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#1 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 03:43 PM

Hello group,

 

Just got my Sekonic L 398 A. The classic external light meter.

 

I am browsing the web for weeks on external light metering and all I see is people measuring the incidental light with the white dome, pointing at the camera (hmmm....). That's all fine but I couldn't find anything about different methods - for example: landscapes, complex lighting with fill lights/reflectors, back lights, sunsets, beach scenes during sun set with complex lighting (light bouncing off the rocks, people moving, sun just out of the frame, etc.).

 

Way too much "information" about staged, posed or studio situations in stills photography (a lot of it seems dead wrong BTW!) and way too few about cinematography where things are moving and one needs to decide what is the most important area (or find a good average exposure - I know: on neg film blown highlights are not as bad as crushed shadows, reversal is unforgiving on both sides....).

 

I won't use the camera's internal meter at all (which will be way off anyway). So how do I measure the incoming (reflected) light and use some common sense (such as making up a stop or two for the sun, snow, exterior light coming through windows, the usual drill...).

 

Do I hold the light meter with the white disc (instead of the dome) in front of my lens - to emulate an internal meter? Do I screw on the grid which also comes with the light meter?

 

Any input where to get reliable and comprehensive/complete information (I'll study and learn - and practice, but obviously not right away on expensive, rare film stock, waiting for it to return!) highly appreciated.

 

Christian


Edited by Christian Schonberger, 31 March 2016 - 03:51 PM.

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#2 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 05:10 PM

As i was reading your questions about how to expose for different scenarios,
pictures started to pop in my mind - i have seen this in a manual, and probably

for the above meter...

 

I looked in my collection of PDF manuals, in the 398A, and couldn't find what i recalled.
Looked in another makes and models, nothing.
And i was SURE it was for a Japanese meter and most likely the 398...

 

Then i remembered, it was from the 398 manual but for an other variant, the non "A"

 

User manual here: http://www.cameraman...konic_l-398.pdf

 

...

 

As for dome pointing at  camera, i like to measure pointing at key light, then the rest and come up
with a decision.  It's late and I'm too tired at the moment to elaborate on that.

 

...

 

Shane Hurlbut's site had an article on measuring incident,
cupping the dome for measuring fill, avoiding skylight, or back light etc...

Let me search of it.  It might be moved to his Inner Circle content. It was previously free.
 

 

(beat)

 

 

As i assumed: Top 10 Hurlblog Posts of 2014

It's the 2nd article, and when you click it says "This content is only available to Shane’s Inner Circle members..."

...


Best

Igor


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#3 John E Clark

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 06:56 PM


Do I hold the light meter with the white disc (instead of the dome) in front of my lens - to emulate an internal meter? Do I screw on the grid which also comes with the light meter?

 

 

The usual 'difference' between the dome and the disk is 'angle of view' of the meter sensor. Dome... 180 (or so...) disk 35-40 (or so...).

 

One can take incident readings of the whole scene, or find 'ratios', which involves pointing the dome/disk at a particular light source or shading from a light to determine the complementary light value.

 

These days I use the incident to evaluate my basic exposure, and a spot meter for 'contrast' check.


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#4 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 05:46 AM

Igor and John,

 

Thanks a lot. My light meter came with very basic instructions (I knew everything already from YouTube videos) and only described the functions. My trouble with light metering goes way back to books about photography: none of these were truly professional. I knew that the camera thinks "in gray" and all that. I only found one half decent article in a magazine dedicated to amateur film making - it talked about coming from a dark room in to bright daylight: never close your aperture while filming (that looks horribly amateurish) - let the daylight be overexposed while moving the camera into it, then cut to a correctly exposed shot. The "trouble" I have is: if we meter all kinds of light sources and take the "average" - isn't that similar to "thinking everything should be gray"? I love the contemporary low key cinematic look of being slightly underexposed (or exposed for the actor's faces only) and probably very carefully placed, soft fill lights and back lights to provide enough interest to even allow for lack of shadow detail (which should be much less of a problem with modern negative film stock). I remember that many movies and tv shows everywhere until abut the mid 1970 had that "deer caught in the headlight" look (some cheap TV soap operas still have that look) where eveything is way overlit and flat. I understand:the technology (TV and many generations of film copies and prints) didnt allow for subtle lighting and many a movie ended up with a "dark gray soup" where shadow detail should have been. My main concern for now is filming outdoors during the "golden hour". It is still my favorite and very flattering, especially away from big cities - where no high buildings block out the light.

There is it: I probably understand much more about lighting than abut how to get it to look right on film. No "bracketing" possible as many stills photographers do. I might also use my cheap digital stills camera and see what it has "to say" (matching the framing, ISO setting to the film stock and the shutter speed of course). The "just get out and shoot - get to know your film stock, lenses, camera and lighting situations" is a great idea, but hardly applicable when film stock is expensive and feedback takes a long time.

I don't mind the hassle and cumbersome procedure - it's part of being a "no budget" film maker and when you get it "just right" with a great looking film stock - it's worth all the hassle in the world, besides providing a true sense of accomplishment.

 

I know some talented professional film makers (mostly TV commercials and music videos), but to be honest (let me put it mildly): they are rather evasive and rather not talk about what they do and why - only talking about gear - if at all. I understand their protectiveness. Film schools highly benefit from it :-)

 

If I had the time and $$$, I definitely would take cinematography (on film!) classes. I am not over my head here - I studied photography/cinematography for all my life the best I could. Most information, unfortunately, is just about the results and how it should look - not about how to get it on film (or video). It has dramatically improved since my young years, when information was very hard to come by. I think by sharing valuable information one contributes to raising the standards.

 

I am most grateful for finding forum members willing to share their knowledge! I will return the favor (sharing my own experiences) as soon as I get the chance.

 

Thanks again, highly appreciated!

 

Christian


Edited by Christian Schonberger, 01 April 2016 - 05:52 AM.

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#5 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 06:12 AM

P.S. - just now did I see the reputation points (face palm!). I will make sure in the future to give positive reputation points to any post made with good intentions :-)

 

Thanks again,

Christian


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#6 John E Clark

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 11:53 AM

I'd suggest you look at some of the web info on The Zone System. While some of the applicability may be outdated, relative to shooting on still film, vs motion picture film or now digital stills or digital motion pictures, there are some general concepts of 'previsualization' of the final presented image, calibration of equipment and processing from image capture to presentation.

 

I personally have found that using my NLE(Premiere) waveform monitor allows me to do calibrations fairly quickly using one of the number of grey step wedges or just a the standard 18% grey card, as well as determining the limits of a given digital camera. In the olden days one had to use a densitometer and take measurement readings from test negatives to determine the response curve of a given film for one's lightmeter, chemical processing, and the like.


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#7 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 12:05 PM

John,

 

Ah: Ansel Adams (zone system - gray scale from black to brightest details - kind of like the analog forerunner of a histogram)? Love his work. Who doesn't?

Well I'm afraid I won't have any digital equipment to assist me. I have to do it all old school (for the time being).

 

Thanks for the information,

 

Christian


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#8 John E Clark

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 12:15 PM

John,

 

Ah: Ansel Adams (zone system - gray scale from black to brightest details - kind of like the analog forerunner of a histogram)? Love his work. Who doesn't?

Well I'm afraid I won't have any digital equipment to assist me. I have to do it all old school (for the time being).

 

Thanks for the information,

 

Christian

 

Like I said, some of Adams' Zone System may not be applicable to motion picture film... but the concept of previsualization, and calibrating you image system from lightmeter/camera to final presented image, is the 'take away' message.

 

In motion picture film processing one may be limited in the sense that you have to have all the frames on a reel chemically processed to the same time, there may be ways to 'time', that is change the printing lights based on 'cuts' of the resulting negative, etc. or if you go to a Digital Intermediate, you can use an NLE to adjust color/density, etc., but definitely creating 'zones' of adjustments is tedious or impossible for film... in the case of a still film... at the very last one can 'burn and dodge' to correct... Power Windows/Masks are much easier in the modern digital world...

 

But the main thing is calibrate, and 'know' that with that calibration a certain image will result.


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#9 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 12:45 PM

Thanks. Will do the best I can. I start with reversal stock so I can see the actual outcome. I'll ask for a balanced grading for the entire reel when getting it transferred.

Then I will take it in baby steps. Of course I will eventually get my own image processing software. The idea is still: getting it as close to correct as possible in-camera. I (personally) kind of hate the idea that film is just the raw material to be fiddled and tweaked digitally. BUT I am well aware that modern "eyes" just as modern "ears" are all too used to perfectly graded (tweaked) images - including 'Lightroom CC' type masking, dodging and burning.

 

Please just let me digress for a sec: I recently watched "Bridge Of Spies" on BluRay. The cinematographer was of course the fantastic Janusz Kaminski. This was shot on 35mm film - but I wasn't too fond of the color grading. It looks color-drained, tweaked, flat and leaning to he gray-blue-ish with a "digital look". Not "period feel" at all. Not sure what the intention was. I miss the days when film looked like film and people experimented (knowing what they were doing) with various film stocks and pushing/pulling or even cross-processing.... (just my personal opinion - who am I to comment on the work of such brilliant people! I am 100% serious).This all has very likely to do with the modern work flow of film making. No more film stock and labs to do all that great funky stuff! Imagine how it would have looked using something resembling 1950s-'60s East German or Russian film stock (ORWO!) with that typical "off" color palette....  Just sharing my humble thoughts.

 

Here is a good example of that color palette:

 

Thanks again,

Christian


Edited by Christian Schonberger, 01 April 2016 - 12:51 PM.

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#10 John E Clark

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 12:54 PM

Thanks. Will do the best I can. I start with reversal stock so I can see the actual outcome.

 

You of course need to choose what you do... but I'd recommend starting right off with negative stock, unless you are going for the reversal look... but in terms of exposure and what use to be called 'latitude', negative stock can stand more of a contrast ratio, and sill look 'ok'...

 

Revseral is more like shooting on limited DSLR digital... in fact when the Wife and I transitioned from still film to DSLRs, we basically began to expose like we were shooting reversal film, which is 'protect the highlights at all cost'... and for the event/wedding business she was doing, we often needed some fill flash to lower contrast when outdoors.

 

Both of us never shot much reversal outside of school courses, so for us it was required a 'new' way to look at a scene or lighting situation.


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#11 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 01:04 PM

 

You of course need to choose what you do... but I'd recommend starting right off with negative stock, unless you are going for the reversal look... but in terms of exposure and what use to be called 'latitude', negative stock can stand more of a contrast ratio, and sill look 'ok'...

 

Revseral is more like shooting on limited DSLR digital... in fact when the Wife and I transitioned from still film to DSLRs, we basically began to expose like we were shooting reversal film, which is 'protect the highlights at all cost'... and for the event/wedding business she was doing, we often needed some fill flash to lower contrast when outdoors.

 

Both of us never shot much reversal outside of school courses, so for us it was required a 'new' way to look at a scene or lighting situation.

Sure. It's just that shooting reversal is at the moment still an affordable option (processing/scanning/grading). I also happen to have some E 100-D (3x100ft) in the fridge. Love the look. For pure camera tests (view finder, focus, stability, vignetting, image area, light leaks, scratches, frame rate accuracy etc.) I will probably go with Tri-X. Again: I can get it developed/scanned and graded rater inexpensively in top notch quality. In the US there are far more options.... I'm located in the European Union. Vision 3 (which I plan on eventually using - it's awesome!) comes with deals of at least 4x100ft spools and the digital formats are limited to highly professional (and huge) image files which my current computer can't handle. I need to be prepared for that first.

 

Cheers,

Christian


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#12 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 02:01 PM

Christian, do you have a background in analog still photography? I think the most effective way to learn to use your meter would be to do some tests with an old manual film camera and makes some exposures. Start with color reversal film which will give you minimal latitude for error.

Basically, how I use an incident meter is to measure light falling on a foreground subject. Could be front-lit, side-lit, or back-lit. I point the dome toward the light source and I shield the dome with my opposite hand from picking up any additional light sources because I want to know what each light source is doing individually. I repeat this process for each light source. Then I adjust the intensity of each light source for the final effect that I want and re-measure right before we shoot. The knowing of what the final effect will be is the hard part and can only be learned by trial and error, hence all the testing beforehand. Once you have tested your film stock + processing + lens + filter + lighting + exposure methods, and your light meter, you should have a reasonably good idea of what you are going to get back on film.

In terms of how to actually use your meter, front-lit and 3/4 front-lit scenarios are the most straight forward as you've alluded to with your studio lighting example. Aim the dome at the light source, shield from other light sources, and take a reading. This reading will render an 18% grey card as 18% grey. So a Caucasian skin tone or African American skin tone will also render correctly with this stop. You may find that despite having a technically 'correct' exposure, the film stock or sensor that you are using cannot handle the contrast range of the subject so you will have to add fill light or scrim the key to get a pleasing result. This is why we test until we know how the entire system will respond.

For side-lit subjects, I still aim the dome at the source but I take into account how contrasty I want the image to be. Side-lit subjects can often be exposed a bit brighter than 'normal' depending on how much wrap you are getting on the shadow side. This starts to become more of a taste issue and open for interpretation. Roger Deakins apparently often overexposes his side-lit subjects by one stop.

Back-lit subjects are very much exposed to taste. Often you are combining backlight with a 3/4 frontal key, so usually the question is how many stops overexposed do you want it in relation to the key. Sometimes the key is actually a low fill or a low bounce return from the backlight. Again, meter towards the light and adjust it to taste. Hot sunlight will often be in the 4-6 stop overexposed range. If you don't want it to completely blow out, 2-3 stops over would be safe.

Once you get into wide exterior shots that are more about the landscape, I tend to switch to a spot meter. Not to say that you can't use an incident meter since sunlight falling on a distant mountain is the same as sunlight falling on a nearby person. However, it's not as convenient since you can only approximate the light falling on a huge subject several miles away by the light around you. For example, what if there's a dark storm in the distance around the mountain, but it is still sunny where you are? It gets tricky. For that reason, I prefer the spot meter.

Anyway, these are mostly rules of thumb and by trial and error you will find your own working method. Just test, test, test and then go shoot something. You'll be fine.
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#13 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 02:49 PM

Christian, do you have a background in analog still photography?

Thanks a lot for your comprehensive reply! I do have a lot of experience with 35mm analog stills photography. I also shot one last roll of slide film (Kodak EliteChrome professional 100) back in 2007. It was very expensive since it had to be sent to a specialized lab which closed its doors since. Analog film is tough to get and expensive here in Western Europe. I have sold my trusty old Canons since they weren't that great to begin with (entry level with kit zoom lenses and an inexpensive Tamron telephoto-zoom 70-300). I go way back to the '70s though with the Zeiss Ikon from my dad (internal meter). I almost only shot available daylight outdoors and flash indoors. No studio lighting, but I experimented with mixed daylight through the window and artificial light or mixed with a flash on top (sometimes with a makeshift diffusor) - always looked great. Never fully manual BTW, just compensating when I felt it was right. I shot a lot of my miniature modeling work (which was a hobby of mine).

I mostly shot on the consumer level Kodak Gold 100 neg. This O.K.-ish neg stock was rather forgiving.

 

I never really was into stills photography - even though I studied it a lot, together with paintings from the old masters. I used it more to experiment with lenses, focus, composition and framing. I'm always thinking "motion picture film", which of course often has a very different framing (fixed aspect ratio/cropping, movement, dialog space, often knowing what is outside the frame etc.).

 

I really like the art forms where time is involved (stage plays, films, animation and music). It's that unfolding, changing context and the rhythm which I love, either in classic structures ("three act" in film - or intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus-repeated in pop music, or four movement structure in classical/symphonic music) or in more elaborate - or simpler - ways.

 

Thanks again for sharing your insight,

 

Christian


Edited by Christian Schonberger, 01 April 2016 - 02:49 PM.

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#14 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 03:03 PM

Sure, happy to help. Even if you want to shoot cine film, processing stills is much cheaper per roll! It's a good learning tool. If you can only get your hands on 35mm color negative, I would shoot a grey card on the first exposure of the roll and ask for no corrections. Should only take a roll or two before you get the hang of it.
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#15 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 April 2016 - 03:17 PM

Sure, happy to help. Even if you want to shoot cine film, processing stills is much cheaper per roll! It's a good learning tool. If you can only get your hands on 35mm color negative, I would shoot a grey card on the first exposure of the roll and ask for no corrections. Should only take a roll or two before you get the hang of it.

Thanks again. Will try that when I have the chance.

 

Christian


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