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Canon XL H Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XL H1S (with SDI), Canon XL H1A (without SDI). Also XL H1.


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Old September 17th, 2006, 01:13 AM   #1
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Preset for filming darker skinned people

Hi there, I was wondering if anyone could help with thoughts on presets for filming mostly dark skinned people. I work with aboriginal people out in the desert and am using a reflector for outdoors but need more detail in the darker faces. I have the black set to stretch but would like your thoughts on other settings to achieve better detail.
Thankyou
Glenn
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Old September 17th, 2006, 02:00 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Taylor
Hi there, I was wondering if anyone could help with thoughts on presets for filming mostly dark skinned people.
Glenn, I would try to set in such case ro raise Master Pedestal and perhaps also Setup Level. Master Pedestal sets the lowest value of the gamma curve, which is to say, the darkest parts of the image. If you raise Master Pedestal dark areas become less dark. Setup level shifts the whole gamme curve, and thus, affects both the dark and bright end.

It's maybe also a good idea to try the Cine1 gamma curve. If I guess right, what happens is that when you set the aperture according to the dark skin, the rest of the image appears too bright. In such case the Cine1 or even Cine2 gamme curve should make the situation better.
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Old September 17th, 2006, 04:36 AM   #3
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Thankyou Lauri, I will give your suggestions a go. You are right-what I need is the best contrast range so as to not lose detail on the dark faces while shooting in relatively bright situations. I will let you know how I go.
Thanks again.
Glenn
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Old September 17th, 2006, 10:04 AM   #4
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The most important thing to consider, whatever scene file you end up with, is exposure. Even with film's latitude, holding detail in dark skin can be a problem.

I use the H1 as an exposure meter - don't trust the viewfinder because, as has been often mentioned, it's too bright even when adjusted -

Zoom in on the face, activate auto, reset to manual, then pull back to frame your shot. If the surroundings blow out (but, again, don't trust the finder) dial the exposure down slightly... but if the face is the important part of the shot, just let the background go... It helps sometimes to move around a little and get a dark background behind the subject (like a tree, or a shaded surface)...

Try a few tests using the little dial under the handle that lets you modify the "meter"... I find with dark African American skin that I tend to use +.25 or +.5...

When using the camera as a meter, remember that like all meters it will try to make white 18% grey... so if a solid white area looks good in the finder, it's probably stopped down too far, open up a couple so it looks bright... Experience will tell you how much in particular situations...
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Old September 17th, 2006, 10:30 AM   #5
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Also remember that a light meter will try to make an all black or largely black scene mid tone (18% sounds as if it's at the bottom of the scale but as the scale is not linear it is actually in the middle - Zone V). My approach is to not rely on the meter so much as the zebra stripes. If you set these for 100% anything that shows zebra stripes is over exposed. When you make the shot you increase expsure until zebra stripes show and then back down until nothing that you care about being overexposed shows zebra stripes (sometimes it is OK to have small bits of the picture blown out). This method gives you the maximum exposure you can tolerate and that's what you want for maximum shadow detail.

Personally I prefer to do the gamma tweaking in post. You have more flexibility that way and it's amazing how much detail can be pulled out of shadows. Arguments can be made, though, that it is better to do this in the camera based on the dynamic range of the compression/processing algorithms. It's impossible to make those arguements without knowing all the details of the in-camera processing which I don't so I won't advance or rebut them. Clearly the best way to do this is to flatten the dynamic range of the subject. Use of supplemental lighting and readings from an incident light meter can help balance things out.
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Old September 17th, 2006, 03:37 PM   #6
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it would help if you can get a gold bounce instead of just silver, dark skin usually photographs best in quite warm light, I have often lit African American faces with a tungsten balanced light while the camera was balanced for daylight. sometimes i'll gel the tungsten with 1/4 blue but quite often it looks best with full warmth.

soft light is also important, a really dark complexion will soak up a lot of light (as you know) so the tendency is to use a hard bounce to put as much light as possible on the face, the problem is that moist, shiny or tight skin will reflect hot spots (like on the forehead, tip of nose etc. while the darker areas of the face still remain dark, so what you need is a soft bounce moved in as close to the face as you can get it so that an even, not as easily reflected light can fill in everywhere, a soft gold bounce will also warm things up which will lend a sort of cocoa butter feel to the skin which typically photographs very well.
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Old September 19th, 2006, 09:25 AM   #7
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I don't use the zebra because I shoot documentaries and I have to keep Peaking on all the time because of the soft viewfinder...

I've also discovered with this camera, more than others, that it will fool you into underexposing if you aren't careful.. the over-bright viewfinder combined with zebra stripes set at 100% can cause you to dial down exposure to a point where shadows and mid-range become very muddy...

As I said, experience is the best sollution - practice - but even with that I still occasionally underexpose, especially building exteriors..

Can you tell I hate this viewfinder?
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