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Lighting video with light meters


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#1 Mike Dunn

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 03:20 PM

This is a question for DP's that shoot DV, HDV and/or HD. Do you guys and gals prefer to use light meters and if so, do you use footcandles as a general reference or do you use the T or F stop reference? I work with some studio lighting designers that do everything with a light meter, but in the field I find using a light meter less useful. Any thoughts?

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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 04:41 PM

We've discussed this here quite a bit, so try a search for more info.

Light meters are a useful reference when pre-lighting without the camera present. But they are less useful for determining the actual shooting stop on a video camera, because the "proper" exposure for video is based on a lot of variables beyond just a few light readings.

You could use footcandles for pre-lighting a set if you're familiar with that "language." But more often DP's and gaffers think in terms of an effective ASA (or E.I.) and f-stops. Either way you have to have a target light level in mind when using the meter, whether it's a footcandle number or an f-stop/ASA combination.

I was already shooting video when I got my first light meter, so I used video as a tool to help me learn how to use it. But since then I only use my light meter for video when lighting without the camera present.

"KHAN!!" ;)
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#3 Bob Hayes

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 06:13 PM

A light meter is a decent way to set your base levels for your lighting by giving you a light level. They are a rather poor way of setting exposure. For one thing a meter sets middle grey at 18% grey card. The middle grey on an HD cameras changes considerably with regard to the Gamma. Also because HD doesn?t have the range of film the meter won?t tell you when the highlights will over expose. I notice a one stop difference on video behaves like a two stop difference on film. So you would have to learn what the differences in stop readings with a spot meter would reflect on the HD image.
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