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Old July 19th, 2009, 12:10 PM   #1
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Advice on shooting a Guitar

I'm wondering if any of you guys have some advice on how to shoot a guitar? You can take a look at my you tube below. I shot it on my XH-A1 with just Auto everything, I don't even recal; if I did a white balance.

I'm getting ready to shot another guitar and since then I downloaded all the custom presets. What preset would be better for shooting a guitar? And are there any tips you could suggest that might improve my videos?

YouTube - Gary Stewart plays Bel raggio lusinghier from the opera Semiramide Giuliani/Rossini

Thanks,
michael
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Old July 19th, 2009, 12:27 PM   #2
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I'm wondering if any of you guys have some advice on how to shoot a guitar?
Aim for the neck - otherwise you'd just piss the guitar off.
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Old July 19th, 2009, 12:38 PM   #3
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The thing that stands out for me is lighting - or the lack of it. Everything is very flat, and the almost guitar coloured background doesn't offer any scope for making the instrument stand out. The other thing is that shooting static objects needs solid camera movement, and the jerks spoil it. Don't zoom, move the camera in and out. Maybe a crane of some kind could be used, or a dolly of some kind so you can move. Alternatively, keep the camera still and move the instrument on wheels, or maybe bodge up a turntable. Watch How do they do this, or how does it work, type programmes to see how camera movement can be done. Don't move for the sake of movement, and resist the temptation to cut or mix between very similar shots. White balance would have been something to really sort out, as the entire thing has a sepia tone to it, which as an effect might be good, but looks a little odd. Some bits, like the intricate inlay were perhaps a little long, but for me, why the random shot of a unseen before lady at the end - why not somebody actually playing it?

Presets? It's not really presets or twiddles to the camera, it's a solid plan of action.

Light the scene well, work out how to move the camera. if the floor's good then, a few castors and platforms will let the camera glide. Content wise - make sure each process has an end. So all that shaving the neck, showing it square, then rounder, could be finished off with the final sanding showing the hacking about really did work. How about inserting the frets - the really difficult bits. In general, people want to see the difficult bits. bend straight wood into curves, glue, clamps, saws and then delicate stuff - but they need to have it finished off by hearing and seeing it work - because it could sound like a Bontempi 15 guitar from toys r us.

In terms of camera settings, it's usual to always state NO AUTO ANYTHING, but in your case, autofocus hasn't really caused a problem. It doesn't look bad at all, it looks a little unfinished, and because of the colour, a bit old.
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Old July 19th, 2009, 01:44 PM   #4
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Nice video.
A lot of the pans and zooms could have been much smoother if you just used a hi-resolution digital still camera and did the simulated camera moves in post while editing. These moves could be mixed into live video that would show the 3D of the instrument better if the actual camera support was in motion via wheels or jib arm.
I agree on using a different background colour and more dramatic lighting.
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Old July 20th, 2009, 09:15 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
The thing that stands out for me is lighting - or the lack of it. Everything is very flat, and the almost guitar coloured background doesn't offer any scope for making the instrument stand out. The other thing is that shooting static objects needs solid camera movement, and the jerks spoil it. Don't zoom, move the camera in and out. Maybe a crane of some kind could be used, or a dolly of some kind so you can move. Alternatively, keep the camera still and move the instrument on wheels, or maybe bodge up a turntable. Watch How do they do this, or how does it work, type programmes to see how camera movement can be done. Don't move for the sake of movement, and resist the temptation to cut or mix between very similar shots. White balance would have been something to really sort out, as the entire thing has a sepia tone to it, which as an effect might be good, but looks a little odd. Some bits, like the intricate inlay were perhaps a little long, but for me, why the random shot of a unseen before lady at the end - why not somebody actually playing it?

Presets? It's not really presets or twiddles to the camera, it's a solid plan of action.

Light the scene well, work out how to move the camera. if the floor's good then, a few castors and platforms will let the camera glide. Content wise - make sure each process has an end. So all that shaving the neck, showing it square, then rounder, could be finished off with the final sanding showing the hacking about really did work. How about inserting the frets - the really difficult bits. In general, people want to see the difficult bits. bend straight wood into curves, glue, clamps, saws and then delicate stuff - but they need to have it finished off by hearing and seeing it work - because it could sound like a Bontempi 15 guitar from toys r us.

In terms of camera settings, it's usual to always state NO AUTO ANYTHING, but in your case, autofocus hasn't really caused a problem. It doesn't look bad at all, it looks a little unfinished, and because of the colour, a bit old.
Thanks Paul, Rolling my tripod is out of the question I don't really have the space, or a studio for that. I recently bought a background support system with three different linen backgrounds, much better contrast.

I have one question though why do you recommend not using the zoom? It seems like it does the "Ken Burns effect" nicely. Maybe not paning?

I did a new shoot last night with the new back ground I'll post it when I edit it later today. Thanks for the help.
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Old July 20th, 2009, 09:19 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Don Xaliman View Post
Nice video.
A lot of the pans and zooms could have been much smoother if you just used a hi-resolution digital still camera and did the simulated camera moves in post while editing. These moves could be mixed into live video that would show the 3D of the instrument better if the actual camera support was in motion via wheels or jib arm.
I agree on using a different background colour and more dramatic lighting.
Thanks Don, My wife just got a new Canon Rebel and last night we shot a new guitar with both the video and her camera. We'll see what we can do.

Yes the lighting is a problem, I need a couple of diffused lights ( soft boxes), I'm looking into some now.
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Old July 20th, 2009, 11:24 AM   #7
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The thing with zooms is that on a 2D object, they look ok, so maps, charts etc work - but on 3D objects it's much more pleasing to track in. It's because as a person moves closer to an object, perpective changes. Zooming leave perspective unchanged, which make the brain think something is not quite right. The difference is quite interesting if you try it. Even a 3 ft crab sideways looks so good on static objects. With the camera on wide, sitting on a basic set of legs with some wheels - it looks amazing.

A turntable can be easily knocked up with a few DIY skills, if you plan on doing this a lot - and sitting the guitar on a stand, on the turntable, and then rotating it while you are moving looks fantastic. Camera movement on static subjects is the key to good images. Conventional panning and tilting with zoom isn't that common.

For the actual process of manufacturing, then the usual trick in the 'informative' style is static shots and mixes to indicate time passed.

I found this
How It's Made : Videos : Science Channel

go down to the violin clip - hardly any movement, but short, simple clips. The programmes usually finish with the arty stuff on the finished products as a contrast.
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Old July 20th, 2009, 08:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
The thing with zooms is that on a 2D object, they look ok, so maps, charts etc work - but on 3D objects it's much more pleasing to track in. It's because as a person moves closer to an object, perpective changes. Zooming leave perspective unchanged, which make the brain think something is not quite right. The difference is quite interesting if you try it. Even a 3 ft crab sideways looks so good on static objects. With the camera on wide, sitting on a basic set of legs with some wheels - it looks amazing.

A turntable can be easily knocked up with a few DIY skills, if you plan on doing this a lot - and sitting the guitar on a stand, on the turntable, and then rotating it while you are moving looks fantastic. Camera movement on static subjects is the key to good images. Conventional panning and tilting with zoom isn't that common.

For the actual process of manufacturing, then the usual trick in the 'informative' style is static shots and mixes to indicate time passed.

I found this
How It's Made : Videos : Science Channel

go down to the violin clip - hardly any movement, but short, simple clips. The programmes usually finish with the arty stuff on the finished products as a contrast.
OK I understand what you mean about Zooming, I'll try that! Also, Paul your idea about a turntable is brilliant! I'm going to get one tomorrow and re shoot everything all over again.

Also, I have a question about lighting, ( don't know if this is the right thread for this). My wife is taking a photography class at the local community Collage here in Santa Fe. In the fall, the class is on lighting, which I think I'll take as well. However, she mentioned to her instructor I was going to buy some lighting equipment and he said all I needed was one light. I thought this was strange, but another very well known photographer friend of ours also said all I need was one light, and volunteered to show me when he gets back to town.

All the information I've seen has said, you need three point lighting. Do you or anyone know what this one light does everything is?

Michael
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Old July 20th, 2009, 10:44 PM   #9
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And all a painter needs is One colour and one brush. Lighting people call lights instruments (like in an orchestra) and they come in various sizes and capabilities. Perhaps if you could get by with supplementing the normal lights in the room with one very bright light that could be dimmed, gelled, diffused or focused, you could get by with only one light.
I've just started experimenting with a 7 watt standard based LED lightbulb. I'm trying to mount it in an old mini-par can to add the filter holder capabilities. It should be good for hilights but a large 1k Fresnel on a dimmer is always good to have around...but heavy, hot and not portable.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 03:02 AM   #10
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If you use only one light, a portable reflector is a very hand item. It can be used to bounce light back into dark corners and give the impression of multiple lights without worrying too much about exact placement/strength to avoid extra shadows.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 01:01 PM   #11
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Hi Michael,

First, I'd like to know what the purpose of the video is. Is it suppose to be a narrative piece or are you going more for just a visual experience without any real story? Is it to show the making of the guitar? Or to show off the guitar itself? That will really help to shape the project and make it more visually interesting. Think of creating a story arc to your video. An example would be, if the piece was to highlight the process of making the guitar you could break it into small segments. When the gentleman is shaping the neck you might start with some close ups of the raw materials and then transition into him working his tools. An interesting shot might be to follow the blade as it shaves the wood. Then eventually show the finished neck.

Another interesting shot might be of the body of the guitar, start with a static ECU of the strings and then have someone pluck one or two strings out of frame. Capture the vibrations and slowing pull back to show the intricate inlays in the the wood. That could be in either in the beginning or at the end o the segment where the inlays are being placed int eh opening of the body.

At the end it would be nice to finish with someone playing the guitar.

For technical aspects, as has already been mentioned lighting is key. Lighting for still photography is somewhat different than motion pictures. You us some of the same concepts but you have to remember that you will most likely be moving either your camera or the subject so your lighting will have to be able to handle the dynamics that will be involved. There really are no absolutes in lighting but one thing that a very accomplished cinematographer once told me was " you can never have too many lights at your disposal. Remember, you can always take away light if it's available, but you can't create light that doesn't exist." I don't think you'd be too please with just one light. That will either create some very harsh shadows or a very flat look. Think of watching the evening news. Not much creativity in the way the new people look.

For some good quick examples of what different lighting set ups look like you could go to the Lowel web site under their EDU page:

Lowel EDU - a Lighting Resource Center

It has some good basic pointers.

I would also have full manual on all settings. For instance at 2:11 you can see the camera flaring up the exposure. Those are the types of thing to really avoid.

Around 7 minutes I like how you've got the two guitars in the background lit from the floor. A creep zoom in on those would have been a good opportunity to create a very pleasing transition.

As I mentioned, the purpose for your video will really drive the style in which it is shot and things like the lighting and coloration (or in older terms the film stock used). Overall I think you've got an interesting subject visually and the music accompaniment is great too.

-Garrett
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Old July 21st, 2009, 01:24 PM   #12
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A photography class advocating using just one light source is rather scary!

One light will give illumination. It also creates hard shadows and lots of contrast. Something video cameras are not that good at recording. Shadows are good actually. they provide the brain with indications of depth. Imagine looking at the camera and the one and only light source is 45 degrees off to one side and 45 degrees above the horizontal. This gives good modelling light. You really can see that noses come out of the face and eye sockets go in. You can tell how big somebodies nose is, and all the clues the brain needs are there. trouble is it looks horrible, from the aesthetic point of view. You need to fill in these hard shadows to reduce the contrast to something the camera can cope with. So a softlight on the other side is the usual trick. This can be a hard source - as in a luminaire (we Brits have been Europeanised, so instrument is a term firmly on the US side of the water) with diffuser between lamp/reflector and the subject - I'm a firm believer in open face lights for video, and the barn doors have handy clips where I attach sheets of plastic diffuser (Rosco or Lee). I have some large Fresnel lensed theatre style TV lights too, and these are softish, but not quite enough. I'd imagine the local college would have this kind of kit plus photographic style softboxes to hand.

Once you've filled in some of these shadows, then the next step would be to add a bit of back of the head lighting, to make the subject stand out from the background and give a lift to hair and shoulders. Because of my theatre background, I often experiment with coloured back light, and really like gold light on blonde hair. Only after I've done all this would I then consider lighting the background.

There is no reason you cannot use just one light source - but when you see the pictures, you won't want to!
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Old July 21st, 2009, 02:02 PM   #13
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Micheal,

To somewhat address your "one light" question. Three point lighting is a basic lighting setup, key, fill and back light. Those are the general locations of the light source. That doesn't mean there are there lights. You could create three point lighting with only one light if you could bounce it all around. Also, there are three point lighting situations where you would use more than three lights too.

-Garrett
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Old July 21st, 2009, 03:02 PM   #14
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The trouble with reflectors is direction of light. If you are forced to shoot outside with the sun behind, then a reflector can get light onto the subject, however, it's rare to find a set up where you have a key coming from the rght direction that can be reflected. It's going towards the subject, and the only place where a reflector would work, is where light is. Across the other side of the imaginary centre line where the fill is needed rarely has anything that can be reflected coming it's way.

In the case of the guitar we're talking about here, a mix of key/fill and fill/fill often works. To reveal some details - like when the curved parts are being made, shadows are useful. In other situations, especially where lots of edges are present that would create multiple shadows, then softer light works best.

If you are into making things, then building a turntable that has a rotating swinging arm that you can attach a tripod head to is also pretty neat. The turntable can revolve, and the camera then rotates too, kind of in orbit around the centre. If you do lots of this kind of shooting, you could build some very specific aids.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 05:01 PM   #15
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Hey Paul,

I wasn't really serious about the single light source. The only way you could do it was if you had an isolated source that you could reflect in a way that you would end up with various points. It is conceivable but not very practical.

One think I would think about doing is using very little back lighting so that you really focus on the guitar. You could also think of using lighting similar to a museum when it is highlighting a single statue or gem. have a key slightly off of the camera and then just another from directly above the guitar.
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