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class="style8" Exposing Fireworks

>Published : 16th February 2005

>In an upcoming shoot I will need to film fireworks, and I have to admit that I’m not quite certain how I should determine the exposure. The shot is intended to show a small village and the fireworks are supposed to go off right above it.

>I was thinking of shooting the village after sunset, but before it will be completely dark on 5218, then rewind the film, and shoot the fireworks in complete darkness without having moved the camera.

>I imagine that the exposure of fireworks in praxis is determined similarly to the exposure of explosions. However since I have not done either one yet, I could use any advice I can get.

>Thank you in advance :

>Joerg Schodl
Cinematographer/LA


class="style9">>I was thinking of shooting the village after sunset, but before it will be >completely dark on 5218, then rewind the film, and shoot the fireworks >in complete darkness without having moved the camera.

>To get an exposure on the buildings, albeit several stops under key, you'll have to shoot at a time when there will still be an appreciably light tone to the sky.

>It'll certainly work in that you'll get a good day for night plate of your village but once that 'not so dark' sky is exposed onto film you can wind it all the way back to last Christmas and never be able to expose a darker sky on top of it.

>Lock the camera off, shoot your village plate, go for dinner, shoot your fireworks plate. Combine the two in post.

>Don't forget to shoot lots of plates of fireworks exploding as well - nothing worse than all the action sailing out of the top of frame when you can't tilt up for budgetary reasons!

>Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.


class="style9">>In an upcoming shoot I will need to film fireworks,
>The shot is intended to show a small village and the fireworks are >supposed to go off right above it.

>The locked off camera and backwind trick sounds like a good plan.

>Fireworks need a stop of 5.6 at least... at 500 asa, to see the colors. At that stop at night, the village will certainly be way underexposed so doing them separately is a good strategy. As the fireworks go on and if there is no wind, the smoke will mask the fun and the colors, so shoot them from the beginning of the show.

>Good luck.

>Dave Insley
Cinematography


>I forgot to mention that the village is conveniently nested in a valley surrounded by mountains. Therefore Ill not really have to worry about the sky being in the shot.

>However, shooting the plates separately makes a lot of sense. Where would you suggest I should place the exposure for the firework plates? Just open up the lens on the 500T and adjust it in post? Thanks for the feedback to anyone.

>Joerg Schodl
Cinematographer/LA


>Joerg Schodl writes:

class="style9">>I was thinking of shooting the village after sunset, but before it will be >completely dark on 5218, then rewind the film, and shoot the fireworks >in complete darkness without having moved the camera.

>This method can work very well, although it precludes panning and tilting. The first requirement is to avoid overexposing the sky, while exposing the village. There are a couple of ways to do this, keep in mind that you don't really need full exposure of the village, just enough to bring out some detail. How much detail is a matter of taste, which should be determined by a test. If you can't shoot a test, a minimum 2 stop underexposure at twilight should do it.

>1/. You can shoot the village part at "magic hour" or about 1/2 hour after sunset and after people start using their car headlights or when the street lights come on. With 5218 that would be about a 5.6 at 24fps.

>2/. You should try to select a camera angle that faces toward the east, the sky will naturally be darker than the western sky.

>3/. You could also cut a neutral density gel to hold back the sky or even use an ND grad. The grad line will hardly be noticed in the fireworks.

>4/. Find out how long the fireworks show will last, so that you can pre-expose enough film. Try to get an estimate of the height of the fireworks so that you can frame correctly. If it's a long show, consider shooting the village at a higher frame rate so that you don't lose your exposure while your filming.

class="style9">>I imagine that the exposure of fireworks in praxis is determined similarly >to the exposure of explosions. However since I have not done either one >yet, I could use any advice I can get.

>I like to overcrank fireworks slightly 30 -36 fps which generally means 2.0 to 2.8 for 5218. Overexposing fireworks generally results in a loss of color.

>Try to find out which way the prevailing winds blow so that the smoke won't block your shots.

>Some fireworks are quite large so you may need to be some distance away in order to see the whole show.

>Have fun,

>Brian Heller
IA 600 DP