Refuge: The First Short Film Shot Entirely in Moonlight

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Refuge: The First Short Film Shot Entirely in Moonlight

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For Sci-Fi movie fans, this film will suit your taste. But, if you are a camera enthusiast as well, this movie could literally inspire you to think beyond the regular rules and boundaries. Yes, ‘Refuge’ is a narrative short film that used only the moon as its light source. No fill lights, no backlights, no diffuse light – just light from the moon.

While filming, the lighting of the video is done shot by shot. This means that when you relocate the camera to shoot a different angle, the lights must be moved as well to ensure the subject is always lit correctly. This is one of the reasons why films take so long to shoot.

Refugee ScreenShot

Director of the movie, Sam Shapson, said that Refuge could very well be the first narrative film that was shot entirely in the moonlight. The team behind the project recorded the footages in 4K using the Atomos Shogun Recorder and Canon Prime Lenses (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm). The film was shot with the overall ISO of 51,200. In very basic terms, ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to the light while a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your camera. But higher sensitivity comes at a price – it adds grain or “noise” to the pictures.


The whole movie was shot using a Sony Alpha a7S digital camera. On replying to the comments on their Vimeo page, Sam Shapson explained:

We tested all of the picture profiles and seriously considered pp7 for s-log, but unfortunately we couldn’t reconcile the way it handled noise in the deep shadows unless we graded down about 2 stops, which we couldn’t afford to risk committing to. Therefore we landed on pp6, shot wide open at 1/25 with the speedbooster. Lastly, the 4K from the shogun was utilized to give Neat Video every bit of info we could throw it to smooth out the noise. Still, I’m constantly reminding myself how the images here are so much more clear and vibrant than what my eyes were seeing out there in the dark. Still blows me away.

The resulting video is, unsurprisingly, far from absolute perfection, but the Sony’s low light capabilities are absolutely unbelievable.

Watch the movie below:

REFUGE // A Moonlit Short Film from Sam Shapson on Vimeo.

The video definitely looks unique. I think it is awesome that directors are willing to go this far and bring science fiction fans everywhere something new to get excited about. It’s certainly the most interesting use of the technology we’ve seen so far. What do you think about the short film that was shot using only moonlight? Comment below.

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About The Author
Rishi Baruah
Rishi Baruah
iGyaan Network's newbie Rishi Baruah is a musician hailing from Mumbai. He plays drums for a Delhi-based band and specializes in Concert Photography. Oh yes, he can cook up a mean four-cheese pizza.