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Meter for HD


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#1 Adam Paul

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 07:14 AM

Some time ago I started a thread about keeping contrast ratio while shooting HD and the use of light meters for that. I got some interesting replies, but mostly the ? use your eye and the monitor? kind, which wasn?t what I was looking for. I have tried using the monitor only and had problems when editing. So since then I have decided going with a light meter for that. Not sure I will use it for exposure, because I think for that the cameras zebras are better and more accurate since it?s hard to effectively rate a video camera. So I have basically narrowed it down to 2 meter models. The Spectra IV-A(P-2000EL-A) or the Sekonic L-358. Since I can?t find much reviews and information about them, I was wondering if anybody here could tell me how they compare for cinematography use. I did found info on the L-358, but more directed at still photography. Although it seems to be an incident meter, there is something in the manual to measure spot. Not sure what is, I took a look real quick at a store. Information on the L558C is all over the place in these forums, but not the IV-A or L-358. I would like to get something that had some sort of automatic contrast ratio calculator and other thing to save time on set. It will be my first meter by the way.
Thanks in advance for any inputs.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 11:21 AM

Why do you need a contrast ratio "calculator"? Any meter can be used to read the key and then read the fill and tell you the difference.

Personally, I set fill-level by eye whether working in HD or film.

You don't want to OVER meter things because you'll start to create mismatches just as often as you would by doing it by eye and being inexperienced.

But honestly, with video, I'm not sure what's so hard to about setting a look for the contrast ratio in the master and then just maintaining it in the coverage by eye and looking at the monitor. Why is it that you can't see the ratio on the monitor on the set but then notice problems in the editing room? Just because the shots are juxtaposed? Maybe what you need is some sort of frame grab or playback device.

Ultimately the goal should be to use the meter less and less and use your trained eyes more and more.
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#3 Adam Paul

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 11:37 AM

I think a calculator could just make things faster. Even though it may not be that hard to do it yourself, when you?re under pressure on the set, the less you have to think, the better. I have since learned the Spectra VI-A has this feature. I wonder if the Sekonic L-358 has as well.

Do you really think it could get worse with the meter than without one?

I?m not sure why I only see it in the editing room. I guess it?s because by then I?m alone and not under pressure for time issues.
But I do see contrast and even exposures differences between takes.

Thanks for the input David. By the way, do you have any experience with the 2 meters I mentioned?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 11:57 AM

I think a calculator could just make things faster. Even though it may not be that hard to do it yourself, when you?re under pressure on the set, the less you have to think, the better. I have since learned the Spectra VI-A has this feature. I wonder if the Sekonic L-358 has as well.

Do you really think it could get worse with the meter than without one?

I?m not sure why I only see it in the editing room. I guess it?s because by then I?m alone and not under pressure for time issues.
But I do see contrast and even exposures differences between takes.

Thanks for the input David. By the way, do you have any experience with the 2 meters I mentioned?


I have the Spectra and a Minolta incident meter and a Minolta spot meter, but since I don't use the contrast ratio functions, I don't know anything about that aspect.

Sure, over-metering can lead to more mismatching, especially with spot metering. You light a space for a master and people move around in it and naturally have different key-to-fill ratios, so the question is are you going to measure every key-to-fill ratio in every area of the room and then rematch it in the coverage? And if you use a spot meter, are you going to compensate for reflectance of the object itself?

If you're trying to save time on the set, perhaps training your eyes to see contrast ratio would be even faster than making calculations?

There are times when you do have to be more meter-heavy, like when doing visual effects plates or working with a high-contrast film stock process. I know some DP's I admire are more metering-obsessed than I am, but that also tends to be more on film shoots. But they take a lot of readings less in order to balance contrast in coverage, which they mostly do by eye, but to take notes in case of future reshoots. But that really requires an assistant to take notes and the time to take all those readings.
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#5 Adam Paul

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 03:27 AM

I see your point David. Thanks for sharing.
As a learning cinematographer I think I should have a light meter anyway, don't you think? If or when I happen to shoot film, I will already have some knowledge of using a meter, even if with HD. So I would still like to have opinions on the Spectra VI-A vs. Sekonic L-358 matter. Anyone?
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#6 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 09:32 AM

You should have made this topic about meters, not HD contrast ratios.

Understanding contrast ratios is good, but you also need to develop and learn how to trust your eye...and instincts. I know that's not what yo uwant to hear, but it's true. Though I won't tell you to use a monitor. I will tell you to use a waveform though. Far better than any lightmeter.

Get the best meter you can afford. Or try renting a couple different ones before you buy.
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#7 Chris Fernando

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 09:41 AM

You should have made this topic about meters, not HD contrast ratios.

Understanding contrast ratios is good, but you also need to develop and learn how to trust your eye...and instincts. I know that's not what yo uwant to hear, but it's true. Though I won't tell you to use a monitor. I will tell you to use a waveform though. Far better than any lightmeter.

Get the best meter you can afford. Or try renting a couple different ones before you buy.


Speaking of which: I'm curious as to where you guys have familiarized yourselves and become acquainted with waveform monitors and vectorscopes. Obviously on-set would be one place but I only ask because I never had the opportunity to get my hands on one in school and I still don't see many classes out there offering training on them (yet). Thanks, as always, for the input.
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#8 Adam Paul

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 10:48 AM

You should have made this topic about meters, not HD contrast ratios.


The thread is actually about meters. It's about asking people's opinion on Spectra VI-A vs. Sekonic L-358 for cinematography use.
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