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Using light meters


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#1 jon lawrence

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 01:09 PM

Hi, I'm new to filming with super8 and I have a few questions about light meters. I have used one before in a photography studio and was wondering if it is the same as using it with film. Is it as simple as holding the light meter by your subject pointing at your key light source, taking a reading, then setting the aperture on the camera? Or is there more to it when using super8?

Also can anyone recommend a good light meter which isn?t too expensive (I?m thinking around £100?)

Any help would be much appreciated.
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#2 Michael Collier

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 05:34 PM

If your using a S8 camera, I assume it is not a reflex camera, but one that utilizes a light-splitting prism. If so you must understand that that will affect your ISO setting on your light meter. Internal meters in your S8 meter after the prism (or if not, they are built to compensate) so its no concern there, but your handheld doesn't know if you have a shutter or a prism, clear lens or a filter attached, so be sure you compensate for everything. Also you will have to make sure your meter is set to the proper frame rate. 18 or 24 fps depending on how you have your camera set.

After that, generally yes, point it to the key and set your lens to that. However, one point of meter only gives you one control. What about the portion of the face not hit by the key (fill light)? what about the background? Are they both the same? Is this shadow too dark? etc. Usually you set your lens to the key, and check all measurements against that to judge how light or dark it will read in relation. If you really think about light, it soon becomes clear what you need to meter and what you don't. I learned on video (where it really wasn't needed) but since I shoot every day, and the margin of error is smaller than on film, I was able to quickly light key, fill, background, hairlight if needed, backlight or whatever set up I was doing, and activley refused to look at a waveform, monitor or viewfinder until I thought I had the light right. Then checking the viewfinder gave instant feedback. Maybe not the best way to learn, but the point is practice early, practice often. Soon you will understand what needs to be measured and what doesn't (don't ignore your eyes also, your eyes work very similar to film, and they can be trusted to give an accurate depiction of what it will look like, once you get familiar with your format.)
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#3 Sean McHenry

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 07:16 PM

So, to get specific, I own both a Canon 814 AZ and an 814 XL-s. These use a prism as I recall and so have about 2/3 stop loss? Can't remember now but I think that was it. I just bought a Miniolta Autometer IV. So to use it correctly, withoug any extra filters over the lens, I would simply add 2/3 stop to my readings to get the correct exposure.

I hit this in another forum but if I was to use 500T, realizing the camera only reads up to 250 ASA automatically, I would be OK to shoot if I just let the external meter readings go when set to 24fps at 500. I would be overexposing the 500 by only 1/3 stop as the prism is sucking up the other 2/3.

I have also read that shooting a bit over is a good idea for 500.

Is that all about right? All my years in television have hurt me in the film world. I suppose if the math is correct my only question is what does the camera see the 500 carts as? 250 I hope.

Sean McHenry

Edited by Sean McHenry, 17 October 2006 - 07:18 PM.

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#4 Michael Collier

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 08:13 PM

Basicly you have the idea, though its always easier to rate your film slower than to add 2/3 stop to your readings. When you set ASA in the meter, generaly you do it very carefully and check in your head to make sure your accounting for all variables (and you only do it if you change film stock, filter, or move to a camera with a different prism) if you rate your film correctly, then during the pressure of setting up your shots, your not constantly adding a 2/3 stop difference, the meter will do that automatically.

Most meters allow you to enter ASA in 1/3 stop incriments, so its easy to do. 500asa? set it to 320 and your ready to shoot (all readings will need no conversions) i couldn't tell you for sure how much to compensate (not familiar with the cameras in specific) but I have heard around 2/3-1stop is common on a prism. I am sure there is someone here who owns one of these cameras and can say for sure.

Your camera autosense shouldnt matter I assume (I have only had film experience in 16mm and 35mmstill and slide, not 8) If you switch auto exposure on, then you will get funky footage (not sure how it would read 500, maybe it would read a random speed, maybe nothing at all), but I gather the point of this question is you want to expose your film manually every time you shoot? If you have a manual lens and can switch autoexposure off, then the autosense limit to 250 won't matter, since you know its 500, even if your camera doesn't. as long as you take away the power from the camera, it won't affect the footage.

Overexposure helps (esp in smaller formats) because grains are sized according to how quickly they expose. Grains that react quickly are generally large, and the grains in the upper end of the curve are very fine. If you overexpose and print down then you will be using more of the finer-grains to define the scene. You loose upper end of course (not a problem if your from the TV world like me, we are always trying to cut highlights) but you get more definition in the shadows. grain reduction would really help (I have seen very grainy 8mm and very nice looking 8mm. I suppose it all depends on the stock and speed of film you use and how you rate it.)
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#5 Paul Hanssen

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 06:33 AM

Most meters allow you to enter ASA in 1/3 stop incriments, so its easy to do. 500asa? set it to 320 and your ready to shoot (all readings will need no conversions) i couldn't tell you for sure how much to compensate (not familiar with the cameras in specific) but I have heard around 2/3-1stop is common on a prism. I am sure there is someone here who owns one of these cameras and can say for sure.



Prism's and lens of super 8 cams, generally take away 1/3 of a stop. So on the average, if you compensate 1/3, you should be ok.

You can measure the light loss of your camera with a grey card. But only if you have a cart whereof the filmspeed can be read by your camera. Some cameras can read a speed from 64T automatically. If so, you can read the aperture stop with the meter of your camera on a grey card (the whole image must be filled with it), and then compare it with the reading of your meter. The difference in reading is the light your prism and lens takes a way (lenses do take away a bit of light as well).

Paul

p.s.

Perhaps you should try to get familiar with the concept behind grey cards first. You can do a google for that and find loads of info.

Best regards,

Edited by Paul Hanssen, 18 October 2006 - 06:33 AM.

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#6 Erik J. Weber

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 07:55 AM

Overexposure helps (esp in smaller formats) because grains are sized according to how quickly they expose. Grains that react quickly are generally large, and the grains in the upper end of the curve are very fine. If you overexpose and print down then you will be using more of the finer-grains to define the scene. You loose upper end of course (not a problem if your from the TV world like me, we are always trying to cut highlights) but you get more definition in the shadows. grain reduction would really help (I have seen very grainy 8mm and very nice looking 8mm. I suppose it all depends on the stock and speed of film you use and how you rate it.)


Hmm, I'm about to test out a Canon 814-xls that I picked up the other day myself with some Velvia 50D reversal, and have heard much on making sure to 'not overexpose, hit dead on' exposure for reversal. Would it be recommended to overexpose two stops then pull on reversal? Would the shadows be more detailed and/or should that be reserved for more 'magic hour' or noir-ish shots? Or should I go with the 'hit it dead on' advice?

Sorry for all the questions, just want to try and get the best image possible ;)

Erik
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#7 Sean McHenry

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 09:42 AM

My thanks to all for answering my questions here as well. It all makes sense and I am feeling more at ease now.

I have a Kodak grey card and several empty carts for the purpose of checking the meter at various ASA ratings in auto mode. Now all I have to do is sit down and do it. Television and Photography (Old Photog major at OSU here) made use of grey cards back in the day. I'll try that tonight.

On the other gentlemans question about reversal, I have heard reversal is right on and has little latitude. the overexposure issue I mentions was specific to 500T negative film where I had heard from a few different sources that a bit of over exposure was actually good in Super 8. YMMV so test it out. Maybe a slate with your settings and camera ratings?

This is all just like 35mm still photography - except different. (that's a small joke) There is plenty of similarity but throw shutter angle in the mix.

Shooting some 200 Tri-X now for a test. Should know next week how the 814 XLs is doing. I am looking forward to my first filmed short very soon. Using my Sony PDX-10 for the non-sync sound.

Thanks again,

Sean McHenry

Edited by Sean McHenry, 18 October 2006 - 09:45 AM.

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#8 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 05:22 PM

Hmm, I'm about to test out a Canon 814-xls that I picked up the other day myself with some Velvia 50D reversal, and have heard much on making sure to 'not overexpose, hit dead on' exposure for reversal. Would it be recommended to overexpose two stops then pull on reversal? Would the shadows be more detailed and/or should that be reserved for more 'magic hour' or noir-ish shots? Or should I go with the 'hit it dead on' advice?


Your question actually does not have enough detail for us to provide a really good answer because the tonal range of the scene you are exposing matters a great deal, but more importantly what is the look you hope to achieve in the final image? This is essential, without knowing a specific end goal its hard to say what you should do.

here is an example of how I handled a similar situation and why:

I did a shot of my daughter this summer while by the water on the coast of Maine (on Velvia 50D). It was late in the afternoon, the sun was behind her so the shadow side of her face was towards camera, there was also a lot of other shadow details I wanted to get, as well as the sun sparkling on the water etc. In this case I took readings of everything that was going to be in the frame and compared them to the shadow on my daughters face. Personally I often find it very pleasing to have the full tonal range in the image, In this case I decided to exposed so that the shadow on my daughter's face would be a 1/2 - 1 stop below N. The deeper shadows were nearly black (the balcks didn't look crushed though) and the highlights blew out in a way that I really like. So, I got the full tonal range, with wonderful highlights and I could see my daughter's face. That is one way of handling one situation on one film stock. No doubt others would handle the situation differently based on their goal for that shot.

No one can really tell you how to expose, we can only make suggestions for achieving a specific aesthetic.
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