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Alexandre Vianna

Light Painting with Digital Cinema Camera

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Hi! 

What's the best hi quality cinema camera to make "light painting"? I want to get the result similar to the "light painting" made on a 3second (or Bulb) shutter speed on a still photo camera, where the lights of a lantern, or a car light at night, makes a drawing on the scene. I tried to make it with an Alexa Mini, and it doesn't have a "slow shutter speed". Tried on Red, and it doesn't work either. Is there any digital cinema camera that have the shutter speed to make "light painting"? Any suggestions? THANKS. 

Alex Vianna

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I've wanted to do something similar in the past on a BMCC 2.5k but with the idea of getting long exposures (not light streaks specifically but same principle), however the camera only has a shutter angle option, not shutter speed, which limits the maximum effective shutter speed to 1x the frame rate. At least on the BMCC, the slowest framerate is 24/23.98 but then you have a timelapse option which basically allows for skipping certain frames. So eg. your framerate would still be 24fps but it would only expose a frame once a second (or however often you choose). So a 360 degree shutter would still only work out to 1/24s.

And from what I've heard/read, it seems to be the same on other digital cinema cameras. Apparently this sort of thing would not produce a clean image on a cinema camera whose sensor is not optimised for long exposures - whereas a DSLR / mirrorless is perfect for this. Also, since you're essentially taking single frames, you can capture higher res frames on a DSLR (though probably with lower dynamic range - probably not ideal for light streaks on a dark background - although being such a stylized effect, I guess any clipped highlights in the streaks wouldn't be too distracting, and if anything, probably expected/desirable).

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If you're shooting time lapse essentially, you can record raw for maximum dynamic range, then batch convert the stills.

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

If you're shooting time lapse essentially, you can record raw for maximum dynamic range, then batch convert the stills.

Yes absolutely... I guess I was mostly referring to the fact that even most DLSRs don't have the dynamic range of higher end cinema cameras. There seems to be a trade-off, where stills cameras focus on resolution, whereas for video cameras it's more about dynamic range / low noise.

I did a time-lapse video of the lunar eclipse we had here a few months ago, with the moon setting behind a monument, with a mirrorless camera; unfortunately the speed of the moon's orbit was such that I had to use a slow-ish shutter speed, and the night photography with a long, slow-ish lens didn't help! So I ended up still being quite limited in how much I could lift the exposure in post...

Edit: I just remembered what the biggest problem was: the eclipse was past totality and it was tough capturing both the darkened part of the moon still in the penumbra, and the bright crescent now illuminated by the sun.

Edited by Daniel Lo Presti

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