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#1 Alex Worster

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 01:40 AM

I'm in pre pre-production on a short that I will be shooting and possibly directing sometime in the not so distant future and I had a couple questions about tests. This will be my first time shooting tests for anything as I'm pretty new to cinematography, hopefully I don't sound too green. I will probably be shooting on Kodak and am guessing I will be using 7218, 7229, or 7205 (or maybe a combination). My short is a period piece, 19th century America (history geeky I know, but I like the story) and takes place in 2 locations... 1. a lightly wooded forest on an overcast day (think Miller's Crossing or New world) and 2. a dimly lantern lit cabin interior.

Getting to the point I thought I'd shoot some stock and filter tests because I'm going for some specific looks for the film. A grey muted slightly monochromatic low contrast look for the forest and a warm but dark/contrasty look for the interior. Here's what I thought I'd do... get a test roll of each stock and shoot a wide and medium/close shot of each location with stand ins wearing similar color clothing varying my exposure (and filtration) from normal, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1, and 2 stops under and over just to see what I get.

Here is the catch I don't know exactly where I will be processing or transferring for the real deal nor will I have access to the same camera lens combo I will end up shooting with. I was planning on shooting the tests on my schools NPRs to save some money and just going to the local lab for a quick turn around. I know it is best to control as many variables as possible when shooting tests so do these limitations make my tests worthless or next to it?

Also, I will in all likely hood not be finishing on film so should I even both with these test or is this something that it would be easiest to sort out in post? No money for DI just a decent transfer hopefully.

Any and all advice would be more than helpful since this will be my first time shooting tests.
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#2 Dominic Case

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 08:37 AM

I very much doubt if you would see any significant difference with 1/3 stop steps in your exposure range. Let alone the 1/6th stop that there is between 1/3 and 1/2 under.

Frankly, with decent colour correction (or even competent but minimal correction) you will get a good result if you are within a stop of the "correct' exposure. If anything, err on the over-exposure side. If you do try some tests, half or one-stop intervals are quite enough.

Where you might want to look at over-or underexposure or the variation in the image that it brings, is if you are looking for a particular "look" or lighting effect. But remember that most of that will come from the way you light, from wardrobe and design and the whole package, not just the exposure. And with a good negative and appropriate design and lighting, you can achieve most of what you want in post.

So, if you are as green at cinematography as you say, it's probably best to avoid shooting for special looks for the most part - keep it easy, you don't want to compromise the piece for the sake of cinematographic acrobatics. If you have your mind on directing as well, just make sure you get a good well-exposed roll of film in the camera, and then concentrate on the look in post.

Finally, if you test through a different lab from where you will put the show itself through, you can probably rely on the processing being about the same (especially if they are reputable labs :rolleyes: ) : but what the telecine transfer does with your test footage and with your program footage could vary quite wildly.

Good luck with the project.
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#3 Alex Worster

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 01:42 AM

Thanks for the input however this has got me thinking about a larger issue now. If you get the most information from a healthy negative (let's just say 1/3 to 2/3 stops over) and you light, design, and dress your action for the look you're going for is there a real point to getting fancy with your exposure since the rest might be achievable in post? For example, I've heard many times that underexposing your neg 1-2 stops while shooting a nighttime scene makes for a more convincing effect. Why would this be necessary if you get a good amount of visual information from the thick neg couldn't you just take it down in post and not risk graining your image or other nastiness that comes with underexposure? Is it that DPs are fearing losing more control to the "fix it post" mentality or something else? I guess all this assumes a DI or digital finish.

Somebody please set me straight if this is all kinds of wrong, this is a learning process for me.
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