The recently published 11th Editionof the American Cinematographer Manual once again stands as a magnificent achievement. Completely revised and updated, it covers every aspect of cinematography and is properly recognized as the premiere exploration of its subject.
I’m proud to have contributed to it in the past and am even more pleased that my chapter – Take Ownership of Your Sensor – has found a place between its covers. If the title doesn’t tip you off, its opening paragraph will prep you on what to expect:
“Among the many tests to be performed before starting any project, the most valuable is the test that establishes the over- and underexposure parameters of the sensor with which you are working. Although not connected to lighting in the literal sense, a full understanding of your sensor’s limits will determine how lighting is rendered on screen and, by extension, how it influences the final look of the project. Establishing the limits of your sensor also takes much of the guesswork out of the colorist’s dailies protocol and places a great deal of control of the image where it belongs: in the hands of the cinematographer.”
From there, the procedure for achieving this end is spelled out in detail. Though a series of stills accompany the chapter, below is a direct example of what’s being referred to.
The test consists of two sections. In Part 1 you’ll see the results of the sensor’s capabilities exactly as they happened at the lens; there is no assistance from the DI colorist other than correction of the normal takes. In my next blog post you’ll find Part 2, in which every take of the same data has been balanced to match the normal exposure.
For a full explanation of the process and insight on how to interpret the results, I refer you to the aforementioned 11th Edition of the American Cinematographer Manual.
And here’s a shout out to the fabulous actor Robert Turano, who so bravely stood on the mark!