The Images of Nope: How Jordan Peele Captured the Impossible
Peele: Hoyte, I want you to be able to describe as much of the technique here as you want to. There was a brief period where I offered Hoyte the job of cinematographer for this film. And he very graciously declined because he had a conflict at that time. I was like, “All right, we’ll find something.” And in that time, I went to a few of who I regarded as some of the other best cinematographers in the world. Everyone concluded that shots like this in my script were impossible. About a month later, I don’t know why, but I went back and knocked on Hoyte’s door, and he said, “Actually, timing-wise, this might work out now. And by the way, that is impossible—and I have a couple ideas.”
Van Hoytema: The impossibility that Jordan is describing is very much in effect. We were about to photograph very big landscapes that also needed to feel big at night. And simply, there’s no technology that can do that. Now, traditionally in filmmaking, people have been doing that by shooting nights during the daytime—“day for night,” it’s called. These always have a very specific look. Especially in old westerns, Lawrence of Arabia, they utilize day for night a lot; things that are shot at sea, everywhere where there’s no practical light available, et cetera, et cetera.
The only thing is that we both didn’t completely love that look. As an educated filmmaker nowadays, you recognize it and it never feels like actual night. So we started engineering and we came up with this solution in which we were going to shoot day for night, but we were going to acquire one layer of our images through a very different camera than our main camera, meaning an infrared camera. We found out that infrared, used during the day, gives a very similar balance between lightness and darkness as the light does during the night. Unfortunately, it’s a black and white camera natively, so you can in a way approximate the relationship between the exposure of different objects, very similar to how things would look at night or how your eyes would perceive night. So then we utilized another camera that would shoot simultaneously, and they would be aligned on top of each other. The mixture of those two cameras is what gives us this specific look.