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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old June 18th, 2008, 01:58 AM   #1
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Why no flesh in front of flesh?

We've got 2 XHG1s. We've recently fitted out a studio and painted the background wall a flesh (pinkish) color, but could never get a decent image of talent in front of it--all our shots seemed to have a film of grey across them. A visiting DOP told us that as a rule of thumb, you can't shoot flesh (people) in front of a flesh-colored background. He said that video cameras inherently try to optimize skin tones and by having a flesh-colored background, the camera was getting confused and hence the dirty image.

Does this make sense, do you agree with this statement? If so, can anyone explain this in a bit more tech detail please. If it's a correct assessment we'll have to repaint the entire set, and I need to know the nuts-and-bolts of exactly why, when I have to explain it to the powers that be...

Thanks in advance.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 05:49 AM   #2
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Seems to me that it would have been easier to paint the wall blue or greeen. That gives you the opportunity for Greenscreening your background and change it to flesh in post.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 08:23 AM   #3
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chroma_key

This may help explain things for you.

Green or Blue is your color.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 09:07 AM   #4
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Also, look at the colours used on TV etc as backgrounds. Chromakey does give you the option of changing the background later.

If you stick with a painted background, don't go for anything too close too white either, nor should your talent wear white or hold large sheets of white paper - newsreaders use pastel sheets for a reason!
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Old June 18th, 2008, 01:16 PM   #5
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Thanks for the thoughts. Prior to painting the background we discussed chroma keying and the client does not want to chroma key--they are after an authentic, minimalist look and feel, and don't want to have much post. Clearly if you want to blue/green screen then flesh tones in the background would be disastrous.

I'd just like to understand, chroma keying aside, why it seems you can't get a good clean image with flesh tones in the background. I've tried over 10 of the more popular presets, white balance every time and now had another DOP say you you can't shoot people in front of a flesh-colored background. Does anyone know what is happening inside the camera to make this happen? It must be a video-centric issue because, as I understand it, this isn't an issue with film or digital motion cameras like RED.

Chris?? Don??
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Old June 18th, 2008, 01:30 PM   #6
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There is nothing inherently different between the technology inside a red camera and the technology inside an XH-A1. They both have digital light sensors. The word 'video' really doesn't mean anything other than 'doesn't use light sensitive chemicals to capture the image.'

Back on the subject. Painting the walls the same color as peoples' skin only makes sense to me if you want your talent to blend in with the background. Maybe the issue you're having is the result of your eyes being confused by the fact that the background is the same color as peoples' faces. Just a guess.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 03:06 PM   #7
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You can improve things with decent lighting. Try more sidelighting of the subjects, with a good contrast ratio to provide good modeling, and a stronger backlight than you might normally use. And, let the background go down a stop or two from the subjects. Maybe throw a bit of a shadow across part of the background.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 10:56 PM   #8
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Thanks Kees, Bill, Annie, Alex. We've got the brushes and rollers out now--no more flesh. I still don't understand the mechanics/electronics of why it doesn't work, but it don't.
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Old June 19th, 2008, 07:25 AM   #9
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Not the answer you were looking for... but I would recommend painting your background wall grey. Grey is the most neutral color and accepts all colored lights very well. With a single light and some colored gels, you can make a grey wall any color you want!
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