Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting S16mm In Low Light Situations

Hi guys,

I am filming a Feature Film in S16mm in London next month.

We'll be shooting everything at night since the action happens between 2am and 6am in the morning. I will be bringing come Chinese lanterns for the EXT shots in the street at night since there won't be a big budget for other sources. There are street lamps that I will be very happy to use as well.

I have used 7218 stock extensively in the past although always in a more controlled situation where I always had enough lighting fixtures.

I am a bit concerned mainly about the size of the grain shooting in such low light environments. Also I will be relying on Canon zoom lenses mostly, and the widest I can go is T/2.4.

I usually rate this stock at 320 ASA and have been quite happy with the results.

I will most likely use 7217 for the INT shots.

Have you guys use 7218 in a similar lighting situation?


Vincent De Paula
Director of Photography (EU based)
+44 (0)7766 913932
+44 (0)1932 843806

Vincent De Paula wrote :

>>>I am a bit concerned mainly about the size of the grain shooting in >>such low light

Try Fuji Eterna 500T. I've found it to have less grain than 7218. also if you possibly can shoot with primes, especially Cookes, even at the same T stop they'll underexpose much better.

hope this helps

Byron Shah
DP Los Angeles

Try Fuji Eterna 500T. I've found it to have less grain than 7218. also if you possibly can shoot with primes,

I have been shooting allot of Eterna 500t in and around NYC with my Aaton over the last year or so. I have been very surprised at how much exposes and the amount of detail with very little grain can be achieved with this stock and a set of SuperSpeeds. I have a set of MkI SuperSpeeds in B-Mount for my rig. I like xx18 allot too but the Eterna seems creamier than 18.

Robert Houllahan
VP Cinelab Inc.

Dear CMLers / Vincent,

I shot with 7218, but with Zeiss T 1.3 on night streets, in a low budget feature film.

Looks good, but you have to find streets with good light level. Sodium light lamps are great in this regard, if you don't bother with the orange look that it shows. .

Minibrutes (in Brazil the sources with DWE 650W lamps...), that are inexpensive, may be a source that can be help you in this situation.

My 2 cents,

Adriano S. Barbuto
S. Paulo / Brazil


I've shot in similar conditions for a Nokia on-line interactive ad which can be seen on (you'll have to drive the car past all the check points before you get to see the scenes shot on 7218)Although I had a slightly more substantive light package to what you'll be working with, I still didn't have enough to light the whole street so I had to match to the actual lighting. For my purposes 7218 was fine and proved to retain a lot of detail in the shadows. I rated it at 500 with no problems, and think that you can easily dig another 1,5 stops out of it in telecine/scan. You are doing a feature, so you didn't mention whether the blow-up would be via DI or Optical in which case grain and underexposure become issues. The Fuji does indeed have a very fine grain structure, but you'll probably find that the choice between Fuji and Kodak should depend more on artistic taste; they both offer different results.

I would suggest you swap the zoom out for some High Speed prime set. That zoom works best when there is some light for it to bite into, and you won't have any. My experience with that zoom wide open in limited conditions is not excellent, and would advice against it especially if you are blowing up the neg. Focus, especially wide open and on 16mm is critical and you'll not see the difference between sharp and just off in the viewfinder but on the big screen, in which case it is too late.

A final note on lighting style. You'll be matching the street, not the street to you so you'll find you'll be under lighting the action for it not to stand out from the rest of the environment. You can get away with more in the CU's, but, depending on the streets you pick, you won't have much light in general to play with so be very aware of how your kit works wide open not to have nasty surprises in rushes.

Enjoy (oh, and test, if you can!)

Roger Simonsz
Veteran of a lot of night shoots in Paris

Hi Vincent,

Don't be afraid to push the stock 2 stops if you have to. It still comes up pretty clean. And at 5 stops under (incident reading) you'll still see Caucasian skin. If you can shoot a test. If you are going for D.I. shoot a test and find your look before you shoot with the colourist.

Ruairi O'Brien,

I'm not too keen on that Zoom lens either...I managed to get hold of a 9.5mm Zeiss T1.3, I'll see if I can get some longer ones too...

I am definitely going to be quite picky with the background in my wider shots.

Unfortunately we won't be blowing to 35mm at present time, although that is going to be discussed in the next week. Mastering to HD is going to be the probable approach...

Vincent De Paula
Director of Photography

Roger wrote :

>>>A final note on lighting style. You'll be matching the street, not the street >>to you so you'll find you'll be underlighting the action for it not to stand >>out from the rest of the environment.

Good point. Balance is the key to making it look real.

Jim Sofranko

Hi there I have shot many night exteriors in my home town.

My advice would be to concur with several of my piers you must get a set of fast primes Zeiss T1.3's are cheap and readily available from many rental houses including Arrimedia, Take2fims, 186, Panavision.

Personally I wouldn't push the 7218 more than a stop, but I feel comfortable rating it a 500 ISO. It goes a little grainy and foggy for my taste if pushed any more. This will be more pronounced if you are doing a 35mm blow up won't it?

I don't imagine that night/ext shooting in London will be any different from any other large European city, its actually much easier than day exteriors in the UK where the light is constantly changing.

If you are somewhere like Piccadilly Circus, there is so much ambient light one can shoot at T4 on 500ISO in the middle of the night.

I'm not keen on the sodium vapour street lights everywhere, a bloody awful chrome orange colour, so I try and correct my own lights a little whiter when on actors faces.


Daniel Bronks

Thanks everyone for your input concerning this subject.

Rhet, I loved your frame grabs! Very handy!

I agree that pushing 7218 more than 1 stop can get real nasty and that's something I have never considered.

Will be relying on the wide Zeiss lens more than initially anticipated and will really really really try to get some more primes.

Filming will start in about 2 1/2 weeks, and I'll let you guys now what's happening.

Vincent De Paula
Director of Photography


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