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Old October 24th, 2012, 09:10 AM   #1
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Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Hi Guys

I'm sure you all know that if you let the camera do it's own thing on a dark dance floor (autoiris) despite having an on camera light the overall view is really noisy as the camera will push the gain to the limit and, of course, the highlights are blown out.

When filming dancing what do you expose on so the blacks don't turn into spotted mush and the whites are way over exposed....I have been just closing iris until my blacks are clean and the people on the dance floor look good .... I heard of something called a China Ball ???? that allows enough reflected light to give a nice exposure at night (dance floors at weddings are close to night anyway) or do you just try and get skin tones nicely exposed. Eye balling the exposure has always worked for me and brides never complain but is there a more accurate way to set exposure in a dark dance floor that looks like midnight ??

Interested to see what methods others use ??

Chris
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Old October 24th, 2012, 10:43 AM   #2
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

I haven't video'd the darker dance floor scene, but have photographed it. (A lot easier with a flash).
My Sony's (PD150,170's) have a selectable zebra setting. I'm told if zebra is set to 70 (for faces), you'll get excellent exposure for skin tones and hopefully the colorful clothing.
The real problem comes in if there a re a lot of "disco" style lighting or strobes.
My guess is that people want to see the faces and outfits and may not really care about the surroundings.

I keep the gain to zero db and push the iris as much as possible first, then maybe shutter, and lastly gain only if necessary.

Last edited by Henry Kenyon; October 24th, 2012 at 10:45 AM. Reason: additional info
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Old October 24th, 2012, 10:45 AM   #3
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Autoiris is rarely much cop even in good light! A decent viewfinder with zebra, and a good eye is all anyone needs. When light levels get low, I doubt I'd trust any auto feature to do it for me. Far to much to think about. Do you expose for the face top left, or the spotlight top right, or the dark shadow bottom left? I suspect in these circumstances a decent cameraman is the ONLY viable method of doing it.
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Old October 24th, 2012, 12:34 PM   #4
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

A camera-mounted dimmable (and well diffused) light source is one of the few constants you can control in these situations. At that point, your exposure will depend on how close you are to the dancers, and the brightness of their clothing. If everyone is dressed in dark clothes, it will look like a sea of floating heads when you're exposed for the faces. If you expose for the overall room, then your faces will blow out. I say it's best to do this by eye, and with the aid of zebras. A tight lens allows you to get medium shots in which faces are the most important element. On a wider shot, it's about the overall ambiance, so you'll probably want to go a bit brighter than the tight shot. Try to keep within your cameras dynamic range, and shoot as flat as possible. This will give you more leeway in post to adjust your exposure. My golden rule is to keep the faces as well-exposed as possible.

Don't bother with a china ball, unless you want to spend your time rigging the dance floor and face the wrath of the client or coordinator who believes you are ruining their beautiful venue.
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Old October 24th, 2012, 06:33 PM   #5
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Hey Chris,

You're much more knowledgeable than I am, so I reckon your way is going to be better than mine. But, basically, it's on-camera lighting for me, and, when in doubt, I expose for faces. This also tends to be my practice when someone is doing their makeup in front of a window in the morning. If I can, I get detail in both; if I have to make a choice, then it's faces.

In fact, I'm not sure I worry about blacks much at all. I worry, instead, about skin tones and highlights -- whether highlights are distracting; whether it would look better if highlights had more detail in them.

China ball sounds like an interesting idea. There's also things called "jem balls", and other similar products, and these are more durable and higher-quality. Definitely better light quality than an LED blasting at faces. But fall-off I think will be one problem; I think you'll need a lamp inside the china ball with some grunt. And I've also got a feeling it might look too distracting on the dance floor if you rig up a china ball -- this big, bright ball hanging near people's faces that doesn't match the decor. Not sure if I'm game to try it myself.

One more thought: I'll never try to "ride" the iris; I mean, I don't try to adjust it up and down in quick-changing lighting conditions, like flashing disco lights, which perhaps is what an autoiris might do. I find it better to pick a setting, and sit there.
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Old October 24th, 2012, 07:26 PM   #6
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Thanks Guys

I only thought about it last Saturday when I was talking to a guest at a wedding about shooting once the DJ essentially turns all the lights off!! Nice to see that others are also just exposing for faces...I have to so nightshots and dance shots in manual of course!! Auto iris would simply look at the overall darkness and push gain to the limit.

Thanks for your input...just wondering if anyone did it differently to me but it seems we all do it much the same way!

Chris
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Old October 24th, 2012, 09:36 PM   #7
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Well i shoot with DSLRs so i combine a fast lens with a on camera LED light for fill when needed.

In this video i usually had the following settings on two Canon T3i's:
- Aperture between f/1.4 and f/2.8
- ISO 800
- Shutter Speed 1/48
- HDV-Z96 LED Light on camera, changed it's intensity depending on the shot.

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Old October 24th, 2012, 09:50 PM   #8
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Thanks Iker

DSLR's are too much like hard work for me!! I go for a slightly different look too..I prefer a sharp image and nice crushed blacks so the focus is on the dancers ...That must be a tough gig to keep focus !!! I basically have my iris closed enough so the video noise disappears and then the on-camera light lights just the couple/dancers. Remember on video we have a lot less low light capability so that's the way we have to do it. I try to avoid wide shots since I don't have the 800 ISO capability and super fast lenses like a DSLR. It certainly does a good job in the dark though!!

Chris
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Old October 24th, 2012, 10:55 PM   #9
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

I was going to start using DSLR's. But then it occured to me that my clients like stuff in focus - so sticking with traditional video cameras for now.
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Old October 24th, 2012, 11:39 PM   #10
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Hi John

My thoughts exactly..one of our Aussie videographers posted some raw footage a while back showing his extreme problems with a rogue photog and I was amazed of the edit work involved in getting the raw footage into an in focus sequence. No wonder people are talking about a week to edit!!

I still stick to video cameras with little focal issues! Sure we battle a bit when the DJ turns all the lights off and we have a really dark floor which the DSLR guys can still handle with high ISO's and super fast lenses but I like to make my like a tad easier...Doing a 12 hour gig is tough enough without having to fight the camera as well. Never had a bride complain about reception shots either but I do get the occasional comment about the on-camera light.

Chris
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Old October 25th, 2012, 02:41 AM   #11
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Remember on video we have a lot less low light capability so that's the way we have to do it.
That depends to which camera you are comparing, I can match Iker's low light shots on his t3I (shooting at Iso 800 with a f-stop of f1.4 to f2.8) with my sony cx730 but with a very deep field of view. Since I do own a t2i and fast lenzes I can compare.

I used to film the dancing with my dslr and a 14mm f2.8 lens at 1600 Iso with a neutral preset on a blackbird steadicam, when I got my cx730 it was better in low light then my t2i at above setting and it didn't display more noise. But then I discovered the technicolor cinestyle preset and that makes a big difference, you do get a very flat image but the dynamic range is much larger. I can color correct the image in Edius to display the color like it was but still retain more DR then the neutral preset gives me. F2.8 on a 14mm can still give a deep dof so it's comparable with a videocamera.
This allows me to shoot with that lens even in circumstances where they almost turn off the lights but still have a image I can work with, I prefer to shoot the way it was instead of adding lights myself and killing the mood. I only wished my T2I would give a clean image at 3200 Iso.
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Old October 25th, 2012, 06:18 AM   #12
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

I find that using an on camera LED is one sure way to get the bride and grooms back up. But usually, I've mentioned this at the initial meeting, told them that if it is dark, it will look as it will with LOADS of camera flashing and they usually are ok with that.
However, I open the iris right up, pump up the gain on the AC160, stay wide and use my feet to get in close. Sure, it doesn't look great but that FBMN Exposure plugin for Vegas really helps and I hardly ever have a problem with noise....and they always seem to love it.
I think what we find technically unacceptable is seen very different by the couple, they know it's dark and that's what they expect to see and want.
I also use lighting stock footage blended in with the first dance that gives it another dreamy aspect altogether.
If you can't beat the situation at hand, you can always bend it to something else altogether.
I would never film a dark first dance and leave it at that...BUT if the room was totally dark, I would mention it to the bride beforehand, like half an hour before after checking what the light situation was going to be with the DJ, and tell her that she will just have a black screen. That usually does the trick and I'm given 'some' overhead light which for me is much better than an on camera light which I avoid at most costs in that environment. I've only ever had to use the cam light once and with all the moving shadows and flash just looked yuk!
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Old October 25th, 2012, 03:20 PM   #13
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Noa Put View Post
That depends to which camera you are comparing, I can match Iker's low light shots on his t3I (shooting at Iso 800 with a f-stop of f1.4 to f2.8) with my sony cx730 but with a very deep field of view. Since I do own a t2i and fast lenzes I can compare.

I used to film the dancing with my dslr and a 14mm f2.8 lens at 1600 Iso with a neutral preset on a blackbird steadicam, when I got my cx730 it was better in low light then my t2i at above setting and it didn't display more noise. But then I discovered the technicolor cinestyle preset and that makes a big difference, you do get a very flat image but the dynamic range is much larger. I can color correct the image in Edius to display the color like it was but still retain more DR then the neutral preset gives me. F2.8 on a 14mm can still give a deep dof so it's comparable with a videocamera.
This allows me to shoot with that lens even in circumstances where they almost turn off the lights but still have a image I can work with, I prefer to shoot the way it was instead of adding lights myself and killing the mood. I only wished my T2I would give a clean image at 3200 Iso.

Yeah i forgot to mention that i shot using Technicolor Cinestyle, it gives more room in post for adding contrast back in the right amount depending on the shot.
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Old October 26th, 2012, 03:26 AM   #14
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

We use 5D2 (up to ISO3200) or 5D3 (up to ISO12800) so an F/2.8 lens is perfectly adequate unless the dance floor is pitch black. If it is dark then I now use a couple of LED spotlights (5010A thanks Chris) up on lighting stands pointing down onto the couple. On camera looks awful & dazzles your quarry so having the light shine down on them is far preferable. Where I can't use lighting stands I have stashed a light over near the DJs desk so he gets the blame for the light.

BTW There now looks to be a bigger better & brighter version of the LED-5010A lamp with eight large LEDs instead of six

LED 5080 Video Light + NP-F570 Battery + Charger For DV Camera Camcorder LF114 | eBay
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Old October 26th, 2012, 06:16 AM   #15
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Re: Exposing on the Dance Floor at Weddings

Hi Nigel

Thanks for that!! I took one look at your post and went to eBay and bought one!!

They are a bit pricey in the UK!!! We get the 5080 here for AUS$76.00 and your link showed it as GBP77.00 I guess that's the government taking their little cut???

Two extra modules will be nice..on a dark dance floor with my little 1/4" chips my 5010 is often full brightness so this will give me an extra boost if I need it!!

Chris
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