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EL Zone Attributes & Thoughts

by Ed Lachman

With film I could control the look with these tools & approaches:

1. The different looks of film stocks, Kodak, Fuji, even Agfa & ASA's

2. Lab processing Push/Pull implementing where you place your printer lights

3. How you expose your negative using your light meter

With Existing Digital means:

1. Waveform Monitors: (you're left to interpret where the exposure is specifically in the frame. It doesn't map exactly where the over/under exposure is within the frame or even where 18% grey is)

2. False Color: no standard between manufacturers — i.e., ARRI green everything good?, too general (appreciate what Red has done with Gio Scope with logarithmic exposure but the colors are too close in hue and density to each other to distinguish the stops clearly. Green is used as 18%...why not use 18% grey, the known standard?...and not using 1/2 stops to adjust and interpret "flesh tones" around 18% grey?

EL Zone Advantages

1. For using a range of monitors, or if their calibration is can still trust the EL Zone signal for evaluating your exposure...whatever ASA you're using

2. Working on the set or location for setting exposure and latitude and knowing what you're really getting out of your camera

3. Consistency with your DIT or if you don't have one it will be much faster to read what your exposure is in your viewfinder

4. Communication with your crew to adjust the lighting (your camera is basically your exposure meter as a reflective system of interpretation)

5. Communication to the lab or post facility in where you want your exposure to be and how you're creating your image

6. For re-shoots or matching previous scenes with your EL Zone exposure-mapped can be precise visualizing your exposure in specific areas over your whole frame

Videos Setup for SmallHD Monitors

How to Use the EL Zone on SmallHD Monitors

Introducing PageOS 5: The SmallHD Monitor Experience, Evolved.


1. Originating EL Zone in Cameras, you will be using the original raw sensor data, which will be the best representation of how the camera reacts to individual stops. This allows less room for user error in setup of monitor to camera.

2. For Post Facilities, it facilitates ease of communication amongst all the relevant stakeholders within the image pipeline for image makers to understand their exposure and latitude. Back in the photochemical world of lab days, either on the set or in post-production, image makers had a common language based on 18% grey to communicate in stops.

EL ZONE SYSTEM…for DIT Software (i.e. Pomfort…Silverstack, Livegrade, Omniscope) and Post-Production Applications (I.E. Da Vinci Resolve, Baselight, Colour AI)

1. Ability to match different camera manufacturers' sensors 

2. Tool to judge exposure and contrast for pickup shots and reshoots by reproducing identical light values in contrast and exposure  

3. Help communicate on set between the different image makers; director, gaffer, DIT, 2nd Unit.

4. Enables specific communication in post.

EL Zone Decisions & Problems

by Ed Lachman

I came up with this idea with what I understood exposure to be based on over 50 years ago when I was a student in film school to control my negative and look. What I learned in the analog world, I have presented to digital camera manufacturers. Over a number of years they've given me tacit acknowledgement but it's been an uphill climb because they didn't want to change from their IRE and False Color (in which there is no consistency or standard) though they recognized the problems that I set forth. One camera manufacturer even said to me that the EL Zone won't sell anymore cameras for them. Their system was fine. My answer would be false color equals "false exposure"...

I came up with the idea for purely personal reasons originally because I was searching for a way to figure out how to use my methods from the analog film world in the digital world. In the film world, I used my meter, Polaroids and the lab to create my own Zone System. Then when the digital format became the new standard I felt unsure about what I was doing and relying on a DIT. I thought back to when I was in art and film school and how I used some of the ideas from ANSEL ADAMS' ZONE SYSTEM to create images that I saw around me from paintings, photograph and films.

I have had great support from every camera rental house, cinematographers and image-makers that I've been able to show it to. The question to manufacturers should be – if you don't respond to what people could use and want, is that the right decision? Now that it is in SmallHD monitors, Sigma and Panasonic cameras, and being embraced by post houses, it's not theoretical...people are using it and seeing what was missing in other exposure tools.       

The System corrects what's needed to be fixed in False Color and IRE, Waveform Monitors' limited ability in mapping the exposure in details of the images...

Advantages to use in cameras

1. Using the original raw sensor data, you get the best representation of how the camera reacts to individual stops. Especially with the extremes there is the advantage in accuracy, compared to monitoring signals. 

2. Less room for user error for set-up

3. Exposure Latitude tailored to individual Camera's Sensor

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