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First time shooting film HELP

Jamie Buckingham

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Hi guys, I've been reading around the forum for snippets of advice and thought i should join the community.


First with lots of questions, then hopefully sometime down the line i might start being able to give answers!


First off i'll introduce myself. I'm Jamie and i'm from the south of England, currently studying a BA in Film Production.


Before that I did a media course which involved alot of no budget student film making etc. but all digital. It was here

my passion grew for wanting to be behind the camera. I believe I have good control and an eye for interesting compositions,

but I am lacking in technical knowledge, especially now i'm about to shoot on 16mm film.


My biggest concerns are getting the exposure right. There are basically 2 areas of the film. Outside, and 2 scenes based in a tent at night.

The tent will be set up in a darkened room, so we can light it. Yesterday we did a practice, and it was really my first go at serious lighting

especially to recreate a real setting. I took some pictures of my efforts, but i have a few questions and it would be good to see if people think

this set up would work or what they would do differently.


Here on the right we have a 1.2 HMI, which my idea is to be the moon or just giving off moonlight and giving some backlight?

My link

some fill

My link

My idea for this light was to add to the practical lamp, through the vents in the top of the tent. Idealy it would be right over, hoping to get a stand for the shoot

My link


Now, our only film stock is 250D, so lots of cooling going on, i think thats right. There's some on the HMI as well, just to get the nighttime vibe i'm hoping.

I took some shots with my SLR at 5200k to maybe get an idea of the colours i'd be getting?


My link

Too blue? Too dark?

Light metre readings were quite low 1.4 - 2.8 max i think from memory. But we've got superspeeds so should be able to deal with that.

Have i gone about this in an OK manner or have i got it all wrong? Where do i take the exposure from?




Bringing me to my next problem. Shooting outdoors. How do I work with the light meter, where am i taking exposure from? Do i point anywhere to get a general idea of levels,

or do i point it at the sky to get the exposure for that so it's not over exposed? I have a couple of NDs and ND grads. Do I have to adjust for this in my head after taking a reading?


Sorry for the long post, my head is all over the place and i'm stressing as the shoot starts at the weekend. I posted it here because i thought it might get more attention, sorry!



Appreciate any tips big or small, no matter how patronising they may sound!



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Shooting film it's best to use an incident light meter for getting the exposure. The idea is that you basically use one of these by pointing it towards the camera from where the subject is. If you're going to error with negative stock it's better to over expose than under expose, some people do this in order to have a thicker negative.


Outdoors you use the incident meter the same way, you point towards the camera. although in reality you don't usually have to leave the camera, you just point it the same direction as if standing beside the subject. You can use ND grads as you feel looks best, you don't adjust the exposure for these, since you're controlling the exposure for part of the frame that's not the main subject.


If you're using an HMI for a blue moonlight effect with a daylight stock, you'll need to use CTB to create the blue. Assuming the practical is supposed to be tungsten, you'll need to have that as a daylight colour temperature, or slightly warmer depending on taste, so that the practical looks correct or a bit warm and the moonlight is blue.


Failing an incident meter, a reflected light meter taking readings from a 18% mid grey card will work. I wouldn't worry too much about the sky, film doesn't clip like video, so get the correct exposure for your main subject. You can use the grads if you need to get some more sky detail.

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Sounds like you need to get comfortable using a lightmeter and visualizing your lighting set-ups.


Using a light meter in a basic way is not a big deal. I'm sure you can find great reference material on the web or in old photo technique books. With the incredibly wide exposure latitude of modern motion picture film you don't have much to worry about as long as you are close.


I would suggest using an incident meter which reads the light falling on your subject rather than reflected from it. However, if you only have a reflected meter you can read off an 18% gray card and get the same result as an incident meter. Be sure your meter is accurate! They need calibration periodically. Quick and dirty checks: If you have another meter to compare it to and they both give you the same reading they are likely to be accurate. Also there is the "sunny 16" rule: a reading at noon outdoors on a sunny day should give you f 16 when the shutter speed matches the film speed, i.e. 50 speed film at 1/50 sec shutter should yield an f 16 stop.


An easy and cheap way to see what your results will look like would be to shoot some stills using a manual still camera (like an old 35mm slr) and negative stills film that matches (pretty close anyway) the film speed and color temperature of your motion picture stock. You'll get a good idea of how it will handle contrast ratios, color and exposure. If you really want to dial it in shoot slide film, it has much less latitude.


Be mindful of what you're doing, shoot some tests to confirm your readings and you should be fine.

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Thanks for the advice guys, i'm a bit more confident now with the latitude available.


Still a bit confused with my lighting set up.


"If you're using an HMI for a blue moonlight effect with a daylight stock, you'll need to use CTB to create the blue."


CTB = Colour temperature balance? Not quite sure what that entails.


Am i right in cooling my 2nd and 3rd (arri, tungsten)lights with blue gels, this is intended to hang over the tent to work with the practicle. The practicle itself is quite cool in appearence anyway so the image i want to create will be cool.

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You're using a daylight stock, so for a correct colour temperature you are working at 5600K, more or less the same as the HMI. If you want the HMI to look blue for a moonlight effect, you'll have to blue it, for the practical effect you can either use an HMI without any gel or say a 1/4 CTO for a warmer effect.


IF you're using a tungsten light to create the practical, you'll need to use a CTB, otherwise it will be too warm looking with daylight stock.


If your actual practical is an LED, this may be pretty near daylight in colour temperature and the film may see this as white. It depends if you want to keep the cool practical light looking blue or for it to give correct flesh tones in the film. This is a creative decision


Personally, I'd differentiate between the inside world of the tent and the moonlight by this being bluer than the practical.

Edited by Brian Drysdale
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  • 1 month later...

particularly in india, filmmaking is expensive.so we have to resort to indie filmmaking which is even worse from the norms followed in other parts of the world.


actually i want to shoot a romantic love story based in rural areas.so i want to know about the basic look of the film which i am going to shoot digitally.i am going to prefer an xdcam ex3 and a dslr.so i would be applying colour correction to achieve the film look.but i am confused.how should be the lighting situations and whether the film should be warm or coolish.a lot of shots is to be shot outside and no studio is going to be involved as i want the natural look of the story.


so i request the cinematographers,d.o.p's,directors,filmmakers to provide me some hints and advices.

i would be glad to hear!

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