The subject of light meters has cropped up on another thread. I thought it worth giving this topic its own thread.
Those of us who came to video from film all have light meters, often both an incident and a spot meter. I am particularly wedded to a digital Spectra for incident, and the Pentax digital spot for reflective. The latter is no longer made, but can be found on eBay a lot. I favor it over any other spot meter because it's the only one with which you can easily use the Zone system.
The Sekonic L39A mentioned in the other thread is a great, solid meter. It needs no battery, so never runs out of "juice." It is, however, more susceptible to damage if dropped than a digital meter, and it contains a strong magnet and must be kept at a distance from video cameras and tape.
Although I usually bring along both my meters and back-ups to video shoots, I rarely break one out. I mostly rely on a color-critical monitor and my eye.
What make and model of color critical monitor do you use?
The complicated thing to explain is the relationship between exposure and IRE--maybe a Cow article?
I use my light meter and "feeling" to get the results I want. The price difference between the monitor and the light meter is drastic.
Contrast ratio is tough to explain to someone who has never used, or seen, a light meter.
Here's a scenario: INT. POOL ROOM -- NIGHT. Two practicals in the room, the pool table light and a bar light across the room. This will mean there's mighty contrast. The practicals maintained an f/5.6 and the "black" was f/1.4. Frame was exposed at f/2.8. To the eye the black wasn't really black, but in post I could smooth out the curve (in Apple Color) and have a decent gradient (although not ektachrome).
On the other hand INT. BEDROOM -- DAY. No practicals, all the light was from a window. Which was really a window (8 AM) and 1/2 CTB on a 650 with nifty flagging for some interesting shape. Exposed at an f/2.8 but that was also the "black" point. The hot spot on a white wall metered at f/8, and some points on a frame blew out. In post, I could smooth
The shape these two images make on the waveform monitor are drastically different.
If lighting to a monitor you must have a BVM CRT ot if LCD only Cinetal and eCinema displays offer correct brightness/gamma. If you're lighting to any other LCD you will have false brightness and you will most likely underexpose the shot.
Richard, so far I have been blessed on my video shoots by having a great video engineer who brings camera(s) and monitor(s) and waveform monitor and vectorscope to the set. Were I to go out alone on a studio or controlled shoot, I'd be sure to bring along at least a waveform. That's the only way I know of to make sure I'm exposing the way I want to. Judging exposure off a regular monitor is a dangerous game. Fortunately, some of the newer prosumer cameras have the option to display waveform, I believe (haven't shot with them yet.)For doco work, I have to trust my eye and experience with the camera for ball-park exposure. So far that seems to work pretty well.