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Shell64

Best way to expose on non-log profiles

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How do you guys nail exposure when shooting in a standard or “flat” picture profile that is not log? I am trying to find the best way to expose when shooting cined or natural on my g7. 

Do you guys rely more on the histogram, exposure meter, zebras?  

Thanks everyone. 

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I prefer the exposure meter and would try to underexpose by a half a stop or so with CineLikeD... I found there was better color depth that way. But in the end, it was shot dependent... expose for your subject and when you can... protect your highlights.

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I prefer false color over anything else, but you may need an external monitor for that. If I don't have false color, I often use spot metering to check specific locations in the frame. Histogram is okay, but doesn't give enough information about what a specific part of the frame is doing, and is mainly helpful for protecting highlights. An evenly spread histogram doesn't tell you much other than whether you've blown something out. I very rarely use zebras, but I would probably use them more if I did any run'n'gunning.

Whatever method you pick, do a lot of tests before a shoot so you know how your specific camera model and color profile behave. Some cameras do better slightly underexposed, some slightly over. Many cameras have color shifts across the exposure range, so you definitely want to find the range of sweet spots within which you can expose a face (for example) without having color shifts. You never want to be on set wondering whether pulling a face down 2 stops will turn it into a pasty mess.

Don't be so afraid of blown highlights that you sacrifice the subject to protect something in the background. If I have a window that's blown out by 3 stops, I might drop my exposure by 1 stop, and then when I bring up the exposure in post I have that 1 stop to make a smoother rolloff.

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Setup a test scene with some shadows/highlights, some bright colours (a test chart is great but not needed), and some skin tones.  Film it with your camera at varying exposures, I'd suggest "properly" exposed and +1, +2, +3, -1, -2, and -3 stops.  Then in post process the footage so that it's all the same brightness and then look at the images, notice what it does to colour, skin tones, and highlights/shadows.  

This is what professional cinematographers do to "learn" a new camera or film-stock.  They often talk about how a particular camera is a -1 stop camera because they've done the tests and that gives the nicest skin tones or colour or whatever.

I'd also suggest that you play with the colour profile to test things like lowering the contrast (most normal profiles have too much contrast for my tastes) and for each change you make you should repeat the above test.  You will eventually find that you prefer a profile with a certain contrast, a certain saturation, and a certain exposure level.

It's a lot of work, but if it wasn't required then every home video that dad made with a camcorder would be breathtakingly beautiful, and that is obviously not the case.  

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46 minutes ago, Video Hummus said:

Surprised more people don't use zebras, especially if the camera supports having two settings. I use them almost exclusively. 

I use aperture-priority mode and auto-ISO in combination with zebras.  It does the heavy lifting for me, and if I notice that something is pushing into zebras range (I can't recall if I set zebras to 100% or less) then I will manually lower exposure compensation in order to keep the highlights.  My GH5 has decent DR and I prefer a less saturated look that shows more DR and doesn't crush the highlights/shadows.  To do this I shoot HLG and try to capture the whole DR of the image without clipping and then adjust brightness in post to equalise exposures.  As I shoot in 10-bit I can push the image around quite a bit in post and it's not in danger of breaking, so I have that latitude.

This fits my "capture everything and make the look in post" approach.  If you're trying to get it right in-camera then obviously this isn't how to approach it!

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4 hours ago, Video Hummus said:

Surprised more people don't use zebras, especially if the camera supports having two settings. I use them almost exclusively. 

i use zebra and ettr but i am shooting hlg, not sure i would do the same if i was shooting non log

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6 hours ago, Shell64 said:

Thanks. I will try ETTR. I’ve heard good things about this method. 

Try everything.

My suggestion above is a lot of work but think about it this way, you have two options:

  1. Spend an afternoon or two doing my test, learn how your camera responds, learn things about image quality, and build a new skill
  2. Shoot ETTR because someone on the internet told you to, and maybe years later you learn that it wasn't the best way and you could have been making nicer footage all those years

I mean, Internet forums always have better advice than what professional cinematographers do themselves, right?

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On 9/2/2019 at 8:12 PM, kye said:

Setup a test scene with some shadows/highlights, some bright colours (a test chart is great but not needed), and some skin tones.  Film it with your camera at varying exposures, I'd suggest "properly" exposed and +1, +2, +3, -1, -2, and -3 stops.  Then in post process the footage so that it's all the same brightness and then look at the images, notice what it does to colour, skin tones, and highlights/shadows.  

This is what professional cinematographers do to "learn" a new camera or film-stock.  They often talk about how a particular camera is a -1 stop camera because they've done the tests and that gives the nicest skin tones or colour or whatever.

I'd also suggest that you play with the colour profile to test things like lowering the contrast (most normal profiles have too much contrast for my tastes) and for each change you make you should repeat the above test.  You will eventually find that you prefer a profile with a certain contrast, a certain saturation, and a certain exposure level.

It's a lot of work, but if it wasn't required then every home video that dad made with a camcorder would be breathtakingly beautiful, and that is obviously not the case.  

I’m going to try this. Honestly though I’m still new to this. How do you determine the “proper” exposure?  I don’t have access to a gray card at the moment. 

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24 minutes ago, Shell64 said:

I’m going to try this. Honestly though I’m still new to this. How do you determine the “proper” exposure?  I don’t have access to a gray card at the moment. 

If you are shooting faces, you should compare to movies that you like. Spot meter an evenly lit face to be at 0, and then compare on your computer monitor against a movie clip. Adjust from 0 as necessary to match how your favorite movie was exposed.

You'll probably find that cinematic (i.e. "intended to be seen in a darkened cinema") images tend to expose lower than soap operas, which have to be visible in daylight on a family TV. "Proper" exposure depends on where it will be seen, so comparing to actual movies from the medium you are creating for is very useful.

But also get a gray card, they are very cheap, and I use mine on literally every shoot. That and a 5-in-1 reflector have incredible value for the money.

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8 hours ago, Shell64 said:

How do you determine the “proper” exposure?  I don’t have access to a gray card at the moment. 

Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think there is anything like that. I mean back in my TV days they teached me to get the skin tones at 70-80IRE but next time you watch any movie or series take a look and you'll see that their exposure is all over the place - some shots are so dark that you can't see anything besides a little edge light on the characters, some are kinda underexposed because they want to show it's overcast/moody, some are balanced.. and I think that last thing is the "proper" thing to do; get a balanced exposure.

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So then do you only have to be very specific about your exposure levels when shooting in a controlled scene or in a log profile?  Cause I always hear people say for s-log “2 stops over exposed.”  So how do I get to the perfect exposure?  Or do you just try to get a good exposure and not worry about it being perfect?

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11 hours ago, Shell64 said:

I’m going to try this. Honestly though I’m still new to this. How do you determine the “proper” exposure?  I don’t have access to a gray card at the moment. 

If you're asking me how I do it personally, then I just let the camera do it.  I've played with my exposures enough to know that I'm ok within a certain range and can get what I need.

1 hour ago, Shell64 said:

So then do you only have to be very specific about your exposure levels when shooting in a controlled scene or in a log profile?  Cause I always hear people say for s-log “2 stops over exposed.”  So how do I get to the perfect exposure?  Or do you just try to get a good exposure and not worry about it being perfect?

I think this is personal.  

Have a read of these:

https://www.hurlbutacademy.com/film-education-arri-alexa-vs-canon-c500/

https://www.hurlbutacademy.com/film-education-arri-alexa-vs-canon-c500-part-2/

If you do the tests and absolutely love it at a certain exposure and hate it at anything else then expose it like that.  If you do the tests and discover you don't care, then let something else guide you.  We all see differently, we all have different preferences, you will notice things I won't and vice-versa.

I think there is a progression of knowledge and technique:

Level 1: Full-auto go go go
Level 2: I'm now very aware that I don't know how to do this right, I need help!
Level 3: I've read a bunch and am experimenting and I've worked out all the settings and all the numbers and all the ratios and all the things
Level 4: I don't bother measuring, I just adjust it until it looks right

The Level 4 people can adjust it until it looks right because they know two things: what to adjust, and what looks right.  To get to this level you have to go through the previous steps first.  No shortcuts.

2 hours ago, Adam Kuźniar said:

Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think there is anything like that. I mean back in my TV days they teached me to get the skin tones at 70-80IRE but next time you watch any movie or series take a look and you'll see that their exposure is all over the place - some shots are so dark that you can't see anything besides a little edge light on the characters, some are kinda underexposed because they want to show it's overcast/moody, some are balanced.. and I think that last thing is the "proper" thing to do; get a balanced exposure.

My comments above about Level 4 apply here too.  Read everything you can get your hands on, do all kinds of tests, learn everything you can, then just expose it so it looks right.

I'm reminded of how professional colourists talk about grading skin tones.  Level 3 people ask questions about the skin-tone line in the Vectorscope and the Level 4 people just laugh and ask "How would you grade these?"

JakeHicksPhotography+(5+of+5)-2+pan+col+

 

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