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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
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Old January 1st, 2009, 12:17 PM   #1
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Automatic- What's The Worst That Could Happen?

Greetings...

I know everyone always says to shoot in manual so you could control everything, but if you were to shoot a wedding with the camera in let's say in automatic, what's the worst that could happen? I have never done it because I learned that you should adjust everything yourself, but wondering what, if any, problems people who have shot in automatic have encountered.
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Old January 1st, 2009, 12:50 PM   #2
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One of the main reasons to be cautious about shooting on automatic is the challenge of dealing with high-contrast or variable lighting. A common example is when your subject is indoors near a brightly lit window or other strong light, which will cause auto exposure to drop and underexpose people's faces. You could adjust for that by hitting the "backlight" button on some cameras, but then you'll have a problem if the subject moves away from the light source. And a similar situation can occur outdoors when someone in a white shirt walks in front of the camera, causing the auto exposure to drop briefly until that person leaves the scene. In such situations a locked manual exposure is the best way to avoid incorrect or fluctuating exposure, and you just have to learn how to use manual well.

On the other hand, in settings where extreme lighting isn't a problem, running on auto may be appropriate to handle minor exposure variations as you move around a scene. People who say they never shoot on auto are ignoring a potentially useful feature of their camera, which isn't necessarily a good strategy. If you do occasionally shoot on auto, the important thing is to know when to switch to manual to avoid problems.
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Old January 1st, 2009, 01:09 PM   #3
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I shoot a lot of stage productions. The lighting is almost always impossible. Incredible hot spots, color shifts, black holes. People seem to run in and out of them. Spot light pops on when unexpected. An auto iris is about the only way to come close to coping. When I used the old XL-1, I'd put it on auto-iris and ride the +/- wheel. Loved that feature. Haven't figured out quite how to do it with the XH yet.
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Old January 1st, 2009, 02:47 PM   #4
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Makes a lot of sense. Never really thought of those issues.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 04:14 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad Tyrrell View Post
I shoot a lot of stage productions. The lighting is almost always impossible. Incredible hot spots, color shifts, black holes. People seem to run in and out of them. Spot light pops on when unexpected. An auto iris is about the only way to come close to coping. When I used the old XL-1, I'd put it on auto-iris and ride the +/- wheel. Loved that feature. Haven't figured out quite how to do it with the XH yet.
I don't know the type of stage productions you're dealing with, but allowing the camera just to run on auto does tend to reduce the dramatic effect of the stage lighting. Often the intention is that the actors move from shadows into the light, so bringing up the shadows on auto tends to flatten everything out. You can also have the effect of the hot spot actor against the black background that has been lifted by the auto exposure.

It's a problem that prosumer cameras don't have a large dynamic range, but stage exposures can be surprisingly consistent; well professional stage lighting exposures are at least.

However, one problem with using manual exposure on the prosumer cameras is that the V/F and the LCD screens on them are pretty useless for making fine manual exposure adjustments by eye.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 10:16 AM   #6
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If kept on "Auto", you would likely get "good" results although nothing close to what the cam is capable of delivering.

I shot a Bat Mitzvah a while back on auto, and the problem I saw was with the use of too much gain. Made certain scenes look too grainy. Now the clients did not complain, they loved the video....but I knew it could have been better, had I used a manually selected gain setting.

The solution is simple. turn off the AGC. Set the gain manually. You should get a lot better picture then, even if that is all you do.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 10:49 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Daniel Fessak View Post
if you were to shoot a wedding with the camera in let's say in automatic, what's the worst that could happen?
When you say 'automatic' do you mean focus, shutter speed, gain, iris, white balance or audio levels?

Let's remember that the camera's auto exposure is a fast acting, accurate idiot. If a blond white girl in a white dress is standing beside her black husband in his dark suit under the same light source and you panned from the girl to the guy - what would happen to your auto iris?

Correct. Looking at the girl it might choose f/8. Pan to the guy and it'll choose f/3.5. Guess what that does to the background guests and church wall. The girl will be under-exposed and the guy over-exposed, so we've got three problems (two incorrect and a fluctuating exposure) in one simple take.

So lock down the shutter speed, the gain and the iris.

In the above scenario what would be the downside of using auto focus, w/bal and audio levels? Answer: not much. There's not much to go wrong.

So now you know what you can leave to the automation and what you can't.

tom.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 11:05 AM   #8
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The best I seem to be able to do is run in four finger 2 thumb mode and get a REALLY good night's sleep. Shooting pretty much in the dark, you have to KNOW where those buttons are. Actually, your fingers have to know, because you don't have time to think about which buttons might be where. (I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here.)

I run generally in +6 gain in AV mode with a finger on the iris ring and one on the zoom ring left thumb on the autofocus button, right thumb on record with the first 2 fingers of the right hand on the zoom rocker as an escape route.

If you don't get enough sleep you can easily push the exp lock button instead of autofocus and lightly brush the shutter wheel. PANIC !! All of a sudden shooting at 15 frames with everything blown out. Aghhh.. which way is back... And if you accidentally nudge that standby/lock ring ....

OK, OK, I'm done.

I've gotten kind of used to it and don't have too many problems anymore. Also, I can fix a reasonable amount in post, but ...

The pictures weren't as good, but the old XL-1 was sure easier to handle.

Sorry if this got a little "thread drifty".
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