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Shooting tips for 16mm beach film

Guest BobbyMiller

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Guest BobbyMiller

This my first time shooting on film (always did DV), so

that's why I have a ton of questions...


I'm shooting on a Bolex, non-synch (MOS) camera and it's black/white

reversal plus-x film (ASA 100). (Good old Basic film class.)


I took these stills using a SLR 35mm camera, 100 ISO. B/W.






The close-up above has harsh shadows on the right of the face (the sun was

coming from the left.) I figured I could possibly put a black flag or

piece of board blocking out the sun coming in from the left...or, I believe

someone suggest I'd use a white board and reflect it on the right side

instead of blocking out light on the left.



This wide shot has made the subject's face totally black. Again, this was

taken at 3:30 pm. I'm guessing I should hold off on wide shots till magic

hour? (The sun sets at 7:45 here, so I guess around an hour before that

would be good to start getting the wides?) Someone told me that I should

get the wide shots done when the sun is directly above (I guess 12-1pm?). So, now I'm unsure when is best.



Suffers from the same thing as the top close-up image. I don't think I

could block or bounce light from this position. I'm guessing this is a

time of day thing?



Then there is a shot like this... Again, I'm thinking this is a time of the

day issue?


* Jarin, you said something about having a 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 stop difference.

Excuse me for being a newbie, but what do you mean by that?


I guess to sum it up, I just want to have the light to be as even as

possible. Especially on those close-ups. It's a film that relies a lot on

the characters facial expression and it's a bit of a comedy film, so harsh

shadows well, suck.


I was planning on shooting some test footage very soon and I was also wondering what sorts of filters I should get to cut out the haze/mist (or whatever that is) that's near the ocean. And if I should invest in some ND filters. I was getting readings of 16 and 22 mostly, so if I stopped it down 2 fstops via ND filters, perhaps that would be more preferable?


I also wanted to comment that my light meter usually measured for 16s or something around that, but my light meter in my still camera usually stopped down more at like a 22. Should it be common practice to stop it down at least another half stop or even whole stop to compensate for the reflective nature of the sand. I'm using a reflective light meter on the face, so I'm guessing it won't pick up on the "whole picture".


Well, I'm sure that's enough questions for now. Let me know what you think. And thanks for your help.





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It seems to me all you really need on those dark faces is beadboard or showcard for bounce to fill in those shadows. I definitely prefer a white surface as opposed to a shiny one for the softest shadows. The bigger the bounce source, the more natural it will appear (softer shadows). The key is having the bounce the right distance from your subject and getting the right level of illuminance. On black and white reversal, this might be 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 stops, depending on preference. You can get away with less fill light on wider shots, as the audience isn't trying to read the eyes as much as take in the entire shot.


What film type are you shooting? If it's black and white, you could use an orange filter to darken the sky and water and lighten your skintones for separation. A yellow filter would give you a lesser effect, and a red one will give you a very pronounced effect. In addition, a polarizer would reduce the glare on the water, the wet sand and even the actor's skin.

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Guest BobbyMiller

Hi guys, I've reposted all my questions in the first post. Check it out. It includes a question for Jarin. Thanks so much for all your help.

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Guest BobbyMiller

I'll try the reflectors out. The still images are not plus-x reversal, there from a still camera with 100 ASA. As for plus-x reversal...what is the ASA? Because, I'm almost certain our professor said 100... Thanks.


She told us that there was tri-ex reversal to choose from too, but reccomended plus-ex for outdoors.


Any idea on when to shoot the wide shots?



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I agree some fill would help. But like Mr. Mullen, I think you have some underexposure too --- none of your whites (e.g., the surf, his shirt) are brighter than a mid tone gray.


Here's the data sheet for Kodak Plus-X 125 still film processed as a negative:






Use the exposures in the table below for average front-lit subjects from 2 hours after sunrise to 2 hours before sunset.


Lighting Conditions

Shutter Speed (second)

Lens Opening


Bright/Hazy Sun on Light Sand or Snow




Bright or Hazy Sun, Distinct Shadows




Weak, Hazy Sun (Soft Shadows)




Cloudy Bright (No Shadows)




Heavy Overcast, Open Shade**





* Use f/5.6 for backlighted close-up subjects.

** Subject shaded from sun but lighted by a large area of clear sky.

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If you want even light, then try to shoot on a cloudy day. Barring that, try shooting early morning or late afternoon when the sun has yet to rise or has just set. But this will give you very little shooting time. If you don't want to see the shadows going across the subject's face or the face being completely dark because the sun is behind him (putting the entire face into shadow), simply position your shots so that the camera is directly between the sun and the actor, thereby illuminating the actor directly. This is very much a time of day thing and needs to be done with the help of a compass to plan out the shoot schedule. It's very difficult to plan for this type of shooting, which is why most people resort to white cards and shiny reflector panels to pump some light into people's faces. For wide shots you may have to simply schedule around the sun--you'll never outlight it.

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Guest BobbyMiller

Boy an overcast day would be so great....


Everybody's comments seem to make sense and I really want to thank you all for replying. I'll be shooting as many variations as possible with the test footage my prof. gave me.


The only thing that doesn't make sense is the prof. advice is a little different than the consensus here:


"Flagging off the key side isn?t a bad idea but what you?d really use ? for which you?d need a bigger crew and equipment we don?t have ? is a really big silk which would turn your hard source into a softer diffuse source. You?ve probably walked by an exterior fashion shoot and seen these. They are hard to work with and potentially dangerous without an experienced crew (esp. on the beach) because of their tendency to turn into high velocity kites.


In general what you want to do when shooting in snow or on a beach is avoid shooting in the middle of the day when the sun is overhead and everyone looks all raccoon eyed ? or if you?re shooting all day use the middle of the day for your wide shots when everything is pretty evenly lit. Then use the morning and the late afternoon for the actor shots. Back lighting is going to be the most flattering ? if you have two characters you usually use the backlight for the women and the frontal light for the guy. If the sun is behind your actor then you can take a bounce card and fill in the rest of the face.


For the actor on the otherside if necessary you?ll also want to bounce light to even out the contrast.


You?ll probably need some nd filters which you?d use in the filter holder behind the lens (only takes one). A UV haze filter is good or a polarizer in front of the lens will be helpful too to control contrast and darken the sky. You can also use yellow, or amber filters, or even red (if you don?t have a face in the frame otherwise red is too much and makes the lips go white) to darken the sky. Do you have the American Cinematographer?s Manual? There?s a section there on shooting with color filtration for B&W film. It?s also covered a bit in the Malkiewicz book, pp 65-66.


You won?t need to push your stock at all since you have plenty of light. Just be careful to flag off the lens especially when working with backlight as the sun can flare the front of the lens and fog your image. Matte box, sunshade, french flag, flag on a grip stand are all simple solutions for this."




My replies:


ME: When you say backlighting, you mean having the person stand with their back to the light?



PROF: Yes.


ME: Wouldn't that make them really dark


PROF: No because you?re going to bounce light to fill in the face. But backlight is flattering because it keeps the hard life off the actor?s face.



ME: So technically best time for close-ups is early morning 7-10am and say 4-7pm (I think magic hour is probably close to 6ish, 7ish)... or is there more room in there.


PROF: You?d like to avoid shooting in the middle of the day since no one really likes that harsh over head light. But if you?re day is structured so that you have to shoot something in the middle of the day the wide shots would be a good choice.


Also if you have a nice overcast day you can shoot what ever when ever.


You can also use negative fill ? saying putting a black card on the ground in the front of the actor to cut down on reflected light or flagging off one side of the frame to model the light so it wraps more interestingly on your actors face.





Whew. Talk about me overanalyzing this stuff!

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The only thing that doesn't make sense is the prof. advice is a little different than the consensus here:

No I don't think it's different, and it's good; I think people here were assuming you would not have the resources to rig large butterfly etc.


Also, Plus X reversal is supposed to be EI 100 with the new developer, I have not tried it.



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Actually I like to do closeups in the middle of the day, but only when I have a silk and frame to rig overhead. Then I get wonderful soft light on my subject's face and the rest of the background is out of focus so that one cannot notice the harshness of the direction of the light. It's actually rather easy to do this, and even a 4'x4' silk will cover someone from shoulders up. But you'll need some c-stands, sandbags and a couple of people to rig and hold the stuff, and it gets awfully windy on the beach so be careful.

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I hadn't realized they were going to make such a significant jump in speed and still keep the same name.

Well they couldn't call it Double X because that's something else, and "Plus-X Tri-X Split"

was too unweildy......


I've heard it's a little bit softer in contrast too, don't know first hand.



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Guest BobbyMiller

With the Bolex 16mm non-synch Reflex camera I'm using, you can place a gel filter square behind the lens. I figured I would use a ND filter there for the sun (I have a ND3 and 6.) My Prof. reccomended using any of the following: Polarize filter, UV Filter, Yellow, and Orange Filter for on top of the lens. These filters are all 49mm that I have and would be taped to the front of the lens with black gaffers tape. My question is: What sorts of combinations (if any) should I try out for my test footage? If I were to use a Polarize and a Yellow filter on top of each other, would that decrease resolution at all? And would it be overkill? Especially with an ND filter behind the lens? The only other question I had was that my orange filter is a 52mm filter size, so it wont be able to screw on top of the other 49mm. Would taping it to a 49mm be way too risky? If I were to say use a polarize or UV 49mm with the Orange filter.


I also have to figure out all the f-stop stuff. They are quantary lenses. The PL filter doesnt list any f-stop adjustment and the Orange and Yellow don't either. Unless the letter combination after the color indications something. The Yellow lists it as: Yellow (Y2) and Orange (YA2).



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I wouldn't combine a Yellow and an Orange -- one is just a stronger effect than the other, so use the one that gets you the look you want. There are different strengths of Yellow, Orange, and Red anyway so why add them? Some people would use the Orange on the wide shots but the Yellow on the close-ups, to not make the skin goes as pale nor the lighten the lips as much.

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"... what you?d really use ? for which you?d need a bigger crew and equipment we don?t have ? is a really big silk which would turn your hard source into a softer diffuse source"

Check out the photo's from AC mag' 'The Last Samauri' edition. They hung huge silks suspended from cranes for some of the battle scenes. Gives you a sense of what is possible. When we shot the beach scenes from 'Monte Cristo' in Malta, James McGuire, the gaffer, drilled and bolted nearby rocks and tied off the 12x12 silks used to bounce fill light.


I just shot a super 16mm promo, last weekend, on Blackpool beach in the NorthWest of the UK. Very cheap job, no lights. And to complicate things two camera's! Steadicam on a 16mm lens tracking a singing crowd following a brass band and me way back on a 300mm! Had the gaffer track back with a silver 8x2 whiteboard on the edge of the steadicam shot.


The day which started calm in bright sunshine ended horribly overcast with a sandstorm blowing horizontally across the beach. I'm going to see the edited footage today, if I can get a copy on DV I'll send you some frame grabs and tell you how the shot was lit.


Old Black and White photography books such as 'The Art of Black and White Photography' by John Garrett have very good sections on filters for B+W, indicating filter names, numbers, effects and exposure indications. They also give you an idea of visualising in black and white and seeing tones instead of hues.


Lastly, be super clean and tidy. A grain of sand in the gear can spoil your day!


Good Luck B)


Mike Costelloe

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