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Exposing for film vs Digital (raw)


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#1 Luke Randall

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Posted 08 November 2015 - 03:57 PM

Hello,

 

I'm transitioning from digital s16 raw to s16 film on my next project and having trouble grasping metering and exposure technique for film. I was wondering if there are any good resources out there folks might suggest? Material online is skint comparatively, I have ordered some books, am reading up as much as I can and will be practicing and testing prior to the shoot, but I'm trying to lessen my learning curve.  Am I on the right track? my takeaways so far:

 

* (generally) Expose for the shadows, not highlights like you would for digital. Film suffers more from underexposure than over

 

* Overexpose 1/3 to 1/2 stop for a nicer images and a more forgiving margin for error.

 

I will be shooting talent, mostly outdoors in the desert, magic hour wherever possible, scanning and doing post in digital. To that end I chose Vision 3 250D (over 200T filtered for extra juice before losing light) with tiffen ultracontrast filters. I plan to shoot a test roll on location soon. Hopefully, that will help me understand a little better.

 

I am very used to exposing raw to hold highlights (particularly the sky when outdoors) then bringing up mids and shadows in post. A half blown out sky in digital is a death sentence, fully blown can work in a pinch if out of focus. This is my biggest concern, exposing for talent outdoors and then having the sky half blowout in some un-usable way, how do you guys handle this? It's terrifying.

 

How many stops over and under do you find tolerable? particularly on talent.

 

Do you have a quick metering technique you use to get started ?

 

I will be learning to use a incident and spot metering, but is there any uses for a dslr or s16 raw digital camera to help judge the final image? I heard Mathew Libatique used a DSLR snap at times when shooting Black Swan to give an idea of final image.

 

Apologies for the glut of questions, outside this forum, it really is difficult to find satisfying information online for shooting film.

 

Thanks in advance for any wisdom.


Edited by Luke Randall, 08 November 2015 - 04:09 PM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 November 2015 - 05:25 PM

Certainly you can get away with exposing for the shadows but this technique isn't very consistent, it would be better to first rate the stock for the general level of exposure / density you want -- let's say a consistent 2/3-stop overexposure by rating 250D at 160 ASA -- then exposing accurately for how you want the image to look, brightness-wise, as if you could just transfer the whole roll by only setting the brightness levels once, maybe based on a grey card and a face at the head of the roll (stock rated at your chosen speed).  

 

So then you might decide creatively that in frontal sunlight, a face should look about a 1/2-stop over to feel correct, and in backlight, the shade should be 1.5-stops to feel correct, and in dead overhead light, perhaps you split the difference between sun and shade or you decide that the sunny side should be 1-stop over.  Just depends on the feeling you want.  

 

Now you'd want to shoot your face and grey scale in frontal, boring light but without any creative adjustments to exposure, just expose for what your meter tells you using the ASA rating you have chosen to give you that consistent overexposure.  It should be an image that anyone can figure out how to transfer at the correct brightness level, no artistic interpretation necessary.

 

Of course, there will be shots where you have to make more adjustments in your exposure plan, like when someone is semi-silhouette in a low angle against a hot sky or a higher angle against a bright backlit ocean.

 

But generally you should aim to expose for how you want the image to look and let your chosen base ASA rating provide the consistent level of overexposure so you don't have to think about it.


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#3 Luke Randall

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Posted 08 November 2015 - 05:59 PM

Wow David, thank you for taking the time to write such detailed reply. That was super helpful!
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#4 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 02:21 AM


 

I am very used to exposing raw to hold highlights (particularly the sky when outdoors) then bringing up mids and shadows in post. A half blown out sky in digital is a death sentence, fully blown can work in a pinch if out of focus. This is my biggest concern, exposing for talent outdoors and then having the sky half blowout in some un-usable way, how do you guys handle this? It's terrifying.

 

A great thing about negative film is that it generally has very good exposure latitude - particularly in regards to overexposure. This might seem a little off topic but a few years ago, I was shooting a group of people at night on negative stills film with a 35mm manual SLR. The people were illuminated by an artificial light source and I was doing tripod-mounted time exposures. When I got the prints back, it looked like my exposures were too long. My subjects looked extremely overexposed. Most of their limbs were burnt out to pure white (clipped highlights.) There was very little colour, very little detail - they were mostly just white. I took the film to another lab, showed them one of the prints and asked if they could get more detail out of the image. I was amazed at what they were able to recover. No more blown out / overexposed subjects. All the colour and detail had been restored. In other words, I saw colour where I had not seen colour before. The resulting image looked perfect.

 

However, to be honest, I'm not sure if that was a recovery job or simply the fact that my exposures were fine and that the first lab stuffed up the printing. I can't even remember what the negatives looked like. 


Edited by Patrick Cooper, 28 January 2016 - 02:24 AM.

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#5 Chris Burke

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 04:15 PM

Your test will teach you a lot, but I wouldn't worry about the sky at all. That stock holds highlights quite well. Here is an example of a 7219 test. Here is an over exposure test I shot on Super 8 7203


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#6 Chris Burke

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 04:26 PM

at the very end of the 7219 test is some 7207 in sunny conditions


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