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Canon GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old April 1st, 2003, 03:58 PM   #1
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Advice using GL1

Hi,
My Brother & I are about to start the filming of an independant production & there's just one mior problem: neither of us know anything about cinematography! We have managed to blag a cannon GL1 out of a friend & I have been reading every article I can find about filming but whatever I shoot still comes out looking like a 'home-movie'. I've tried experimenting with white balence, exposure & different uses of lighting but although this improves the picture it still looks a bit crappy!

I realise that even if you wanted to, it would be impossible to teach me the fine art of cinematography over a forum but any advice you could give would be very very helpful! (the filming starts in july). I'm more than happy for the picture to be a bit rubbish but I just want it to stop looking so homemade.

I've read that Polarising & UV filters make an improvement in picture so would this help?

Thanks a lot in advance!!!

Oliver Lennox
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Old April 1st, 2003, 04:45 PM   #2
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That's the spirit, Oliver! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

One of the best places to start is by looking through our "Read More About It" forum. It features a real wealth of recommendations and comments on good books. My particular favorites for your goal are the two by Steven Katz ("Film Directing Shot By Shot" and "Film Directing: Cinematic Motion"), both mentioned in that forum. Just buy 'em both. They're invaluable tutorials.

Beyond that, just get hold of the camera and start experimenting.
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Old April 1st, 2003, 09:58 PM   #3
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Just some thoughts . . .

"I'm more than happy for the picture to be a bit rubbish but I just want it to stop looking so homemade. " I believe this is a defintion of a circular argument.

Trust In your own judgement - If you think it is rubbish work out why - believe in your original thought. You can't have it both ways - that's the nature and essence of Art. If something don't feel right - you've stumbled on the core reason for it needing to be improved . . .


Okay - Having said all that - and not to be set in stone - here are some of my soldiers I truly trust in . . . .


1 - A movie camera is a camera that takes pictures of things that are moving - and does not move itself.

2 - If it looks good as a "still" chances are it will look good as a video.

3 - Don't zoom!

4 - Don't zoom!

5 - Make sure you are in focus

6 - Make sure your shots are level with the horizon

7 - make sure your audio is working AND you can hear it, by using a separate pair of headphones

8 - Don't Pan! - The audience can not take too much sideways motion. If it feels nauseus, chances are your audience will be reaching for the wretching bucket!

9 - Even before rolling the camera have a "plan" of what you want to end up with, keeping your knowledge of your final audience foremost in your thoughts -If they Want Pickle Give em Pickle.

10 - Really, really look at TV stuff - ads, news reports, travel shows etc and SEE what they did. Record the show and sit down with your brother and dissect - even use a piece of paper and pencil and write down shoot by shoot, shot by shot, what you think they did to achieve it. Not only will this give you some ideas BUT it will also start training you into that "Behind the Viewfinder" awareness/thinking we all need to have.

11 - Analyse why YOU think your films are homemade. Write it down and CROSS check this with point 10 above

12 - Start taking footage NOW - LOTS OF IT! - Analyse and re-analyse it. It's DV tape you can re-use it! It's cheap and recyclable

13 - Keep the camera steady at all times. My shakes occur when I'm in tele and didn't mount it on a tripod, or give it support.

14 - Fill the frame with the object - Tight shots of faces are more effective/dramatic than distant unengaged sequences.

15 - Have objects "move" through the frame. Don't pan and keep up with them.

16 - It's not what a person does on film that is engaging - its how they react to what happens to them - get that in the can! If a dog barks - the shot of surprise of the person walking by is THE shot -not necesssarily the dog itself. You're now in the storytelling business - tell a story. A video will be one story made up of a zillion little stories. Each linked and reacting with each other.


Oliver - you've said 2 things which I don't want you to forget:

1 - "..... but I just want it to stop looking so homemade. "

2 - " . . . but whatever I shoot still comes out looking like a 'home-movie'

You've already got the 'eye' - DON't forget that -All you need to do is to engage the brain in understanding what your eye is telling you - Lots of work to be done before July. . . . Make 1, 2, 3 minute movies. Stories within stories - yeah?

I'm still and will always be learning - about video and other stuff. I wouldn't want it any other way.

And yes keep us informed on what you do and yes come back OR another place and let's talk.

Best regards,

Grazie
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Old April 1st, 2003, 10:37 PM   #4
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Simple use of Film Techniques

This is from a Forum I frequent - See what I mean. You can "view" clip in Windows Media Player - go see!

You can download the clip by looking in the top right-hand corner of the webpage under Chienworks - yeah?

Here's the link:-

http://www.vegasusers.com/vidshare/textdisp?nihil-attendant.txt

Grazie
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 06:45 AM   #5
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Thanks a lot guys, i'll check out those books & keep practising!!

Oliver Lennox
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 12:39 PM   #6
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See also our "Towards a Film Look Using DV" forum, lots of good advice there.

Don't zoom!
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 11:00 PM   #7
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Don't Zoom!

Oh did I say - Don't Zoom? - [That's for Chris as well - Nice one Chris: ;-) ]

Having said that - DO use zoom to get your "subject" in frame. That is "Off-Shot". This one has banjaxed me for sometime. How does one - with a single camera - AND retain continuity? Action and commentrary still carry on when I zoom to get to another "angle". I've done this by making sure I've enough "away-shots" or out of sequence shots that I can use to "cover" the zoom shot, when it arises. I need to plan in enough of these away shots so I can "edit" them in when I wish to "cut-out" zooms AND terrible pans!

I suppose "Don't zoom!" means "Don't SHOW the zoom!" - yeah?
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 11:20 PM   #8
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Graham is quite correct; zooms scream "home video".

Like many rules, however, there are exceptions. A slow, controlled creep or crawl with the zoom can be very effective as a substitute for a dolly shot. Quick, controlled, planned zooms can be effective for dramatic, surprise effect if used once every 5-10 years.

The rule here is controlled movement, whether it be optical or physical. Dramatic shooting needs to be choreographed and rehearsed much like a ballet. Documentary and event shooting requires skill to anticipate action and to prepare your body to carefully move the camera to the next frame without making the viewer nauseous.

Practice, practice.
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Old April 3rd, 2003, 12:59 PM   #9
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GL-1 advice

Oliver,
I had to chuckle when I read your post. It was about this exact same time last year that we also decided to shoot a movie in the summer and settled on the GL1, which was at the time, and I think still is, one of the best dollar for dollar values among the three chippers. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing or what we were in for, but through sheer force of will managed to finish the production, although we ran way over budget and months past the planned shooting period.
One thing I would recommend is forget about filters, except for maybe a basic UV filter. I use a wide angle adapter which pretty much never comes off, so I donít have much use for UVs either. We wasted a lot of time and footage trying to warm the image with neutral density filters and polarizers and ended up with a lot of stuff that didnít match from shot to shot and often looked really grainy and out of focus. Also, unless you feel really confident, shoot everything in auto focus and auto exposure. The manual settings are one of the most attractive features on the GL-1, but unless you really know what you are doing, youíll almost always get a better result with auto, even for the white balance. You may want to use manual exposure for very heavily backlit scenes, but I think thatís about it. You do have more time to experiment (we werenít able to get our camera until mere weeks before the shoot), so maybe you could pull it off, but you will really need to learn everything about that camera, and be comfortable doing it in a fast-paced setting, before trying to shoot manually.
You didnít mention anything about audio, but I canít stress how important it is to get good sound. This issue will make or break your production more than any other single factor.
The GL-1 is capable of recording pretty good sound, but it has its limitations. It can record quiet sounds well, and extended loud sounds well, but it canít capture both in the same scene. When people shout, the beginning of the first word is going to fuzz. Iíve tried a range of fixes, from preamps, limiters, inline attenuators, and a variety of settings on the XLR adapter, and quite frankly, Iíve given up. Get a good mike, like the ME66, and use the in-camera attenuator at all times, and if you have good mike placement, you will get decent sound -- most of the time. If youíve got a yeller, move the mike as far away from them as you realistically can.
Definitely use a backup sound device, such as a minidisk. If I could shoot the movie again, our audio setup would have looked like this:
ME66, with shockmount, and boompole, and best windscreen you can afford.
One 30-foot XLR cable and 1 six foot cable.
Rolls MS20 mike splitter.
Shure A96F XLR to miniplug adapter with built in transformer.
MiniDisk (your choice). Should have manual audio controls.
One high quality pair of headphones and one medium quality.
Studio 1 or Beachteck XLR adapter.
The mike splitter attaches to the belt of the boom operator (You need to be a little innovative on attaching it. Thereís no clip.). Mike connects via six-foot cable to Rolls which splits the signal, feeding the MiniDisk via the Shure adapter, and also feeds the camera via the 30-foot cable which connects to the Studio 1/Beachteck.
The beauty of this setup is that it gives the boom operator a headphone jack that is superior to the one on the GL-1, and doesnít require running another wire back from the camera, while at the same time giving you a backup audio recording. The boom operator concentrates on getting the best sound possible out of the MiniDisk. Having the cord from the microphone attach to the waist of the boom operator is also a lot better than having it drag on the ground, constantly pulling on the boompole. The setup also in effect makes a second headphone jack available -- the one on the camcorder.
The camera operator or director or other person wears headphones to ensure that the sound is indeed being recorded. You canít really monitor anything because thereís nothing to adjust. Resist the urge to fiddle with the dials on the Studio 1/Beachtek. Youíll just make the audio sound muffled.
I canít stress enough the importance of having backup sound. If it comes down to the Studio 1/Beachtek or the MiniDisk because of cost, go with the MiniDisk. Theyíre about the same price. You could buy a second Shure XLR adapter to connect to the camera. Itís just not as secure (that miniplug could pop out, or worse, damage the camcorder connection if someone trips on the cable), but it does pretty much the same thing, minus the dials, which you canít really use anyway.
Also, make sure you have a good boompole operator. If you canít find someone to reliably hold it precisely just out of frame, with the microphone dangling directly over the subjectís head, then maybe you should be the one holding the boom. Itís that important. Your backup audio and camera audio are both coming from the same microphone, so if your mike placement isnít any good, youíre, well, basically screwed. A second backup mike mounted on the camera running into the unused channel on the camcorder is probably a good idea too, if its in the budget.
Iím sorry to keep rambling on like this, but I canít help envisioning myself in your place last year, and man, do I wish somebody had told me all these things way back then. Good luck.
Oh, and one more thing. Be careful who you hire. You donít want anyone on the set prone to whining, tardiness, or thievery.
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Old April 13th, 2003, 05:15 PM   #10
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Thanks a lot!!!!!!!!! I can't tell you how helpful that is. We'd pretty much not considered sound whatsoever but after a few practise shoots it has become one of the biggest issues.l

Filters were always a bit of a 'last act of deperation' thing so if they caused you a whole bunch of trouble i'll probably leave them off the shopping list, time is going to be against us & we don't know anywhere near enough to make proper use of them!

Since my last post i've read both the steven katz books & they were extremely intresting, it's a huge plus that i read them before we started story boarding since we've now got a lot more to consider & should hopefully come out with a much better finished product.

One final question, have any of you guys experimented with colour correction ? we'll be loading all our footage into adobe premier to edit and obviously anything we can do to rectify our disasterous footage would be very handy!


Oliver Lennox
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Old April 13th, 2003, 05:23 PM   #11
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Oliver,
Color (a.k.a. "colour" <g>) correction is more of an art than science. I highly recommend getting a copy of Steve hullfish & Jamie Fowler's recent book, "Color Correction for Digital Video". I'll be writing a mini-review in Read About It soon, but it's well worth the modest investment.
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Old April 13th, 2003, 09:32 PM   #12
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Oliver,
There are a couple of articles in the DVInfo articles section that you should look at if you haven't already. I must say that colour correction does make a difference, or has with the stuff I've shot. If you read any basic guide to it on the net you'll find there are 2 things that people generally say to do first up.

1) Change the gamma curve. Video gamma is flat, but film has a slightly S shapped curve.

2) Increase saturation. This makes your colours look much more...err...saturated ;)

Another thing that noone has mentioned here yet, is lighting. If you're on a $0 budget, try and at least shoot where the lighting helps you. Maybe shoot on the darker side of a house, or whatever. Maybe buy a big piece of white cardboard and use it as a reflector or to block light from a side you don't want light on. You can also use it as a white balance card too if you want! ;)

If you're shooting outside in the daytime then you might need to remember that DV has a crappy contrast range. You might have your subject exposed ok, but if you then get some of the skyline, or a nice white wall in the shot, it might be blown out and look totally white, with no detail. Either use a graduated filter (ND?) or just not shoot the sky.

As you've cottoned on to, don't forget sound. Crappy sound aint good. And also, if possible get good actors or don't be scared to teach your mates if you know what you want.

Good luck and read those articles on DVInfo as they offer a few more tricks you can do to enhance your footage.

Cheers
Aaron
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