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low key lighting for 16mm


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#1 chris marte

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 09:22 PM

Hey everyone, i just finished shooting for a short 16mm student film a couple of days back. The film is supposed to take place in a house that has no power ,so naturally it was a challenge to light. The film stock we used was kodak vision2 500t, because of it's high sensibility to light. Our camera was a 32' bolex h16. We also used 2 light sources, one was a 650 watt Fresnel about 15 feet to the right of the actor, acting as moonlight, and gelled with a bluish lee gel for that effect; and the other was a 1,000 watt kino flo about 15 feet to the actor's left, acting as a "neighbor's street light". With all this, we kept getting a very low light meter reading on our 1st day of shooting, which was telling us to set our f stop to 1.4, and sometimes at 1.0 (1.4 is as low as all three of our camera lenses would go).

There were no general worries on our second or third day of shooting, because those days mostly involved outdoor locations during the day. We're still kinda worried about the first day though.

I would just like to know if based on the description we gave above we handled everything well, and what could have caused such a low reading when the house seemed to be pretty well lit to the human eye? Do light meters fail often ,and does this look like a case where it did? And if anyone has any tips for an easier way to light a dark interior, let me know please!!! Thank you very much!!!

P.S. We used an incident light meter

Edited by chris marte, 06 November 2007 - 09:25 PM.

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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 09:48 PM

There are too many variables here to give you a straight answer. How were you using the meter? Was it set for the proper ASA and shutterspeed?

I don't know what you mean by "1,000 watt kino flo" -- kino's are fluorescent fixtures that aren't typically rated by their wattage, but by their size and type. So I don't know which fixture you were using or how bright it was.

What specific gel did you use? Different gels cut different amounts of light, and some of the theatrical blue colors cut quite a bit of light.

Finally, light levels that look "normal" on set can often be quite dark when measured in actual footcandles. Also, a "proper" incident reading gives you a "normal" exposure, but since you were going for a dark, low-key look you would probably want to underexpose 1-1.5 stops from what the meter tells you. An f-stop of 2.0-2.8 at 500 ASA doesn't sound unreasonable for the setup you describe.
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 10:00 PM

A mystery-gelled 650 and some kind of kino, both about 15 feet away, creates a plausible situation for a f1 or f1.4 to me. I'm not saying you're OK or screwed but the numbers sound about right.
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#4 chris marte

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 10:23 PM

There are too many variables here to give you a straight answer. How were you using the meter? Was it set for the proper ASA and shutterspeed?

I don't know what you mean by "1,000 watt kino flo" -- kino's are fluorescent fixtures that aren't typically rated by their wattage, but by their size and type. So I don't know which fixture you were using or how bright it was.

What specific gel did you use? Different gels cut different amounts of light, and some of the theatrical blue colors cut quite a bit of light.

Finally, light levels that look "normal" on set can often be quite dark when measured in actual footcandles. Also, a "proper" incident reading gives you a "normal" exposure, but since you were going for a dark, low-key look you would probably want to underexpose 1-1.5 stops from what the meter tells you. An f-stop of 2.0-2.8 at 500 ASA doesn't sound unreasonable for the setup you describe.


It was a #202 lee gel, with a transmission of 50%, according to the equipment department. The light reading was taken with the gel on the window already, and the fresnel lying just outside,so that obviously helped darken the house a bit, leading to the low f stop setting for a proper exposure. The meter was set for the proper ASA and shutter speed, but one of the reasons we were doubtful concerning the light readings was because it's pretty old equipment. Thanks for the advice
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#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 10:40 PM

It was a #202 lee gel,...


It's more commonly called a 1/2 CTB

And, there's such a thing as a 1K Kinoflo.
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#6 Michael Nash

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 04:24 AM

And, there's such a thing as a 1K Kinoflo.


What is it? I couldn't find any information about one, and have never run across any older products by that description.
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#7 timHealy

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 09:17 AM

I have never heard of a 1k kino either. Not to say it doesn't exist, but would love to see one.

His experience with using adding blue to to tungsten lighting sounds about right. I usually keep in mind that full blue can cut the output of a tungsten light by just about two stops. So one has to use a much bigger light than you thought.

In his case half blue cut the output by just about a stop.

Also you eyes can trick you. First off your eye has much more latitude than film or video will ever have. So what might look OK by eye, may not cut the mustard with you meter or filmstock. Assuming everything is working properly. As long as you exposed properly, film will still have the same latitude whether you exposed at a 1.4 or 22. Just one will look differently as depth of field changes. If you are exposing at a 1 or 1.4, you'll have trouble reading exposures in your fill areas unless you have a meter that reads really low light levels or just in footcandles. In your lighting setup.

You just needed to use bigger lights. It would be advisable to use larger lights because when you are down to low levels like that focusing becomes difficult especailly with wide angle lenses. I try to keep in mind that wide open with wide angle lenses is dangerous for your dailies room health.

Best

Tim
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