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Contrast Ratios for Lighting with the RED


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#1 zachary holloran

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 10:58 AM

Hi everyone,

I am shooting a noir - styled film on the RED ONE MX and wanted some feedback as far as contrast ratios and how far people with experience have pushed that. I've shot on the RED many times, but I haven't done noir too much - and am not quite sure how far I can push my contrast ratio with lighting for it. Any suggestions or help from experience would be much appreciated :) I know since it's the RED I should probably do some tests and figure out how black I want my blacks and mess with it in color and redcine, but for now I just wanted some feedback of maybe some of you who have already used high contrast ratios on the RED for noir, or darker scenes. Ultimately - I'm trying to figure out how far i can push it while keeping details in my shadows.

Thanks :)
-zach
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:15 PM

Hi everyone,

I am shooting a noir - styled film on the RED ONE MX and wanted some feedback as far as contrast ratios and how far people with experience have pushed that. I've shot on the RED many times, but I haven't done noir too much - and am not quite sure how far I can push my contrast ratio with lighting for it. Any suggestions or help from experience would be much appreciated :) I know since it's the RED I should probably do some tests and figure out how black I want my blacks and mess with it in color and redcine, but for now I just wanted some feedback of maybe some of you who have already used high contrast ratios on the RED for noir, or darker scenes. Ultimately - I'm trying to figure out how far i can push it while keeping details in my shadows.

Thanks :)
-zach


Just light it so it looks right to your eye, don't use any fill. Then turn on the camera & shoot, if it looks right it is! DONT overexpose so you can see everything that is not what you want to do.
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#3 zachary holloran

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:04 AM

Just light it so it looks right to your eye, don't use any fill. Then turn on the camera & shoot, if it looks right it is! DONT overexpose so you can see everything that is not what you want to do.



Okay Thanks - so there aren't any limitations as far as contrast ratio - as long as it looks alright? I've pushed my ratio a lot when using film, but I know even raw 4k doesn't hold up as much of a range, so I just don't want to underexpose my darks
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#4 Albert Smith

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 12:48 PM

The red is really setup for a post workflow where you find your look in the grade, although film has a hefty latitude I think a lot of people are more accustom to try to get closer to the final image on set when they shoot on film. With the Red I generally try to keep a picture that retains a lot of information. I usually try to keep a "Marginal black" so there is always some detail in the shadow areas and then always make sure to keep highlights well under 100IRE whenever possible. Then in the grade if we want to ditch some of the info high or low the option is there.

Two things I have found on the red: The low end gets noisy really fast, if you have information in the picture you want to see between 10-20/25 IRE or so your not going to be able to bring it up at all without it going to poop...I think this is kinda common place for any camera, but its especially bad on the RED, so if you want to save any of that info light it a little flatter and bring it down later...or just be gutsy and know your going to be pretty locked into what you got on set. And, Highlights clip terribly, the roll off is not smooth like film at all...I think some of the other cameras out there have improved on this like the Alexa, but with the red highlights clip harsh so watch out.

Edited by Jake Zalutsky, 21 March 2012 - 12:51 PM.

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#5 Matthew Kane

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 01:07 PM

Does your red body have an MX sensor?

If you're used to shooting film, I think your instincts will serve you well when you're lighting for dark (but not *too* dark). When I shoot or gaff with a Red, I keep a close eye on the live histogram, and occasionally pull out my light meter--but if it's a real film noir style project, don't be afraid to let something drop off into darkness. I prefer to set my in-camera ISO to the maximum I find acceptable, so I don't fall into that trap of "well, we can always bump it up in the grade".

As a rule of thumb--even with the MX sensor, I'd say if an area you're metering is 4-5 stops under (or say, reading around 10 IRE on a waveform) it's pretty close to what your viewer will see as 'black', and any attempt to pull out useful detail would make for ugly noise and milky blacks.

That said--depends on the shot and the specific style of the film. Look at the final shot of "The Big Combo"--any added fill would have been awful! If you underexpose a face by 2 1/2 stops, but have a bright catchlight in their eyes, a bright spot in the background or a "normally" exposed kicker--you can have a really striking, atmospheric shot that's "technically" way underexposed. Eyes matter a lot in situations like that--the only time I get antsy with a really dark setup is when I can't see one or both eyes... and even then, it might be the right look at that moment in the story. Don't let the technical specs keep you from making a really atmospheric shot--get dark, get risky!
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