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Exposure Questions


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#1 Relentless Filmaker

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 01:09 PM

Hey all I have a question for all those experienced DP's out there. I have been shooting for a few years and I of course am still a major newbie.. I have always been in the habit of overexposing by 1 stop to 1.5 stops whenever I shoot film. My stuff has always looked good, but should I try to expose perfectly to get the best image possible? Im just curious about what other guys are doing. Any info would be great!
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#2 Rik Andino

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 02:33 PM

I have always been in the habit of overexposing by 1 stop to 1.5 stops whenever I shoot film.
but should I try to expose perfectly to get the best image possible?


Overexposing by 1-1.5 stops is good for negative film
It's however bad for reversal.


You know the old saying "If it ain't broke..."
If overexsposing is working for you why change it.
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#3 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 02:41 PM

Overexposing negative will result in a less grainy image because more of the smaller, less light sensitive, grains will develop due to the longer exposure.

Remember that there is no 'perfect' exposure, because it all depends on what look you're after and tastes may differ.
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 04:13 PM

There is also the practical facts of different post routines in various countries.

For instance, in the US, the agency rules in both telecine and edit. That means that you as a DP cannot control the image after you've shot it - it's in their hands. The only way to control it is to expose it where you want it, and that 9 times out of 10 means that IF you give them a very bright and airy negative (i.e. overexposed) to be safe, they will probably end up grading it overly bright and not where you want it to be. This is just from experience.

Advertisers want their product to be colorful, bright and visible - they don't care about the moody art you and the director set out to do. So by exposing where you want it, you leave less room for them to screw up your vision.
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#5 Tim Terner

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 05:21 PM

From experience for a life like image if you are shooting on positive film give between a half to two thirds of a stop more exposure than recommended.
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#6 Michael Nash

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 05:53 PM

The "best image possible" is relative to what you want. Most film stocks are optimized to give the best overall results when rated normally, in terms of color saturation, contrast and latitude.

It is common to overexpose a negative by 1/3 - 2/3 stop to gain a little extra density (and therefore saturate colors and blacks a little more). It's also a little bit of insurance against exposure mistakes, since negative generally handles overexposure better than underexposure. But additional overexposure can start to alter the gamma and color response of the negative. Sometimes that's what you want, and sometimes it isn't.

There are plenty of reasons to shoot your negative closer to a "normal" exposure. For one thing, you can often capture detail in deep shadows a little more if you don't "clip" (or crush) the toe so much. Telecines can sometimes get added noise in the video signal if the negative is too dense. It's also becoming more and more popular to shoot at very low light levels, and with slower ASA's you can't always get the exposure you need.

Stocks are really robust these days, so there's not much reason to severely overexpose a negative unless you just really want that look. A normal density can give you really good results.

As far as what everyone else is doing, it's all over the place. Exposure is only one concern when doing different processing and post techniques. On some music videos I gaffed recently, we shot a lot of stuff underexposed and pushed two stops, partly for the look and partly for the speed.

Since you already know what 1-1/2 stops overexposed looks like, you should experiment with some other combinations of exposure and processing.
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