One of the questions asked


One of the questions asked of me while on a shoot recently concerned zebras. Well actually there were a bunch of questions from simple to complex like what do they do? When do I use them? And what should they be set at? So Ill tell you what I said then, I only have one use for zebras, for checking out facial exposure Here are my thoughts in a nutshell. Zebras give you an indication of a certain exposure range in a viewfinder. They arent recorded on the tape but are there strictly to help the operator understand exposure on the fly. They are settable on most cameras to ring in areas where the video levels is between 30 units and 100 depending on the camera. I always set mine to ring at 80 units. Why? Because all that really matters to me is facial exposure. In other words, 9 out of 10 times I am exposing for faces or at least making sure they are in a proper exposure range. Very simply, when faces get above 80 units they wash out. A washed out face is never acceptable. A washed out background is, but a face, never! So I use zebras to confirm that I am somewhere I want to be which is below 80 units of video for facial exposure. I should add that this doesnt mean I always expose faces exactly at 80 units, just that after 80 units they dont look as much like faces so I want to make sure in the mess of shooting and worrying about so many things that I am in the ballpark. Zebras are there to remind me when Im concentrating on everything else in the shot. Some folks
set their zebras for 100 units. There is nothing wrong with that. It tells
you that you are at 100, but I say who cares? A blown out picture is a blown out picture. I dont care if something is blownout. Blown out is white and white is white so why do I need zebras to remind me of what I can easily see in a viewfinder. Facial exposure on the other hand can be subtle and you can be overexposed on a face and not always see it clearly in a viewfinder. As for cameras that have two zebras in a camera, I never use the second set. There is enough already going on for me to have to worry about a second set of zebras.

Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.
888.435.5428 ext 31
Cell 917.217.9766
Offices in NYC and Amherst Mass.

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