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Canon GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 01:32 AM   #1
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Dealing with low lighting conditions

Without boring anyone with details, I recently did a wedding and at the request of the clients, I did not use any special lighting during the reception. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary during the recording (other than the exposure being maxed out). On both GL2s, I noticed that there is quite a bit of video noise and this, of course, is causing problems during the MPEG2 encoding. This has pretty much turned into a nightmare. I've tried lots of different things in Premiere Pro to compensate, but it's only making the noise more visible - anyone know a good trick? Is there ANYTHING I can do to improve the quality of the video on the GL2 in low light?

Is there some technical spec for camera's that will show how much noise is generated during zero light recording? Does this tie in to the SN ratio (have no idea what it is for the GL2)? If you've never looked at recoded video with your lens cap on, try it. . .it's educational.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 02:21 AM   #2
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I use Vegas 5b for my editing. I use the Sony Levels FX when I want to "raise" the levels - esp the GAMMA side of things. Could you send me a "still" of the regions you don't like? And the areas where you think it is ok?

For my money you can't "improve" anything going to MPEG. If it is bad in it is going to bad or worse coming out. Tell me - and I don't know how Prem handles this - are you making an interim DV-AVI prior to going to MPEG? I normally render my finished product to an interim DV-AVI PAL file. It is this file I would then prepare in Sony Vegas creating an MPEG for DVD authoring. I'm presuming you are preparing MPEGS for DVD authoring too?

Your 2nd paragraph I can't answer. But, how will this help you? You will still need to film in such environments? You will still need to light it if you want to get something useful to edit? Knowing the specs will only confirm what you already know? But yes, having the tech sheets could act as a "safety-net" for future work.

Bottom line here is that when a client says "no lighting" I would be under a duty to "show" them what they would get. If they are still unwilling for extra lighting get this as a written agreement as to their "wishes" or get a camera that could potentially handle low light with better characteristics. At the end of the day my work is my CV. If it looks bad, then this will reflect on me in the future and forever.

The noise I guess is because you are filming in Auto and the Gain has been automatically whacked-up. What mode did you film in? If your XM2 is wanting more it will do as much as it can to get something onto tape. Going Manual you get in charge of all the values yourself. There is much to do here. But in the last resort if light levels are that low then "other" lighting is a must. You could get the clients to have the house lights up; standard lamps and table lights switched on; curtains or blinds opened and anything that will add to the general light levels.

Lighting IS everything - convincing clients of the physics of this sometimes is my duty. Yes they are paying for my work, yes they have the right to say what they want BUT they must be able to make decisions based on the realties of that unmovable mountain called physics! Show them what they will get. .. then they can make informed decisions. They do it with the caterers, the food will be hot; they do it with the DJ, we want '60s music; they do it with the florist, we want red roses. All these things are based in reality. Then give them the information so that they make an informed decision about light levels. IT IS THAT important.

I once did a wedding where I was shooting down the "walk" to the registration table - ok. Right behind the table was a window with nets over it. The light was streaming directly up the walk straight into my lens. I could open up the lens to totally "blow" the scene, but I wouldn't get anything like detail. All this was about 45 mins before the Registration Ceremony. So I politely asked the manageress if the curtains could be closed. NO! The Bride wants them left open. .. . Not good enough, wrong answer. I then raised the ante by asking the Registrar to "see" in my viewfinder what I was getting and that as a result the Bride would be very dissatisfied with the results The Registrar immediately recognised the issue. "I'm going up to see the Bride. I will make it clear with her, and I'll get a reply to you", "Thank you!" .. the message came back that she wanted the video to look good - Job Done!

What I'm saying here is that doing wedding video work is a very very professional piece of work, it is not hit and miss. It is not just a bloke turning up and pointing and shooting. It is not the same AT ALL as when some of the public - well most of the public - have experienced when they have got on the end of a consumer camera - yeah? Look at what the stills photographer at a wedding puts the couple, their families through AND anybody else who dares walk into their shot? Look at the lighting they get to use and set ups and adjust to get it just right? Look at the money they get to do maybe a 1/4 of the time we spend at the wedding? See where I'm going with this?

Apologies for the wanderings and if you knew this or understood this already I'm sorry. BUT let's get real with these clients! We do pro work, we get paid for what we do. Get Clients to realise the same .. after all they ARE paying for it. And NO, just because they are paying for it they don't get to dictate what WILL happen without understanding the results they will get.

... steps down from soap box . ..

Grazie
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 02:22 AM   #3
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Welcome Ken,
Low-light shooting is perhaps one of the 10 most common topics across all of our camera boards. So browsing and Search-ing will turn up literally thousands of posts.

The bottom line is that cameras like the GL2 have small CCD's compared with their professional counterparts which have 1/2" or 2/3" sensors. So they need more light to properly render an image. Sony's do a slightly better job with low-light but, in my opinion, their low-light imaging appears colorless and flat.

But you should note that you are in control of the amount of noise in most shots. By managing the camera in Manual exposure mode, for example, you can control the amount of gain the camera applies. Gain is what produces the noise you've encountered. By practicing Manual exposure control you'll develop a good sense for the GL2's operable lighting conditions.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 02:39 AM   #4
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So, Ken, how much noise is generated in low light - using the XM2?
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 02:50 AM   #5
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Dunno...never used one.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 03:00 AM   #6
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That's the same for the GL2?
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 09:50 AM   #7
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Ken: I did do the search and read the posts. Most dealt with lights, lighting, etc. and did really cover my specific question. I was hoping someone knew something I didn't or had gone thru a similar situation and had used something in post to reduce the noise without making the video look too soft or just plain strange.

Graham: Thank you for the long post, but I always shoot manual. There are, of course, several things I leave to the camera but strive to find a good balance. I spend more time watching out for people about the walk in front of me than anything else (very annoying). Your story about the curtains holds a good point and it's something that I don't normally do.

Bottom line is that I was asking too much of the camera and while the DV footage is acceptable, the MPEG2 out of my trusty ProCoder (or any other I've tried) is not. Ken hit the nail on the head with the CCD size, I'm sure. One of these days I'll have to rent one of those 30K+ cameras and see how much better they can do.

The clients will be thrilled because they don't know any better. I seek perfection and while I knew I'd have some grain/noise in the video, I had no idea it would cause me the problems it has. Next time, I'll have a lit vs unlit demo to show and the stuff I just did will be my poster child.
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Old August 4th, 2004, 09:16 AM   #8
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There are people who use larger chip, shoulder mounted cameras and they will often have to use some minimal lighting at weddings. I've never found any way to really improve dark grainy scenes in post. It's noise in, noise out.

With the GL2, you need 20W at 12dB to get a good image at most receptions today. At the last wedding we did, it was too dark to read.
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Old August 4th, 2004, 09:39 AM   #9
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Bob my thoughts completely. I'm gonna use your post in the future to indicate to people how thias works .. very good reply Bob! 20 watss here of PagLight - love it!

Grazie
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Old August 4th, 2004, 06:20 PM   #10
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Some NLE offer noise reduction filters, either built-in or a plug-ins. They usually have a side effect of reducing the effective sharpness of the video, and effectiveness is somewhat questionable. You could try them on a bit of video and see if it helps.
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Old August 4th, 2004, 06:26 PM   #11
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Sorry that this advice is after the fact, but as I have before stated, I emphasized lighting to the couple on my last wedding because I saw that the Chapel lighting was dismal and yellowish. Consequently I armed myself with all the lighting I could: two 500 W Smith Victors with barn doors AND the infamous 1000 watt Home Depot lights: two of them, LOL. I am sure most would think the set up looked abominable; a sacreligious tabboo to the world of ambiance. The bride cried more than once when she saw the finished product; she seemed well pleased, but I still regretted not using more lighting! And not one complaint from the guests. Of course some people and churches will not allow this. Fortunately it was not in a church, but an enormous upper class building called the Signature Grand which has weddings and banquets and such. Still I always use additional lighting in the Baptist churches I video weddings. Light is your friend. Don't be ashamed to use it whenever possible. You are the videographer. All normal folk see is the fantastic video they see on their TV sets, and they expect your video to come close, but they never consider all the lighting it takes to do a soap opera or a news cast program. All I am saying is don't let lighting be anything less than a priority when it comes to warning your clients about what good video really needs. Fortunately you say these customers may not care. Your next customers might find your video very dissappointing.

As far as a remedy to your situation, you might try a digital to analog transfer to DV tape. I join my two GL2 cams together by an s-video cable and the resulting footage on the recording cam is smoother looking DV, naturally, since it comes in as analog video and is recorded onto DV tape. No guarantees but this may help. You will have to hook up audio cables of course since s-video does not carry audio.

Good Luck.
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Old August 4th, 2004, 07:38 PM   #12
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I don't know if this has been mentioned yet (didn't have time to read the entire thread), but have you tried turning down the sharpness a notch or two?....if your light level is reallly low, and your gain is all the way up...this won't do much, but the gl2 exhibits a high level of noise at even moderate gain levels that appears to be mostly caused by over-sharpening in the camera's image processing...I've found a marked improvement in these situations with just a slight decrease from default in the sharpness setting.

Barry
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