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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old July 4th, 2006, 01:02 AM   #1
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making it look like film

Thanks for your patience with me as I'm new to camera world (a director, not a dp).

Could you give some advice on how to make the XL2 look as much like film as possible? (both during shooting and in post?) Obviously, 24fps.

We are on a shoe-string budget. I have heard that using an ND filter outside so you can open the Fstop all the way up makes a nice film look.
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Old July 4th, 2006, 05:42 AM   #2
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I'm certainly not the most qualified person here to answer your question, but there is a slight chance that no one will answer it so I'll give it a shot.

First of all the nd filter/iris effect you're mentioning is only for depth of field. It will give you a shallow depth of field, but it wont alter the image in any other way.
Shallow DOF is beautiful and a very descriminative storytelling tool as you can control what the viewer is going to look at within a frame.

The reason why people rarely answer these types of questions is that they are so broad. there is no straightforward film setup that can be applied to your camera so everything you shoot will look like film.

There is great importance with knowledge in lightning and camera work to make it look filmlike.

A thing that i like that gives me satisfying images is to crush the blacks and keep noise reduction at high.

My answer is perhaps not that satisfying as it isn't that specific. but i hope it helps.
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Old July 4th, 2006, 09:04 AM   #3
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can you give more specifics as to what you mean when you say crush the blacks the up the noise? :)

It's a documentary so I don't have complete control over lighting all the time. Half of it will be outdoors and half indoors.

Specifically what camera settings/filters would look the most like a professional film/documentary?

Is there anything in post anyone would recommend? Upping the contrast seems to look really good!
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Old July 4th, 2006, 10:23 AM   #4
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Like Vedran said, there is no instant "film look" setting which can be applied to the XL2 (but do use 24p with 1/48 shutter) which will make all your footage look like film. Different lighting, and different environments will all affect the look of your footage.

Likewise, the way you shoot the footage will also affect its appearance in regards to film, i.e. shallow depth of field, lighting, framing, blocking, composition, aspect ratio, movement of the camera etc.

My advice for your question: Download the 'BlueBarn Pictures Presets Manager' (http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=48293) and play with the Custom Presets for hours, and hours, and just see what you come up with. Learn how each of the preset options affect the image, then apply what you learn at each and every setup. My favourite is the Amelie setting, looks great!

As for filters some people suggest the Tiffen Soft/FX 3 (72mm for the XL2), although i've never used it.

Finally, for post-production, my advice would be to use 'Magic Bullet' for After Effects, the 'Look Suite' presets that come with that program are marvellous and can really make already good footage look superb.

All the above in combination should give you a good finished product. But a simple instant setting will never accomplish what you are after.

One final thought: If the documentary content is compelling enough, I personally wouldn't worry about whether it looks like film or not, the content will speak for itself, just watch "Grizzly Man", almost entirely filmed on a tiny little 1 chip DV camera, but utterly compelling.
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Old July 4th, 2006, 01:07 PM   #5
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thanks for you advice. I agree about the content. It's actually a mockumentary though so it does need to look more like film than a real documentary.

What exactly is the documentary custom setting file and how does it compare to the amelie? (It's not my camera so I can't do it right now)
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Old July 4th, 2006, 03:12 PM   #6
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Ah, a mockumentary, well the film-look makes sense then!

The documentary preset is a standard non-stylised look for shooting documentary quick and rough, its a good workhorse preset (in my opinion), combine this with Magic Bullet, and some well thought out set ups, and I think you'd be on your way to a nice look.
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Old July 4th, 2006, 03:14 PM   #7
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IMHO, the 4 things that most often 'give away' the fact that something is being shot on video video are:

1. Not using depth of field
2. Not using lighting setups 'like film sets use.' (this is not as much about spending money on having 'more' lights as it is about using 'common' setups, such as key lights, rim lights, etc...)
3. Not having actors who know how to act for film
3a. Not having a director who knows how to shoot for film
4. Making camera movements that give away the fact that you're using a 10 pound camera, not a 75 pound one.

Of course each of these items is a topic in itself. What I do know is that I regularly produce footage with my XL2 which is 'so film-like' that people can't tell the difference. How do I do it? I have all 4 of the above items thoroughly covered... Which means I surround myself with great people who really know their jobs, and they make me look good (and vice-versa).

Regards,

~J
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Old July 4th, 2006, 04:15 PM   #8
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Okay, so is there any other way to utilize depth of field aside from using the ND filter and opening up the fstop?

As for lighting, how does this apply to a mockumentary? Obviously outside the sun is the light. But following people around inside means we have to have stationary lights most of the time that don't move. However, the talking heads we can light well. We have two halogen work lights that don't have barn doors. We can get gells if we need them (already have bastard amber) and I'm getting blackwrap to take the place of barndoors. We also have several clip on lights with white and amber floods.

Any advice on how to set the lights up for just a normal close up would be greatly appreciated!
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Old July 4th, 2006, 04:55 PM   #9
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Using strictly your XL2, ND filter + lighting + move far away and zoom in + open the iris is the only way to get depth of field. There are products such as the Mini35 (http://www.mini35.de/) and M2 (http://www.redrockmicro.com/) which use additional still photography 35mm lenses to give greater DOF. I personally am an M2 user, and I *love* it.

As far as lighting goes, the most standard lighting setup 'in the world' is the simple 3-light setup. It consists of:

1. A key light (positioned more or less behind the camera pointed directly at the actor)
2. A fill light (positioned at a 45 degree angle to the actors face, sometimes using a gel to 'give color' and additional depth to one side of the face)
3. A back light (used to light whatever the background behind the actor is which gives additional seperation between the actor and the background.)

A fourth light, called the rim light can be positioned above and slightly behind the actor in order to light the 'rim' of the hair on their head which helps further seperate the actors head from the background in cases where (for example), you have a dark background, and the actor has dark hair.

My best suggestion for learning about lighting is to go down to your local bookstore and spend a couple hours flipping through books on lighting techniques in the photography section. Most everything that applies to still photography lighting also applies to video/film lighting.

Regards,

~J
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Old July 4th, 2006, 05:19 PM   #10
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I read several articles online about 3-point lighting and I think I have a handle on it. I'm thinking of using the two worklights as the key and rim light and one of the clip lights as a fill light.

I was thinking about how to keep nice 3 point lighting in a 3d space where the camera follows people around and the lights can't move. When we are indoors we are following the people making a film. So the lights they are supposedly using for their "film" can double as the actual lighting for the mockumentary.

What about having two high work lights on opposing diagonal corners which double as key and rim lights. And in the other opposing diagonal corners of the room lower fill lights. That way no matter where you are in the room you will get a key on one side, a fill on the other, and a rim light behind. Since the worklights will be higher than the eyeline they won't glare in the camera and the fills will be indirect. The lights can be seen in the shot because they are also working props. What do you think? Would that work?
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Old July 4th, 2006, 05:29 PM   #11
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btw, what nd filter would you recommend?
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Old July 4th, 2006, 05:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Grant
I read several articles online about 3-point lighting and I think I have a handle on it. I'm thinking of using the two worklights as the key and rim light and one of the clip lights as a fill light.

I was thinking about how to keep nice 3 point lighting in a 3d space where the camera follows people around and the lights can't move. When we are indoors we are following the people making a film. So the lights they are supposedly using for their "film" can double as the actual lighting for the mockumentary.

What about having two high work lights on opposing diagonal corners which double as key and rim lights. And in the other opposing diagonal corners of the room lower fill lights. That way no matter where you are in the room you will get a key on one side, a fill on the other, and a rim light behind. Since the worklights will be higher than the eyeline they won't glare in the camera and the fills will be indirect. The lights can be seen in the shot because they are also working props. What do you think? Would that work?

Sounds like that might work... It's kinda difficult to get super-detailed over the internet, and with only a rough idea of the specifics of your shoot, as I'm sure you can understand! :-) The 'rule of thumb' that I usually go by is: the more flexibility I want to move freely within an environment, the more diffusion I'm going to need on my lighting, and/or the more lights I'm going to need. It sounds like your budget might be tight, but I love the diffusion and flexibility I can get out of using softboxes...

The other thing to maybe think about is that if you have enough crew to accomplish it, you can do a lot with bounce fills, which as super cheap because you don't need any additional lighting instruments to use them (just a couple pieces of cardboard spray painted white on one side and black on the other if you're really strapped for cash.

As for an ND filter recommendation... Unless you're using something other than the stock 20x lens, you've got ND filters built right into the camera...

Regards,

~J
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Old July 4th, 2006, 06:55 PM   #13
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For the same price as an XL2 you can get a used Bolex and a couple hundred feet of 16mm and have the film-look you desire. Or even rent a camera package.

The XL2 will give you a fantastic picture and a sharpness most cameras would kill for. But, it is still a video camera, and it's mechanics prevent it from giving you the same image quality and depth as film cameras do. It's strengths, however, outweigh it's 'video' look; true 16:9, 24p, nice lenses, beautiful color, portability, reliability... I could go on forever!

To get the best image out of the camera, light and light well! Most people will fail to get the full quality out of the camera by underlighting the shot. And I don't necessarily mean all kinds of expensive and fancy light setups. SO much can be done with regular old metal bowl lights and chinese lanterns. And never underestimate the sun! Bounce light in or open some windows. Video will get grainy in low-light situations (on any camera).

ND filters work well for what you describe, but you're not going to see the resulting DOF from the larger aperture unless the shot is framed as such. If you're focusing on something 8 feet from you, the shallow DOF won't be as noticeable as if it was 1 foot in front of you.

With good lighting and good sound recording, and of course good camera-work, most people won't notice if it's film or video, and if the story and characters are top notch most people won't even care.
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Old July 4th, 2006, 10:47 PM   #14
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The XL2 has 2 stages of ND built in, you might want to throw a Polarizer or Promist filter on it sometimes. Polarizers can help reduce glare outside and a Promist can tale the digital "edge" off things. I absolutely do NOT recommend EVER turning the NR on "high" it should be off unless you have the gain on. If you have to use gain, turn the NR on LOW and turn down the sharpness a little.

As far as film look adjustments...depends on what you are after. I am not sure a doc look should have crushed blacks, etc. Maybe just choose cine gamma and matrix and turn the setup level and master pedestal down a bit. You can use the lens long (from 10X to 20X zoom) to get a shallow DOF. So many people think film look is about settings and frame rates when it is actually about FRAMING, movement, lighting, etc. I shot stuff in 60i for YEARS that people often commented on how it looked film like...



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Old July 4th, 2006, 11:48 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
So many people think film look is about settings and frame rates when it is actually about FRAMING, movement, lighting, etc. I shot stuff in 60i for YEARS that people often commented on how it looked film like...
Well said, I couldn't agree more.

Regards,

~J
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