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Speed and Stop


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#1 Chris D Walker

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 09:09 AM

I have an initial question followed by a train of thought.

In a typical shooting scenario, what amount of light do you have to play with? I mean in terms of what speed film or sensor in relation to a given stop. Do you shoot mainly low-light footage that demands high sensitivity with fast lenses or in bright sunlight with a deep stop? I'm not asking about any preference but what you encounter most often during a production.

I ask because there's a number of digital cameras around that can shoot at high speeds with low noise and few artifacts; the Mysterium-X on the RED, the Alexa and soon the F35 both with a base E.I. of 800ASA. Also, the lenses are getting faster; the Leicas at T1.4, Cooke going from T2 on their S4 primes to T1.4 on the S5/i range, Master Primes, T2 zoom lenses from Fujinon etc. There appears to be a greater demand for low-light capable cameras than for anything else, despite that not all shooting scenarios will be illuminated by candles or practicals.

I find it strange how cinematographers 30+ years ago got the exposures they did with 100-speed film at T2 at the best of times, yet now no production can exist without shooting with 5219 or 8573 500T or a higher-speed sensor. Have the objects that cinematographers shoot changed? Is it the growth of directors wanting to shoot in practical locations? Is it to do with budget constraints?

This post was in part inspired by watching The Taking of Pelham 123 (the original), Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now. It seems a world away from how film is shot today.

Thanks to those who read and reply.

Edited by Chris D Walker, 23 July 2010 - 09:11 AM.

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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 01:16 PM

They used to force the film stocks by one stop and there were T1.4 lenses around in the 1970s, plus you could also flash the film stock for more shadow detail. The streets of central Manhattan are pretty bright and you don't need really fast film stocks to get pictures around there, although you do need low level supplementary lighting for good CUs.

"Apocalypse Now" had big lighting, so I wouldn't say it was the same as the NY films. Although, I suspect quite a few scenes in "The Taking of Pelham 123" were studio sets rather than location, they were just lit in a a very natural fashion. There were NY films that used the light from shop windows etc, it's a matter of being smart about selection your locations.

Modern features also have big lights, perhaps more soft than the traditional hard light, but they're still there.
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