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Shooting a Sunset with 200T Film


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#1 Steve Absalom

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 12:48 PM

I want to shoot a sunset for a film I'm doing. It would be a very brief scene working as a transition between two different scenes. Since it is so brief, I'm going to use 200T film stock which I bought for the other scenes (don't want to buy a whole roll of daylight film for a scene lasting 5 seconds or so).

I figure I'll probably have to use a CTO filter on the camera to get it to look right. But my next question is with exposure. What is the average foot-candles measurement of a sunset? I'm assuming its much less than say noon time or even afternoon lighting.

I actually don't have the option of going to the location days before to measure a sunset so I'll have to estimate as best as possible before hand.

Any thoughts?
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#2 Elliot Rudmann

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 01:21 PM

I want to shoot a sunset for a film I'm doing. It would be a very brief scene working as a transition between two different scenes. Since it is so brief, I'm going to use 200T film stock which I bought for the other scenes (don't want to buy a whole roll of daylight film for a scene lasting 5 seconds or so).

I figure I'll probably have to use a CTO filter on the camera to get it to look right. But my next question is with exposure. What is the average foot-candles measurement of a sunset? I'm assuming its much less than say noon time or even afternoon lighting.

I actually don't have the option of going to the location days before to measure a sunset so I'll have to estimate as best as possible before hand.

Any thoughts?


Hey Steve, giving you an objective light reading of a sunset, even an average reading, is somewhat difficult. What kind of sunset are you hoping for? A perfectly clean one with no clouds and just the naked sun, or a hazy/cloudy sunset? Either of which can give you dramatically different light readings. Also how you shoot the sunset (eg. telephoto perspective, wide angle perspective) will dictate how you measure the scene as well. If it's a wide angle shot you'll probably want to expose for the surrounding sky/clouds, if it's an extreme telephoto shot, then obviously keeping the sun in a tolerable range is important.

I wouldn't worry about using any sort of CTO filter, assuming you get this footage telecined, the colorist could easily add the warmth back in (if desired). You'll definitely want some ND filters though, and possibly some graduated ND filters at your disposal (depending on your composition). Either way, I wouldn't go into this situation with a set measurement in your head. The spot meter is your best friend. If you don't have a spot meter, you can do what some DPs do, where you point the incident meter dome at the sunset and underexpose 1-2 stops from whatever your incident reading is. If you have time, maybe bracket some shots too.
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#3 Chris Burke

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 04:34 PM

I want to shoot a sunset for a film I'm doing. It would be a very brief scene working as a transition between two different scenes. Since it is so brief, I'm going to use 200T film stock which I bought for the other scenes (don't want to buy a whole roll of daylight film for a scene lasting 5 seconds or so).

I figure I'll probably have to use a CTO filter on the camera to get it to look right. But my next question is with exposure. What is the average foot-candles measurement of a sunset? I'm assuming its much less than say noon time or even afternoon lighting.

I actually don't have the option of going to the location days before to measure a sunset so I'll have to estimate as best as possible before hand.

Any thoughts?



definitely bracket. shoot a 100' spool and get lots of variation. this will be the best way to cover the bases as it were. Why not get 100' of 250D stock? it will probably be a better choice than the 200T since you will have to use an 85 and thus will actually be shooting with a 125 speed film
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#4 David Rakoczy

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 05:18 PM

Actually, you don't need an 85 with the 200t... just add the 85 in post. Doing so, gives you an extra 2/3s stop. You can use that to tighten up the grain if desired.

There is a huge variation from pre sunset to sunset to post sunset, so, take a spot meter outside (wherever you are) and meter the sky at the moment you feel will be the 'heart' of your shot.. and expose for that which will likely fall between t5.6 and t2... depending on what 'moment' you want for your shot. You don't need an 85. You don't need to bracket.

This is simple.. heck.. check back in a couple hours and I'll have the reading for you based on a clear sky sunset. ;)
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#5 David Rakoczy

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 07:30 PM

ok. Here are the readings. Not using an 85 in front of the lens and adding it is post, I rated 7217 at 120iso to tighten up the grain which can permeate a shot such as this..

The sky was reflected:

Pre sunset - t16

During the actual setting - t4

Post sunset - t1


So for me (not knowing which part of that transition you want to hero.. or your focal length.. etc..) I would have rolled today's sunset at t2.8... t 2 if I was concentrating on the actual setting/ post setting portion.

Take a spot meter and see for your self..
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#6 Steve Absalom

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 10:41 PM

Thank you all for the helpful replies. I got an extension on shooting the sunset so now I get more time to plan, and I'm definitely taking your advice into effect.

Thank you very much.
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#7 Jesse Lee Cairnie

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 12:41 AM

I would have rolled today's sunset at t2.8... t 2 if I was concentrating on the actual setting/ post setting portion.

Take a spot meter and see for your self..


Im looking for the darkness of the clouds to show.. So if im at a 4.. let the sun go just past horizon.. i might get something like this?

Posted Image
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#8 Serge Teulon

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 06:13 AM

When I shoot something like the sunset I use Ansel Adams' Zonal system as a reference.
Actually, I use that Zonal system a heck of a lot!

In Jess's picture the clouds have a darkness to them, which to me says that I need to expose to a brighter part of that sky so that the dark parts can be represented correctly.
I would initially, with my spot meter, ascertain what exposures are on the whole 'canvas'. And then make a decision, with the zonal system in mind, as to what I would expose to.

I would then do a dance to the gods so that it all comes out as I want it to.... ;)
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