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Old October 25th, 2009, 11:55 AM   #1
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HM700 Nature / Waterfall Footage

Last Monday I decided to go for a little hike and get some practice recording nature with the HM700. (I originally wrote "shooting nature" but that didn't seem right...) It was also an opportunity to try out my Porta-Brace hiker's backpack.

I went to Wahclella Falls, which is about 40 miles east of Portland, Oregon, in the Columbia River Gorge. The falls are about a mile hike up from the base of the park, and the hike itself is quite beautiful, basically you follow a muddy trail along the small canyon all the way up to the falls.

Much of the area is spring-fed, and there are portions of the canyon walls that appear to "sweat" water into lush, thick moss.

Here's the final result on Vimeo:
"Confluence" on Vimeo

(The style is 100% candy-coated new age cheesiness -- if you're turned off by motion control tricks in editing, and an overuse of focus rolls, you're gonna hate this -- that's OK, you're right of course, but it's just an exercise!)

Production notes:

The format was 1280x720, 30p. Most everything is at 1/60th shutter, although to get detail on some of the falling water, especially the main descending close-up of the waterfall, I used as high as 1/250th. The result was darker, but I got more detail in the fast moving, rough water.

Even though it was a few hours before sunset, the angle of the canyon and the angle of the autumn sun prevented direct light from reaching where I was shooting. All of the ambient light was basically reflected down off an overcast sky. So I had to have the iris opened up a lot more than I would have liked, usually below F4 and often fully open.

One of my mistakes was assuming that after I had white balanced in a couple of locations and achieved the same result, that the color temp. would be consistent -- this was not, in fact, the case, so I did have to do a fair amount of color correcting (and gamma correcting, too, for shots with a high shutter speed) in Final Cut.

(Past experience with the HM700 has taught me that using gain is suicidal -- there's just too much grain, and it doesn't look like a natural grain at all. So nearly everything here is shot without gain and then adjusted for brightness in editing.)

I wish I had obtained more raw footage of the main waterfall itself -- the final video doesn't spend enough time with it. At the site, I found myself having to clean the lens between every shot, there was so much wind (generated by the waterfall itself) and mist that the lens would be coated in about 20 seconds, so I moved further away after getting only a couple of close shots of the waterfall base area. Do they make windshield wipers for these things?

I tried not to include any man-made features in the final edit, but one did creep in -- can you spot it?

Feedback/critiques are appreciated. If anyone would like to examine a particular original raw clip file, let me know and I'll put it somewhere you can download it.
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Old October 25th, 2009, 07:03 PM   #2
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PS... The lens was the Fujinon 17x5.
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Old October 25th, 2009, 11:07 PM   #3
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Looks killer. still downloading. I didn't realize you could get that clean of video on Vimeo. I don't see any of the video noise people are talking about with the JVC Hm700 series. Love the 17x lens. If my friend doesn't buy my JVC HD110 & extras soon, I might get the 17x fujinon anyway. Really nice stuff. broadband.. hmph! 5 minutes and I'm 20% done. It does look killer though!
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Old October 25th, 2009, 11:53 PM   #4
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First, thanks for the compliment!

Originally Posted by Alex Humphrey View Post
I don't see any of the video noise people are talking about with the JVC Hm700 series.
I have a theory about that, based on my own experiences thus far.

The HM700 really does have a lot of noise, but it also uses a compressed file format with a maximum bit rate.

If you have a really complex image, for example a waterfall with lots of leafy trees which are turning color, then the bandwidth is going to be allocated to rendering the edges of all the complex detail in the image.

However, if you have a simple scene, such as a static shot of a person speaking in a relatively dark room, there will be plenty of spare bandwidth available to the compression algorithm, and it will be allocated to rendering all of the grain that the image sensors are generating.

Take a look at these three spots I did recently, for example:

Dump the Pump - "Tea Party"

Dump the Pump - "College Buddies"

Dump the Pump - "Romance"

The "Tea Party" spot is brightly lit (too brightly -- noontime sun -- live and learn), lots of detail, relatively little grain.

The "College Buddies" spot was shot in a dark bar. Even though I provided extra light from a small kit, it was still very dark and in a couple of shots we used +9DB gain -- look where you're seeing just the guy's face head-on with the black curtain in the background. Yucky grain.

The "Romance" spot, the last one to be shot, was outdoors under a thickly overcast sky, but I brought plenty of auxiliary light and the scene is relatively complex, so there's not much grain.

I've got another project of a live theater event which was shot from the same vantage with the HM700 and my consumer Canon HF10, which is a 1-chip CMOS camera. The HF10 was providing a "safety" wide shot while the HM700 was used to pick up individual speakers with medium-to-close shots. The HM700 got much _sharper_ images (I would hope so), but the Canon had a much brighter image under the same lighting conditions (in fact, I had to dial the exposure down), and much less grain.

My opinion of my HM700 thus far is that under the right circumstances with careful shot setup it can be a great camera, but it is very unforgiving and not tolerant of lighting which is outside of it's sweet spot.

My HM700, an early production unit, has a few other annoying problems and when I have a spare few weeks it's going back to JVC for a tune-up. I do have the latest firmware installed, and from what I can tell the grain is only just slightly improved, and only if you have DNR turned on.
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