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Old September 21st, 2008, 10:43 PM   #1
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Bright windows - exposure nightmare?

Hi
Ran across this recently. What's the proper way to handle this?
Dark bar, little ambient light. No extra lights
they can turn on. Bringing my own lights would have been intrusive. In addition, there's a wall of bright sunny windows.
Changing the shot to the other side of the room wouldn't have looked good although it would have reduced the bright exposure.

On top of that, I noticed that the camera gain (pd170) kept searching no matter what I did if I moved away from the windows. You could then see the wall change exposure. I didn't see menu settings to turn that off but there's got to be a way to do it somewhere. Putting it on 'hold' didn't work either.

Eventually I solved the problem by shooting it at night. But what would I have done if that was not an option? The exposure difference was pretty great. Had I blown out the windows it would have looked like they were being abducted by aliens. lol

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Old September 21st, 2008, 11:35 PM   #2
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Gel the windows with combination CTO and ND (you can get that in the same roll). You have to manage the contrast if possible. Otherwise, you have no choice but to blow out the windows to save the foreground. The other problem in this scenario is mixed light sources.

-gb-
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Old September 21st, 2008, 11:46 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Greg Boston View Post
Gel the windows with combination CTO and ND (you can get that in the same roll). You have to manage the contrast if possible. Otherwise, you have no choice but to blow out the windows to save the foreground. The other problem in this scenario is mixed light sources.

-gb-
Ok. What exactly would I do to do that? And what's CTO?
Q - Wouldn't ND cut the light to the point that it all would be dark? I'm already opened up at that point without the ND because of the dark bar. I think my shutter speed was at 60 so I couldn't go much lower. I'm not sure what the actual exposure was though.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 12:07 AM   #4
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Ok. What exactly would I do to do that? And what's CTO?
Q - Wouldn't ND cut the light to the point that it all would be dark? I'm already opened up at that point without the ND because of the dark bar. I think my shutter speed was at 60 so I couldn't go much lower. I'm not sure what the actual exposure was though.
CTO= color temperature orange.. used to bring daylight into the 3200K tungsten realm. That will make the light coming through the windows match what's being used on the inside. Because it's so much brighter than your interior lighting, the contrast is too high. Therefore, using a roll of gel that has both CC and ND properties will accomplish both tasks at the same time.

I wasn't suggesting using ND on your camera. The windows need ND gel to knock down the excess light coming through.

-gb-
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 02:02 AM   #5
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What’s more important in the shot. What are you exposing for, this is what you have to tell yourself.
If you need the people and the light through the window you wont get a shot unless you reduce the light coming from the window as Greg says.
It the people are more important move the camera so the light falls on the people's faces then you have a shot. If you need the room shot as you have shown us then I would zoom into the person's face expose for that and then zoom out and frame. The resulting shot will have the person's face correctly exposed and the light coming from the window will be overexposed and be pure white which in your NLE just clamp the output and things should be ok sort of.

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Old September 22nd, 2008, 04:51 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Kell Smith View Post
Hi
On top of that, I noticed that the camera gain (pd170) kept searching no matter what I did if I moved away from the windows. You could then see the wall change exposure. I didn't see menu settings to turn that off but there's got to be a way to do it somewhere. Putting it on 'hold' didn't work either.
Learn to operate the camera. What you need to do is to lock the exposure. On the VX2100 there was this button just before (hidden behind actually) the lcd screen. I guess it is in the same place on the PD.
Good luck.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 06:55 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Kell Smith View Post
On top of that, I noticed that the camera gain (pd170) kept searching no matter what I did if I moved away from the windows. You could then see the wall change exposure. I didn't see menu settings to turn that off but there's got to be a way to do it somewhere. Putting it on 'hold' didn't work either.
Kell, you have to make sure gain, exposure and shutter speed are ALL on manual. If one of them isn't, you'll see the exposure change as the camera tries to adjust it automatically. You need to see the icons for each on the LCD. If one is missing, it's on auto.

Once you are on manual, you can adjust exposure to your liking, even if backlit.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 07:20 AM   #8
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Hi Kell,

Vito is right, manual exposure is the way to go. They way to put your camera in all manual exposure is to push the iris button, next to the exposure wheel, one time. Then in the viewfinder you will see an f/stop number show up. Then push the shutter speed button on the back of the camera. This will cause the shutter speed number to show up in the viewfinder. Take it to 60. Then go to the gain button on the back of the camera. This will cause a number to show up in the viewfinder with the letters dB after it. Take the gain to 0dB.

Now that you are in manual exposure adjust your exposure with the irs wheel, behind the LCD screen. If you have your shutter on 60 and the iris all of the way open and it is still too dark, then increase the gain. Taking the gain above 9 will cause excessive grain in the picture so increase the gain only as a last measure.

There is another issue of white balance...

If you are able to gell the windows like Greg suggested, then white balance is easy. If you are not able to gell the windows, it can be tricky. Subjects sitting closer to the window will be a different color temperature than subjects sitting away from the windows.

If you need more help with white balance, just let me know.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 11:11 AM   #9
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So the solution then would have been to actually tack up large sheets of gel on the outside? Wow. OK. I didn't even think of that. It was en entire long wall of tall windows, not just a few. That's a lotta gel!

As for manual exposure, I thought that's what I was doing. That's why I was surprised (and frustrated) to see it searching. Then looking at the footage of the shift, it became apparent by looking at the data code that it was actually the gain that was searching. It was set on zero in the past and I assumed it would stay there until I changed it as long as I wasn't on full auto.

I was concentrating on the other exposure elements and forgot all about the gain as a factor, thinking it was off.

The way I've been exposing is to set the shutter speed at 60, zoom in to an area, push the iris button once so that it shows on the screen, then adjust it if it looks like it needs to go up or down a half step based on conditions, but most of the time that seems to work fine without much tweaking. I wonder if that's a lazy way to do it though. Shouldn't I be learning to expose without relying so much on the camera to set exposure? Well maybe not.

For white balancing I've usually just been picking the middle of the room where both color temperatures mix, and doing a manual white balance there. Is that incorrect?
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 02:19 PM   #10
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...As for manual exposure, I thought that's what I was doing. That's why I was surprised (and frustrated) to see it searching. Then looking at the footage of the shift, it became apparent by looking at the data code that it was actually the gain that was searching. It was set on zero in the past and I assumed it would stay there until I changed it as long as I wasn't on full auto...

The way I've been exposing is to set the shutter speed at 60, zoom in to an area, push the iris button once so that it shows on the screen, then adjust it if it looks like it needs to go up or down a half step based on conditions, but most of the time that seems to work fine without much tweaking. I wonder if that's a lazy way to do it though. Shouldn't I be learning to expose without relying so much on the camera to set exposure? Well maybe not.

For white balancing I've usually just been picking the middle of the room where both color temperatures mix, and doing a manual white balance there. Is that incorrect?
Hi Kell,

The gain will only stay at 0 if you see "0dB" in the viewfinder. If you do not see a number and then "dB", the gain is in auto.

They way you described adjusting the exposure is fine if it works for you. Even the pro cameras have "push for auto" with the exposure.

When I shot with the 170 it seemed like it was hard to find the iris button when in the middle of action, so I left it in manual and adjust the iris wheel.

For WB, it will depend on which side you are shooting from. Based on the picture I saw, and assuming you wanted the faces to be in proper WB, you would WB pointing towards your subject.

For an example, if you were shooting from the angle of the photo, you would WB from there, which is going to get more artificial light on the subjects face. If you were shooting from the windows, towards the subject, then you would want to WB from there. With the windows to your back, you would have more natural light hitting your subjects face.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 02:50 PM   #11
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While manual exposure gives more consistent exposure control it won't increase the dynamic range the camera can "see".

To expose the exterior and interior properly in this shot you have two options:

1. Darken the windows using neutral density gel as Greg suggested.

2. Shoot on a darker day (those horrid dark rainy days we get plenty of in England) or at dusk or dawn when exterior light levels are lower. Though you will probably have colour balance problems.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 04:00 PM   #12
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here's the exposure I ended up getting. It's still a little bit dark. But there were absolutely no other lights they could turn on. I suppose I can lighten it a bit in post.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 09:36 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Stuart Graham View Post
While manual exposure gives more consistent exposure control it won't increase the dynamic range the camera can "see".

To expose the exterior and interior properly in this shot you have two options:

1. Darken the windows using neutral density gel as Greg suggested.

2. Shoot on a darker day (those horrid dark rainy days we get plenty of in England) or at dusk or dawn when exterior light levels are lower. Though you will probably have colour balance problems.
Actually, there is another option: using a day-light balanced on-camera light (there are plenty available...) In situatons like this, with my PD-170 I use this light: S-2010 On Camera LED Light with S-7200F Bracket for Sony . It could help to reduce the contrast and it could be easier to white-balance, of course, everything on manual...
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 09:43 AM   #14
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Doh, yes! thanks Ilya. Studio lighting is a possibility too.
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 12:06 PM   #15
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I suppose the on camera light would work in static shot situations. Mine isn't daylight balanced but I could tack some gel over it.
In this case though, the camera was moving as I was panning the room so I assume that would be a problem. You know what, I've never even used that light? Maybe it wouldn't.
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