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Metering A City At Night

Published : 22nd December 2004

>Other than shooting with 500 speed film and bracketing exposure (including shooting at 12fps), does anyone have any tips on how to expose for a night shot of a cityscape
(LA's ocean of lights, for example)?

>Thomas Burns
DP, Austin/Los Angeles


>A guide for existing light photography is provided in the Kodak Publication "Pictures by Existing Light":

http://www.kodak.com/global/en/consumer/products/

techInfo/ac61/#57378

>Note that for a EI 400 film, the exposure table on page shows a suggested exposure for "Brightly Lighted Downtown Street Scenes" to be 1/60 second at f/2.8.

>The exposure table shows 1/60 second at f/2.8 for an EI 400 film and a "Brightly Lighted Downtown Street Scene".

>So for 24fps, 180 degree shutter (1/48 second exposure time), an EI 500 motion picture film would require 2/3 stop less exposure than f/2.8. (1/3 stop advantage for the longer exposure time, 1/3 stop advantage for the faster film). So 1/3 stop more open than f/4 should work very well as a starting point for testing.

>Here is the incident light table, which shows that you would need only about 30 footcandles to fully illuminate your main subject at that stop, and probably less (darker) to suit the mood of a nightime scene:

>http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/support/h2/ilit.shtml

>John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company
http://www.kodak.com/go/motion


>Thomas Burns wrote:

class="Paragraph">>does anyone have any tips on how to expose for a night shot of a >cityscape (LA's ocean of lights, for example)?

>With all regard to John Pytlak for the "Basic Daylight Exposure" compensation for "Brightly lit Downtown Street Scene," I believe that Mr. Burns wanted a BDE compensation for a "Cityscape at Night".

>If you use f/16 @ 1/ASA sec for BDE, you can use BDE + 13 stops for a "Cityscape @ Night".

>If you use Vision2 500T (5218/7218) you can shoot at a f/1.4 @ 1/8sec or an f/1 @ 1/15sec. These numbers should work for a time-lapse shoot.

>Matt Efsic
Film Student - Brooks Institute of Photography
Ventura, CA


>Matt Efsic wrote:

class="Paragraph">>If you use Vision2 500T (5218/7218) you can shoot at a f/1.4 @ 1/8sec >or an f/1 @ 1/15sec. These numbers should work for a time-lapse >shoot.

>That much exposure for "cityscape at night" may show much more detail in the shadows, but will likely make the lights "bloom" out and lack color detail. I guess it's a matter of the "look" desired.

>As always, test, Test, TEST.

>John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company


>Find something (like a building) that looks 18% gray to your eye, meter it, and shoot. I've found that works very well.

Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
Dramatic License #CA14886
http://www.artadams.net/


>Metering a gray card or gray object in the scene to set your exposure will give a "normal" exposure, so it really won't look like night.

>In most cases, you want an exposure that captures the colors and textures of the street lights, vehicle lights, lighted windows, and lighted signs, with the outlines of the buildings just visible in the shadow areas. That's what an EI500 film will see at about f/4 and 24fps. Wet surfaces can make night scenes much more interesting.

>John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company


class="Paragraph">>Metering a gray card or gray object in the scene to set your exposure will >give a "normal" exposure, so it really won't look like night.

>I disagree. I've shot footage at night where I've found a building in the shot whose sides look, to my eye, to be 18% gray. I based my exposure off that and everything else fell into place. There are a few things brighter and a lot of things darker, and it still looks like night.

>This doesn't work for shooting scenes in the street but it does work quite well for scenic shots.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
Dramatic License #CA14886