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Shooting Cell Phone Screen?


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#1 Scott Lovejoy

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 06:35 PM

Hi all,

I'm shooting a 16mm project for school in a few weeks and I'm making small tweaks to the script that may include a cell phone screen. I did a search but didn't come up with an answer:

Are cell phone screens the magic of post production, or can a film camera expose it properly?

Any advice?
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#2 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 06:44 PM

I've worked on a few commercials that shot cell phone screens and they used green screen every time.
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#3 Matt Read

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 12:06 AM

You didn't describe the shot in too much detail, but I'm assuming if you're concerned about proper exposure then you want to be able to read what's on the screen, which means you'll be shooting an extreme close-up. If that's the case, my advice is to shoot it twice. Do it once using the actual screen of the cell phone showing what you want to appear on screen. Then do another take with the screen off and small reference marks (like plus signs) near the screen's corners. Doing it twice shouldn't cost you too much extra film and you'll be sure to have something usable.

If you want to get even fancier (and shoot a bit of extra film) try shooting bracketed exposures on the shot of the actual cell phone screen. If you don't know what they are, bracketed exposures are where you find a base exposure, usually what an incident light meter tells you is correct, shoot that and then shoot several other takes at constant incremental increases and decreases in exposure from that. What that increment is and how many times you choose to apply it to your base exposure is up to you, but between a 1/2 stop to 1 stop and between 3 and 5 times over and under is a good range. So, say that your light meter gives you a reading of a 5.6, then using 1/2 stop increments applied three times, you would shoot 2.8 1/2, 4, 4 1/2, 5.6, 5.6 1/2, 8 and 8 1/2. The idea is that one of these apertures will give you an acceptable exposure.

As for Brad's suggestion of a green screen, I don't think that would be necessary. I think it would take a lot of extra effort to paint a cell phone screen an even green, rather than just turning it off and in post placing an image over it directly, using your reference marks (as I suggested earlier) for motion tracking (you could then get fancy again and turn the black screen into a luma key and preserve reflections off the screen for a more realistic effect).

Hope that helps. Good luck.
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#4 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 05:11 AM

I think it would take a lot of extra effort to paint a cell phone screen an even green,

You're probably right, but for the record, they didn't paint the screen, they just used cloth.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 07:59 AM

I've exposed a cell phone on 500T w/o problem. I just took an incident of what's around it, and a spot of the screen all lit up and you know, set exposure based on the two. I'm too asleep this moment to really recall what exposure i was at.
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#6 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 02:25 PM

I don't know why I didn't mention this before, but on the commercials I referred to that used green screen, I don't think they were sure what they wanted the screen to look like before they shot it, which is probably the main reason they didn't just shoot the screen. They probably wanted the flexibility in post to decide what they wanted on the screen at a later date.
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#7 Shubham Kasera

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 02:50 AM

i would say dont worry too much about it
jus go ahead and shoot
ive done it many times and never has it been not exposed properly
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#8 Shubham Kasera

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 02:52 AM

i would say dont worry too much about it
jus go ahead and shoot
ive done it many times and never has it been not exposed properly

jus too be very sure you can use your spot meter to read the light on your screen

the last shot i took of a cell phone was using 500T with a 4-5.6 exposure, it worked fine

Edited by Shubham Kasera, 16 March 2009 - 02:53 AM.

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