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Purpose of a light meter?


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#1 scott karos

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 11:01 AM

I've never used a light meter and it appears to be a very important tool for cinematographers. 

 

What exactly does it tell you? This is for shooting digital, not film. Does it tell you what to put your settings to on your camera?

 

any advice would be a great help.

 

thanks.


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#2 Kyran Ford

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 11:25 AM

It's a device used for measuring exposure and amounts of light with an incident and/or spot meter.

 

Since you're asking about digital specifically.... You can dial in your settings (shutter speed and frame rate) and easily get an exposure reading in aperture stop for your lens. Incident light is the reflected light, or the amount of light falling on your subject or an area. Spot meters are typically used to measure the exposure of a specific 'spot' juxtaposed to the varying exposures in the remaining areas in your shot. I use my spot meter to keep myself in a safe zone with the latitude whatever camera we're shooting on has.  

 

Read up on this: http://en.wikipedia....iki/Light_meter


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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 11:25 AM

It tells you a lot of things. Firstly it can tell you where to park your exposure on the lens.  but really it helps to tell you your contrast ratios, and allows a cinematographer to see the shot before the camera is turn on. It also allows a certain consistency and the granular fine level control filmmaking so often needs.


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#4 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 05:57 PM

Generally speaking there's often a perceived difference between a DP and a "shooter" and it has to do with controlling the lighting in the environment one is filming in.

 

A "shooter", i.e., news gatherer, event videographer etc., may adjust their camera settings to the environment and leave it at that.  A DP, on the other hand, will adjust the environment and the lighting, to the camera settings he or she has chosen for their camera.  

The main tool used to help assist a DP in this mission of adjusting the environment to their desired lens and camera settings is their light meter.  Cause it measures light falling on and reflecting off surfaces in frame.

 

So there are appropriate situations to use a light meter, like when you're shooting a music video or movie, and other situations where you'll get some awkward stares if you suddenly pull it out and start metering, like a live basketball game for example.


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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 08:36 PM

But you can spot meter for that one ;) if you're fast enough.


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#6 Ayaskant Baral

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 01:41 AM

For Digital its more helpful to maintain contrast ratios than exposure.


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#7 Alexandre de Tolan

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 02:28 PM

For Digital its more helpful to maintain contrast ratios than exposure.

 

That will be saying that pasta is more important than the sauce when you make pizza!

 

Exposure is where all begins (technically anyway), since before that you have to account for the look you're after. At this stage you plan a lot of things including your contrast ratios but without proper exposure you have all things wrong down the way.

 

I think LaVoie addressed the OP's question spot on. Most of the times the DOP has to make his/her decisions before principal photography and for that a light meter is unavoidable and an essential tool.

 

Besides that, and as Adrain pointed out, it's the best tool you have to verify contrast ratios and of course… Exposure. 


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#8 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 02:46 PM

A light meter helps you balance your lighting, it becomes more important when you start doing increasingly complex lighting. 


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#9 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:00 PM

Have digital cameras become more in line with light meters? Are are meters still more or less paper weights about being reliable when dealing with digital mediums? I know that with film, I would never consider shooting without a meter. But when I used to do audio gigs for short film around here, I never saw a DP who had a meter (these were all digital projects.)


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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:02 PM

I've personally quite often used meters on digital shows. Final adjustment to the exposure may be off of a waveform, or perhaps with false color; but I at least use the meter unless we are really SoL for time. I can say that on my own BM camera, it falls in light pretty well with my meter at least to my own eye and expectations.


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