Hey anyone reading.
I recently purchased a pre-AI Nikkor Macro as it was fairly cheap and the glass looked absolutely flawless despite it being the same age as me.
I am currently using a Canon 6D as my primary shooting body and up until recently I have been using the kit lens and been very happy with the results, the reason for the change has been my desire to get closer and experiment with new things.
The lens fits and functions really well, I took some stills and they looked great my big issue has been with Dragonframe live view.
The kit lens I was previously using was automatic and the aperture opened up between shots letting a lot of light in so I could see what I was doing in live view, due to the manual Nikkor lens being locked at usually around f16 and not opening up in between shots the live view is basically blacked out even though the shots taken look great. I obviously don't want to be adjusting the camera between shots and the only solution so far has been pushing up the ISO in between to see what is happening in live view before dropping the ISO and shooting.
I'm guessing some of you guys who use manual lens will have had this problem in the past and could shed some light on the problem, sorry for the pun and the length of this post.
I think it's just the nature of the solution. I'm using manual Nikon AI-S lenses on a Nikon Body (similar setup, almost identical challenges). The short I'm shooting is set at night and is supposed to be lit only by moonlight and candle light. About as dark as one can go. But I'm not shooting it as dark as I want the finished film to look.
I still light the scene the way I would for low-light, I just choose brighter bulbs (or use a dimmer) to bring up the light values to comfortable levels that still model the subjects the way I want, and bring out texture where it's needed, etc... It's just all a little over-exposed. So I bring it down in RAW or Photoshop or After Effects later.
Before realizing how much easier this way is, I would turn a shop light on between shots. But that really messed with my eyes after a short while. It was too disorienting having to adjust my eyes between every shot.
Thanks Mike that is good to know, I wasn't sure if it was just me missing something. I might try spot lighting between scenes and play around and see how it works out. I was also tempted to overexpose the images but am scared about blowing them out.
I can also imagine turning the room lights on between every shot would drive you up the wall as if stop-motion wasn't grueling enough already.
I wouldn't worry too much about blowing out your highlights. Just be careful, use ND filters on your lights or some sort of diffusion if you run into issues like that. It takes a little time and patience, but I think you'll also find that dark scenes can be much prettier with more light, while still reading on camera that it's supposed to be dark.
The idea is to get a good exposure - don't blow out highlights or crush the blacks, though it's fine for those little specular highlights to be blown out, you know, little dots of light on chrome or glass etc. Dragonframe has a feature in I believe the Cinematography window that shows you where it's blown out. I messed around with it a bit but for shooting I don't use it, I just take test shots before animating and examine them, try out the post-processing flow that I plan to use for the shot and see how it comes out.
I would not change the ISO or anything else while shooting.
I use only manual lenses, mostly Nikkors, on my Canon body, so I get the same thing - the lens stops down to f-16 and stays there. This is good, it avoids one cause of flicker, but the live view does get dim. I take long exposures of 1/2 sec to 1 1/2 sec, which makes the final image the right exposure, but does not help the live view video. It gets pretty well too dark to use at f-22 or f-32. I keep my ISO at 100 or 200 (200 being the slowest on my old Nikon D70). Possibly you can go a bit more now without it getting grainy, not certain.
In Dragonframe you can set the exposure compensation for the live view - it uses gain to brighten it up, but only affects the live video feed. I think I have it on +4 most of the time.
If that doesn't brighten it enough, increase the lights and shorten the exposure a bit, especially if you were on longer than 2 sec.
If you shoot Raw you can do more adjusting of the image in post, with more info in the highlights and shadows than you get with Jpegs. They can look burned out, but with some adjustments the detail magically appears! (Up to a point.) Even with Jpegs you can usually darken down a stop. So you could shoot a bit bright with the intention of darkening it down later. I'm doing night shots at the moment, but I've taken liberties, it's really pretty bright for midnight, but I do want to see stuff!
You have the right idea with turning room lights on inbetween frames. This is called a "bash light". You can use any light or lamp, but make sure the switch is right next to you- not across the room. You'll need to set a delay (1-2 seconds) in Dragonframe on your hi-res image, so that you have enough time to:
If you do it this way, your animation feed will have the bash light on, so that when you step to the live frame, the lighting will be the same.
There's a fancier (ie. more expensive) way of automating this process using this: https://www.dragonframe.com/store/DDMX-S2.html . But you can use the above technique for free if you're OK with another tedious step.
Ok just finished a shooting session and took Nick's advice on the live-view exposure levels. Unfortunately due to an old laptop my computer really didn't like having the gain turned up on live-view and I actually had my first Dragon-frame crash in a long while.
I tried flooding the set with light between frames as I have a flexible head reading light that I could keep nearby and turn off and on with ease. This worked really well in the end and between these two I had a good days shooting.
I have looked over the shots and have to say I'm really happy, having the manual aperture really helps plan your composition and those old macro lens let you get really close and they are really sharp, so in the end I would say they are worth the little bit of extra effort to use.
Thanks for the help and I can see why a lot of you guys use these lenses.
Also Evan thanks for the "Bash light" info, it seems like a much more coordinated organized version of what I'm doing with my lamp, also it is a nice term I didn't know that I can now throw around.