Tips & Techniques

Jun 6, 2019  By Dick Gilcreast

For catching the moment you want to preserve during action on stage, the camera features needed most are a large and bright view with visible edges to compose in, continuous viewing so you can see the exact moment you want, quick and accurate focus with a fast lens, and that instant shutter response provided by any Leica rangefinder camera. Also, most important in a theater, a quiet shutter. For school or amateur theater the normal 50mm focal length works well from a seat near the front, showing the characters relatively large. But if the whole stage is suddenly wanted, a two-shot panorama can be joined together by computer after the pictures are scanned to a disk. The 50 is also very usable after the show for close single portraits or groups. No lens changing, no slow speed zoom lens, and no bag full of equipment.

Why film? The advantage of using a wide-latitude film is that a base exposure can be used. The film can accommodate two stops or more of brightness above and below the base exposure, getting all the bright and dim areas on the negatives without having to change aperture or shutter speed for each shot. Just like automatic, but with no delay or error. It is difficult to meter on stage using a TTL camera meter from the audience given such things as bright figures against a dark background, and vice versa. Instead, film gives us the advantage of using a single base exposure midway between the brights and darks. This can be calculated beforehand with closeup metering, and then learned from experience, so the same base exposure can be used for all the scenes that have similar lighting. Exposure corrections for bright figures against a dark background, or the reverse, are now made automatically from the wide latitude negatives by those modern ink-printing machines and their operators at the processing station. If any further corrections are needed, they can be made by re-printing to your satisfaction afterwards.

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