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So this one is very specific. I was very taken by this shot i saw in someone's old 16mm student film. I am wondering if you all think a bounce card or something was used for the shadow side of her face? The rim light seems very hard, naturally, and I'm wondering if it may have wrapped around or created the ambient light to achieve these details in the shadow? Your guess is better than mine! More importantly: if you wanted to achieve this shot, how would you go about metering/exposing it on film? (p.s. tried to reach out and couldn't get a response, haha)

Also i appreciate the faint highlights in the background, it all seems so dark I can't imagine getting a reading on my little selenium Sekonic!

Screen Shot 2020-11-04 at 4.33.37 PM.png

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Depends on the stock -- 16mm Tri-X b&w reversal is pretty high in contrast. But if you're talking about b&w negative stock, then I'd light something like this so that the 1/4 edge key light is 1/2-stop to 1-stop over and then use a low bounce card (probably covered with a single net or bobbinet to reduce its brightness) to reflect the key and barely fill in the face -- I'd probably do it by eye but it would have to be 3 1/2-stops or 4-stops under to feel dark enough. There is also a faint eye light next to the lens creating that glint. I'd grade it to be fairly contrasty in a video transfer.

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If you shot reversal you’d have to watch how quickly the dark background went to black if you want detail. I’d probably shoot an over and under test on a gray card so I’d know.

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@David Mullen ASC Thanks David, you're very generous with your knowledge! I see you're active on the Deakins forums as well answering questions. Having a "no secrets" attitude when it comes to the creative process is, from what I see, the mark of those who aren't afraid that they could somehow be outpaced by others using the same methods, because it isn't about the methods in the end, but the philosophy and perpetual learning and growth.

I'm really a beginner so forgive me here, I understand running an under and over test, but how do I interpret what the grey card is telling me? Should it just be anywhere in the frame or back near where I'm looking to get those faint details, or taking up most of the frame?

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I'm talking about tests in prep: you could add a face but shooting an 18% grey card at normal, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, normal, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5 stops will tell you when 18% grey goes to white or black.  That way when you take a spot meter (reflected) reading (which assumes the subject is 18% grey) of a dark background, you know what "zone" it falls in and whether to adjust the lighting.

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19 hours ago, Frank Poole said:

so dark I can't imagine getting a reading on my little selenium Sekonic!

Although you can of course judge the lighting ratio from a frame enlargement, that's all. You can't usually determine the amount of light that was used.

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A small hot bounce card close to the face at 90° could acheive that kind of kiss on the left cheek. But I think it is a soft silver reflector further away, by the kick on the cheekbone and glint in the eye.

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