Advanced Exposure: Using The Zone System (Camera Lesson 32)

Summary: Ryan explains what the zone system is and how you can use it to benefit your film productions.

Length: 4:19 minutes


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Depth of Field, Part 1: How Aperture and ISO Affect Focus
Your Guide To High Speed, Part 6: Five Tips For A Successful Shoot
Your Guide To High Speed, Part 5: Lighting Six High Speed Sets
Your Guide To High Speed, Part 4: Common Lighting Problems
Your Guide To High Speed, Part 3: Camera Operation & Workflow
Your Guide To High Speed, Part 2: Frame Rate
Your Guide To High Speed, Part 1: Introduction
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2 replies
  1. David
    David says:

    Could you explain is there any important relationship between the zone system and the dynamic range of a camera?

    If a camera has a high dynamic range, do the ten zones still map to the same IRE 0 to IRE 100?

    Thanks,
    David.

    Reply
    • Ryan E. Walters
      Ryan E. Walters says:

      The zone system, as it applies to todays cameras, is somewhat relative. The only fixed points are absolute black (no texture), absolute white (no texture), and then mid tone. The rest of the dynamic range falls within those zones, and is what creates the subtle gradations of values. And the zone system still maps to the same IRE values of 0 to 100 (or 109) [100 = broadcast safe white / 109 = digital white/clip].

      Quick Imaginary Example-
      Digital Camera A: 7 Stops of Dynamic Range. (DR)
      DR Stop 1 = Zone 0 / IRE 0
      DR Stop 3 = Zone 5 / IRE 40 – 50 (mid tone)
      DR Stop 7 = Zone 10 / IRE 100 or 109

      This camera only has about 2 – 3 stops of DR to describe zones 1 – 4, and about 3 – 4 stops of DR to describe zones 6 – 9. That means there isn’t going to be a lot of nuances in shadow detail, and there will be more–but not much–nuances in highlight detail.

      Digital Camera B: 14 Stops of Dynamic Range. (DR)
      DR Stop 1 = Zone 0 / IRE 0
      DR Stop 7 = Zone 5 / IRE 40 – 50 (mid tone)
      DR Stop 14 = Zone 10 / IRE 100 or 109

      This camera has about 6 – 7 stops of DR to describe zones 1 – 4, and about 6 – 7 stops of DR to describe zones 6 – 9. That means there is a lot more nuances in both the shadows and the highlights in this camera. So it will reproduce tonal values a lot better, and show you more nuances in values.

      Hope that helps. 🙂

      Reply

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