Using a light meter for your shots? at

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Old October 30th, 2007, 01:02 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Dallas, TX
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Using a light meter for your shots?

My eyes are my light meter! I know, I know. Light meters are a little pricey($300+), but they are a great way to see what your exposure should be. I haven't done extensive work with one, but it can help to see how much light is actually on your subject. I was using (and in weddings do all the time) zebra to see where the skin tones were on the bride—and her dress!

Back to the light meter—
Those who use them, do you have any suggestions on which brand and specs needed in a model? Does anyone take the time to check this in a controlled environment with the HD100/200?

On some of the broadcast shoots (shot on film) we have been on, the DP uses this quite often to set up the lights and decide on gels and such. Should one use this in a smaller crew with just a few lights? I think I need one for sure, but I want to get some opinions on the matter and brands you like.

David Chapman
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Old October 30th, 2007, 02:39 PM   #2
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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For film there is no doubt, you have to use the light meter. For HD it's a different matter, of course depending on the type of shot. I shot hundreds of tapes/disks relying mostly to the monitor and WFM and they all came out perfectly, even candle-light scenes.
One of the benefits that you get from a light meter is to be able to check the contrast ratio of the scene, something that you cannot do with a WFM. This is quite useful is you need to shoot a night scene and you want to avoid HDV noise. Once I know the contrast ratio of the elements in the scene I can light it a lot brighter, this in turns minimizes the noise caused by the HDV compression and 4:2:0, of course you get different results if you tap into SDI and get 4:2:2 material. Anyway, with the scene much brighter but with the elements at the same contrast ratio of the "natural" look, you can then darken the scene in post and obtain a realistic, noise-free, result.
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Old October 30th, 2007, 06:16 PM   #3
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Burbank
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I have an old Sekonic Flashmate that works very well. But the meters all all updated now to work better in the digital world.

Here is the Sekonic line, updated for the digital world:

And the Sekonic site:

I use the meter to set flash units for still pictures on location. I also use it to get the contrast ratio for video and to find hot spots and dead spots.

I have also used it to get the relective reading on objects and faces to make sure they are going to work together (there's not too much contrast, or to see if I need an extra light on somebody to bring the level up to match others in the shot, or to spot a dark or hot object). The zebras and other methods can also work, but the light meter can come in handy sometimes.
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