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The practicalities of fast run and gun shooting with a large sensor camera.

Supercell-panorama-1024x232 The practicalities of fast run and gun shooting with a large sensor camera.Well I’ve just returned home from NAB and a week of Tornado Chasing in the USA. For the Tornado chasing I was shooting in 4K using my Sony F5. I’ve shot run and gun with my F3 and FS700 in the past when shooting air-shows and similar events. But this was very different. Tornado chasing is potentially dangerous. You often only have seconds  to grab a shot which involves leaping out of a car, quickly setting up a tripod and camera and then framing and exposing the shot. You often only have time for one 30 second shot before you have to jump back into the car and move on out ahead of the storm. All of this my be happening in very strong winds and rain. The storms I chased last week had inflow winds rushing into them at 50+ MPH.

The key to shooting any thing fast moving, like this, is having whatever camera kit your using well configured. You need to be able to find the crucial controls for exposure and focus quickly and easily. You need to have a way of measuring and judging exposure and focus accurately. In addition you need a zoom lens that will allow you to get the kinds of shots you need, there’s no time to swap lenses!

For my storm chasing shoot I used the Sony F5 with R5 recorder. This was fitted with a Micron bridge plate as well as a Micron top cheese plate and “Manhandle”. Instead of the Sony viewfinder I used an Alphatron viewfinder as this has a waveform display for exposure. My general purpose lens was a Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-f6.5 stabilised lens with a Canon mount. To control the iris I used a MTF Effect iris control box. For weather protection a CamRade F5/F55 Wetsuit. The tripod I used for this shoot was a Miller 15 head with a set of Carbon Fibre Solo legs.

DSC02074-300x199 The practicalities of fast run and gun shooting with a large sensor camera.
Storm chasing with a PMW-F5

Overall I was pleased with the way this setup worked. The F5’s ergonomics really help as the logical layout makes it simple to use. The 18-200mm lens is OK. I wish it was faster for shooting in low light but for the daytime and dusk shots, f3.5 (at the wide end) is OK. The F5 is so sensitive that it copes well even with this slow lens. The CamRade wetsuit is excellent. Plenty of clear windows so you can see the camera controls and a well tailored yet loose fit that allows you to get easy access to the camera controls. I’ve used Miller Solo legs before and when you need portability they can’t be beaten. The are not quite as stable as twin tube legged tripods, but for this role they are an excellent fit. The Miller 15 head was also just right. Not too big and bulky, not too small. The fluid motion of the head is really smooth.

DSC01122-300x199 The practicalities of fast run and gun shooting with a large sensor camera.
Storm Chasing in the USA with the PMW-F5

So what didn’t work? Well I used the Element Technica Micron bridge plate. I really like the Micron bridge plate as it allows you to re-balance the camera on the tripod very quickly. But it’s not really designed for quick release, it’s a little tricky to line up the bridge plate with the dovetail so I ended up removing and re-fitting the camera via the tripod plate which again is not ideal. The Micron Bridge plate is not really designed for this type of application, when I go back storm chasing in May I’ll be using a  baseplate that locks into a VCT-14 quick release plate, not sure which one yet, so I have some investigating to do.  The VCT-14 is not nearly as stable or as solid as the Micron, but for this application speed is of the essence and I’m prepared to sacrifice a little bit of stability. The Micron bridge plate is better suited to film style shooting and in that role is fantastic, it’s just not the right tool for this job.

F5-with-rainbow-300x199 The practicalities of fast run and gun shooting with a large sensor camera.
Rainbow under a severe thunderstorm.

The MTF-Effect unit is needed to control the aperture of the Canon mount lens, it also powers the optical image stabiliser. But it’s a large square box. I had it mounted on the top of the camera, not in the best place. I need to look at where to mount the box. I’m actually considering re-housing the unit in a custom made hand grip so I can use it to hold the camera with my left hand and have iris control via a thumbwheel. I also want to power it from one of the camera’s auxiliary outputs rather than using the AA batteries internally. The other option is the more expensive Optitek lens mount which I’m hoping to try out soon.  I’m also getting a different lens. The Sigma was fine, but I’m going to get a Sigma 18-250mm (15x) f3.5-f6.5 for a bit more telephoto reach. The other option I could have used is my MTF B4 adapter and a 2/3″ broadcast zoom, but for 4K the Tamron will have better resolution than an HD lens. If I was just shooting HD then the broadcast lens would probably be the best option. After dark I swapped to my Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 for general purpose shooting and this worked well in low light but with the loss of telephoto reach, I need to look into a fast long lens but these tend to be expensive. If you have deep enough pockets the lens to get would probably be the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 T2.9, but sadly at the moment my budget is blown and my pockets are just not that deep. The Cabrio is very similar to an ENG broadcast lens in that it has a servo zoom, but it’s PL mount and very high resolution. Another lens option would be the Canon CN-E30-105mm T2.8, but overall there isn’t a great deal of choice when it comes down to getting a big zoom range and large aperture at the same time, in a hand-held package. If I was working with a full crew then I would consider using a much larger lens like the Arri Alura 18-80 or Angenieux Optimo 24-290, but then this is no longer what I would consider run and gun and would require an assistant to set up the tripod while I bring out the camera.

LP-storm2-300x168 The practicalities of fast run and gun shooting with a large sensor camera.
A Supercell thunderstorm looking like a flying saucer.

From an operating point of view one thing I had to do was to keep reminding myself to double check focus. If you think focus is critical in HD, then it’s super critical for 4K. Thunderstorms are horrid things to try and focus on as they are low contrast and soft looking. I had to use a lot of peaking as well as the 1:1 pixel function of the Alphatron viewfinder, one of the neat things about the Alphatron is that peaking continues to work even in the 1:1 zoom mode. As I was shooting raw and using the cameras Cine EI mode to make exposure simpler I turned on the Look Up Tables on the HDSDI outputs and used the P1 LUT. I then exposed using the waveform monitor keeping my highlights (for example the brighter clouds) at or lower than 100%. On checking the raw footage back this looks to have worked well. Quite a few shots needed grading down by 1 to 1.5 stops, but this is not an issue as there is so much dynamic range that the highlights are still fine and you get a cleaner, less noisy image. When shooting raw with the F5 and F55 cameras I’d rather grade down than up. These cameras behave much more like  film cameras due to the massive dynamic range and raw recording, so a little bit of overexposure doesn’t hurt the images as it would when shooting with standard gammas or even log. Grading down (bringing levels down) results in lower noise and a cleaner image.

chase3-300x168 The practicalities of fast run and gun shooting with a large sensor camera.
Frame grab from the F5 of a Supercell storm with a grey funnel cloud beneath.

So you can run and gun in an intense fast moving environment with a large sensor camera. It’s not as easy as with a 2/3″ or 1/2″ camera. You have to take a little more time double checking your focus. The F5 is so sensitive that using a F3.5-F6.5 lens is not a huge  problem. A typical 1/2″ camera (EX1, PMW-200) is rated at about 300 ISO and has an f1.8 lens. The F5 in Cine EI mode is 2000 ISO, almost 3 stops more sensitive. So when you put an f3.5 lens on, the F5 ends up performing better in low light, even at f6.5 it’s only effectively one stop less sensitive. For this kind of subject matter you don’t want to be at f1.8 – f2.8 with a super 35mm sensor anyway as the storm scenes and shots involved work better with a deep focus range rather than a shallow one.

Having watched the footage from the shoot back in HD on a large screen monitor I am delighted with the quality of the footage. Even in HD it has better clarity than I have seen in any of my previous storm footage. This is I believe down to the use of a 4K sensor and the very low noise levels. I’d love to see the 4K material on a 4K monitor. It certainly looks good on my Mac’s retina display. Hopefully I’ll get back out on the plains and prairies of Tornado Alley later in May for some more storm chasing. Anyone want to join me?

 

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Tips for shooting in very cold weather.

With winter well upon us I thought it would be good to share some of my arctic shooting experience. I’ve shot in temperatures down to -40c in the arctic in winter.

Overall modern tapeless cameras do OK well in extreme cold. The most reliable cameras are larger solid state cameras. Larger cameras cool slower than small ones and larger cameras will hold on to heat generated internally better than small ones.

Condensation:

Condensation is the big deal breaker. When you take the very cold camera inside into a house/hotel/car/tent you will get condensation. If the camera is very cold this can then freeze on the body of camera including the glass of the lens. If there is condensation on the outside of the camera, there will almost certainly also be condensation inside and this can kill your camera.

To prevent or at least reduce the condensation you can place the camera in a large ziplock bag BEFORE taking it inside, take the camera inside in the bag. Then allow the camera to warm up to the ambient temperature before removing it from the bag. Peli cases are another option, but the large volume of the pelicase means there will be more moisture inside the case to condense and the insulating properties of the case mean that it could take many, many hours to warm up.

I don’t recommend storing a cold or damp camera in a Pelicase (or any other similar waterproof case) as there is nowhere for the moisture to go, so the camera will remain damp until the pelicase is opened and everything dried out properly.

Rather than moving a camera repeatedly from outside to inside and repeatedly generating risky condensation you should consider leaving the camera outside. You can leave the camera outside provided it does not get below -25c. Below -25c you risk the LCD panel freezing and cracking. LCD  panels freeze at between -30 to -40c. If you are using a camera in very cold conditions and you notice the edges of the LCD screen going blue or dark you should start thinking about warming up that LCD panel as it may be close to freezing.

LCD displays will become slow and sluggish to respond in the cold. Your pictures may look blurry and smeary because of this. It doesn’t affect the recording, only what you see on the LCD.

Very often in cold regions houses will have an unheated reception room or porch. This is a good place to store your camera rather than taking it inside into the warm. Repeatedly taking a camera from cold to warm without taking precautions against condensation will shorten the life of your camera.
If you can, leave the camera on between shots. The camera generates some heat internally and this will prevent many issues.

BATTERY LIFE:

Li-Ion batteries are effected by the cold but they are not nearly as bad as Nicads or NiMh batteries which are all but useless below freezing. li-Ion battery life gets reduced by between 25 and 50% depending on how cold it is. Down to about -10c there is only a very marginal loss of capacity. Down to -25c you will loose about 20%-30% below -25c the capacity will fall away further.

Keep your spare batteries in a pocket inside your coat or jacket until you need them. After use let the battery warm up before you charge it if you can. Charging a very cold battery will reduce the lifespan of the battery and it won’t fully charge. One top tip for shooting outside for extended periods is to get a cool box. Get some chemical hand warmers and place them in the cool box with your batteries to keep them warm. If you don’t have hand warmers you can also use a hot water bottle.

Watch your breath

If your lens has and snow or ice on it, don’t be tempted to breath or blow on the lens to blow the ice off.  Also try not to breath on the lens when cleaning it as your warm breath will condense on the cold glass and freeze.  Also try to avoid breathing out close to the viewfinder. A small soft paint brush is good for keeping your lens clean as in very cold conditions you’ll simply be able to brush and snow or ice off. Otherwise a large lens cloth.

Covers.

Conventional rain covers become brittle below about -15c and can even shatter like glass  below -20c. Special insulated cold weather covers often called “polar bears” can be used and these often have pockets inside for chemical heat packs. These are well worth getting if you are going to be doing a lot of arctic shooting and will help keep the camera warm. As an alternative wrap the camera in a scarf or cut the sleeves of an old sweater to make a tube you can slide over the camera. If you have a sewing machine you could make a simple cover out of some fleece type material.

Your lens will get cold and in some conditions you will get frost on the front element. To help combat this wrap some insulating fabric around the body of the lens. Wrist sweat bands are quite good for this or an old sock with the toes cut off.

Brittle Plastic.

Plastics get brittle at low temperatures so be very gentle with anything plastic, especially things made from very hard, cheap plastic. The plastic Sony use appears to be pretty tough even at low temps. Wires and cables may become ridged. Be gentle, bend then too much and the insulation may split.

Other considerations are tripods. If outside in very low temps for more than 30mins or so the grease in the tripod will become very thick and may even freeze, so your fluid damping will become either very stiff or freeze up all together. Contact your tripod manufacturer to see what temperatures their greases can be used over. Vinten and some of the other tripod companies can winterise the tripod and replace the normal grease with arctic grease.

Looking after yourself.

I find that the best way to operate the camera is by wearing a pair of large top quality mittens (gloves are next to useless below -15c), consider getting a pair of Army surplus arctic mittens, they are very cheap on ebay and will normally have an additional “trigger finger”. This extra finger makes it easier to press the record button and things like that.  If you can get Swedish or Finnish military winter mittens, these are amongst the best. I wear a pair of thin “thinsulate” gloves that will fit inside the mittens, i can then slip my hands in and out of the mittens to operate the camera.

I keep a chemical hand warmer inside the mittens to warm my fingers back up after using the camera. The hardest thing to keep warm is your feet. If you’ll be standing in snow or standing on ice then conventional hiking boots etc will not keep your feet warm. A Scandinavian trick if standing outside for long periods is to get some small twigs and tree branches to stand on and help insulate your feet from the cold ground. If your feet get cold then you are at risk of frostbite or frost nip. Invest in or hire some decent snow boots like Sorel’s or Baffin’s. I have an arctic clothing guide here; Arctic Clothing Guide |

Camrade CB Single III Camera Bag.

I was asked by my good friend Rene of Camrade to take a look at some of their new products. So over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking at the CB Single III camera bag, the PMW F3 rain cover and a new PL lens adapter for the Sony FS100. First I’m going to take a look at the camera bag.

bag1-300x224 Camrade CB Single III Camera Bag.
Camrade CB Single III

I’ve had Camrade bags before and they have always lasted well, standing up to the knocks and bumps that go along with lugging kit all over the place. I was in the market for a new bag for one of my PMW-F3’s, so I was sent the CB Single III bag. From the outside this is a functional looking bag with a large mesh pocket on one side and further external pockets on the other side and at one end. It has a nice well padded chunky carry strap that is comfortable to use.

bag2-300x224 Camrade CB Single III Camera Bag.
Inside the Camrade CB Single III

The top of the bag opens up with a dual zipper system that gives you completely un hindered access to the bags interior. This is great for run and gun where you may need to quickly grab the camera from the bag and you don’t want to have to squeeze it out through a small opening. The interior of the bag has various dividers that are secured by velcro, so you can customise the layout to suit your needs. One of the dividers forms a clever storage box to one side of the bag. I’ve found this particularly useful with the F3 as I can safely store my Genus 4×4 Matte Box and a couple of DSLR lenses in here.

bag3-e1312127885429-300x224 Camrade CB Single III Camera Bag.
Opening the storage compartment shows moveable dividers

Then my batteries, other bits and bobs and the rain cover fit comfortably in the end compartments. This bag really works well with the F3 alloying you to get a complete basic shooting kit into one bag without the bag being too big or bulky.

It’s not perhaps the most fancy or sophisticated of bags, but in terms of practicality and functionality it works very well indeed. There is a strap in the main compartment to hold the camera secure if your really going to be bouncing it around. The base and sides of the bag are all semi ridged and have a good layer of shock absorbing foam in them. With one of these bags typically costing a very affordable $200 it really does represent good value for money.

My thanks to Rene for the sample bag. http://www.camrade.com/products-page/video/cambags/cb-single-iii1

In my next post I’ll look at the nice rain cover that Camrade make for the F3.

Focal length conversion factor should apply to the camera not the lens.

I was asked in some post comments whether the a 50mm PL mount lens would give a wider picture than a 50mm DSLR lens. This confusion comes about I believe because of all the talk about focal length conversion factors. I don’t think this concept is well understood by some people as the implication is that somehow the lens is changing when its used on different cameras, when in fact it’s the camera that is different, not the lens.

It is important to understand that a 50mm lens will always be a 50mm lens. That is it’s focal length. It is determined by the shape of the glass elements and no matter what camera you put it on it will still be a 50mm lens. A 50mm DSLR lens has the same focal length as a 50mm PL mount and as a 50mm 2/3″ broadcast lens. In addition the lens focuses a set distance behind the rear element, agin the distance between the rear element and where it focuses does not change when it’s put on different cameras, so an adapter or spacer must be used to keep the designed distance between the lens and sensor, this distance is called the “flange back”.

The key thing is that it’s not the lens or it’s focal length that changes when you swap between different cameras. It is the size of the sensor that changes.

Imagine a projector shining an image on a screen so that the picture fills the screen. The projector is our “lens”. Without changing anything on the projector what happens if you move the screen closer or further away from the projector? The image projected on the screen will go in and out of focus, so that’s not good, we must keep the projector to screen distance constant, just like the lens to sensor distance (flange back) for any given lens remains constant.

What happens if we make the screen smaller? Well the image remains the same size but we see less of it as some of the image falls of the edge of the screen. If our projected picture was that of a wide landscape then on the reduced screen size what would now be seen would not appear less wide as we are now only seeing the middle part of the picture. The width of the view would be decreased, in other words the FIELD OF VIEW HAS NARROWED. The focal length has not changed.

This is what is happening inside cameras with different size sensors, the lens isn’t changing, just how much of the lenses projected image is falling on or off the sensor.

So the multiplication factor should be considered more accurately as being applied to the camera, not the lens and the multiplication factor changes the field of view, not the focal length.

So whether it is a PL mount lens, a Nikon or Canon DSLR lens or a Fujinon video lens, if it’s a 50mm lens then it’s a 50mm lens and the focal length is the same for all. However the field of view (width and height of the viewed image) will depend on the size of the sensor. So a 50mm PL lens will give the same field of view as a 50mm DSLR lens (no matter what camera the lens was designed for) on the same video camera.

The only other thing to consider is that lenses are designed to work with certain sizes of sensor. A lens designed for a full frame 35mm sensor will completely cover that size of sensor as well as any sensor smaller than that. On the other hand a 2/3? broadcast lens will only cover a 2/3? sensor, so if you try to use it on a larger sensor the image will not fill the frame.
The sensors in the Sony F3 and FS100 are “Super 35mm”. That is about the same size as APS-C. So lenses designed for Full frame 35mm can be used as well as lenses designed for 35mm cine film (35mm PL) and lenses designed for APS-C DSLR’s such as the Nikon DX series and Canon EF-S.

See also http://www.abelcine.com/fov/

 

Sony NEX-3 Love this stills camera!

This isn’t really a review and it’s not about video. On the way out here to the US, I did a little bit of Christmas shopping picking up a Sony NEX-3 APS-C camera at the airport for my wife. When I got the opportunity to do some sightseeing in New York I decided to take the NEX along and you know what I’m really impressed. The camera is reasonably small, pocket sized yet behaves much more like a DSLR. In fact I think for a holiday camera or travel camera in some respects it’s better. It’s very straight forward to use, fast and responsive. But the feature I like the most is the Panorama mode that combines a sequence of frames into a seamless panorama. The video is pretty good too, although if your buying one for video the slightly more expensive NEX-5 would be better as that one does 1920×1080 while the NEX-3 is 720P. I can’t wait to use the NEX to take panoramic photographs of the Arctic in January or the storms and tornadoes when I go storm chasing next year. Ah.. one small problem, this is supposed to be a Christmas present for my wife, not a new toy for me. Hmmmm might have to get another one on the way home!

2010_0101BI-1024x232 Sony NEX-3 Love this stills camera!
New York Panorama taken with NEX3

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Shooting Snow and other bright scenes.

Well winter is upon us. The north of the UK is seeing some pretty heavy snow fall and it’s due to spread south through the week. I regularly make trips to Norway and Iceland in the winter to shoot the Northern Lights (email me if you want to come) so I am used to shooting in the snow. It can be very difficult. Not only do you have to deal with the cold but also difficult exposure.

First off it’s vital to protect your equipment and investment from the cold weather. A good camera cover is essential, I use Kata covers on my cameras. If you don’t have a proper cover at the very least use a bin liner or other bag to wrap up your camera. If you have a sewing machine you could always use some fleece or waterproof material to make your own cover. If snow is actually falling, it will end up on your lens and probably melt. Most regular lens cloths just smear any water around the lens, leaving you with a blurred image. I find that the best cloth to use in wet conditions is a chamois (shammy) leather. Normally available in car accessory shops these are soft, absorbent leather cloths. Buy a large one, cut it into a couple of smaller pieces, then give it a good wash and you have a couple of excellent lens cloths that will work when wet and won’t damage your lens.

Exposing for snow is tricky. You want it to look bright, but you don’t want to overexpose. If your camera has zebras set them to 95 to 100%. This way you will get a zebra pattern on the snow as it starts to over expose. You also want your snow to look white, so do a manual white balance using clean snow as your white. Don’t however do this at dawn or near sunset as this will remove the orange light normally found at the ends of the day. In these cases it is best to use preset white set to around 5,600k. Don’t use cinegammas or hypergammas with bright snow scenes. They are OK for dull or overcast days, provided you do some grading in post, but on bright days because large areas of your snow scene will be up over 70 to 80% exposure you will end up with a very flat looking image as your snow will be in the compressed part of the exposure curve. You may want to consider using a little bit of negative black gamma to put a bit more contrast into the image.

If the sun is shining, yes I know this may not happen often in the UK, but if it is then the overall brightness of your scene may be very high. Remember to try to avoid stopping down your lens with the iris too far. With 1/3? sensor cameras you should aim to stay more open than f5.6, with 1/2? more than f8 and 2/3? more than f11. You may need to use the cameras built in ND filters or external ND filters to achieve this. Perhaps even a variable ND like the Genus ND Fader. You need to do this to avoid diffraction limiting, which softens the image if the iris is stopped down too much and is particulary noticeable with HD camcorders.

Finally at the end of your day of shooting remember that your camera will be cold. If you take it in to a warm environment (car, house, office) condensation will form both on the outside and on the inside. This moisture can damage the delicate electronics in a camcorder so leave the camera turned off until it has warmed up and ensure it is completely dry before packing it away. This is particularly important if you store your camera in any kind of waterproof case as moisture may remain trapped inside the case leading to long term damage. It is a good idea to keep sachets of silica gel in your camera case to absorb any such moisture. In the arctic and very cold environments the condensation may freeze covering the camera in ice and making it un-useable. In these extreme situations sometimes it is better to leave the camera in the cold rather than repeatedly warming it up and cooling it down.

Have fun, don’t get too cold, oh…  and keep some chemical hand warmers handy to help stop the lens fogging and to keep your fingers from freezing.

Why Is Sensor Size Important: Part 1.


Over the next few posts I’m going to look at why sensor size is important. In most situations larger camera sensors will out perform small sensors. Now that is an over simplified statement as there are many things that effect sensor performance, including continuing improvements in the technologies used, but if you take two current day sensors of similar resolution and one is larger than the other, the larger one will usually outperform the smaller one. Not only will the sensors themselves perform differently but other factors come in to play such as lens design and resolution, diffraction limiting and depth of field, I’ll look at those in subsequent posts, for today I’m just going to look at the actual sensor itself.

Pixel Size:

Pixel size is everything. If you have two sensors with 1920×1080 pixels and one is a 1/3? sensor and the other is a 1/2? sensor then the pixels themselves on the larger 1/2? sensor will be bigger. Bigger pixels will almost always perform better than smaller pixels. Why? Think of a pixel as a bucket that captures photons of light. If you relate that to a bucket that captures water, consider what happens if you put two buckets out in the rain. A large bucket with a large opening will capture more rain than a small bucket.

pixels Why Is Sensor Size Important: Part 1.
Small pixels capture less light each

Bigger pixels capture more light each.

It’s the same with the pixels on a CMOS or CCD sensor, the larger the pixel, the more light it will capture, so the more sensitive it will be. Taking that analogy a step further if the buckets are both of the same depth the large bucket will be able to hold more water before it overflows. It’s the same with pixels, a big pixel can store more charge of electrons before it overflows (photons of light get converted into electrical charge within the pixel). This increases the dynamic range of the sensor as a large pixel will be able to hold a bigger charge before overflowing than a small pixel.

Noise:

All the electronics within a sensor generate electrical noise. In a sensor with big pixels which is capturing more photons of light per pixel than a smaller sensor, the ratio of light captured to electrical noise is better, so the noise is less visible in the final image, in addition the heat generated in a sensor will increase the amount of unwanted noise. A big sensor will dissipate any heat better than a small sensor, so once again the big sensor will normally have a further noise advantage.

So as you can see, in most cases a large sensor has several electronic advantages over a smaller one. In the next post I will look at some of the optical advantages.

Multi-Camera Shoot-out Update

UPDATE: You can download some frame grabs from the shoot-out by clicking here.

I just spent the day shooting the same scene with 6 different file based cameras. I am working with Visual Imapact to produce a series of DVD’s containing sample clips in their native format and file structure from a range of cameras. On the set today I had the following cameras: Sony PDW-700, Sony PMW-350, Sony EX3, Panasonic HPX3700, Panasonic HPX301 and a Panasonic HVX200. We also recorded the output from the PMW-350 on a NanoFlash and this footage will also be available within the DVD set. The idea is to provide people with a way to directly compare the image quality and workflow of all these cameras, in effect, side-by side.

In order to keep things fair each camera was set to it’s factory defaults. Now I know that with careful tweaking all the camera are capable of better pictures, but it was decided the fairest test was to present them in their default settings.

The scene used in the shoot comprised of a colorful Lego train on a small circle of track, some crumpled foil to give bright specular highlights, a chamois leather for natural texture along with a couple of rose blooms. A metal bodied torch and paint brush finished off the still life. In the background there is a sharpness chart and a color chart. All this was then placed on a chroma key green fabric covered table with a chroma key blue back drop.

The scene was shot at 3 different frame sizes in 1080P25, 1080i50 and where available 720P50 and SD. The scene was shot at 0db gain and also at +6db gain. It was exposed using a 50% grey card measured with a Hamlet Microflex scope to ensure matching exposures. A slate was used at the beginning of each shot to identify the camera, the frame rate, aperture and recording mode. The Panasonic P2 cameras were used in both AVC-I modes and DVCPROHD modes. All the 2/3? cameras used the same Canon HJ14x4.3 lens but I did in addition use the kit lens on the PMW-350 for comparison as well as an SD lens on the PDW-700. The HPX301 and EX3 used their standard lenses.

I’ll be spending the next couple of days checking the footage and compiling the DVD’s, but hope to have the full set of disks available for purchase very soon.

Stetting up video cameras without charts.

There is far too much emphasis on color charts and 100% one to one – set it up with a scope settings. Very often a 100% accurate one to one response won’t look right as the video gamut is smaller and lopsided than that of the human eye so a small amount of skewing of the color gamut can often help produce a picture that visually looks more natural. One of the very best ways to set up a camera is to use a high quality color photograph of a known scene. Shoot the photograph and look at the picture on a monitor and adjust until it looks right. This will give a more natural looking image than aligning with charts and scopes and is a technique that has been used since the very beginnings of color television. I have a scene that contains vibrant colored cars, green fields and trees, buildings and blue sky. I have a dozen large copies of this picture and use it whenever I am making camera adjustments to make sure my pictures still look natural. Of course scopes should still be used if you are making any extreme settings to ensure your images are still legal, but at the end of the day what you are after is an image that looks right too you (or the producer) and whoever else will view your material, not what looks right according to a chart and a scope.

Setting BOTH zebras on an XDCAM EX, very confusing!


If you set zebra 1 to 60 and then set zebra 2 to 90, then go back to zebra 1 you will find that the displayed value of zebra 1 will now be 90, however provided you don’t make any changes to zebra 1 if you go down to BOTH zebra 1 will work at 60 and zebra 2 at 90.

The thing is that going back to Zebra 1 (or zebra 2) and make any changes you select selects Zebra 1 (or 2) only, ie a single zebra and in doing so sets the level to the last level set. It’s only by going to BOTH that you enable both zebras together.

So to set two indendent zebras first set zebra 1 to your required level, then set zebra 2 to your required level, final scroll down to both and select. Now you zebras will be working at the independent levels you set, even though this may not appear to be the case in the menu.

It’s not the most logical way to lay out the menu as it does not show you both settings together at any point, hence the understandable confusion, but you will find that both zebras will work at the independent levels you set.