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-   -   light metering for film look??? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/18733-light-metering-film-look.html)

Patrick Falls December 23rd, 2003 09:29 AM

light metering for film look???
i've read a few threads that contained responses from people who were both for and against light metering for dv. what i have noted is the plus about metering is that you can figure out how much light you need to unpack without having to unpack everything, and you can also have someone checking another location while you shooting. i want to have my scenes lit to give it a more film look. i want to do music videos for local groups, and since i have no money to produce a big budget video, i figure that
creativity can still help me out.

I have seen some video shot by local companies that really suck. and i've noticed that they are using the same camera that i have
which is and xl1.

i know that there is an art to lighting and i want to know if a light meter will be the tool to tell me that the contrast between my highlight and shadow is out of range,blown out, too dark?

is there a rule to shadow to highlight ratio?

i'm learning about the zebra pattern on the xl1 but i still want to know if a light meter will be something useful for a novice in dv video production?

thanks in advance.

Rob Lohman December 23rd, 2003 09:51 AM

A light meter can tell you the contrast you are having and with
experience you will be able to tell how much the XL1 can handle.
Personally I just use the zebra stripes, slightly under-expose and
do contrast increasement in post-production. Ofcourse this is for
fictional work.

Patrick Falls December 23rd, 2003 10:04 AM

thanks MR. Lohman. i think i'm going to try and stick to video taping during the day until i get to know this camera inside out.

Patrick Falls December 31st, 2003 10:18 AM

i am getting to like these zebra bars, i can't wait until i move on up to the xl1s later on down the line.

Matthew Phillips January 1st, 2004 01:54 AM


Kodak suggests a contrast ratio of AT LEAST 4:1 on their film stock. This achieved by getting a meter reading of the Key Light (600) and adding the meter reading of the fill light divided by the key light (200)

Ex: 600 + 200/ 200 = 4:1

I find that zebra patterns are very helpful in "run and gun" situations or as a reference giude, but if you have the time to take meter readings, I would. I feel the benefits far out weight the draw backs. Plus the more control you have over the image the better results (in my opinion). So please take this advice with a grain of salt. If you have found a system that works for you, then run with it.


Tom Ballard January 2nd, 2004 09:40 AM


Respectfully, the data you've provided is somewhat inaccurate. Kodak recommends a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio for their negative filmstock, but states that a higher ratio can be attained- which it can. Quite easily, actually.

The formula for determining a lighting ratio is as follows:

key light + fill light : fill light


A light meter is essential to photography, filmography, or videography. Learning to effectively light a scene is of the utmost importance if your desire is to convey a message to a viewer. That can't be done without some kind of light metering system, unless your eyes are that good. Mine aren't.

Patrick Falls January 3rd, 2004 09:46 AM

thanks for the helpful advice
i have made my mind up to definitely get a light meter in the near future. i am really excited that the zebra stripes in the xl1 can give me the results that i need for now. i have limited myself to shooting only outdoors during the daytime when it comes to music videos. i'm currently in the middle of shooting the 3rd day of my first video. i know that the more clients i get, the more creative and versatile i will have to get, especially when i have to shoot inside of the clubs.

Jaz Garewal January 6th, 2004 12:40 AM

recommended light meters
To go further on this topic, what light meters might people recommend, and, if there may be any difference, ones that would compliment an XL 1S well.

Tom Ballard January 7th, 2004 09:45 AM

I use the Sekonic L-398. There are newer, more expensive, digital meters, but the Sekonic does the job quite well for me. If you get one, be sure to get the "high slide" with it. They're very simple to use and quite accurate.

There are several good names. Gossen and Minolta make good light meters.

Expect to pay around $100 for a good light meter, unless you want to get fancy. If that's the case, you can spend $500-$600 for one with lots of bells and whistles.

Hope this helps.

Edward Kennedy January 8th, 2004 06:30 PM

I have 20 years of photographic lighting experience, but I am just starting to get involved in video, so bear with me.

I don't really understand the problems video folks have with lighting, I mean you get real time feed back if your lighting scheme is working or not since you are using hot lights, not strobes, video not film.

Second, lighting ratios have nothing to with much of anything since it is all dependednt on the look you are after. I mean 2:1 just to do fills, or going to something way outside like 4:1. Is just depends on what your're trying to get.

But if you really think that you need a light meter, I would think that the Sekonic L-398 Studio Deluxe would be about all you would need. The more expensive meters are built for work with strobes and most of their analytical functions are based upon measuring ambient to strobe.

I hope I haven't put my foot in my mouth.

Casey Visco January 8th, 2004 06:42 PM

Ed, I'm for the most part on your side. I shoot both film and video. Do I use a light meter for film? Absolutely. Do I use a light meter for video? Absolutely not, it'd be a complete waste of my time.

In lieu of a light meter, when I need true control and feedback, I use a waveform monitor and a small NTSC broadcast monitor, calibrated to the bars coming right out of my camera... either in studio or on location.

Being able to see exactly where my IRE levels are falling anywhere in the frame ensures that i'll get the exposure and image I want. I don't have to worry about my highlights clipping, because I don't even let them go over 80 or 85 for the most part, and I can make sure i'm not losing anything due to clipping in the blacks. And ofcourse a good NTSC monitor will show you exactly whats going on your tape.

My philosophy is forget the light meter, and save up for the waveform! =)

Kevin Burnfield January 14th, 2004 01:22 PM

I used a light meter for a while when we got started but between an external monitor and the zebra we did okay without it. You get a feel for it and always have a few filters handy to handle things but I'm from a film background so I still keep one handy.

As far as film look goes, the very best thing you can do to make it look like film.. is shoot it like film.

Consider how you can get some depth of field into a shot. Take the time to set your lighting. _MOVE_ the camera. Plan your shots.

Casey Visco January 14th, 2004 06:50 PM

I would say not so much shoot it like you would film, but shoot it filmicly for video.

Film can handle a contrast range that video can't. In my own humble experience, generally you have to force your lighting to be not-so-contrasty when shooting for video, to make sure you capture all of the information within about an 85-90 IRE range. It's a bit of a compromise, sometimes you have to knock your highlights back a bit, and put a little bit more fill in to bring up the shadow areas a bit.

If the information is present in the recorded video, you now have more latitude in post to push it where you want it.

Creating depth in the frame, as Kevin mentions is extremely important, and of course...I couldn't agree more about camera movement!

Rob Lohman January 15th, 2004 05:34 AM

I think I'm with Edward on this. If you have a good monitor on
set you can see a lot in front of your eyes. Especially combined
with zebra stripes.

I understand how light meters work, but what I'm always
wondering how you know what the maximum range is of your
camera (and I do mean the exact range, I don't want
to loose bits here!). With film you know that you have so many
stops etc. So you light accordingly. How do I know if my camera
has 4, 5 or 6 stops exposure? Because that is what I need to
know at what ratio I can use my key and fill lights, right?

With a monitor + zebra this is easy. You'll immediately see when
things start to clip and if you have some bandwidth available
in the darks (ie, black is grey and thus you have a bit more range).
You could add a light to up the contrast a bit. I'd also rather loose
a bit in the dark areas (instead of the highlights when you are
not using the full contrast range).

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