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    Need Advice: My First Failure Manually Focusing with my AC-130
    #1
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    For the very first time I have really messed up manually focusing with my AC-130 I've gotten so used to using the great Focus Assist feature, and the red peaking focus confirmation that it provides, that I have been sailing along with no worries at all these past months.

    However, this past Friday I recorded a new business ribbon cutting ceremony organized by our local chamber of commerce. Unfortunately, the speakers decided to talk in a area that had some windows with bright sunlight coming in behind them. Consequently, there was some significant backlighting. That I could deal with regarding the exposure, by turning on DRS. Plus I lifted the shadows slightly in post. However, to my shock, I found that my faithful red colored peaking outline was not showing up as I tried to focus on my subjects.

    In horror, I suddenly found myself totally befuddled, as my trusty tool that I have been relying on to help me manually focus all of these past months was now letting me down!

    Was it the backlighting that caused the focus assist to not work well? I strained my poor old eyes as much as I could to try to see the red peaking show up, all to no avail.

    I've not been using the EVF Detail feature at all, since it causes the screen to look so funky and unnatural. If one turns on BOTH Focus Assist AND EVF Detail, then the Red Peaking really goes crazy, and is super noticeable. But Barry Green warns in his book on the AC-130/160 about using the two features together, as it seems that together they may overestimate how much of the scene is in focus.

    In hindsight, I supposed that the best solution would have been for me to have used the PUSH AUTO button to temporarily let autofocus focus in on my subject. Would you agree that would have been my best option?

    The only other thing that I can think of to help out further would be to get an external monitor to help me judge focus, so I don't have to be straining my poor eyes so much.

    Has anyone else had an experience like mine in using the Focus Assist feature on the AC-130/160? If so, what are your thoughts as to what is best to do? Is there anything that I have perhaps overlooked?
    Canon Vixia HF G10. PANASONIC AG-AC130 . PANASONIC GH2 AND GH3 . Nikon D600. Adobe Premier Pro CS 6
    Canon Directional Stereo Microphone DM100 . RODE VIDEOMIC PRO . AUDIO-TECHNICA BP4029 STEREO SHOTGUN MICROPHONE


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    #2
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    I always keep on that thing that displays the ft/m, of my focus, on the screen. I am decent enough to judge the distance and pray it is actually accurate.


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    #3
    Senior Member kwkeirstead's Avatar
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    I am not good at judging distance so I bring a 100 ft surveyor's ribbon tape and measure the distance. For a group of singers where there are 4 rows of singers on risers, I measure the distance to row 2.

    I wonder why the focus assist did not work?

    Were you able to rely to any extent on the little focus meter with the green square at the bottom left of the display?


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    Hi Lance

    My routine is always give the autofocus a try first!! So what I do is push the auto button and see what it decides is the correct focus and then make sure that figure is the same as the MF one too... Now and again I will just use the assist button to make sure that focus is nailed and I'm getting a red outline on exactly what I want. The things we like to trust most are always our eyes and cos I'm not young anymore even the EVF doesn't give me 100% satisfaction that focus is perfect...I still find that having my loupe on the LCD gives me a way bigger picture for my tired ole eyes and it's certainly easier and quicker to focus on than using the EVF's tiny 0.45" display!!!

    I also read somewhere that if you turn your EVF to black and white you will get a much sharper image and focus assist will be easier!!

    Chris


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    in that case i think a bigger LCD will help or just pre focus and remember the focus in meter or feet or number before the event started.


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    #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ELN614 View Post
    I always keep on that thing that displays the ft/m, of my focus, on the screen. I am decent enough to judge the distance and pray it is actually accurate.
    I do this as well, I have the camera (an HVX200 and HPX250 in my case) set to display the focus distance in feet. A small-enough aperture and a rough estimate of the distance can combine with manual focus to deliver results that are good enough for anything but extreme closeups.

    Quote Originally Posted by kwkeirstead View Post
    I am not good at judging distance so I bring a 100 ft surveyor's ribbon tape and measure the distance. For a group of singers where there are 4 rows of singers on risers, I measure the distance to row 2.
    I've been trusting my judgement but if I had to improve on that, I'd get a laser distance measure from a place like Home Depot. It's small, light, quick, accurate, doesn't require two people to use, and can be used where obstacles might make a tape measure impractical. On the downside, you've got that "pointing a laser" thing that freaks some people out, so you may need to let people know beforehand. But in those situations a tape measure would likely be equally inappropriate.


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    Senior Member kwkeirstead's Avatar
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    Putting the viewfinder to black and white, definitely, IMO, helps - I leave it on black/white permanently.

    I like the laser distance measure idea.. I suppose its a good idea to let people know. Important to never aim it on/near the face of anyone so let it approach on the floor and once it gets to your subject area never go too high.

    I typically give one of my subjects a white card to hold up and this never seems to cause a problem so "white card plus laser" would probably not make things any different.


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    #8
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    Even at live events with little time, I will still zoom in, focus, re-frame if I have even a fraction of doubt about focus being out. I shoot a few seconds of b-roll before and after so I can edit in a close-up cut-away or whatever for exactly those moments. I would rather deal with that than have an entire event out of focus.


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    I agree with most of what's been said. Definitely have the feet (or meters) scale on, and make sure the lens is at least in the ballpark of accurate distance. I mean, if you're shooting an event that's forty feet away and the lens distance readout is saying it's focused on 3 feet, well, you know right there you've got trouble.

    Definitely put the EVF in B&W so that if the red does show up, you'll have the best chance to see it.

    Push auto might work, especially if you get the camera upgraded to a 130A, the push-auto is pretty much instant and it really locks in nicely.


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    #10
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    And by the time the payment update for ag-AC160 and enjoy the same features as the 160A?


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