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Lighting with Eye vs Incident and Reflected readings


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#1 Arun Kumar Pandey

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 06:48 AM

After having shot on various film speed stocks, i still land into confusion as to when to trust eyes and when to trust meters.Say at f2.8 the practicals and windows look good to eye through viewfinder but give a reflected reading of f16 or f22 and then the confusion starts, should i bring them down or ND them and to what extent?

Also for a night situation shooting at f2.8 on kodak5219 when the exterior light is a moonlight, how much stops should i control them to get the exact feeling of soothing moonlight on curtains?

And say a character is sitting in the moonlight, how to judge by eye whether its right amount of light?. Should i also determine that the reflected from curtains on windows is a stop(not sure how much) more than on the face?

Pretty much confused on when to use incident meter, Reflected meter or Eyes to determine according to film speeds and various lighting ratios situation?
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Sorry, if i have too many doubts posted at once. But that's how these things came to my mind while lighting.
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#2 Albert Smith

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 11:07 AM

You need to have knowledge of how many stops over and under you can expose and what it will look like to a certain extent going into a project if you are shooting on film. If you want hot bright windows and your shooting at 2.8 you'll want to know how many stops over will achieve the look you want. Generally the idea is always to to keep the entire picture within the latitude of your film, if the windows are reading f22 and your shooting at 2.8 they will have no detail in them, they will be completely white. Read up on the latitude of the film stock your using and keep your highs and lows in that range...for the most part, but dont be afraid to get gutsy.


as far as incident vs reflected. Incident measures the amount of light hitting a given point you hold it at and will tell you how to achieve proper exposure of an object at 50IRE so if they are wearing bright white or a black suite your reading will be the same. Reflected is very handy when those above conditions do happen and you need to make sure something isn't too bright or dark.

Edited by Jake Zalutsky, 22 March 2012 - 11:12 AM.

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#3 Matthew Kane

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 11:45 AM

Like Jake said, your incident meter's reading is based on the assumption that what you're shooting is a middle gray--if you set your iris to that stop, a gray card in that light will read at the same level of gray on film. So, if you use that reading to expose someone in white clothes in a snowstorm--your picture might be a little overexposed, with all the highlight areas mushing together. And if you're shooting someone in a black suit in a coal mine, your incident reading may produce a picture darker than you intended.

If you don't know what the zone system is, or if you're unclear about how your meters take a reading, I'd pick up a basic photography book--

http://www.google.co...d=0CDQQ8wIwAw#p

Look for any edition of that book with John Upton's name on it--they turn up in used book stores often, and it covers what most "introductory" books do, except more and better. The basic science of exposing an image is the same for film and digital, motion and stills. As you get more advanced, Ansel Adams wrote some great guidebooks as well.

I've rarely found a use for a reflected meter reading--the only time I might use it is to get a broad reading of a landscape (since I can't get up on that mountain to take an incident reading). I'd much prefer a spot meter in that situation, but you can make do.

If you're just starting out with shooting film and using a light meter, rely on your meter at first--when you've got an exposure set, try standing by the camera and just squint at the set (not looking through the eyepiece)--Areas that become black, and highlights that blur into a pure white will probably be pure black or white on film--and you can decide whether that is good or bad. Compare the readings you got with your meter to what you think your eyes are telling you, and compare that to the final picture.

Some people like to keep all practicals in the frame from overexposing (clipping, to the point where there is no highlight detail)--that would mean taking a reflective or spot reading of the practical, and using a dimmer or ND gel inside the lamp shade to get it within three stops or so of your actual exposure. Especially when shooting film, I often just let the practicals overexpose (as long as they aren't distracting in the frame)--I think it feels more natural, and can give some interesting contrast--and with film, you've got more latitude in the highlights. Experiment and find what works for you.

As you gain more experience, you can rely on your meter for setting the general exposure, and your eyes for tweaking the contrast--it will feel tedious at first, but as you train your eyes, you'll be amazed what they can tell you.

I learned basic exposure techniques by shooting (35mm film) stills... pretty old school, but it's less expensive than messing up on 16mm. If your folks or a friend has an old film SLR, just buy a few rolls and shoot some stuff using your meter--it will be different with different film stocks, but you'll at least get a feel for what is possible.

Sorry if that info is too basic, I don't mean to be condescending. And don't worry about a hard and fast rule for exposing a night scene--underexposing your image to make a mood is something you'll learn with experience, and it's more about what is in front of the camera (the environment, the wardrobe, the action), and the mood of the film you're making. If you want to make a scene dark, but still visible, try thinking about "separating" objects in the frame, rather than exposing them--a soft rimlight on your talent, with a "normal" exposure, will feel darker than an underexposed light coming from the front.

Ok, sorry for the long one. Good luck, shooting film will teach you so much!
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#4 Arun Kumar Pandey

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 12:06 PM

Thanks Jake and Mathew for the response.

I have already gone through Ansel Adams "Negative" and understand a fair bit of reflected and incident reading. My primary concern is on aesthetics of controlling practicals and curtain windows which conflict with regards to what we see by eye and what meter says. Again looking through the viewfinder with the set shooting aperture is another consideration. Is there a guideline as to how much of control in terms of stop is needed? and second :are there ways to judge lighting by eye or viewfinder better?
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#5 Matthew Kane

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 12:52 PM

Gotcha. I know some DP's like to use the eyepiece to judge contrast (not exposure). I prefer squinting (your eye's own iris changes, and each camera body has a different set of prisms/mirrors/ground glass between you and the picture you see in the viewfinder). Just looking with your eyes is good too--experience is the only way to judge when one area is too bright or dark--syncing up what your meter says, what your eyes see, and what the final picture looks like takes some time, I think I shot 3-4 shorts on 16mm, and lots of stills before I got somewhat confident using my eyes. There are glass viewing filters that roughly replicate the contrast of various stocks, but they're expensive, and far from a necessity.

In my experience shooting 5219--anything 3-4 stops hotter than your base exposure will be pretty much pure white (you get this reading using a spot meter, or by taking a reflected reading from 6 inches or a foot from the lampshade or window). I think 5-6 stops is where you actually hit the D-max, but that's a theoretical limit, considering your viewers won't be watching on a perfect display.

If you want to see what's outside the window, use ND gel (or brighter lighting inside) to get the windows just 1.5 or two stops hotter than your talent (I think it looks weird when the windows are the same exposure as the scene inside the room). Depending on the frame, you may see reflections or ripples in the gel, so you often have to use fresh cuts, or lightly used precuts. I'd start with ND.6--.3 is usually not enough, and .9 is usually too much.

Another alternative, if you can't afford a clean roll of ND, is to use plastic dropcloth, diffusion gel, or muslin to make the windows blow out to a uniform white--while blown out windows may not be what you want, I prefer that to having just a few overexposed hunks of buildings or trees "floating" outside the window. Sometimes this look is better for the scene--for example, if whatever is outside the window is a distraction.

Putting a diffusing material on the windows also cuts down on haze, flares, and internal reflections if you have to feature them in the frame.

Re: practicals--Using a dimmer or ND gel in the shade works pretty well--but I guess the best solution is to replace the bulb with another of lower wattage. I like to keep a range of bulbs handy, from 15w - 300w. Nothing special, just make a trip to Home Depot. This does get tricky if you want to use the practical itself to light your talent--you'll usually end up having to use another light to fake the illumination that would be coming from that practical.

If you have a bare lightbulb hanging into the scene, put a clear 15-20w bulb in the practical, and then use your movie lights to bring up the talent to your desired stop.

If I want to hold onto detail in a practical, I try to get the lampshade within 2-3 stops of my base exposure--again, it depends on how it looks in the frame--if it's in the deep background where it could be a distraction, I may bring it down to just one stop above the main action. If it is a desk light or worklight (with an opaque shade), sometimes it's better to just tilt the shade away from the camera, where you can't see the reflector--then you could still use it to bounce light back into the scene. Sometimes the brighter highlight adds variety to the frame, and sometimes it's a distraction. Luckily, with film, your latitude is mostly in the highlights.

Hope that helps--
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#6 Tom Jensen

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 01:16 PM

It comes with experience. If you are shooting daily, often on the same sets, you know what the shot looks like through the lens and what the dailies look low and how much light you have been using, you will often get the feel or the intuition as to what it looks like. At this point, stick with your meter. It's usually, if not always right..
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#7 Arun Kumar Pandey

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:23 PM

Thanks. Nice to have you guys share this info, it gives a good start, for my next step.
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