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Exposing for an explosion, at night?

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  • Exposing for an explosion, at night

    You can't really underexpose too much for the fireball itself -- remember "Gone With the Wind" when Atlanta burns at night, the fire was exposed for deep red-orange on roughly 10 ASA equivalent speed film. But the problem partly comes from the fact that people want the explosion to light some of the surrounding including the burning aftermath, so you want enough exposure for that.

    Truth is that for an explosion at night people shoot at the deepest stop they can light for, what else can they do? It doesn't matter if the optimal f-stop is f/11 if you can only light up your night exterior to f/4 anyway. "Terminator 2" lit their explosion scenes at night for around f/5.6 on 500 ASA film (probably rated slower) and that took a lot of light, beyond what most filmmakers can afford.

    Some people might ride the exposure, stop down a bit for the actual explosion and then open up the stop as the fire dies down, but you can't be too obvious about it.

    • David Mullen ASC
      #1
      David Mullen ASC commented
      Editing a comment
      You can't really underexpose too much for the fireball itself -- remember "Gone With the Wind" when Atlanta burns at night, the fire was exposed for deep red-orange on roughly 10 ASA equivalent speed film. But the problem partly comes from the fact that people want the explosion to light some of the surrounding including the burning aftermath, so you want enough exposure for that.

      Truth is that for an explosion at night people shoot at the deepest stop they can light for, what else can they do? It doesn't matter if the optimal f-stop is f/11 if you can only light up your night exterior to f/4 anyway. "Terminator 2" lit their explosion scenes at night for around f/5.6 on 500 ASA film (probably rated slower) and that took a lot of light, beyond what most filmmakers can afford.

      Some people might ride the exposure, stop down a bit for the actual explosion and then open up the stop as the fire dies down, but you can't be too obvious about it.
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