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How to keep contrast between shots without a light meter?


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#1 Adam Paul

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 10:47 AM

Since light meters are not very usual when shooting video, how do you keep the contrast between shots from the same scene without a light meter when shooting HD?
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#2 Oliver Ojeil

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 11:20 AM

Since light meters are not very usual when shooting video, how do you keep the contrast between shots from the same scene without a light meter when shooting HD?


I don't understand what you mean by "not very usual" about light meters. They are an essential part of shooting HD just as film. In the case where you don't have one and really needs to get correct readings here is a helpful "limited" tool: if you have a digital SLR still camera, they all have a +3/-3 reading meter. Zoom in on the dark area and get the right fstop so that your meter will say -/+0 then repeat this step for the brightest area. You should have 2 stops (readings) by now. All you need to do is compensate between the two. Remember to set your ISO in the SLR menu equal to the one your video cam has. (check the manufacturer's catalogue for that)
Best Regards

Edited by Oliver S, 11 April 2006 - 11:21 AM.

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#3 Adam Paul

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 03:52 PM

What I meant was that video doesn?t require a light meter to light the set. A well calibrated monitor will do the job. But I'm getting the feeling a night meter is the only way to keep a constant contrast ratio? The DSLR camera trick sounds a bit inaccurate, besides I don't have a DSLR. So I'm thinking about getting a light meter to keep the foot-candles and contrast ratio. Should I get a spot or an incident would do?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 11:25 PM

What I meant was that video doesn?t require a light meter to light the set. A well calibrated monitor will do the job. But I'm getting the feeling a night meter is the only way to keep a constant contrast ratio? The DSLR camera trick sounds a bit inaccurate, besides I don't have a DSLR. So I'm thinking about getting a light meter to keep the foot-candles and contrast ratio. Should I get a spot or an incident would do?


What's wrong with using your eyes and the monitor? I mean, if it's a lit scene anyway, and you use the same lighting set-up for fill (let's say a bounce off of a 4x4 card) then it should be giving you the same fill level if at the same distance to the subject and the key is the same level, even as you change angles.

But either way, you should be able to set it by eye and the monitor.
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#5 Adam Paul

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 03:39 AM

What's wrong with using your eyes and the monitor? I mean, if it's a lit scene anyway, and you use the same lighting set-up for fill (let's say a bounce off of a 4x4 card) then it should be giving you the same fill level if at the same distance to the subject and the key is the same level, even as you change angles.

But either way, you should be able to set it by eye and the monitor.


Hi David. I see what you mean. But it's not always possible to keep the same light fixtures when changing angles during the filming of a feature style project. Sometimes I find myself changing for space and other reasons. I have worked with the monitor only and found contrast differences when watching the footage later, or had an editor complaining about it. I think a meter may be the way to make sure contrast in right.
I have been looking at the Sekonic L-358. Would it be a good meter for this purpose or do I need a spot meter? The L-358 doesn't seem to have spot, but the combo meter L-558 seems to have, although not as flexible as a dedicated spot meter. Do I need it or the L-358 will more than do? I'm really not interested in setting exposure with a meter. I think for that the zebras are enough. But if I have a meter on set, I might as well use it to check critical exposure situations at times. The thing about using a meter for exposure with video is that the camera's ASA is never constant and so not really reliable.
But my question is, what are the feelings about the L-358? Will it be a good meter or should I spring out for a L-558? In this case why? Do I need a spot meter? There's also the Spectra digital, which I heard is even cheaper. Thanks in advance.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 06:24 AM

No you can't always keep the same fixtures in place (though I find 80% of the time you can, actually) but why can't you keep constant contrast with the monitor? Trust your eyes! :D
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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 06:50 AM

You usually only need to use the monitor and use your eyes.

However, if you want to use a meter you need a incident light meter to set up your lighting contrast. It's more useful on bigger setups, but you can use the incident meter as you'd use it on film.

You don't need a spot meter, you can what you're getting on a well set up monitor. I'd use the monitor to set up the final exposure (in combination with zebras/waveform), making sure you're keeping any highlight details that you want.
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#8 Adam Paul

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 07:06 AM

So if I don't need a spot meter, does it mean the Sekonik L-358 will do just fine for me or are there any other features on the L-558 besides Spot meter that I would need?
Still would like some comments on the Spectra digital as well. Thanks guys.
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#9 Dimitrios Koukas

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 07:25 AM

Many video cameras have 2 zebra level setups.
U can set the desire zebra levels where you want, to have two different zebra patterns on your subject.
U can set zebra1 at 65%-75% for normal exposure and Zebra2 at 85% for the highlights on a face,it depends at where u want to go with your contrast ratio.
Dimitrios Koukas
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#10 Adam Paul

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 08:07 AM

Thanks for the input Dimitrios. But I have decided I'm getting a meter and would love getting some feedback on the models I mentioned.
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#11 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 08:45 AM

They'll all do the job, the Sekonics have a lot of hi tech features that you'd rarely or never use on a film shoot.

You can find user reviews here: http://www.photograp...LS_3115CRX.ASPX

I've got a couple Minolta IIIs which do all you need for shooting film, since I don't use flash. I've also got an old analogue Spectra Cine and the one thing I like about it is that the scale goes down to F0.7, which is great with Super Speed lenses.
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#12 Adam Paul

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 09:19 AM

Thanks Brian.
So I think I really don't need the L-558. I'll save my money and go for the L-358 then. Spectra has a digital model too and it sometimes can be found for cheaper than the L-358. Would you advice going with it instead? I have no idea if it goes down to F0.7 like the analog version though.
Just another question. When is a spot meter desirable in a feature shoot?
By the way when you say "shooting film", you mean filmmaking style shooting right? Because I use HD and video.

I will check the reviews. Thanks for the link.

Edited by Adampaul, 12 April 2006 - 09:20 AM.

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#13 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 09:29 AM

When i mention film you can use the meter for HD & video work. Just don't get locked into a meter, use your eyes.

http://www.spectraci.../Product_2.html

The latest Spectra goes down to F0.35
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#14 Adam Paul

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 10:01 AM

I have heard some good things about the Spectra Professional IV-A from an user, saying it's better than the Sekonic L-558 Cine and does even more, and it's cheaper. I'm trying to find comparisons online, but it seems if it comes down to the lower end L-358, the Spectra IV-A is much better feature wise.
Just not sure what to get between those three. It will be my first meter, but I want it to last.
I hear the Sekonics are easier to learn too.
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