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Old April 17th, 2006, 07:37 PM   #1
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Run & gun w/JVC - Focusing observations...

I did a series of run & gun shooting experiments this weekend w/ the JVC 100 (weather finally nice in Michigan) during daylight hours.

Two things stand out from this testing. First, the camera loves daylight. Wow - the images this thing can make are truly stunning considering the cost of the camera (heck, even at twice the price).

Colors and images were clean, clear and crisp. It took a lot to wash out the image - and believe me I tried. The level of detail the camera picks up is amazing - it really is....

But, this is where my second observation came in - the camera, due to its HD level of detail and non-HD eyepiece, made it very very difficult to run-and-gun focus (particularly hand held and walking). The bright sunlight, while making everything look pretty, also made it very hard to see the blue-outline that the focus assist option provides. It was extremely tiring on the eye to focus using this method.

While I was shooting, I never totally felt I had the focus nailed....

That said, almost all of the shots did come back in focus. I realize that this sort of testing is a worse case scenario (no focus puller, no monitor, walking in bright light, etc), but it was still a little worrisome.

SO, it was nice to see that the shots were largely in focus and that the images were stunning. It reinforced the idea, however, that this camera has more in common with a film camera than it does with even the previous generation of SD video cams, at least in terms of shooting and focusing.

I would think that any sort of heavy location shooting would dictate either a focus puller &/or a shaded HD monitor. For limited location shooting or documentary work, the focus assist option would get you through, but practice using it for at least a weekend before you shoot if you can, remembering that it is taxing on the eye.

As a side note, I also used a homemade stedi-cam. The higher level of detail the JVC provides also, unfortunately, allows even the tiniest bump to be that much more noticable. So back to the drawing board for this. Hope these observations help,

john
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Old April 17th, 2006, 07:59 PM   #2
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Hi John,
Do a search for "hyperfocal" in this forum. You'll find Tim Dashwood has published some really helpful numbers for run-and-gun situations. It seems that if you keep the lens at F4 (the sweet spot) and set the focus at 8 feet, everything from 4 feet to infinity will be in focus.

That tip has really helped put my mind at ease regarding focus in those situations.

Warren
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Old April 17th, 2006, 07:59 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
While I was shooting, I never totally felt I had the focus nailed....
I'm not entirely sure what your issue is but I haven't had much trouble. I have noticed that at times using the peaking instead of the focus assist has worked better for me. If the focus assist isn't working try peaking and vice versa. Dial in different peaking levels too. Practice exclusively with peaking for a while, then with focus assist for a while until you're good at both.

If you're shooting from the shade try the LCD and see if it's any better. I'm always suprised at how well the LCD works for me.

If you're shooting wide open then bring it back to F4 or F5.6. Also, try to get closer and go wider angle if the subjects are moving a lot. You can look at the lens and guess the distance to your target too... guess a little bit short due to the focus range being longer on the backside. Maybe there's a Depth of Field chart somewhere for the lens (like in the manual?). Study that.

I switched from the HVX to the HD-100 in large part because the HD-100 was SO much easier to focus. Take the HVX for a stroll sometime.

Bonus tip: I've gotten really good at racking focus with the macro ring to eliminate breathing. Focus on the the far object and then use the macro ring to rack to the close object. Kewl.

You still need to plan your shots out as much as possible and practice. It's not magic, that's for sure. :-)
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Old April 17th, 2006, 08:16 PM   #4
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Joel is right on the money in regards to using the peaking in place of the focus assist. I have not turned on focus assist since the first month of using the camera, no need. The moto I shot recently was a good test of the HD100 and run & gun shooting (run for your life or get hit by the bike). I never once used the focus assist feature but counted instead on the peaking dialed a little higher than it's middle setting. Learn to focus that way and you will get good results every time. It helps to take 2 seconds before hitting record and >zoom tight>focus>go back wide> start recording. This is of course done very fast when you use the controls on the lens and not the rocker. Just my 2 cents.
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Old April 17th, 2006, 08:35 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Daniel Patton
This is of course done very fast when you use the controls on the lens and not the rocker.

Yeah - I take the lens off the rocker too for that same reason. I often blast into the 16x zoom and do a quick focus and pull out. The super slow creep zoom is a very feature, but using that is about the only time I want the zoom motor on. It's a fun camera because of the lens. I just wish that $9k lens was cheaper.
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Old April 17th, 2006, 09:47 PM   #6
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Hey John, I hope you can make it over to the party in Vegas with us. Anyway, no issues with your observations on the JVC and the eyepiece. The cost of the camera dictates saving somewhere and the balance bar came down on the side of the viewfinder and a couple of other areas that our bigger cameras nail. But, that being said and not defending JVC, it's still an incredible camera when it counts.

We had the first week's shooting of 2nd Unit this week in which we selected and flew in 2 relative and admitted newbies throwing them into 1 day of intense instruction and practice in the cauldron that is sports shooting. A 6-cam shoot in a halogen lit 325X150 X80 foot tall arena with 50 feet of seating surrounding it. Four cameras, one on each side with one sky cam and one locked down in the pits and 1 handheld. Ed Pillar and Warren Shultz, "edhillpr" and "warrens" on dvxuser.com, were shooting our 1st Unit camermen shooting the action and Warren wanted to shoot 1st Unit when he was finished as did Ed.

Now, you've got 40 rank, Championship pro rodeo guys and girls riding full-speed down a 300 foot course shooting targets from horseback with Colt 45s at 55-65 mph making sharp turns, changin directions, stopping, starting towards one cam and away from aniother and then away from the first and towards the second and the cameras have to track them at a focal distance of 100 to 370 feet maintaining focus and framing of not only the rider but the pistol, the shot and the target exploding in every frame; all this through the dirt and the dust and the gunsmoke that hangs so heavy in the air it makes perfectly focused shots look out of focus. As I've said before, we tested every camera out there under $10k and selected the JVC for this production in which we chuck our 900 series Sonys in favor of "affordable" cameras to show that the sky's the limit for today's indie filmmakers when it comes to cameras.

We shot for three days straight and then, on Saturday night under the lights for 4 hours straight under typical, non-stop event pressures and in the end, the newbies, and I say that with all due affection, performed flawlessly as did the cameras. After going to bed Saturday night at midnight and waking at 4am for a 7am flight out of Memphis back to LA, I didn't check the tapes but in the screening room at the studio today I did and the bottom line is that I rather expected it of veterans like Mike Pellagatti and Jeff Sheldon and the others but the results from Ed and Warren were almost perfect. No focus puller or anything other than focus assist which they liked to use. For me, the jury's still out on that one.

Now, they were greatly assisted no doubt by the fact that video has its usual huge DOF which in this case is a God's Send in assisting in maintaining focus but that in no way takes away from the incredible job they did with an incredible camera.

Now, that's sports photography and not drama and in fact I think other cameras including the HVX have an edge when it comes to drama but there are other drawbacks as well like impossible, unreliable focus pulling and other things but I have to tell you, as I said when I announced 2nd Unit was going into production as an educational tool for the internet and Jared's dvxuser.com, this is going to be a win or lose proposition. We're going to put man and camera through it's paces live with no editing out if it doesn't work and report on their performance win or lose. JVC was cool with it and so was Matrox, Adobe, NLE Systems, our major sponsors. Me? I really wasn't sure but in the end, the tapes don't lie and, short of $100k cameras like our usual 950s with lens, it's impossible to beat the 100HD for performance when it comes to network sports performance. They just have to be in the hands of someone who's been taught to shoot and I mean shoot. And Muke and Jeff took care of that with both Ed and Warren in the days before the Saturday night "money" shoot.

We're working on the website right now at www.DVx-2ndUnit.com that, when it finishes, will follow the entire production in reality series format with reviews and comment by George Dibie and Rob Kositchek in weekly chat sessions so people can ask George, Rob and industry ASC guests questions on how it could have been done better, all of it designed to help everyone out there with filmmaking.

So, the bottom line is you are to be commended for running your tests and reporting on the results. As Joyce Mahoney says, "You rock" but that's what this board and dvxuser are all about; real life people who care about others enough to go the extra mile and report on their findings. The JVC has some short comings no doubt but anytime you can take newbies to sports shooting, give them instructions by some of the best veteran cameramen in the industry today and get results like we did, it bodes well for the JVC 100HD.

See you at the party and, I might as well tell you now, I'd like you as one of the 2nd Unit cameramen to join our production team for the on-set, color commentary shoot two weeks after NAB. Yopu'll be joining 2 other "amateurs" to shoot the 1st Unit shooting the series on the lot. Think about it and let me know at the party in Vegas. You ARE coming to the party, aren't you?!?!?!
Jonathan

PS. This is also why we're pushing courses like HVXBootcamp, Rush's DVD series and other reputable courses as much as we are. A great camera in the hands of people who haven't learned the basics which never changes serves no purpose at all. 2nd Unit is just a toll to point out the fact that, with the proper basics, shooters with the JVC can do ANYTHING!
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Old April 18th, 2006, 03:56 AM   #7
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Can someone explain how peaking works? Thanks
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Old April 18th, 2006, 07:41 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel Aaron
If you're shooting from the shade try the LCD and see if it's any better. I'm always suprised at how well the LCD works for me.
High ambient light, glasses (esp. varifocal), and rapid unpredictable movement (esp. closer to and further away) can make it hard to actually see how well the subject is focused. And, for your first shoots in HD you can feel under intense pressure. So John's comments are fully understandable.

I too find "peaking" more visually satisfying than FA.

But, the best advice is an old Bolex 8mm H8 and 16mm H16 trick (because they had a rangefinder viewfinder). It's Tim Dashwood helpful numbers for run-and-gun situations which Warran quotes.
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Old April 18th, 2006, 10:19 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Steve Mullen
But, the best advice is an old Bolex 8mm H8 and 16mm H16 trick (because they had a rangefinder viewfinder).
I'm not clear what you mean here. Are you saying buy one of those and use the rangefinders for getting the distance?
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Old April 18th, 2006, 04:37 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Joel Aaron
I'm not clear what you mean here. Are you saying buy one of those and use the rangefinders for getting the distance?
NO!

When didn't have reflex VF one either had to measure or guestimate the distance and then set the lens. One had NO IDEA if the subject was really in focus until you spent $$$ to develop your film. That's how all 35mm cine cameras worked -- until the video-tap came along. Of course, we needed to memorize the DOF values for three prime lenses. :)

One of the posters reminded us that we can do the same -- although our lens is missing the DOF table which was a critical part of the focus procedure.

Typically, long before we could memorize the DOF tables -- we noted that at a certain opening and distance setting EVERYTHING from 3-4 feet would be in focus. So we set this opening and distance and simply stayed 5 feet from our subject.
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Last edited by Steve Mullen; April 18th, 2006 at 08:25 PM.
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Old April 18th, 2006, 04:43 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Warren Shultz
Hi John,
Do a search for "hyperfocal" in this forum. You'll find Tim Dashwood has published some really helpful numbers for run-and-gun situations. It seems that if you keep the lens at F4 (the sweet spot) and set the focus at 8 feet, everything from 4 feet to infinity will be in focus.

That tip has really helped put my mind at ease regarding focus in those situations.

Warren
Here's that post you spoke about.
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showpost....92&postcount=6

Note that those numbers don't apply when you have the wide-converter attached.
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Old April 18th, 2006, 05:25 PM   #12
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With the wide angle adapter the numbers should be even more forgiving, shouldn't they Tim?

Warren
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Old April 18th, 2006, 05:31 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Warren Shultz
With the wide angle adapter the numbers should be even more forgiving, shouldn't they Tim?

Warren
Yeah, but the marks on the barrel of the lens won't mean anything, so it would be tough to figure out the hyperfocal values. If I had a few hours I could probably figure out some numbers with focus markers, but it would be a real challenge.
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Old April 18th, 2006, 05:58 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Steve Mullen
Long before we could memorize the tables -- we note that at certain opening and distance settings EVERYTHING from 3-4 feet would be in focus. So we set this opening and distance and simply stayed 5 feet from our subject.
Got it. Yeah, basically wide angle is mostly in focus. It's a great idea to memorize those settings in the link. I'll have to look into it further... seems like a little PDF chart might be in order.

Of couse, if you need different framing and start zooming in you reach a point pretty quickly where you really do have to keep your hand on the focus rings. I still find the camera pretty easy to focus in general.
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Old April 18th, 2006, 07:16 PM   #15
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It amazes me that some folks don't like the focus assist. I, for one, have found myself rather spoiled by it. And don't forget you can change the edge color to suit your taste/conditions.
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