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Old May 9th, 2010, 06:40 PM   #1
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Need Shooting Advice

Dear Friends,

I will be shooting the next shuttle launch with one Toshbia HD-SDI POV camera (with a good lens) and two Canon XL H1's (original models) with the original 20X lens.

(I could go with a Canon L-Series 300mm lens which will give me an effective Focal Length of 2,160 mm, but no image stabalization. It may be very difficult to track the vehicle after launch with this lens.)

Each camera will have a nanoFlash.

I will most likely be on top of the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB), about 3.3 miles from the pad.
Alternatively, I could shoot from the Press Area (solid ground), also about 3.3. miles from the pad.

Obviously I want to get the best images possible. I have only one chance, but I can set up the two identical cameras separately. One will be zoomed in on the vehicle, other other may be slightly wider.

I am looking for suggestions for the proper exposure and other considerations.

The roof of the VAB (and the whole building) is subject to shaking by the wind. I will have the Cestron Tripod isolators on each tripod.

Normally, when using a tripod, one should turn off the image stabilizer. However, in this situation, I feel that the image stabilizer may actually help stabilize the image. The cameras will be on tripods.

Should I use Image Stabilization?

If I manually expose for the image, prior to the launch, I am assuming that the Solid Rocket Booster will be overexposed as soon as we have ignition.

I want "Pretty Images", but I also want to see the detail of the entire launch vehicle.

I am afraid if I put the camera on automatic exposure, then the brightness of the exhaust will darken the vehicle.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
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Old May 9th, 2010, 07:14 PM   #2
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Hi Dan,

I recently just bought the Nanoflash for my XL H1S!!!!

I would keep IS on despite being on tripods ... it'll help more than be a detriment.

You should definitely manual expose as the booster will fool the auto into thinking its too bright.

Also, if you need to use gain at any point, read my post here... the Nanoflash footage responds incredibly well to NeatVideo.

Canon XL H1S + Nanoflash + Neatvideo = Awesome!

Let me know if you have any questions ... I've used the XL H1 since it came out (currently with the 'S' version).
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Old May 9th, 2010, 07:37 PM   #3
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Dear Michael,

It is very nice to hear that you now have a nanoFlash for your XL H1.

I agree with your advice.

I get to setup and practice on Thursday, the launch is on Friday, so I have a chance to see if I have everything right.
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Old May 9th, 2010, 08:17 PM   #4
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This is How to Do it

Hi Dan:
Congratulations on your decision to use not one, but two (2) Canon XL H1's for capturing the shuttle launch. Do you remember the wonderful on board computer on those babies ? Please set your gamma curve to CINE 1. This will push your blacks and stretch your highlights to more than surprisingly handle the 3 plus stops difference between ignition and non-ignition. Now, you won't be able to actually *see* the difference in your viewfinder (Not so wonderful), but on a good HD-SDI monitor you will see wonderful results ! I mean really wonderful results !

In post you will need to tweak a little primary and possibly some slight secondary color correction, but now in the areas where you get *apparent* burn out, you will now be able to bring back every single detail which may look at first glance to be gone. Folks who don't know about the great secrets of the Canon XL H1's incredible on board exposure and color computer (and how to use it) don't know how the XL H1 can produce footage which looks looks like it was shoot with 2/3rds inch hyper HAD CCD's !

DO NOT go onto the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. DO USE the 300 MM Canon on one H1 and the stock 20 X Canon lens on the other XL H1. Put both cameras on tripods on the ground and sand bag them both down. On the 20 x stock lens DO USE image stabilization.

Best of success Dan !

P.S. Put the POV camera on the roof of the VAB.
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Old May 9th, 2010, 08:49 PM   #5
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Dear Mark,

Thanks for the advice.

I will check out the vibration of the VAB is on Thursday and check the weather for the winds on Friday.

The view from the top of the VAB is awe inspiring. It used to be the highest point in Florida, and it may still be.

When you mentioned the "Computers on these babies", were you referring to the computers in the Space Shuttle, or in the XL H1? I have always been very impressed with the images of an XL H1, especially when a proper custom preset is used and the signal is recorded via a Flash XDR or nanoFlash.

I worked for NASA, in the 60's, during the Apollo program. I worked as a Flight Control Systems Engineer Tr. (The Tr. stood for trainee.)

Our section, "Flight Control" was responsible for the test and checkout of the Flight Control Computer of the Saturn 1B and Saturn V. Thus I was am very familar with the computer on the Saturn Launch Vehicles, but I only know a little about the computers on the Space Shuttle.

I use Alister Chapman's preset for the XL H1, except that I use Cine 1, just as you suggest.
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Old May 9th, 2010, 10:06 PM   #6
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The Canon XL H1 On Board Exposure & Color Computer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
Dear Mark,

Thanks for the advice.

When you mentioned the "Computers on these babies", were you referring to the computers in the Space Shuttle, or in the XL H1?
....I was referring to the computer built into the Canon XL H1.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
have always been very impressed with the images of an XL H1, especially when a proper custom preset is used and the signal is recorded via a Flash XDR or nanoFlash.
....Yes indeed. Folks hear of the XL H1's HDV recorder and 1/3 rd inch CCD's and walk away, but they often fail to grasp the *very powerful advantage* of the H1's exposure & image computer, which provides so much extra control over the tailoring of the image as to surpass what many shooters are getting out of their EX-1's and 3's. If you couple this with the ability to switch out the glass to some very much higher quality glass (Not to mention the wonderful XL H1 stock wide angle zoom !), then you have a killer camera. If you plug the H1 into a Nano Flash or a Flash XDR, then you surpass the boundaries of a prosumer camera and march proudly across the threshold into broadcast camera heads which cost way more money. If we could get to an uncompressed recording solution out of the uncompressed HD-SDI output of the H1, then the use of this camera for digital cinema origination would be killer !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
worked for NASA, in the 60's, during the Apollo program. I worked as a Flight Control Systems Engineer Tr. (The Tr. stood for trainee.)

Our section, "Flight Control" was responsible for the test and checkout of the Flight Control Computer of the Saturn 1B and Saturn V. Thus I was am very familar with the computer on the Saturn Launch Vehicles, but I only know a little about the computers on the Space Shuttle.
...I remember watching the first man to touch down his feet on the moon live !. I was 5 years old and I was amazed by the crude B&W images on our family's General Electric 19 inch TV set ! You folks who worked on the NASA Apollo Project accomplished real awe inspiring greatness ! I wonder if folks today even bother to consider the stunning implications of being able to put human beings on other planets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
use Alister Chapman's preset for the XL H1, except that I use Cine 1, just as you suggest.
....I haven't tried Alister's Preset. Where was that one posted Dan ?
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Old May 10th, 2010, 07:45 AM   #7
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Dear Mark,

I use Alister Chapman's preferred Custom Preset: AC Pref 1.

XL H1 Custom Presets Download Library

I modify the GAM setup option to suit my needs, either Normal or Cine 1.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 09:03 AM   #8
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Hi Dan,

Will you have 2 camera ops? Or is one locked off ,and one will be operated? If the latter, I'd use the 20X lens on wide (check framing) on the ground with a sand bag as Mark had explained. Then shoot 2nd camera on the VAB either with a 20X's lens or 300mm depending on your framing on the top (I can't visualize what it would look like, so you'd have to bring both, and decide then which one to use). 300mm though can be constricting as you probably won't have much time to move the camera back and forth for your framing, as well as it's a long piece of glass, so make sure you balance it on your tripod the best that you can, as well as if on a fluid head (sachtler,miller) make sure you click the tilt tabs so that your able to tilt 90 degrees.
I'd personally wouldn't use IS, but it also depends on the stability of the tripod your using, as well as weather conditions....
What lens are you using on the Toshiba POV Camera, if it's ultra-wide, see if you could set-up the camera in the media spot for remote stills, or somewhere closer than where the other two cams are set-up. I've seen some still photos that look as if the camera was undernieth the shuttle!
I also agree that your exposure should be manual as well, but isn't the iris on the XLH1 a click wheel? If so, shooting solely with a 300mm lens, watch out from camera shake as you expose for your shot!!! I remember shooting on an XL2 and it was the most painful process of that camera, until I spent the money for the 16X manual lens.....so it all comes down to practicing before the day. Try panning and focusing and exposing on a moving car and see how you go....it's tough, but after some practice it should be manageable....I hope!!
As far as camera settings, I think Mark and other that actually use the cam could guide ya on that one.....
And one last thing....it's a space shuttle launch, you could be anywhere around it and get great shots, so don't sweat the small stuff!!!
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Old May 10th, 2010, 10:02 AM   #9
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Dear Fletcher,

I may have two camera operators.

One may be mounted on a special multi-camera mount, controlled by a camera operator.

I will be taking two Sachtler tripods, with sandbags.

I will be testing everything on Thusday. The exposure is a click wheel, but it is easy to change while shooting. I expect to expose for the vehicle itself and allow the exhaust to be blown out, as I want to see the details of the shuttle.

Thank you for your suggestions.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 12:19 PM   #10
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There should be plenty of people who have shot the shuttle launches who can advise better than I, however, here are my thoughts.


My personal preference for the two-camera rig would be not to use image stabilisation. A perfectly tracked moving object may be made to appear hoppy as the IS tries to compensate for the movement. Providing your long lens view is maintained in the frame, your linked wide-camera follow should be silky smooth and have no need for IS at all.


For ground-to-airs of aircraft, I have been using the wide camera to aquire in flight and then my camera with long lens which is a zoom set wide.

I have been using a 50mm - 500mm Sigma zoom but this has been attached to an aerial image adaptor ( groundglass adaptort with groundglass removed ) which brought the image plane the long lens was projecting onto to a width of about 20mm. This brings the effective magnification towards the ballpark of what you are chasing.

Once I aquire the aircraft, I zoom in. If the aircraft flies out of my frame and is gone by the time I zoom back wide, I look to the wide-view camera and centre the aircraft which usually comes back into the frame.


A big problem for you is going to be the transition from groundlevel to high-overhead. Your tripod centre should be high enough for you to see the groundlevel view with your neck slightly craned because it is likely once you begin to tilt, the viewfinder is going to move both back toward you as well as closer to the ground and you will have to both stoop under and crank your neck to follow,

You could swing the viewfinder eyepiece up as you tilt up but if you ever lose the follow, that will the end of it because you will not be able to re-aquire without dropping the eyepiece level and stooping under.

Ideally the viewfinder should be at the tilt pivot centreline of the tripod head but in reality, unless you have a side pivoting head, the viewfinder.

I tend to use the LCD screens on the cameras as the switch from one to the other is much easier. If I use the eyepience on the long-lens camera I use the LCD on the wide-view camera as my reference to require.

Because of the glare, you will need somebody to umbrella you. Hoodmans can be an awkward option as you cannot always be in the right position to look into them.

With practice and if you take care to tape the eyepiece viewfinder into an exact position to match the centres of your natural stereoscopic vision, it is quite possible to use your left eye as a sighting eye with right eye on viewfinder. The views are different sizes but it works well enough. I find I can do this up to about 100mm focal length.

I assume you will be south of the launch pad which will make the follow of the vehicle initially a tilt upward then will introduce a right pan as it transitions into an easterly direction.

This motion may introduce a complication for you in that with increasingly elevated tilt positions, the pan motion increaslingly introduces a "dutch" motion to the image as you follow. The interaction of your tilt and pan inputs is not balanced but gradually changes.

Think of yourself as being in the centrepoint of a deep narrow upside-down cone.

The harmonisation of my cameras (alignment of centre of frame view of both cameras) is checked and adjusted on a distant object on the day.

Composition-wise, your wide-camera view is going to look un-natural unless you bias the centre to the upper edge of your long camera view so that there is noseroom on the wide-camera view.

To some extent, the smoke plume will compensate and maybe even you might want to choose to put the centre of the wide view low so that the smoke plum occurpies the frame with the aircraft an increasingly small spot at the top.

This is at best, a compromised wide view which rarely looks quite right in composition and framing because with distance and angle of view, you would normally adjust your framing but in this instance, you cannot adjust it whilst following with the long lens.

The upside is that when you are following with the long lens, the linked wide-camera follow on the subject will be the absolute smoothest.

Aquiring and following with a fixed focal length long lens instead of a zoom is a harder task. You cannot adjust the composition of your linked wide camera view because you cannot zoom your long lens wider to compensate for the wide view being off-centre.

The upside is you will not need to crook your arm around the wide-view camera out of its view to get at the zoom on the long lens. My contortions when working this rig have to be seen to be believed. This is why the sports broadcast lenses are power operated.


I assume your second operator is doing a locked off horizon low extreme wide shot where the shuttle will be doing all the work and painting a trail through the frame.


Assuming the craft is flying due east, the most easy follow for you will be from a position directly west of the launch as there should be a tilt component only and if you want to slightly disharmonise the wide and long views for better composition of the wide view, the offset need only be vertical.


For following aircraft which would move left or right across the frame, I got a bit cunning and made a small undersize second stud on the wide-camera base mount and left the tripod screw soft-tight which enabled me to give nose room on the wide shots in horizotonal follows by skewing the camera to its limit left or right.

It never ever worked to my satisfaction and I ended up choosing to compose a wide follow and lose the long lens view for a while as I built confidence in being able to re-aquire when I wanted to for the long view back again.


I would recommend you find yourself a tower or building with a visible elevator in use and practice your follows on the elevator car, particularly losing the shot and re-aquiring it. Position yourself fairly close-in so that you have to tilt high in your follows.

You will then find the most comfortable option of the uncomfortable posture you will have to adopt and build an intuition with your rig that will serve you well on the day.

Once you have given the tower a workout, try an airport or wild birds for practice. This is not quit evlaid practice as the movement is mainly horiztonal. If you can hold on wild birds in the air and practice on the elevator, the shuttle should be no big deal.


I would recommend that you choose an in-camera ND setting which will put the long-lens iris in the ballpark of about f5.6 - f8. If you have this lens iris closed down tight to f16 or tighter, you may see some shadow blemishes on the image from dust motes inside the lens or on your camera sensor especially as the craft becomes smaller against a blue sky.


If you can conveniently do so, I would fit a second tripod handle on the head, facing forward and down and have the rear tripod handle facing upward and slightly out to the right for max clearance of the legs so you don't get caught with a locked tripod. The front handle is convenient for developing a seesaw movement across the head pivot which will make for smoother follows with less overshoot and backoff.


My personal tripod preference is to use old heavy Millers which have no cam spring in them. Take care to position the tripod legs so you don't kick them in your walkaround. If you set the legs narrow so you can walk around but are apprehensive about pulling it over, it might be helpful to deeply drive a stout tentpeg angled into the ground and pull the tripod down firm to the peg with a rope and tension knot or tent rope tensioner tied off under the centre of the head.



http://exposureroom.com/members/DARA...9cd2678f8ecfe/


SECOND PHOTO OF RIG FOR IMAGING AIRCRAFT. By Bob Hart On ExposureRoom

http://exposureroom.com/members/DARA...cb9faa0ae4a16/


For the clip, a 1084mm MTO is a bit of overkill and a handful to manage even though it is a mirror lens and shorter than a refractive 1000mm. You will observe toward the end of the clip where I lost the aircraft and re-aquired using the wide-view camera.


I tried to upload the image here but it would not take. - invalid file.


I hope this is a help and not a distraction.

Last edited by Bob Hart; May 10th, 2010 at 01:06 PM. Reason: ADDED url
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Old May 10th, 2010, 12:35 PM   #11
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Hi Dan,

I have no advice of value to add to the excellent suggestions you've been given so far except to say that you should consider using the 300mm lens plus EF to XL adapter on one of the XL H1 cameras, just because it will give you a telescopic field of view of equal to a 2100mm lens. As long as it's tripod mounted (what other way is there?), then the lack of IS should not be an issue. But it will require the full concentration of the operator to track the very rapid ascent of the shuttle. I think this lens combination should be able to easily resolve SRB separation.

To me, the big advantage of shooting from the VAB is that the point of view of looking down at the launch pad is uncommon relative to the other viewing sites.

I will be there as well, not to photograph so much as to simply experience the launch of STS-132. My wife and I will be watching from NASA's Banana River site adjacent to the Saturn V museum. If your schedule allows, perhaps we could meet after the launch at the visitor's center... we're staying on the Cape afterwards until the traffic dies down. Maybe I should follow up w/ you via email.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 01:57 PM   #12
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Dear Bob,

I appreciate all of the excellent advice.

I will not be operating the Multiple Camera Rig so I do not have to worry about tracking on this rig.

I will be almost due West of the launch pad.

The only reason I would use IS (while on a tripod), is if the roof is shaking.

When I worked for NASA, in the 1960's, my office was on the third floor of the VAB. When the large crane was rolling, my chair would vibrate about 1/4" up and down. Thus, I can see how the roof may shake.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 02:38 PM   #13
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Dear Chris,

Yes, I would love to meet you and your wife while you are at the cape.

I may be in a great position to test the 300 mm lens (~2100 mm when installed on the XL H1).

My 300 mm L-Series is a Canon FD lens, so I have to use a FD to EOS adapter then use the XL H1 EOS adapter. The FD to EOS adapter is the weak link as it is not the very hard to find original Canon item.

I feel that the loss in quality, due to the adapter, will rule out the use of the 300 mm lens.

I agree, shots from the VAB are very dramatic.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 06:55 PM   #14
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Dear Dan,
Good luck with that setup. It sounds like it would be a great shoot.
BTW, for the 300 mm lens I do not think that you would get ~2100mm ( I could be very well wrong). I think that the magnification is just about 5.4 to 5.5 X the lens, so I would think that you would get ~1600+mm for sure. Still very good though... Also be sure that you have a White Balance card with you, not just the camera WB. With the SLR Canon lens you would really need a HD WB card.
Please post some pictures and good luck
Cheers
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Old May 10th, 2010, 07:25 PM   #15
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Dear Luben,

Thanks, I will take a set of White Balance cards.
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