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Spot Meter


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#1 dancordle

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 11:15 AM

Hi,

I'm hoping to get some light meter advice. The only meter I've ever used is a Sekonic Digilite L-308.
It's been a great meter and I just sent it off to to Sekonic for a check-up. Sekonic suggested I trade it in for a newer model and offered a 15% discount on whichever meter I wanted. My meter is pretty old, so I'm considering the trade in. Also, I've tended to rely on incident readings but am wondering about whether it's worth getting a meter that can offer a 1% spot readings.

The reason I'm considering the spot meter option is that I'm shooting some landscapes this summer and would like my shots to be "spot on" , so to speak. I don't have experience shooting landscapes and am wondering if those of you who do, tend to reach for a spot meter, or what your preffered metering technique is.

Thanks in advance for any input.

Dan Cordle
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 11:29 AM

Whatever you are more comfortable with. I'd only use a spot meter on a landscape if I were in the shade of a mountain, let's say, and the landscape was in the sun and I couldn't physically get my meter in the sun (although I could make a pretty good guess...) Or I'd use it to spot meter a sunset sky, or daytime clouds in the sky (although just underexposing an incident meter reading by a stop usually is fine.)
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#3 JA Tadena

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 12:10 PM

I think a spot meter would be very helpful in many situations. Using the zone system, it would be easier for you to place your skies or mountains at a certain zone level you prefer(ofcourse with the help of certain filters like graduated ND's, polarizer etc). I usually use a spot meter when I have an actor involved. At certain times, I like my blue skies a stop brighter than middle gray(on a reflective reading). So the spot meter tells me if I need to put a bit more light on my actor so I can get my perfect blue skies. Well, this is just my personal preference. Other DP's have different styles in reading light.
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#4 dancordle

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 12:13 PM

Whatever you are more comfortable with. I'd only use a spot meter on a landscape if I were in the shade of a mountain, let's say, and the landscape was in the sun and I couldn't physically get my meter in the sun (although I could make a pretty good guess...) Or I'd use it to spot meter a sunset sky, or daytime clouds in the sky (although just underexposing an incident meter reading by a stop usually is fine.)



Thanks David. That's good to read. I got in a bad habit of using the camera's internal meter and bracketting when shooting landscapes. I just never cared much for that kind of photography to give it much thought. Now that I'll be filming a few landscapes, I wish I had been more interested at the time. The filming I'm doing isn't for a job, but it would a bit dissapointing this time if I didn't get the exposures I was hoping for.
As nice as it would be to have the new Sekonic Cine meter, I'll probably just stick with my old meter and take a few digital stills to get a sense of what I'm getting on film.

Best Regards,
Dan
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#5 dancordle

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 12:42 PM

I think a spot meter would be very helpful in many situations. Using the zone system, it would be easier for you to place your skies or mountains at a certain zone level you prefer(ofcourse with the help of certain filters like graduated ND's, polarizer etc). I usually use a spot meter when I have an actor involved. At certain times, I like my blue skies a stop brighter than middle gray(on a reflective reading). So the spot meter tells me if I need to put a bit more light on my actor so I can get my perfect blue skies. Well, this is just my personal preference. Other DP's have different styles in reading light.


Thanks for the reply. I've tended to really rely on incident readings whenever shooting people. I've never been very exacting about exposure and must admit to never having learned the zone system. I've just taken incident readings and then tried to sense if I need to open up, or close down and whether or not I needed to add, or subtract light in order to get what I want. I don't know if such a relaxed approach to exposure is such a good thing but I'm self-taught and this way has worked for me well for portrait photos. However, it's one thing to take chances with a few rolls of 36 exposure film rolls, and another thing entirely to roll off several thousand feet of film. I'd like to think that an intuitive approach to exposure can continue to work for me but find myself wanting to learn to be more precise. I sense that there are many DP's who rely greatly on intuition when judging exposure but I know there are also those who approach it as a science.

Best,
Dan
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 12:55 PM

Whatever works for you. For me, the Zone system and spot metering makes more sense if you are shooting stills or shooting a narrow-range stock like reversal, or shooting in b&w where the image is nothing but gray tone values, but has less application to color motion picture work.

We don't generally vary exposure in a scene made up of multiple shots according to the reflectance value of objects -- we try and keep the whole scene at the same exposure so that dark and bright objects maintain the same values as we go wide or tight, etc. So in that case, taking a bunch of spot meter readings can lead to more exposure discontinuity, not more consistency, if you try and constantly make decisions about what zones to place objects in, unless you keep it consistent in your head.

Also the Zone System was designed to be part of a neg-to-print system where you could vary the contrast of the negative and printed image. Therefore in a low-contrast situation, you could decide to place certain areas at Zone 1 and Zone 10, for example, to create a full dynamic range, and then alter processing of the neg, contrast of the print paper, contrast filters, etc. to get those areas to fall into the Zones you want them to. Conversely, in a high contrast situation, you can use similar techniques.

So the Zone System is much more simplified in motion picture work, where it's simply more about knowing where you fall to black and where you burn out to white, and then metering things to know where they should fall in that range.

But some DP's mainly use spot meters for their work, and if that works better for them, that's great.

I use spot meters for measuring reflectance values of self-illuminating objects (is that lamp or window too bright, is the TV set balanced to the face, metering sunsets, skies, etc.) So you need to carry a spot meter, definitely. But for most work, an incident meter works fine even outdoors. An incident reading will generally let objects expose naturally according to their tonal values relative to 18% gray, rather than force you to determine what their tonal values should be relative to 18% gray. I mean, if you pan along a landscape, you aren't normally going to ride the aperture according to whether the ground is light-toned or dark-toned -- you let them naturally be light or dark.

Like I said, it's different if you are shooting a narrow-latitude stock.
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