I went on an odyssey of sorts yesterday. It started when I was reading a chapter in one of my favorite lighting books, Lighting for Digital Video and Television by John Jackman. There's a chapter about calibrating a light meter for use in your video productions that I found very intriguing. While a very good light meter like the Sekonic L-758Cine is very expensive, there are many older or lesser models (even digital ones) that you can pick up used for a song.
This led me to several useful video tutorials on the web. The first was aptly named "Calibrating a Light Meter for Digital Video" over at FreshDV. Another good one I found was "How to Use a Light Meter" from Izzy Video. Both were very good and helped answer some of the questions I had from reading Jackman's book.
This led me to wonder about gray cards (well-detailed in another Izzy Video called "Getting a Good Exposure with an 18% Gray Card". Always looking for ways to improve my image, the idea of zooming in and setting exposure to a card like this (and white balancing on the same card) sounded great.
To top all this off, I found a great post in a blog called Knick Knack that was the ultimate microbudget post entitled "Cheap Color Balance Card". It should have been called "Free Color Balance Card" as it gives direct links to a company that will send you free laminate squares in white, black and gray (or grey) that are totally suitable for video purposes. You can choose from one of three sizes and shipping is even free bringing your total cost to ZERO! I quickly ordered some of the 8x10" versions. It's a great find.
I am still debating on whether I really need a light meter or not, but I am leaning toward getting one. It seems well suited to spot checking portions of your shot, since your camera's built-in meter probably checks the whole image (some offer spot checking, but a meter is just plain handier). I also like the idea of giving classic gear of home instead of letting it hit the scrap heap. It deserves better and we could be better filmmakers because of it.