted, and therefore made extremely dark. This infrared footage would later be combined in post with the original 65mm film to create a more realistic day for night effect.

To really maximize the shadow density, the filmmakers slightly overexposed the Alexa 65, so that when it was inverted the bright areas of the frame would be as close to black as possible.

It’s also worth noting, that this setup and workflow was pioneered by Hoyte van Hoytema on Ad Astara.

On that film, he used the exact same technique to create a near-pitch black sky, and make the image appear as if it were truly shot on the moon.

Using A 3D Camera Rig

In order to be able to combine the film and digital footage in post, the two cameras had to capture virtually identical images.

Ultimately, this was achieved by using a 3D camera rig, which normally would house two matching cameras, calibrated for a stereoscopic 3D workflow.

On NOPE, the rig was customized to accommodate the Arri Alexa 65, and was setup to capture a near identical image on both cameras.

Here’s a quick BTS shot of the rig on set.

Post-Production: Color + VFX

The day for night color workflow on NOPE was undoubtably more complex than average.

In addition to coloring the main 65mm film footage to appear darker, cooler, and more night-like, the Alexa infrared footage was also caerfully layered on top.

Doing this allowed the team to have far more control over the shadow areas of the image. They could selectively use dark parts of the frame from the infrared camera (such as the sky), while relying on the 65mm film footage for the rest of the shot.

In addition, other elements – like clouds in the sky – were comped in to help sell the final effect.

The finished product was really a result of three interconnected variables. The camera setup, the color process, and the final vfx elements.

Day For Night: Final Results On NOPE

As I mentioned at the top of this article, the day for night process used on NOPE was unlike any other film to date. With the exception of Ad Astara, which was the first use case with this setup.

In my opinion, it was worth it. Going the extra mile in production and post really helped make these shots stand out, and feel more immersive.

Are the day for night shots 100% realistic? Not quite.

But neither is any other day for night shot ever produced. There is always a giveaway, if you are really looking for it.

But there is no question that NOPE pulled off the effect better than any other. And personally, I welcome some of the minor inconsistencies when compared to actual night footage.

Fictional movies aren’t meant to play like documentaries.

Part of the magic of cinema is finding yourself in a new world that you never knew existed. From a visual perspective, that might require using a new technique, like this. One that delivers an image that is striking and distinct. Even if not 100% grounded in reality.

I can only imagine we will see this technique put to use more in the future.

What are your thoughts on this day for night technique? Leave a comment below!

For exclusive filmmaking articles every Sunday, sign up for my newsletter here!

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!


  • Daniel

    This article dives deep into the innovative techniques used in Jordan Peele’s film “NOPE” to achieve stunning day for night shots. Director Jordan Peele and DP Hoyte van Hoytema employed a combination of traditional methods and cutting-edge technology to create a visually immersive experience unlike any other.

    By utilizing a custom camera rig with both a 65mm Panavision large format film camera and an Arri Alexa 65 with an infrared sensor, the filmmakers were able to capture footage with unparalleled realism. The infrared footage, combined with careful color correction and VFX elements in post-production, resulted in breathtaking day for night sequences that set a new standard in cinema.

    While the shots on , they offer a level of immersion and distinctiveness that enhances the storytelling experience. Overall, “NOPE” demonstrates the power of creativity and innovation in filmmaking, paving the way for future advancements in visual storytelling.

    If you’re a fan of cinematic techniques or simply appreciate the art of filmmaking, this article provides fascinating insights into the creative process behind one of the most visually stunning films of recent years.

  • Christopher Sieber

    Nice Stuff.

    Imagine you only have one Ursa mini 12k, can you do the same with just only one cam, or how would you do this, to get as close as possible to a Nope Level?

    Br from Germany

  • Atul Arora Arora


  • Sahra

    This is a cool technologically-advanced way of doing it, but how would a micro-budget film (say with a 3-person crew) achieve anything close to this? Is there a “poor man’s version”?
    Love your articles!

    • Lucas Augustine Adamson

      Yes, there is always a poor mans version. If you shoot on a 6k or 8k camera, preferably full frame, such as a Lumix S5iiX, recording b-raw or pr-raw to a monitor recorder, you’ll have 6k raw footage that you can then make luminosity-inverted copies of, with no need for the 3D rig. Then, you can merge the images using normal compositing techniques, tracking movement and colour correction, all within Da Vinci Resolve. Boom!


Leave a Reply