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Can I use a regular ol' lightmeter for motion picture work?


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#1 Niki Mundo

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 11:33 PM

I know this might sound stoopid but I was wondering if I can use ANY lightmeter for cinematography? Is it as accurate, etc..
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 11:50 PM

Yes, if it can be set for ASA and shutter speed values. Most meters used by cinematographers are the same light meters used by still photographers. My meter is like that -- I can't input frame rates into it, I have to input shutter speeds instead.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 05:33 AM

I have a Sekonic L-398, a gloriously 60s-looking piece of gear with a wheel calculator on the front. It's good because it displays the relationship between light, aperture and shutter speed directly, and makes you learn how they interact. It also takes no batteries (it runs off the very light it measures).

I bought it from a normal still photography store. The only concession it has to motion picture work is a red line and the word CINE at the 1/48" shutter speed position on the whiz wheel. I have used it several times to shoot motion picture film and always had quite reasonable results; it broadly agrees, for example, with a friend's L-758. The only downside with it is that it will not read very low light levels, which was probably not a problem when the type was first designed.

So yes, you can.

Phil
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#4 Valerio Sacchetto

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:36 PM

I have an l-398 too. it's wonderful. I suffer a bit for the inability to accurately read really low light levels but sometimes it makes me more brave. never regretted.
What phil says about the learning value is just too true :P . Mine agreed perfectly with an l-558c and a spectra p251 just a couple of days ago.
When i first thought about buying it (it's still my first meter) i was a bit nervous because of the newer, fancier meters but now i'm used to it. you have to realize that once you have some very basic functions (asa, exp. time, aperture) you have everything you need. the other tools are really useful of course but they're not essentials.
Since it's all a matter of relationships you can even use all the wrong settings and still infer the right stop (knowing the situation but you don't have to do this).
Beside, the l-398 reads directly in FC. Oh i do so like that! ok i'm going OT, what's important is that any (calibrated) light meter will say you something useful, maybe try it first with some stills just to get acquainted.

Edited by Valerio Sacchetto, 19 February 2008 - 12:38 PM.

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#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 02:20 PM

My meter is like that -- I can't input frame rates into it, I have to input shutter speeds instead.


Which meter David?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 04:55 PM

Which meter David?


Well, my Minolta incident meter that I used for years doesn't -- I think my newer Spectra Pro IV has an FPS input, but I don't have it in front of me to look. The point is that meters don't have to be very fancy. All you need is to set an ASA value and a shutter speed and get a reading in f-stops. The classic analog Spectra used for cine work was even simpler than that, just metal slides to control ASA values.
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#7 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 05:02 PM

I think my newer Spectra Pro IV has an FPS input, but I don't have it in front of me to look.


Ahh, ok, just checking. The Spectra IV does have FPS, you just gotta advance past the shutter and long exposure speeds and then FPS will show up.

btw Niki, any "ol'" light meter will do. ASA is a set standard throughout its history. 100 ASA means the same today as it did 50 years ago...as far as measuring correct exposure goes. Film technology and the characteristics of the negative we all know are ever changing.
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