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djkoz
03-22-2006, 07:34 AM
Iím sure I made every mistake in the book, and then some.

On Monday Cleveland played host to a speech given by President Bush. I went downtown with the intent of filming the demonstrations and interviewing people on both sides of the Iraqi war issue. This was really my first attempt at using the camera in a serious way other than taking some footage of a family event and some video on a vacation.

My video footage did not turn out very well and I am looking for some advice as to how to improve my next attempt. I have a few questions, but even if you could answer only one I would very much appreciate it.

For background I was using a Panasonic DVX 100A, and I shot in 24pA squeeze mode with a CINE LIKE setting. It was a cold, mostly cloudy day in Cleveland, but then again, what day isnít?


CAMERA MOVEMENT: I did not use a tripod because I needed to be very mobile and I was doing this shoot myself. In spite of my best efforts to hold the camera steady many of my close up and pan shots came out jerky (Iím not talking about strobbing.) OIS was on. Without using a tripod, are there any tricks or other convenient and cost effective ways to add stability to the camera so that the footage is smoother? I have seen ads for various ďstedi-camĒ products but most of those are way too expensive for me at the moment.

EXPOSURE AND ZEBRAS: I had the camera set for automatic exposure and focusing since I knew I would be running around a lot and not have time, nor the presence of mind to make all sorts of adjustments. Zebra setting one was set at 80% and setting two at 100%. In spite of the fact that it was a cloudy day I kept getting zebra marks whenever the clouds came into view. I also periodically received notice that I should engage the ND filters, mostly 1/8. So I played around with the ND filters but still the zebras kept appearing and I later found out that much of my footage was a bit underexposed. So what to do? I was surprised that for a somewhat cloudy day that I got the zebras at all. Whatís the best approach to take in a situation like this so I donít blow out the clouds (they did not appear to be blown out on the video when I later viewed it at home) but yet at the same time not underexpose the main subject?

SOUND: I only used the built-in mic on the DVX100A and as you might expect I had problems. For the most part when playing back the tape I could hear my voice asking questions from behind the lens but far too often I could not hear the interviewee who was only a few feet away, or there was too much background noise being picked up. I recently purchased a very small lavaliere mic, wired. I am considering turning off the built-in mic and attaching the lavaliere to my lapel and feeding that sound into one channel. But what about the interviewee? What is the best way to capture their voice while eliminating the background chatter and chants? I thought about buying a more directional mic and mounting it on top of the camera in such a way that I could quickly take it off and hand it to the interviewee in certain situations, and feeding that audio into the second channel. Is that a good idea or would a second lavaliere mic be better? Any suggestions that the mic to get?

COLOR BALANCE: This question might be better posed on the Vegas forum but Iíll reference it here as well. I did not set the color balance before the actual shooting, I thought I had the Auto Tracking White feature engaged. However, I must have somehow set the switch to either position A or B for fully 2/3 of my footage came out with a red / crimson cast. I can probably figure out what to do next time, but what to do with the footage I have? Iíve experimented with various color FX in Vegas and managed to improve the color somewhat but not really to the point where it looks natural. (I probably donít know how to use the FX properly. It would be nice if there were a Vegas FX that simply allowed you to set a slider with the color temperature of the actual light source (say 6500K for a cloudy day) and then set or experiment with a second slider to represent the color temperature at which the camera was incorrectly set, and them magically correct the color. Is there such a beast? and if so, where can I get it?

FOCUSING: It is my understanding that the auto focus in the DVX is more like a focus assist when it is in 24pA mode. Yet in some cases it took the camera 3,4,5 seconds to focus, especially (it seemed) when shooting subjects that were around 20 feet away. Is this normal? Any suggestions?

RESOURCES: If you know of any good resources from which I can get more information about filming techniques for documentaries please let me know.
Thank you very much in advance for your suggestions and advice.

Dan K

fu-pow
03-22-2006, 04:15 PM
CAMERA MOVEMENT: I did not use a tripod because I needed to be very mobile and I was doing this shoot myself. In spite of my best efforts to hold the camera steady many of my close up and pan shots came out jerky (I’m not talking about strobbing.) OIS was on. Without using a tripod, are there any tricks or other convenient and cost effective ways to add stability to the camera so that the footage is smoother? I have seen ads for various “stedi-cam” products but most of those are way too expensive for me at the moment.

If you are doing lots of moving around but you are actually filming from a stationary position you might try a monopod. It's not as good as a tripod but you have much better mobility. You can get a decent one for around $50.




EXPOSURE AND ZEBRAS: I had the camera set for automatic exposure and focusing since I knew I would be running around a lot and not have time, nor the presence of mind to make all sorts of adjustments. Zebra setting one was set at 80% and setting two at 100%. In spite of the fact that it was a cloudy day I kept getting zebra marks whenever the clouds came into view. I also periodically received notice that I should engage the ND filters, mostly 1/8. So I played around with the ND filters but still the zebras kept appearing and I later found out that much of my footage was a bit underexposed. So what to do? I was surprised that for a somewhat cloudy day that I got the zebras at all. What’s the best approach to take in a situation like this so I don’t blow out the clouds (they did not appear to be blown out on the video when I later viewed it at home) but yet at the same time not underexpose the main subject?

You need to decide what your subject is. If you have too much contrast then "blowing out" your background is unavoidable. Just make sure that your subject is exposed correctly.




SOUND: I only used the built-in mic on the DVX100A and as you might expect I had problems. For the most part when playing back the tape I could hear my voice asking questions from behind the lens but far too often I could not hear the interviewee who was only a few feet away, or there was too much background noise being picked up. I recently purchased a very small lavaliere mic, wired. I am considering turning off the built-in mic and attaching the lavaliere to my lapel and feeding that sound into one channel. But what about the interviewee? What is the best way to capture their voice while eliminating the background chatter and chants? I thought about buying a more directional mic and mounting it on top of the camera in such a way that I could quickly take it off and hand it to the interviewee in certain situations, and feeding that audio into the second channel. Is that a good idea or would a second lavaliere mic be better? Any suggestions that the mic to get?

You need a shotgun mic. Laving up your subject everytime is going to be a pain in the butt. A shotgun will minimize the ambient sound and pick up your subject better. The best is to put it on a boom pole but you will need a sound person to do this. If its a one man show you will most likely need to mount it on the DVX. I recommend the Audio Technica AT35b. It's 250 bucks but well worth it.




COLOR BALANCE: This question might be better posed on the Vegas forum but I’ll reference it here as well. I did not set the color balance before the actual shooting, I thought I had the Auto Tracking White feature engaged. However, I must have somehow set the switch to either position A or B for fully 2/3 of my footage came out with a red / crimson cast. I can probably figure out what to do next time, but what to do with the footage I have? I’ve experimented with various color FX in Vegas and managed to improve the color somewhat but not really to the point where it looks natural. (I probably don’t know how to use the FX properly. It would be nice if there were a Vegas FX that simply allowed you to set a slider with the color temperature of the actual light source (say 6500K for a cloudy day) and then set or experiment with a second slider to represent the color temperature at which the camera was incorrectly set, and them magically correct the color. Is there such a beast? and if so, where can I get it?

In the future I would do a manual white balance against a white piece of paper. If you are outside then your light source is always going to have the same color temperature unless it is dawn/dusk. ATW balance is only useful if you are moving quickly thru many different lighting environments. You might check your color settings in the camera menu also I believe you can adjust those manually there.




FOCUSING: It is my understanding that the auto focus in the DVX is more like a focus assist when it is in 24pA mode. Yet in some cases it took the camera 3,4,5 seconds to focus, especially (it seemed) when shooting subjects that were around 20 feet away. Is this normal? Any suggestions?
RESOURCES: If you know of any good resources from which I can get more information about filming techniques for documentaries please let me know.Thank you very much in advance for your suggestions and advice.

Dan K

I think that you would be better off getting a book that was more specific to digitial videography.

My 2 cents.

Eric

FlintMI
03-22-2006, 04:59 PM
hey djkoz -- good, you're learning and making mistakes. everyone does. you learn and you move on. no biggie.

1. get a good shotgun mic, WITH WINDSCREEN and mount it on the DVX, that's why they have that great mount on there. ignore the on camera mic and pretend its a counter balance. about the only thing its good for is capturing your questions if you want to record you asking them to the interview subject. great "ambient" mic in that regard.

2. make a simple $14 steadicam. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/steadycam/

3. never use auto anything on this camera. I use color temp presets exclusively unless absolutely have to do a manual 'cause of mixed color temps or funny lighting. when I am shooting by myself I use the LCD to focus on the person and as I'm shooting and talking to them, I go back and forth between their attention and the LCD to make sure they are in frame. it sucks to have to do it yourself, but as long as you tell them not to look in the lens, its like you have your own camera person and you're just standing off to the side asking questions. the viewer won't be the wiser if done right.

4. if shooting indoors and its dark, GET AN ON CAMERA light or something. else it will be worthless, especially at 24p.

here is a crazy, guerilla shoot I did with this rock band from my hometown, and they agreed to the interview about 20 minutes before I had to shoot it. no lighting, crazy setup, but as you can see, it still works pretty good. my voice is being recorded on the DVX camera and their voice is being picked up by a shotgun mic. notice they never look into the lens, and it's a nice casual conversation. I was able to talk, shoot, direct, sound record all by myself with 20 mins notice. its OK that the camera jumps a bit. That makes it more docu-like anyway. I used manual zoom and manual focus. Just gotta be fast. The lighting sucks, but I had no choice and it was better than nothing.

http://www.downtownflint.com:8080/df/movies/diver.mov

and here's how its done when you have 1 hour to setup! (note: still made tons of mistakes I won't make again)
http://www.downtownflint.com:8080/df/movies/funkilinium.mov

hope this helps... good luck man!

djkoz
03-22-2006, 06:16 PM
Thanks to you all for some great replies. What a wonderful resource.

Dan K

pmark23
03-22-2006, 06:45 PM
-People are used to seeing white clouds. Let them blow out. Keep your subjects face well lit, and nobody will look at the background.

-Don't worry about a shaky camera for run-and-gun shooting -- gives authenticity. shooting sit-down interviews is another story.

-A shotgun mounted on the camera (if you're a one-man band), or better yet, have someone ask the questions, and hold a hand-held hypercardioid (like the AKG C1000) near their face, but out of frame (doesn't really matter if it goes in frame, because many people are used to seeing this). A windscreen is a must!

-The DVX and built-in white-balance. Use it set for daylight. Don't use auto balance -- makes a it almost impossible to colour correct later.

-Don't use auto-iris. Learn how to make small iris adjustments on the fly.

-Don't use autofocus either.

fu-pow
03-23-2006, 11:21 AM
You might check out this book its jampacked with good technical info. I was thumbing through it last night. A lot of it is about shooting on film but there is a lot more general info that would help a beginning videographer:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0452279577/sr=8-1/qid=1143141644/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-1750427-3896121?%5Fencoding=UTF8

AshG
03-23-2006, 01:20 PM
I would never use the auto white balance unless you are locked down in a situation with light that doesnt change. Even if the presets are a little off, it is EASY to correct in post but if it is in auto and constantly changing it can be a nightmare.

As stated, auto-focus just does not work in 24P mode, not well enough anyway. I would also suggest you try out 24p and 30p, not 24PA. 24PA will accentuate every mistake you make. 30P will give you less motion blur but still that great progressive look.

Lastly, there is absolutely a way to compensate for blown out backgrounds like cloudy skies, etc. It is a more advanced user technique and it will require some contrast correction in post but the results are very good. Use the manual iris to control the background. Dial it down until you can see the detail you want. This will make your subject VERY dark. Adjust for this by turning UP the Master Pedestal until you can see your subject. The result in camera will be very milky and lack contrast but you can easily fix it in any NLE. What you CANNOT do, is gain back detail if you let the background blow out. With everyone constantly after the film look, blown out backgrounds is the sure fire sign that it is digital video.



ash =o)

fu-pow
03-23-2006, 03:22 PM
Lastly, there is absolutely a way to compensate for blown out backgrounds like cloudy skies, etc. It is a more advanced user technique and it will require some contrast correction in post but the results are very good. Use the manual iris to control the background. Dial it down until you can see the detail you want. This will make your subject VERY dark. Adjust for this by turning UP the Master Pedestal until you can see your subject. The result in camera will be very milky and lack contrast but you can easily fix it in any NLE. What you CANNOT do, is gain back detail if you let the background blow out. With everyone constantly after the film look, blown out backgrounds is the sure fire sign that it is digital video.



ash =o)

How would a filmmaker deal with high contrast environments? Filters?

pmark23
03-24-2006, 05:03 AM
How would a filmmaker deal with high contrast environments? Filters?

Film. :Drogar-BigGrin(DBG)

AshG
03-25-2006, 08:32 PM
Filters can help, ND and the like... remember film has much more latitude so the problem is curbed to begin with...



ash =o)

fu-pow
03-27-2006, 01:52 PM
Filters can help, ND and the like... remember film has much more latitude so the problem is curbed to begin with...



ash =o)

What do you mean by "latitude?" You mean it has more range in terms of contrast?

Aaron Koolen
03-27-2006, 01:56 PM
Yup, that's what it means. We might get 6 stops on our cams, film might do, I dunno, 10. So you can see detail in that range before the highlights blow out or the black's crush.

fu-pow
04-02-2006, 12:44 PM
Yup, that's what it means. We might get 6 stops on our cams, film might do, I dunno, 10. So you can see detail in that range before the highlights blow out or the black's crush.

Cool thanks for the info I've never actually worked with film.