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Metering with bright background


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#1 Nick Centera

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 12:35 PM

Hey I was curious in how about you go about metering for a proper exposure when you have a bright background and a subject that is darker then the background. If the subject was a face and I metered off the face, would there be potential that the background would be so washed out that it over expose the face? My example is the wedding scene from Kill Bill II. Thanks for your help

Nick

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 12:58 PM

Hey I was curious in how about you go about metering for a proper exposure when you have a bright background and a subject that is darker then the background. If the subject was a face and I metered off the face, would there be potential that the background would be so washed out that it over expose the face? My example is the wedding scene from Kill Bill II. Thanks for your help

Nick



Depends on the look you want but for a near silhouette like this, you'd first meter the background and decide how hot it should look, and then meter the reverse side of the faces that are lit by the background, and then also perhaps meter the shadow side of the face, though if you just want it to fall off, you probably wouldn't bother.

If you have some lights, you may decide that the look should be:

(1) the background being 1.5-stops over
(2) the lit side of the faces being 2-stops under
(3) the shadow side of the face being near black (maybe 4-stops under)

And you would light accordingly; in the example above, there seems to be some soft cross-lighting on the faces from the upstage side though it could be natural light or natural light being bounced into the shade for a soft edge.

With no lighting, you can think of the shot as having a 180 degree dolly move let's say, from one over the shoulder to the opposite, with the center of the move being a profile 2-shot. Then how would you meter that? Would you do a stop-pull as the camera dollied around? Of course, the backgrounds in the over-the-shoulder angle would affect your exposure decisions too.

But I might start by saying that the faces would be 2-stops under, and then find out that the background would end up being 2-stops over if I did that. Now maybe that's fine and the background can take it if there aren't any big white objects out there. Or maybe I'd compensate how I split the exposure. But right from the start, you are assuming that the faces are going to be a bit underexposed and the background might be a bit overexposed, so it's just a question of where you want to split that exposure, favoring the subject in the shade or the background.
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#3 Nick Centera

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 03:19 AM

Thanks for that response!

So when you are shooting in a high contrast location, like the desert, do you have to worry about the bright background creating a glare over your subject? I had taken some stills inside my house metering for the object against a window during the day. When I got the film back, the background had overexposed the entire image. How do you compensate for this? Through testing I assume, but any way you can know that you should not let a certain background be too many stops over because it may blow out the rest of the image? Like any rule on that? Thank you

Nick
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 10:47 AM

Thanks for that response!

So when you are shooting in a high contrast location, like the desert, do you have to worry about the bright background creating a glare over your subject? I had taken some stills inside my house metering for the object against a window during the day. When I got the film back, the background had overexposed the entire image. How do you compensate for this? Through testing I assume, but any way you can know that you should not let a certain background be too many stops over because it may blow out the rest of the image? Like any rule on that? Thank you

Nick


The more overexposed it gets, the more it will flare the image, and a zoom is more likely to flare than a prime, etc. Generally you should see the flare in the viewfinder though. If a background is only 2 or 3 stops overexposed, it isn't going to flare much, it would have to be whited-out to begin to flare unless you had a flare-prone lens on the camera.

If you are shooting inside on film and were worried about the background brightness, you'd use a spot meter and check it. Generally you would hold detail up to 3-stops over, 2-stops over would just look bright but detailed, and 5-stops over would go near white with some detail (and there would still be something to recover in a D.I. using power windows, etc.) Sort of depends on the background, you'd expect a white house to burn-out faster than a dark tree. Once you have that information, you need to know what to do with it, i.e. do you bring up the interior light-level to balance closer or do you ND gel or scrim the windows to darken them (a double net scrim is only going to kill 1-stop of brightness and blur/haze the view at the same time)?

If you are shooting digital, obviously you can see how hot the background will get on the monitor or EVF.

How bright you let the windows go also depends on the look you want, the detail you want to hold, and how much of the frame the window takes up. If it is in the far background and small, you can just let it go white, but if it fills a lot of the frame, you'd want to expose to hold more detail outside.

This is why before every feature I shoot a simple over and underexposure test to see when the film goes white and goes black.
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Metropolis Post

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Aerial Filmworks

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Ritter Battery

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