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-   -   Light meters for DV camcorders (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/photon-management/16010-light-meters-dv-camcorders.html)

Chris Harring October 20th, 2003 12:30 PM

Light meters for XL1s
Does anyone have any recommendations for what I should look for in a light meter for use in conjunction with my XL1s? I have far more experience lighting and metering light for film, and I want to indulge in the same kind of micro-management with digital.


Charles Papert October 20th, 2003 04:20 PM

Digital video has a very different exposure curve than film, and has the benefit of instant feedback via a monitor. The "zone" system really doesn't apply with DV, and each camera has a different response curve. I would only use a meter for pre-lighting a set to a given stop, but it's much easier to use the monitor for on-set lighting. It allows for even more micro-management as you can see the effect of every change instantly, and don't worry that it's "cheating" in any way--I've yet to see a light meter in regular use on "bigtime" HD shows, even by seasoned film shooters.

Rick Bravo October 20th, 2003 05:43 PM

Learning to let go!!!

As a third generation film cameraman, the hardest thing that I had to do when shooting video is putting away my light meter, and let's not forget the color temp meter.

I had never even picked up a video camera seriously until I came to my present job, just the thought was enough to make me run to church and take up residence in a confessional!

If you use your film techniques, (ratios), when lighting video you are just begging for a bunch of broadcast engineers with pocket protectors (no offense, ours actually wears one), to hunt you down and beat you up!

I can light just using the B/W eyepiece on our BetaCams as a guide...I still have absolutely no trust in the MiniDV cams we currently operate. Do yourself a favor and take Charles's advice...use your monitor.

Geez, what ever happened to dailies?


Charles Papert October 20th, 2003 06:46 PM

Dailies??! I'll be happy to see those go...knowing what you are getting when you're getting it is not only convenient at the time, it means not having to take additional time out of your life the next day finding out what you got. I wish I had back all of the hours spent in screening rooms after work or jammed on the camera truck during lunch. And all off the clock!

Rick, I hear you about lighting to Betacam eyepieces. That's why I sucked it up and got the Ikegami viewfinder for the XL1--brings back that familiarity, and I trust the exposures and framing I'm seeing.

Rick Bravo October 20th, 2003 07:21 PM


I've have two of the IKI eyepieces as well, they are terrific. It's the XL-1S itself that I am having my doubts about.

We've only had them for about 6 months and just took delivery of two more today. I guess it is just a matter of time before I acclimate myself to the "new guys".

I hear you loud and clear about dailies. Maybe I'm just a little too old school when it comes to moviemaking. I remember when a decision to print was made by the director based on performance and whether or not the opetator was happy with the shot.

I hated video assist when it first came out, especially when you were on a commercial and the clients all decide that they want to light the shot based on the crappy ground-glass tv image they were watching...it's a freakin' chicken nugget for Pete's sake!

Old habits die hard!

Regards, RB.

Alex Dunn October 21st, 2003 10:17 AM

If you're new to DV, try using your zebra stripes if you don't trust the monitor. They are invaluable when it comes to ensuring good exposure. Most LCD's are adjustable and can therefore be WAY differant than what you're actually recording to tape. So if I'm shooting something that I care about I use them every time.

If you learned how to use a light meter, you can learn to use the stripes.

Rick Bravo October 21st, 2003 03:09 PM


It's not a Zebra issue, as Zebras work the same regardless of the format in which it is being used, analog, digital, etc. I am not worried about correct exposure, it is a "whether the camera is giving me the correct color balance" issue.

Bottom line is that as nice a camera as the XL-1S is it is still lacking in certain "professional" areas.


Alex Dunn October 21st, 2003 03:34 PM


Sure, but I wasn't responding to you, I was responding to the original post. I thought he was asking about exposure.

Rick Bravo October 21st, 2003 04:29 PM

OOPS, I hate it when I do that!

John Jackman October 22nd, 2003 08:51 PM

You CAN use a light meter with video as long as you learn to compress your technique, esp. the top end. Most of the movies shot on HD by "first time" digital DPs have blown-out highlights.

Turn the zebra display ON, leave it ON. I never turn the zebra off. Much more than film, overexposure on video is a no-no. When in doubt, underexpose.

I'm editing a show now where several of the camera ops consistently overexposed, and even though I have an arsenal of color correction tools, I can't get the shots to look the way they would have if they had been properly exposed with the same cam.

A light meter is not really the proper way to monitor video exposure and lighting. A waveform monitor is the proper instrument, essentially giving you a precise metering of every pixel.

Hugh DiMauro October 29th, 2003 11:16 AM

I calibrate my XL1s to a monitor and I can lay my head on my pillow at night. I'm shooting an hour long indepedent geared towards the film festivals and my actors are all work colleagues with families whose relationships are strained due to my calling out their hubbies to shoot on one of the only days they can spend with the rugrats: SUNDAY. Therefore, I'd better make damned sure I am not wasting one iota of their precious Sundays by having to re-shoot everything because I guffed up the lighting. If it's on screen and it looks good, it will more than likely look good during playback.

Were it not for the digital video revolution, I'd still be only screenwriting. I jumped into one of the open doors of this passing digital video boxcar. I'm in it for the long haul.

Alex Dunn October 29th, 2003 12:07 PM


Would you mind describing the process you use to calibrate your XL1 to a monitor?

Hugh DiMauro October 30th, 2003 12:41 PM

I'd be glad to:

1) Connect the XL1s to the monitor via RCA cables or s-video cable, depending upon what your monitor accepts.

2) Activate color bars through the XL1s so they appear on your monitor screen.

3) I usually don't bother tweaking the color through the monitor. I leave those settings on default. However, brightness is important because you are using that to visually calibrate the look of your movie. If brightness is incorrectly calibrated, then your entire movie will either be under or over exposed. So, warm up your monitor for at least ten minutes, set the brightness to the pluge pattern in the lower right hand part of the screen. (Please double check "Setting up your monitor" which appears in the DV INFO website :


The pluge pattern is the three black bars in the lower right hand corner of the color bars on your TV screen. Adjust your brightness until the first two left bars just merge and the third bar is lighter. Again, please check out the above link and/or type in "calibrating a video monitor" on Google. It\'s a piece of case and what I have just written is bare bones basic.

Hoe that helps.

Hugh DiMauro October 30th, 2003 12:42 PM

Damn! but ain\'t I a non-spelling freak today?

Alex Dunn October 30th, 2003 12:46 PM

I may be dense, but how does that calibrate the LCD on the XL1? That is the goal, right? I thought I was asking how to calibrate the LCD to match the monitor. Were you talking about something different?

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