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Old February 1st, 2002, 08:28 PM   #1
Quantum Productions
 
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XL1 basic questions

I've been a user of this camera (XL1) since 1998 for mostly wedding videos. I have a few questions regarding some of the 'basic' 'modes' on this camera. I usally use the "A" mode for almost everything, especially at a wedding where you have no time to think of what buttons you're going to select. You just turn on and record as fast as you can sometimes!

When watching back footage I notice times when the picture looks "pro" quality and other times when it looks like an "amature" quality. I review the dislpay settings and notice some common settings at the time such as the F stop and shutter speed. I did some testing with the same movements and lighting and tried almost every combo of settings I could think of. Too fast shutter speeds look 'strobby' and too slow look 'blury' etc (I assume for 'fast' moving objects). The F stop is mostly for effect (depth of field). This is all basic stuff for most users but I'm wondering if there is a 'mode' I should use with this camera to get the "sharpest, clearest" picture? I know lighting plays the biggest part in all of this. I hate that half the time the footage looks excellent and the other half it looks like an 8 mm camcorder! I assume it's the "auto mode"?

Also the "gain" dial? If I use the "A" selection won't it go up to the +12db automatically in the dark? So why even use it? Leave it on "auto"? The only other reason to leave it on a selected setting would be if I wanted the camera's bightness to not change when moving to a 'dark or light area". Does it make a difference using a selected "db" for any other reason other than "auto"?

Also the AE Shift dial? It's good for cutting down when using a light on a subject too close but what is it 'really' for compared with the gain dial? (I know I should know by now!)

"Exp Lock" does most of these functions for you. You like the settings, then lock it? Is this what most use it for??

I know all this is basic camera functions and I should really know all this by now but I would like some info on this. Some of the XL1's dials seem to do the 'same' thing. I'm not making movies or documentaries yet but would just like the clearest, sharpest picture at all times if possible. I know this camera will do it but conditions change all the time.

Thanks in advance everyone...!
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Old February 2nd, 2002, 08:11 AM   #2
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Use the settings/modes that work for you. The "A" (auto) setting gives automatic exposure but does allow manual overrides for some settings, unlike green box which is all automatic. The "A" produces good results for average conditions.

Increasing gain increases the noise level and apparent grain of the image. Using manual gain setting will keep the noise level consistent in your footage. But it could lead to underexposed footage if you run out of aperture and shutter speed range. Does not function in Green box or Spotlight modes.

The AE shift allows you to change the set point used by the auto exposure metering system in Auto, Tv and Av modes. You can use it to cause the metering to keep the image brighter or darker. Helpful for non-average image conditions that might otherwise 'fool' the metering.

Exposure lock to lock exposure when in Auto, Tv or Av mode.

Using manual focus means more work for you, but can prevent focus hunting, expecially when someone cuts/walks through the image in front of the main point of interest.

Turning off OIS can reuslt in smoother pans with no lag at the start of the pan and no overshoot when the pan stops

Don't forget that a lot of the pro-vs.amateur look has to do with camera moves, angles, managing zoom, lighting, handling, and editing (only show the good shots) that are not part of the control systems.
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Old February 2nd, 2002, 09:58 AM   #3
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Adam,

Here are some of the things I use the various controls for, you might find some useful.

Main Dial

I always shoot in either TV(shutter prioity) or AV(F stop priority) depending on the subject/effect.

Gain

I always shoot with this on -3db. It effectively underexposes the camera a little thus cutting down some of the notorious video colour popping or blowouts. It also makes your blacks black and the image clear and noise free.

Exposure Compensation

When shooting in snow I always set the dial to +1.5. As the snow is white it reflects lots of light into the camera so the light meter shuts down the F stop and you end up with grey snow. I use a polariser to bring the detail back into the snow

Lens

Focus - manual, remembering to set critical focus
OIS - always off when on a tripod
ND - rarely used as I always use a polariser outdoors.

As Don said "a lot of the pro-vs.amateur look has to do with camera moves, angles, managing zoom, lighting, handling, and editing" so practise these things as much as possible, as technology can't replace a good eye and good technique

One more thing, when shooting a wedding, good pre-planning is as important as the shooting it's self. Visit the church before hand if you have time to see what your up against, and remember to consider weather changes. Don't be afraid to take charge as much as you can with out being obtrusive, these people pay money for their special day so get the best shots you can. Move the piano that extra foot if you have to.

Just don't tell the bride;)
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Old February 2nd, 2002, 10:43 AM   #4
debbbbgk
 
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Another thing to add to the "best look" for you footage is to set the white balance.

Bring a piece of white board with you (always handy - it can double as a cheap reflector in your lite kit!!).

Set the white balance knob to manual (little icon that looks like a triangle pointing down into a square ... I think ... working from memory and my brains a bit slow this morning)

hold white board in front of camera (with nothing else in the shot) and push in the white balance button to set it ... the triangle/box icon will flash in the view finder for a few seconds and then you will see your picture quality become wonderfully balanced for the scene!

deb
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Old February 2nd, 2002, 11:30 AM   #5
Quantum Productions
 
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Thanks for the helpful tips everyone!

I was wondering about the gain button and setting it to a fixed position as said by AfterburnerDV. This would help keep my 'grain' level a t a set amount as it is always changing during taping.
The 'pro' look I talked about is in reference to the 'clarity & sharpness' of the video image at certain points of my taping. When viewing the details on the screen of the 'good & bad' images I notice the apeture & shutter speed settings. In the 'A' mode the camera will use 16f alot of the times. This I know cause a 'fuzzy' looking image do to the diffraction problem. Using the "AV" mode should fix this but at a wedding reception I will be in need of more light. I read that the 5.6f is a 'sweet spot' but it's not always that easy to stay with.

Thanks again all for the help, now back to some more testing with my new added info before all those 'wonderful' weddings begin!
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Old February 2nd, 2002, 01:26 PM   #6
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First, re: manual gain

Let's say you're exposure is 1/60th at f/2 @0dB gain. For this video, you decide you need a wider field of focus. You need f/4. Generally you want to stay at 1/60th but going to f/4 will be too dark unless you dial in an extra 12dB of gain. This is done for you in auto and manual with auto gain "on" or you could dial it in with the gain knob. If you wanted full manual control, you must also have the gain knob on a manual setting too. Otherwise it will compensate for your manual exposure to still give you what the meter thinks is a proper exposure. So if you were in manual exp. but still had the gain on auto, and were intentionally trying to underexpose something (according to the meter) the auto gain would still try to bump it back up to what it thinks is right.

When you say amateurish, you're not giving me much to go on, but the most likely thing is getting proper exposure. If you live with using existing light, you don't really get much control, so that can add to your trouble. Any zebra'd area is going to be too hot unless it's white. So stay out of there!

If you always shoot in manual, leaving your shutter speed around 1/60th and matching your f/stop to what the meter tells you, you might as well shoot in an auto type mode. It's going to give you the same settings. It is also much faster to shoot since it figures the settings out for you.

The point of manual is that you are overriding, or at least thinking of overrriding what the meter is normally calling for. Again, manual isn't truly manual unless you set the gain to one of its marked settings. It is the best, but it is time consuming and troubling if you're lighting suddenly changes. Particularly when you have to change gain as well as f/stops and shutter speeds. Or when you shoot one area that's lit great and pan over to one that's not. Your exposure will LOOK varied but it's the overall lighting that changed, not your exposure SETTINGS. So manual needs some attention to it as opposed to Auto which is basically, pick it up and hit record.

AE Lock and AE Shift are quick fixes that give you the benefits of shooting in manual while still keeping the dial in "auto." But each has it's drawbacks.

Let's start with the AE Shift function. It's extremely handy. The cam begins to set the exposure and then you tell it to lighten or darken it. If the subject is ALWAYS against a white wall, I'd probably stay in auto (not the green mode) and dial in a +1 to +1.5 AE Shift. Against black (or using the on-camera light where the background always goes black), -1 to -2. It's like going in to manual and tweaking the brightness a bit (to a lot) up or down, but you're still in speedy auto and possibly still using the auto gain. But if your subject brightness changes often, it can be disturbing.

Assuming equal lighting, if your subject wanders from a white wall to middle tone wall to a black wall, in auto, you're are not going to have good luck unless he's by the middle tone wall. The background will fool the meter to expose to dark when the white wall is present and go to light as the black wall is in the scene. AE Shift won't help because the background is always changing.

In that scene, you might lock the exposure on the middle tone wall and shoot away, the exposure won't vary. His skin tone doesn't change, the light's the same, so why should your exposure? It's best when shooting ONE tricky scene at a time. But... you are now locked.

If you began, in manual, by metering the middle area you can still make slight adjustments while shooting. Perhaps you realize that your initial setting is too dark, you can just change your exposure slightly. But if you were locked, you're going to have to start over as opposed to just making that slight shift on the fly. And this could be both tricky as well as a drastic change in the scene's exposure.

So while they all do sort of the same thing (help you toward a perfect exposure), they each can come in handy, depending on your particular need.

White balance is also a major contributor to making the scene look the way it should. And changes in light on the dance floor will make things shift, too. I'd try to manually white balance (lit by house lights) on a table cloth and once the dj fires up the red and blue lights, they will look red and blue instead of automatically "balancing" the scene back to white.

But at receptions, things will likely be dark on the lower half of the image (suits, people, floor) and light on the top (background walls. faces, DJ's lighting. etc.). This is hard for the meter to keep up with. You've got to properly meter skin tone and let the rest of it fall where it should. I suspect that the cam is trying to overexpose this scene for you (because of the darker areas) and you're left with blacks that are a bit too grey and or grainy and faces that are too white. Manual is going to be best. But if your scene changes (going from a well lit head table to a dimly lit banquet table, it's YOU who will have to keep up the proper exp., not the camera. AE Shift is great, too, just find a white area (men's collars often work well) in your picture and dial it up or down to get a hint of zebras to appear.
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Old February 2nd, 2002, 01:59 PM   #7
Quantum Productions
 
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Good info 1 JoPhoto!

What I meant by 'amature' looking was that bad exposure, lighting, single chip camera look. Especially in wide shots. Just from watching my footage I know that the XL1's footage can look great. I've been reading up more on basic still camera photography as I'm sure it will help. The XL1 manual tells you basics of what each setting does but it sure helps to hear from people who use these dials for different shootings!

I've learned so much from this Dv community in regards to my XL1! (thanks Chris!). This is a good thread! It's getting clearer now...in my head and in my view finder!
I'm just switching to DVD's for all my customers now as they all are requesting it! Good-bye VHS...I hope....


thx....
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Old February 3rd, 2002, 12:25 PM   #8
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> Move the piano that extra foot if you have to. Just don't tell the bride;)

A word of caution here. Some wedding venues have wedding coordinators and rules that make Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" seem like a reasonable guy. Best to find out what the rules are, and befriend those in charge to be sure that you do not foul out. Even if you get away with it this time, you could have poisoned the well for others, and be banned from working that venue.
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Old February 3rd, 2002, 11:30 PM   #9
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Don is right,

I didn't mean to just wade on in boots and all. I was refering to not just taking a 'well this shot will just have to do attitude'. Weddings are very complex and stressful affairs and there are many people involved with the planning, so many factors have to be considered.

This is why I don't shot weddings anymore unless someone asks me really nicely.
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Old February 3rd, 2002, 11:49 PM   #10
Quantum Productions
 
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That's why I have the customer sign a contract sheet I made. It's has details regarding situations if I'm am not able to get 'a good line of site shot' for the production. Mostly it's the person doing the ceremony, due to their church's religious 'rules'. It's never been a major problem, I just go with flow! Besides, I can still sneak in a good shot between a chair, piano, plant and someone's fat behind! I use the other camera to fix any bad shots I make anyway.
I really get tired of weddings but they keep calling me! Good thing I haven't ever advertised. By now I can almost predict everything they're all are going to say, do, etc.! People are so predictable. It's funny how they think their the first to do something! It makes it easy for those 'reaction shots'! But I'm happy they help pay my bills. (sorry, way off topic!)
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Old February 4th, 2002, 11:17 AM   #11
gratedcheese
 
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Adam:

Could you share with us the contract that you use when shooting a wedding? (I fully understand if you would rather not; or if you don't mind sharing it, I could always just send you my email address if you don't want to post it here). I hope to try my hand at weddings once I have the equipment.

-- Alan
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Old February 4th, 2002, 05:47 PM   #12
Quantum Productions
 
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I don't mind but the email link won't work via this site. I guess for protection. I'll have to send it to a site and send you the link. I downloaded it from another site and modified it to my own company. Everyone signs it no problem. (I'm not sure if I'm aloud to paste the whole thing on this thread, so I won't.
Here's a quote from it.

1b) It is understood that the studio has the priority for the acquisition of video footage. This condition is of utmost importance to the natural flow, creativity and sequence of the photography, without the distractions likely to occur. It is the responsibility of the family and friends to assist in enforcing this policy.
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Old February 5th, 2002, 02:55 PM   #13
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Looks like something I saw at Mikes site..
http://www.videographersforum.com/

Pretty decent basic contract. I suggest getting his wedding video package though as it has all kinda contracts, and info to help wedding videographers.
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