January 31, 2014
Many of you have asked me, why in this new digital age is a light meter necessary? When everything is immediate, as well as right there on an HD monitor for your review, WHY the light meter? I have mentioned in the past that Roger Deakins feels like he can be much more of a risk taker with digital. What you see is what you get. RIGHT! He has a point. When you are infusing LUTs (look up tables) on your monitor and lighting to those specs, why would you need that old light meter that reads the values of illumination?
“Building Light Memory”
The light meter is essential for matching and to get your head around light ratios as a young cinematographer. If you look on the monitor and you like the way it looks, the mood and the color tone, then get in there and read those levels and read the color temperature. These are all building blocks of your memory of light.
From the time that I wake up till the time I rest my head on my pillow, I never stop looking at light. Inspiration is everywhere. I take snapshots, little instagram shots and store them in my mind. Now you have images to pull from when you are lighting a scene. Say you went to a really trendy bar and you loved the light and mood. Store that mental snapshot. When you are set to light a club/bar scene, use that mental snapshot if it fits the story and emotion of your creation. Download it into your lighting, levels, color and mood.
Training your eye to all the ratios that you like and want to deploy comes with experience. But matching is a huge issue, especially when shooting a feature or a short film. Why? Well, so many times you are asked to go back and do pickups. Maybe you missed a shot, or you screened the movie to an audience and they were confused on some things. You need to go back to the location or the set and duplicate the light. If you did not take light meter readings or mark down the color temp of your camera, you are flying blind. I go in there once I have lit the original scene and grab as many readings as possible to help in this process. Now you have your edit, so you can go back and look at the levels and try to match what you originally shot off a monitor. Why not have this as a tool to help in this process?
“Light Meter Calibration”
(for a whole lot more on Reading a Light Meter: Tips and Tricks, click here)