Personal View site logo
Make sure to join PV on Telegram or Facebook! Perfect to keep up with community on your smartphone.
Please, support PV!
It allows to keep PV going, with more focus towards AI, but keeping be one of the few truly independent places.
Controlling Exposure in Run & Gun Situations
  • Good Morning All!

    Have been using DSLR's for a few years now, mainly for family videos as well as a couple of paid wedding gigs. Over the years I have always favored the cinematic look, that being obeying 180 degree shutter rule, using shallow DOF and color grading my work (and maybe adding letter-boxing in as well)

    What I have continued to find hard over the years is controlling my exposure in fast run and gun situations, times when the kids are running around and maybe at weddings when the lighting conditions are constantly changing. From day one I have used variable ND filters to control exposure, I have now settled on a Genustech Model which gives no loss of sharpness or any colour casting.

    Using this Filter I would normally set my camera to manual, set the shutter to 1/50 and then select my desired aperture and then simply control the exposure while I am recording by turning the ND filter until exposure is correct. This works in controlled environments but in most run and gun scenarios there is no such thing as a controlled environment, and using the above method I find myself constantly turning the ND filter clockwise, anticlockwise in hurry to nail the exposure before the moment I am trying to capture is lost. This sometimes results in underexposed/overexposed footage, as well as completely missed footage where I haven't managed to get the exposure right in time as well as trying to manual control the focus and then the moment is gone.

    In recent videos I have gone as far as not using an ND filter and setting my camera to shutter priority mode. This way I can keep the constant shutter speed and the camera controls the exposure automatically for me through the aperture. the obvious problem with this is the aperture is constantly changing and in bright day light this can sometimes mean an aperture at around F16-F22 which then degrades the quality of the image and also you lose any shallow DOF you might have wanted.

    I have also swung the other way and used Aperture Priority mode. The pro of this is I now get control of my depth of field and the camera automatically controls my exposure by using the shutter. The main problem with this is you lose control of the shutter speed and disobey the 180 rule therefore footage looks like Saving Private Ryan or Crank!

    So that is where I am at...can others let me know their own experiences and how they have obtained a happy medium in filming footage that looks as good as it can be without causing a lot of headaches in the process.

  • 11 Replies sorted by
  • I think you have named all the options. I can only add- If you get a Camera with more Dynamic Range you can save more after you shoot.

  • @fatpig I went down that route and bought a bmpcc but found it was not suitable for run and gun scenarios with the lack of auto options and difficulty I found grading in post! I might prioritise aperture and use shutter to control exposure then use something like RSMB in post to add back the motion blur, I have tried it on some footage and seems to work well.

  • A lens with a clickless aperture makes it much easier to adjust the exposure and get it right. I find that the smooth & fast adjustment combined with instantaneous visual feedback let me set the exposure much more reliably than with a camera's thumb wheel. A clickless aperture is much like a variable ND filter in this respect.

    Exposure compensation in post is my preferred solution. I do it in ACES. You still need to set the exposure in the camera, but it doesn't need to be exactly right. You have some latitude for setting the exposure. The latitude depends on the dynamic range of your camera. Cameras I've tested are giving at least 1 stop of exposure latitude, and 2-3 stops for some cameras.

    So for example, if a particular camera has the dynamic range for 2 stops of exposure latitude, you aim for an exposure right in the middle of the exposure latitude range. Then you can be off by as much as 1 stop underexposed or overexposed, and you can still compensate for it in post.

  • @balazer how are you actuallu changing/adjusting exposure then?...with aperture?

  • Most observational documentary, run and gun(call it what you will) will have moments of hunting for exposure, as well as focus. The best exterior/interior transitions I've seen come from auto ISO. Personally, I don't have any problems with the occasional exposure or focus pull - it feels like you're watching something 'truthful', a proper documentary if you know what I mean

  • @mrbill sadly most dslrs dont offer auto iso in manual mode....

  • @lmackreath The Nikon D750 and the sony A7s do. I have both and use that feature in unpredictable situations. On the sony i shoot in slog. I use auto ISO, set the max ISO value, put the exposure compensation dial to +1.7 and I'm good to go. It has saved my arse in a number of situations where the action was fast and fiddling with exposure wasn't an option and I could concentrate on the framing and focus.

  • Recently I have just been using Auto ISO when shooting events/run and gun on my a7s - it works really well 95% of the time. I don't use S-log for these types of jobs so the ISO has a lot of range and I'll put an ND on if I go outside. If I'm going indoors and outdoors and the indoor location is decently lit, I'll just keep an ND on at all times. With this configuration I keep my shutter set and change aperture on occasion for creative effect (using constant aperture zoom). The only time issues arise is when I pan past a window or a bright light source the exposure change is very noticeable.

  • On the Sonys I've used (A6000 and RX100) the method that worked for me was auto ISO and aperture priority in 50/60p. Going outside I just adjusted aperture and/or added an ND filter (xume magnetic ones) just like putting on shades :-) and more recently the ND throttle adapter. Shutter angle is not that critical for a cinematic look as long as you don't reach the thousands of a second.

    The killer feature on the Sonys is exposure lock toggle during recording. Panny sadly don't get this as they think only still shooters need this. I always have my right wheel button set to exp lock on/off and the left to auto/manual focus. Works like a charm!

  • I suppose what you could do is put the camera in shutter priority mode, set your shutter to 1/50 and then stick it on auto iso. Now stick a variable nd filter on and dial it round until you have forced the camera to the max aperture in daylight conditions to get the correct exposure and you are then good to go. If the camera needs more light after that it will auto up the ISO

  • how are you actuallu changing/adjusting exposure then?...with aperture?

    It depends. On a steadycam I fix the aperture for wide DoF and adjust the shutter speed and ISO. On a tripod I fix the shutter speed and adjust the aperture and ISO. If I were moving between very bright and dark areas, I would use auto ISO and auto aperture.