Metering (3 replies and 5 comments)
I recently purchased a light meter to help me make conscience lighting decision rather than continuing to guess the final result. As of right now, I feel it was worth the investment to train my mind in seeing light. However, I still wonder what techniques are out there when deciding to choose between incident or spot metering.
The main goal for getting comfortable with a light meter is so I can go shoot a short project on s16 this summer. So far Ive been shooting with my M3 in BW, to see if I am getting those values I want. Its been hit and miss but I've had happy accidents that has taught me a bunch on how celluloid behaves in different situations.
My questions are, what are the different characteristics of celluloid to 35mm photography and s16? When metering between incident and reflective, what are the differences to keep in mind and which situations are better suited for each. Does incident metering also measure 18% grey? How much can celluloid be overexposed or underexposed before getting unideal situations?
Thanks to all!
Incident meter measures the light falling on the meter dome, so it doesn't measure anything grey, that would be reflectance (spot) metering which meters the amount of light coming off of an object and gives you a reading that assumes that object is 18% grey. If it isn't, you have to interpret the meter reading and decide how much brighter or darker than 18% grey you want that object to appear.
An 18% grey card should look correctly exposed if you measure the light falling on it with an incident meter.
35mm color negative and 16mm color negative of the same emulsion type - let's say Vision-3 500T - are the same stock just cut into different sizes and would be metered the same. However, the larger grains of 16mm might mean that you feel that you can't rate it as fast, and/or push-process it as much, as you would with 35mm.
When you say "how much can you under or over expose" it depends on what you mean by that. If you expose a scene "normal" for the ASA rating of the stock, that scene may have a black object in the frame that is many stops underexposed and it may have a white object that is many stops overexposed, and yet the shot itself is exposed normally. So are you asking how much can you under or overexpose the whole shot and correct it back to normal, versus how dark or bright can you let areas of the frame go?
What I meant for "under or over exposure", would be separated into a couple scenarios.
1. ambient reading for a foggy exterior setting
2. getting a night scene to look like night, i.e. suburban neighborhood, ext. gas station,
3. lighitng for dark skin and light skin, singles or two shot, i.e. dark skin tones in Pariah, Mother of George, or light skin in Prisoners
4. yes to both you comments of correcting a shot back to normal, and how bright/dark I can let areas of the frame go.
Overall, would shooting 35mm stills be a good exercise to replicate shooting cinema celluloid. My film program I attend, doesn't really go deep into the technicalities of cinematography, so I have to research and practice another cheaper way.
Based on what I've read here, it sounds like you're putting the cart before the horse. Shooting on film is great, some people think it's the best medium you can capture with, period, end of story.
My personal opinion, and what hs helped me learn, is digital photography, be it still or motion. The digital cameras have many different types of metering modes built in to suggest exposure, but more importantly digital cameras and/or monitors have histograms (both Lum. and RGB), waveforms, and false color. These tools combined with post-processing software will inform your sense of exposure in a fast and cost effective way. I found film to have too many variables when I was a student: I usually only had access to expired film stock, it was often mishandled or processed incorrectly or even lost at the lab, there were inadvertent light leaks, processing in old used chemical baths, lack of modern camera technology, etc. Regardless of whether or not these impart pleasing artifacts into your image, they act as uncontrolled variables. My personal opinion is that you sell your light meter and get an old digital stills/video camera. I picked up a pristine, low-shutter count 5D Mk II for about half a grand this year. It's no Alexa or Red, but it takes damn good 5k 14-bit RAW stills with all of the features I need. When I was in film school, I paid several times that amount just to process my films. Shooting digital enables me to capture more photos then I ever would on film, and I value that more than anything. This is based on my experiences, but I hope it will help you as well.
Thanks a lot for your thoughts. I do have a digital camera, 5D MKiii and a couple lenses, a smallHD monitor with waveform, false color, etc; and a film stills camera that I use primarily with BW film so I can study my tonal values. I just want to familiarize myself better with another tool and format to further myself as a commodity.
The 5D Mk III is perfect, it's similar to the Mk II, but with an OLPF to remove moire and it outputs HD over its HDMI port. If you want to practice, I'm sure you could find out information on the film stocks you are looking to get experience with and loosely emulate them on the 5D with either the Picture Style Editor or in-camer in the picture style settings. Obviously there will be differences, but you could mimic the contrast, saturation, and sensitivity rating. There are a large number of picture styles floating around online that were designed to emulate still film stocks in post-production programs like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, if you can find what still film stocks are close to the motion film stocks you want, this could be a more accurate way to assess your images after shooting them (which is how you would see your film photos anyway). It wont help you as much with special processing techniques, like the push/pull process or skip bleach process, but it's a good approximation. If you can find a way to put a super-16 lens on your 5D, Magic Lantern offers a way to get "RAW video" from the center crop of pixels on your camera. The field of view and glass will give you a very good idea of what is it like to shoot Super-16, and I believe the 5D Mk III is even capable of shooting just under Academy 35 with Magic Lantern.
I tend to agree with the digital camp. Much better to save money on shooting digital and put it in art direction or paying actors or whatever.
Also: if you know what you're doing you can shoot digital exactly the same way as film and make it behave more or less the same.
Study how most films map their tonal values and recreate it on your digital footage.. in the end it is a bit like designing your own film stock based on your own color/tonal preferences. A long but fun process to dive into. And the results are extremely filmic.
Step 1: design your look
Step 2: calibrate your light meter to middle grey on your output/display transformation look; which is ideally also the look you will be monitoring in. You say you have a SMALLHD monitor.. I think they take 3DLUTs so that shouldn't be a problem.
if your gamma and color space is among the list in this app, you should give it a try!
Cool man thanks a lot for the input! I'll give it a try. I guess part of me just wants to learn how to shoot on film to say I know how to. To fulfill my own pride. You mentioned calibrating my meter to middle grey. Can you explain? I've heard of the concept, but I guess I don't fully understand. This this only apply for digital camera or the calibration also go for film?
Film always has an ASA rating. This is both to give an idea about the sensitivity of the film but more importantly it tells you at which metered light levels your exposure will look best (or as intended).
Same applies to a digital sensor.. the only difference being that it is much easier to adjust and remap the captured values of the (digital) negative to your own liking: "designing your own filmstock".
But this also means that you have to figure out the "ASA rating" of your own look. This is done by shooting a grey card, load it into the computer, apply the look, open the waveform monitor and see where the line which represents your grey card shows up. You keep doing this, going back and forth, adjusting the exposure until the grey card shows up at around 44% IRE on the waveform monitor.
Then you look at your lens to determine the T-stop number. Then you take the light meter and just adjust the calibration parameter until your meter indicates the same T-stop that shows on your lens.