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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old May 19th, 2005, 02:59 AM   #1
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Which camera provides the best shallow depth of field?

Which camera provides the best shallow depth of field from a close distance from an actor?

I know that the GL2 (and most other cameras) can create shallow depth of field by shooting from a distance and zooming in.

But are there any cameras (not just canon) that can create shallow depth of field without shooting from a distance and zooming in, instead by simply adjusting the settings on the camera and without getting a stobe effect from the shutter speed?
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Old May 19th, 2005, 06:11 AM   #2
 
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Cameron, that's an issue with all DV camcorders. There is no getting away from the work-arounds when it comes to DOF.

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Old May 19th, 2005, 06:53 AM   #3
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I'm no camera expert but I've posted nearly the same question and as it was explained to me...

All the 1/3" CCD cameras behave similarly with very little control of DOF. It is the larger CCD cameras have this capability.
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Old May 19th, 2005, 08:08 AM   #4
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Correct, usually the smaller the CCD, the deeper the DOF. There is no way around by adjusting the in-camera settings, although I've read Chris Hurd say you can get a shallower DOF on the XL2 by shooting at a gain of -3db, but I honestly cannot understand why that would be.

The only way around with small CCD cameras is using a PS-Technik Mini35 adapter which will allow you to work with real 35mm DOF (and film lenses). But you better have deep pockets or great contacts if you want to use that beast (oh do I envy the lucky bastards that own one).
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Old May 19th, 2005, 08:25 AM   #5
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Dave,

On the -3dB setting, you can open up your aperture a little more for a given exposure. That'll make DOF shallower, albeit only VERY slightly for a 1/3" camera like the XL2.

I just shot a quick-and-dirty DOF demo last night and will try to have it posted on my web site by the weekend. It CAN be done reasonably well by composing shots at the telephoto end. But, as you say, if one is SERIOUS about getting shallow depth of field with the XL2, a 3rd party device like you mentioned is what one needs.
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Old May 19th, 2005, 03:05 PM   #6
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You can get some surprisingly shallow depth-of-field from a smaller-CCD camera, but you have to get CLOSE. Really close. Uncomfortably close. The closer you can get, the shallower the DOF will be.

However, this is frequently a dead-end technique, because the closer you get, the more exaggerated the subject's nose will become in the shot. It usually makes for non-flattering photography.
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Old May 19th, 2005, 03:21 PM   #7
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During the last short I shot I cheated a bit with distances of objects to be able to do some rack-focusing (example, putting a bottle just in front of the lens and making it look like it's on a table at the other end of the room, by compressing the focal planes). It works, somewhat, but it's quite the trouble just to get out of focus areas, and the worst was that it didn't get close to film type out of focus, just a light blur. I had to apply a matte in post and blur it some more to finish the job. Yuk. I'm never doing that again. Isn't worth the trouble.

On the other hand, the added DOF adds creative possibilities too as far as freedom of movement goes. We too often only look at the downside. I just wish we could get very shallow DOF when needed and infinity focus when needed. That would be the ultimate visual toolbox.
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Old May 20th, 2005, 07:53 AM   #8
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To be clear about -3db gain, it'll help you get a little more control over DOF. It's no miracle cure, it's just one more step you can take, may not be enough though.
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Old May 20th, 2005, 09:59 AM   #9
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Chris, that -3dB thing is so obvious - except I never thought of it until I read your tip. Glad you mentioned it.

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Old May 20th, 2005, 11:31 AM   #10
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Here's another recent XL2 thread that also involves depth of field. I've got a link in that one to a quik-n-dirty DOF demo I posted on my web site last night.

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=44576

Not sure I'm ambitious enough to do an expanded demo to compare 0dB (which is what I shot the demo at) and -3dB...maybe if someone offers me a good German dark beer... ;-)
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Old May 20th, 2005, 12:19 PM   #11
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In addition to Chris's -3db trick, if you can control the light levels, you can also throw in some ND filtering then open the iris to compensate which will also help shallow the DOF.


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Old May 20th, 2005, 12:24 PM   #12
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Pete,

I've generally been of the same opinion as Boyd, that DOF is overrated and there are so many other variables in DV that are easily controllable, that I've not been too concerned with trying to fret over the "known limitations of DOF in DV".

After reviewing your 'Scratchpad' trial to typify DOF capability, I'm now inclined to try and actively use the capability you demonstrated, instead of ignoring the "known limitations of DOF in DV". Might not be great DOF, but it's certainly enough to work the effect into specifically controlled shots with a little setup effort.

Thanks for running the trial and posting the results!
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Old May 20th, 2005, 12:46 PM   #13
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I wouldn't say it's overrated. It's not everything of course, but saying DOF is overrated is like saying lighting is overrated. It is one tool out of many we filmmakers have to tell a story. It's not even about which is better between deep and shallow DOF, it's about being able to effectively use it when you need it to tell your story and compose your image the way you want.

Now it could probably be argued that shallow DOF originated as a physical limitation rather than a particular aesthetic, but now it is so unconsciously linked in our conditioned minds to that film look everybody aspires to that it cannot simply be diregarded as some fancy gimmick. If most videographers felt that way, PS-Technik would be out of business.
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Old May 20th, 2005, 01:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Lach
I wouldn't say it's overrated. It's not everything of course, but saying DOF is overrated is like saying lighting is overrated. It is one tool out of many we filmmakers have to tell a story. It's not even about which is better between deep and shallow DOF, it's about being able to effectively use it when you need it to tell your story and compose your image the way you want.

Now it could probably be argued that shallow DOF originated as a physical limitation rather than a particular aesthetic, but now it is so unconsciously linked in our conditioned minds to that film look everybody aspires to that it cannot simply be diregarded as some fancy gimmick. If most videographers felt that way, PS-Technik would be out of business.
Absolutely true David however, I am one who doesn't necessarily like shallow DOF because it seems contrary to the way my eyes work. I realize that it also started out as a way to control the clarity of the background because it made life easier in that the backgrounds didn't have to have such meticulous appearance because they could be blurred out and not be a distraction for the viewer.

JMO, of course

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Old May 20th, 2005, 02:00 PM   #15
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I appreciate this discussion very much -- helping me to understand the crafty use of cinematic "tricks."

I had never thought about it quite this way before, but the portion of the human sensor responsible for our sharp central focal vision, the macula, is only millimeters in diameter. A very small sensor! Although you can't fixate on both near and far objects at the same time, by simply holding up a finger at arm's length and noticing how little the background blurs you can tell that the depth of field of the human eye is more on par with a palmcorder or instamatic than a 35mm film camera.

Still, interpretation of depth of field is hard-wired into us and we ARE all conditioned to interpret depth from cinematic use of DOF. And of course, the cinematographer can use it to pull the viewer's attention from one portion of the frame to another as our eye naturally goes to the part that is in focus, as is routinely done in rack focusing.

Art and science really can't be divorced from each other!
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