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Eyeballing Exposures

Published : 17th October 2003


The question was asked …

"...Did you use 100ASA at 1/50 (or some such) as a common basis, or did you have to them estimate footcandles and work from there? And did you encourage the use of the zone system?..."

We started with simple foot candle readings. After I started to see folks begin to see light for it's value, I began to set indexes. Since light meters average the value of light the next step was the interpretation of the zones above and below that middle value. My thoughts were to teach people how to see how the meter interpreted the middle and teach them to place elements in whatever zone they wanted once they learned the middle reference.

By learning what the middle was, I felt it was a good way of pre-visualizing the value of the scale above and below for whatever they were shooting. For example we spent some time shooting a foam sphere. It was lit from one side for texture. Taking a reading, they were really only given the value of the sphere based on zone V. But the light areas of the sphere was at least two zones + higher.

The idea of the exercise was to find the spot where the print showed the sphere the best. Then find the spots where certain values of the sphere were best printed. Having that middle reference firmly understood by ones minds eye seemed to make a difference. That's the way I always saw it and it sees to be a relatively good teaching tool. Most of the group seemed to be able to grasp the zone from this method. It was quite an interesting experience for the students. Best of all, it was a tremendous experience for me.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Lighting Consultant
Hellgate Pictures, Inc.
http://www.film-and-video.com



Walter,

An excellent way to see and to teach. Light meters are ancient rudimentary tools that allows us to measure a value and then, hopefully, interpret that reading into an exposure (not often what the meter reads). This is not unlike the manner that I was FORCED to learn to light by Harry Stradling, James Wong Howe, and others. I was taught to see what is in front of me, evaluate their values, adjust to my taste, and expose that on film. The new light meter, it would seem to me, would be the human eye.

A far better interpreter of light and shadow.

Respectfully,
Roy H. Wagner ASC
Director of Photography


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>This is not unlike the manner that I was FORCED to learn to light by >Harry Stradling, James Wong Howe, and others. I was taught to see >what is in front of me

I feel fortunate Roy, as I am a few years younger than you, but had similar teaching by some of what I called the "old school" who taught me to look at a scene for what it is and learn how to interpret that onto emulation, meter optional. There is no better light meter than that eye. When I sat down and evaluated what was the difference in how I was able to interpret light and how many others did, I noticed a difference. That difference was my lighting upbringing. Few folks my age got the life experience that only some of the great old fashioned east coast lighting folks could teach. I've mentioned this before but these guys would light a set for eight hours all the while asking me not to get out of the way but rather spending the time to show me what they were doing, even if it meant taking a bit of set-up time to do so.

They made me feel important and were sincere. It was one of the main reasons why I knew this was the career I wanted. The best part was afterwards, when you thought it was time to go home, one might whisper something to you like "hey want to do a little bit more" and then would proceed to call the wife and say he was going to be a bit late and would then take you in the studio and spend as much time as it took to show you the art. I wish everyone could have had that privilege. My ability as an artist was always there. I believe it has to be, but my development as that artist and my ability to do it different than most was clearly influenced by these men.

You used the word "FORCED". But I have a question, at the time did you look at it as being forced? I mean for me, I didn't really rely on a light meter till years after working with these guys. They taught me to use my eye. I guess in a way I was forced to learn this way, but I don't look at the word "forced" in a bad sense, do you? I mean if it wasn't for this being the only way I was taught to work, I wouldn't have developed my lighting ability the way I have.

It's like the guy who lives in a small town in Hawaii who learned how to ride a surf board from a short old style heavy wooden model (circa 1969). He does that for years and then he travels to an area where he meets folks with the new fangled grooved composite, large boards. They gather around and look at his 'ancient' board, nearly laughing at it. They ask him if he wants to try a 'real' board. He does try it and blows them away with his ability. He looks at riding the 'new fangled' board as a piece of cake and not much of a challenge. That sense comes from him learning on a harder, less forgiving board. When he's done with his run, they ask him what he thought and he replies, "it's not so great". Then he asks them if anyone wants to try his board to which no one volunteers.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Lighting Consultant
Hellgate Pictures, Inc.



Dear Walter

I have a dry sense of humour and yet they would not allow me to use a light meter. They taught me to judge light values and guess the exposure. Only by viewing your work and observing the accuracy of your assessment, or lack there of, did I learn the range of exposure possibilities that existed.

Sometimes the wrong exposure is the right exposure. For example, over exposure is not a bad thing. It can aid in capturing additional detail and altering the amount or condition of the color in a scene. I would have never learned that if I had been possessed by the light meter.

Yours truly,

Roy H. Wagner ASC
director of photography


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>…they would not allow me to use a light meter. They taught me to judge >light values and guess the exposure.

I'll take that to mean that when you use the word “forced” it was a good thing.

Walter Graff
NYC



Roy Wagner wrote :

>For example over exposure is not a bad thing. It can aid in capturing >additional detail and altering the amount or condition of the color in a >scene.

See Roy's imaginatively shot TV show "Push Nevada" for an object lesson in this and many other aspects of cinematography (and film-making). His work, both in original photography as well as post production manipulation, plays with, comments on and breaks most of the known rules of our craft as well as
many which have not yet been written!

Jerry Cotts
DP/LA



Thank you, Jerry.

The Producers didn't have a clue what they had. I had a great time perusing this style of photography both in original photography and post. If you could see the original negative you would be surprised at how dramatically we can alter our interpretation. That is why it is imperative that we control the final imaging process.

Roy H. Wagner ASC
Director of Photography



I believe it was a good thing. It certainly altered my journey and my approach to photography. I guess it is for others to judge whether it was good for me based upon the body of my work. I love the freedom!

Roy Wagner
Director of Photography



I've never been able to eyeball exposure consistently, only in reference to known previous set-ups. The eye is notoriously inaccurate at determining absolute exposure, but very keen at comparative brightness’s. The old SEI spot photometer was based on this fact and was extremely accurate because of it. I can set the keylight by meter, then eyeball the fill, kicker, etc., pretty well. But the initial base exposure is another matter.

So to those of you who can do this, I'd like to pose the following questions :

1/. Since the eye essentially "auto-exposes" any general scene from about 7 fc to several thousand fc, is your ability to eyeball the exposure based on your experience with that equipment (i.e., a 1K Fresnel at about 10' usually yields about x fc, therefore...?) If not, could you be brought onto a pre-lighted set with blinders on (so you can't see the location and type of fixtures being used) and accurately predict the right T-stop just by looking at the scene?

2/. Do you really nail the exposure or are you depending on the timer to rescue your errors? Can your scenes be printed straight across at the lab's normal lights and yield consistently accurate exposures on the dailies? (Our lab timers have commented that our printer lights are always tightly grouped around their normal numbers.) Could you, for example, eyeball correct exposure for an interior set when filming on reversal film, with its narrow latitude, without reference to a meter?

3/. Are you as accurate at eyeballing exposures on very low key set-ups, where there are few highlights and mostly shadow areas, as you are when dealing with high key scenes? (Because of the eye's operation mentioned in #1., above, your eye sees far more shadow detail in low key scenes than it can in predominately high key scenes. So for low key scenes I refer far more often to the meter to set the fill.)

4/. Can you eyeball the exposure and set the T-stop accurately on scenes you shoot on video, without ever referring to either a waveform or picture monitor?

5/. Have you forsaken the use of a meter entirely, and don't even bring it to the set?

I'm really interested in your responses to these questions. If you can truthfully answer yes to all of the above, I have the utmost respect for you!!

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>4/.Have you forsaken the use of a meter entirely, and don't even bring it >to the set?

If you're talking about shooting video, remember that the camera is a form of meter, and using the zebras in the viewfinder, you can do a decent job of getting the correct exposures. Plenty of people manage to shoot properly exposed video every day on this planet without using a separate light meter or a waveform monitor. So it's not really "eyeballing" exposure when your camera is a form of meter.

If you're talking about shooting film, like most mortals, I have to meter the key lights in order to judge exposure (unless I am outdoors in full sunlight, which is pretty consistent in level here in California), but I generally balance by eye unless it is hyper-critical for some reason. I mean, I can do an OK job of guessing at the exposure indoors, especially over the course of a feature using the same units, but what's the point? So I don't "eyeball" the final exposure except for fun, to compare with what my meter tells me.

We had a discussion long ago about how Douglas Slocombe didn't use a meter, and judging from his work, I'd say he was pretty darn accurate in his estimations. But he's a rarity.

What's odd is that I used to print my films at more or less the same printing lights for an entire feature, but less so now. My earlier work tended to be overly polished in a mundane way and I've been trying to loosen up a little, which produces (for me) a little more variation in printer lights, although generally always in the high numbers since normally I don't like the look of material that prints at low numbers. For certain projects, I also like the look from not using the 85 correction filter outdoors in daylight using tungsten stock, and correcting it later in printing -- I like the slight loss of red saturation in the flesh tones.

Obviously people who like to create color effects in printing rather than in-camera will have more variations in their printer light numbers.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.



With a little of practice, you can get (in stills) really balanced negatives, by just "eyeballing" exposures. I went trough this process when I started using cameras without light meters. The first negs where really bad, but as the months passed by, I started to get more consistent and correct exposures. Now I kind of lost the practice. But, of course, I wouldn´t do the same thing when shooting a project. At least for now. I have heard about some DP´s here in Argentina that don’t use light meters, and they just "guess"? the exposures when shooting in cloudy exteriors. Maybe when you have 40 years of experience on the craft...

My 0,00002 cents of an Argentinean Peso.

Agustin Barrutia
Cinematography student,
Buenos Aires, Argentina.


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>3/. Are you as accurate at eyeballing exposures on very low key set-ups, >where there are few highlights and mostly shadow areas, as you are >when dealing with high key scenes?

At the state of the art in video, you may actually see less with the *untrained eye* than the camera sees in situations like this. You have to look not with the 'contrast glass' approach, but almost with a kind of mentally boosted gain approach !

(alas at the state of the art the opposite may still be true with brighter images, highlights. Working in high end video one can be *de-lighting* as much as lighting !)

>4/. Can you eyeball the exposure and set the T-stop accurately on >scenes you shoot on video, without ever referring to either a waveform >or picture monitor?

As the viewfinder is a picture monitor, the question might be why would you not refer to “it”, at least ?

Sam Wells



David wrote :

>...If you're talking about shooting video, remember that the camera is a >form of meter, and using the zebras in the viewfinder, you can do a >decent job of getting the correct exposures....

>...My earlier work tended to be overly polished in a mundane way and >I've been trying to loosen up a little, which produces (for me) a little >more variation in printer lights,...


What I was trying to establish is not whether or not there are ways of getting around using a meter nor whether we may want to purposely try to press the film to its limits for effects. Perhaps I misinterpreted them, but the comments about eyeballing exposure seemed to be saying that some people can nail the exposure by eye without ANY instrumentation to help--it sounds as if they have calibrated eyeballs.

So I posed those questions not necessarily to challenge but to determine whether they are really depending solely on the light levels they see, or whether they are in fact making educated guesses based on previous experience with those types of light sources, and/or relying on the tremendous range of negative film to redeem any errors.

Being able to print all your scenes straight across and have consistent highlights and flesh tones is only a test to prove the accuracy of the exposures, and isn't necessarily the light you want to use on all scenes.

I just don't want folks on the list who are less experienced or are novices to believe that there is a special ability they may not possess, if in fact it is a technique they could learn, based on experience with known lighting instruments.

But if it is really judging light levels by eye, then you can answer yes to each question. And the ultimate test might be to set the correct stop on a video camera lens without reference to any type of monitor, just by looking at the scene.

If you can do that successfully on any type of scene, my hat's off to you!

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


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It's not as mysterious as one might think. At one time, Kodak enclosed a data sheet with every package of still film -- both amateur and professional -- which contained a brief outdoor exposure table.

The table described the lighting condition and then recommended an exposure : for instance…

For ASA160 film at 1/250th of a second, for "Cloudy Bright – No Shadows" f/5.6 was recommended. For "Open Shade", f/4 and so on.

The table defined daylight as two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. It is fairly easy to extrapolate other ASAs and exposure times from these tables.

Many sports and newspaper photographers swore by the "Sunny Sixteen" rule. This meant that on a sunny day with the subject in full sun and the lens at f/16, the exposure time would be the ASA -- actually the reciprocal of the ASA. Thus for 250 ASA film, the shutter speed would be 1/250th of a second.

It's not perfect, but it's lot more accurate than a lot of metering I've witnessed. It's also a good way to check that someone hasn't forgot to calculate ND’s or a change of stock. Also keep in mind that the brightest sunlight (full Sun) is about 10,000 foot candles and drops to about 200 fc in the heaviest overcast.

This is only about a 5 and 1/2 stop difference.

As far as interiors are concerned, at one time and not that long ago, there were relatively few lighting instruments, and there was only one color negative film. Many cameramen therefore would light a scene to a pre-determined footcandle level to get the working stop they required. Again, Kodak furnished a data sheet, that was also included in the ASC Manual, that gave the footcandles needed for correct exposure at any given stop (at 1/48th of a second). Similar foot candle tables are in the Eighth Edition as well. And again for instance, once a gaffer knew that at full flood a "Big Eye" 10k would put out 470 foot candles at 20', calculating the exposure from the table was fairly easy. If similar lighting set-ups were used for various scenes -- and they often were -- then repeating the set-up would repeat the exposure.

As has been noted here, to gain a stop, requires doubling the foot candle level, or doubling the instruments. I once ran into a couple of old time gaffers who claimed they could tell the stop by how hot it was in the studio. They also claimed they had worked with D.W. Griffith, and as a result were committed union men.

I think the variety of lighting instruments and film stocks now available would present a serious challenge to anyone trying to set an interior exposure without a light meter or a thermometer.

Brian "When in doubt, shoots at f/5.6" Heller
IA 600 DP


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Brian Heller wrote :

>Many sports and newspaper photographers swore by the "Sunny >Sixteen" rule.

I've always used that rule, if my meter varies far from it then I have the meter checked.

It's one of those checks you do to make sure that the technology hasn't failed!

It continues all down the scale, shutter speed set to ASA, hard shadows 16, hazy shadows 11, bright but no shadows 8, shade on a sunny day 5.6-8 etc.

My favourite ever exposure sheet from Kodak was the one that came with 2475 in 1969, it was a special order only film at the time, designed for surveillance use by police/security forces.

I wish I'd kept that guide, it included the classic "2 suspects in a filling station forecourt 1/30 at 2.8" !!

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS

Director of Photography
EU based
www.cinematography.net



Brian Heller wrote :

>It's not as mysterious as one might think. At one time, Kodak enclosed a >data sheet with every package of still film -- both amateur and >professional -- which contained a brief outdoor exposure table. The >table described the lighting condition and then recommended an >exposure...

Those exposure tables (both outdoor and existing light) are still printed inside the box of many of the Kodak 35mm still films.

The Kodak website has a useful tutorial on "Lighting" that contains guidelines for typical existing light exposure conditions :

http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/index

The Kodak site also has guidelines for special situations like "fireworks" and "astrophotography".

The general Kodak website ( http://www.kodak.com ) has a useful "Search" feature that provides links to articles using keywords.

John Pytlak
EI Worldwide Technical Services
Research Labs,
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, New York 14650-1922 USA
http://www.kodak.com/go/motion



Brian wrote :

>It's not as mysterious as one might think. At one time, Kodak enclosed a >data sheet with every package of still film -- both amateur and >professional -- which contained a brief outdoor exposure table....

Yes, I've been using and teaching the Sunny 16 rule and Kodak's classic outdoor exposure table for 45 years (my Basic Photography students start out shooting 4x5 B&W without a meter, using these.) Outdoor guesses are not the big question.

The question I keep addressing is whether or not anyone can actually look at an interior, artificially lighted scene or set and accurately guess the exposure or fc level without the knowledge of the sources being used, i. e., their eyes are light meters. My opinion is that those who are good at hitting the exposure without reference to a meter do so by the experience they've gained using familiar light sources.

They know how much to expect from that Big Eye tenor used at 20' from the subject, etc. But if they were not allowed to know what instruments were being used, and could look only at the scene itself, I question that they could accurately guess it.

The iris and retina are continually adjusting to light (actually luminance) levels. So what would be the frame of reference?

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



It's been a long, long time since my physiological psychology classes, but this is what I remember...

Our sense of absolute values, both luminance and color drifts as if we had "auto iris" and "auto white-balance" in our brains. For this reason, I would guess that the ability to guess exposure by eye has more to do with knowing the similar circumstances than being a human light meter.

On the color temperature drift issue, many color-correction suites have a large white bezel around the monitor so the colorist will have a constant white reference. If you work with a palette for a while, you tend to see it as white and you could add to much color. I've been tempted to add it to our edit suites because we do a good bit of tape-to-tape color correction there.

Outside, when we work a lot with a known ASA, we can be pretty sure the sun is not varying in it's intensity! On the set, we often use very similar lighting designs so we can fairly accurately guess the exposure there as well.

Best regards to all,

Leo Ticheli
Director/Cinematographer
Birmingham/Atlanta



Wade Ramsey wrote :

>The question I keep addressing is whether or not anyone can actually >look at an interior, artificially lighted scene or set and accurately guess >the exposure or fc level without the knowledge of the sources being >used, i. e., their eyes are light meters.

Sorry, I confabulated a couple of posts and did not see that you were specifically referring to interiors.

>My opinion is that those who are good at hitting the exposure without >reference to a meter do so by the experience they've gained using >familiar light sources.

I would tend to agree with Wade, but I wouldn't want to bet on it. I suspect that there are more than a few people out there who can gauge light levels very accurately, but lots more who have no idea.

>The iris and retina are continually adjusting to light (actually luminance) >levels. So what would be the frame of reference?

Perhaps the minimum level needed to read a newspaper comfortably or about 30 fc, to read poor or faded printing about 70 fc, to do intricate handiwork work 125-150fc.

It's true that the eye can adjust within certain levels, but you still can't read in the dark.

It's an interesting question.

Maybe eyeballing exposure levels could be an event in the CML-Olympics along with eyeballing follow focus.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



I may have started some of this conjecture with my comments.

Please allow me to define what I meant when I said that I use my eye instead of a meter to light a set.

For the most part I can walk onto a stage (without seeing the units that are lighting the set) and be very accurate with exposure. This is somewhat the same principal used in the darkroom. I'm not suggesting that I don't use a light meter. I light the set by eye and then measure the key exposure. The rest of the set falls into my interpretation of the light values. Seldom will I ever read all of the light values.

Experience is useful but knowing the lighting units or even the characteristic curve of the film stock is only partially an answer. Each of us is uniquely different. Our interpretation of what we see is far more important than the "correct exposure", whatever that means.

Even when I read the light meter I seldom expose for what it reads. I interpret the reading and that information becomes a part of my expression.

Roy H. Wagner ASC
director of photography



Brian Heller writes :

>Maybe eyeballing exposure levels could be an event in the CML->Olympics along with eyeballing follow focus.

Followed by a contest in which a panel of film historians compete to explain why film folk still say "ASA," decades after the rest of the known universe switched to "ISO."

(Is it just a snooty in-group kinda thing, or a matter of proud tradition, or what?)

Dan "Every Frame a Rembrandt" Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Leo Ticheli wrote :

>Our sense of absolute values, both luminance and color drifts as if we >had "auto iris" and "auto white-balance" in our brains.

I was lucky enough to have shot news film for a few years with a CP16 and reversal stock. One learned to judge exposure by the image on the ground glass much as one does with a video viewfinder. I could "guess" within a 1/2 a stop, which is about all you have with reversal. But I never went to work without my meter on my belt even if I didn’t use it. I carried it on my left side so I could use it with out taking the camera off my solder.

Steve Golden, DP/International Cinematographers’ Guild
Chicago, IL 60607



Roy H. Wagner ASC wrote :

>I light the set by eye and then measure the key exposure. The rest of >the set falls into my interpretation of the light values. Seldom will I ever >read all of the light values.

I agree completely. I think what we are saying is the eye for quality and the meter for quantity.

Steve Golden, DP/International Cinematographers’ Guild
Chicago, IL 60607



>Is it just a snooty in-group kinda thing, or a matter of proud tradition, or >what?

ASA’s and all other secret in-group things are explained in the secret membership manual, along with the secret handshake, secret decoder rings and black helicopters which are secretly under ASC control.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net



Dan Drasin writes :

>a panel of film historians compete to explain why filmfolk still say "ASA," >decades after the rest of the known universe switched to "ISO."

When a stills photographer gets a shoot he goes out and buys the appropriate film stock spanking new from a shop/dealer and it is all marked in ISO ratings

When a movie/tv camera dept gets a shoot the producer directs them to a warehouse full of short ends and other repurposed raw stock this is mostly marked in ASA the system in use when it was originally manufactured

This message comes with double it is a JOKE - no personal digs intended - no flame please

Mitch "still using stock rated in weston" Mitchell
VFX supervisor
London, UK.



>…followed by a contest in which a panel of film historians compete to >explain why film folk still say "ASA," decades after the rest of the known >universe switched to "ISO"…

For me it is a matter of habit. I was raised to photography under the ASA terminology and that is what I'm used to, so I stick to it. I think it is most people's case, so its usage gets reinforced. Also, though ASA stands for "American Standards Association", I have never seen it used for anything but film speed, while ISO is commonly used for lots of other things in industry, so ASA becomes more specific terminology in my opinion.

The same happens, to a lesser extent, to the DIN scale. Once I learnt DIN 21 was the same as 100 ASA and the unit increments meant 1/3 of a stop difference it became useful for me; but the arithmetical ASA scale was more immediate as a way of relating different film speeds. And perhaps in Germany it is used more by film people instead of ASA or ISO; but for me DIN is a terminology I mostly associate with normalised paper sizes.

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker
Madrid (Spain)



I grew up with ASA. But I started using Exposure Index because we vary the given rate so often (I still slip back to ASA often though).

But here is another one. In the US we call it Still Photography. In the UK it’s called Stills Photography. That always sounds strange to me.

Steven Poster ASC



Steven Poster ASC wrote :

>But here is another one. In the US we call it Still Photography. In the UK >it’s called Stills Photography. That always sounds strange to me.

But motion picture photography is still photography, isn't it…

Brian "Still photographing stills" Heller
IA 600 DP



Steve Golden wrote :

>Roy H. Wagner ASC wrote :
>I light the set by eye and then measure the key exposure....

>I agree completely. I think what we are saying is the eye for quality and >the meter for quantity.


Thanks, Roy, for clarifying your technique, and Steve, for stating it succinctly!

On the ASA/ISO controversy, although there are ASA (now ANSI) standards for all sorts of products other than photography, as someone pointed out, "ASA" became synonymous with film speed and nothing else in general use. It became ingrained in the minds of most of us who began back in the ASA days, and some of us are still using faithful old meters so marked.

Nowadays we see "ISO 2000 compliant" on the fronts of factories. Does that mean they are very sensitive to light?

To make it more anomalous, motion picture film doesn't even have an ASA or ISO rating--it's correctly marked by the manufacturer as EI, for Exposure Index. It's to be used with meters marked in the ASA/ISO arithmetic system, but its film speed is not determined by the ASA/ISO system, which was designed for still(s) film applications. The application is different and the film speed has been adjusted by the manufacturer accordingly.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



Wade Ramsey wrote :

>To make it more anomalous, motion picture film doesn't even have an >ASA or ISO rating--it's correctly marked by the manufacturer as EI, for >Exposure Index...

Here are some links to information about Exposure Index (EI) :

http://www.kodak.com/country/US/en/motion/support/h1/exposureP.shtml#din

http://www.kodak.com/country/US/en/motion/support/faq/exposure.shtml

John Pytlak
EI Worldwide Technical Services
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, New York 14650-1922 USA



Concerning "eyeballing exposures", I'm going to diverge from those of you who are throwing away your light meters (a slight exaggeration for dramatic effect). Of course you light to what looks right to your eyes. If you keep your eye solely on the meter you'll get crap, but you're taking unreasonable chances by not going back to check the exposure reading. The meter is just a tool to report a condition. It's not mechanized tyranny that you must be a slave to. It's another piece of info to help you decide what to do.

The eye can be fooled. Have you ever worked in a room filled with coloured light? Your mind begins to filter out the color and makes you think that pink (for example) is white. If you see a "white" light, it looks green until your eyes have re-adjusted.

What about when the generator is running 2 hertz off frequency? Are you going to see that with your eye?

The eye is a wonderful, sensitive tool that is unmatched in its ability to discriminate subtle differences. It is also a highly ADAPTIVE device that accommodates itself to a wide range of conditions.

This ADAPTIVE accommodation can lead to misperception unless you have quantitative devices that can't be fooled (and an understanding about what effects perception).

Use your eyes and your mind to set the look (and that is the way that I light), but check it with a meter to know what will "stick" to the film. Aesthetics don't come from a mechanical device, but empirical measurements beat "eyeballing" for accuracy. That's my 2 cents.

Bruce Aleksander

Lighting Designer +
ABC/Disney
Houston



Bruce Aleksander writes :

>Use your eyes and your mind to set the look (and that is the way that I >light), but check it with a meter to know what will "stick" to the film.

I agree.

I haven’t been following this thread, and maybe this has been said, but remember, in the days when one stop amounted to a difference between 200 FC and 400 FC it was a lot easier to get things correct within a half stop difference. Today, when the difference can be just a few Foot Candles it is much harder to see and judge the correct exposure without measuring empirically.

Of course there is always the emotional call when I say to my long time assistant Norman “Make it 2 tenths less” derived just by looking at the set up.

I do that a lot…It drives him nuts...

Steven Poster ASC