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Old April 15th, 2014, 06:01 AM   #1
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Handheld closeups

Hey guys,

I am looking for advice on how to successfully capture closeup b-roll when someone is moving. For example, I want to shoot a close up of hands while someone is talking during interview, and I do want to a relatively blurry background. On my recent shoot this didn't work out because I couldn't get the hands in focus, by the time I focused somewhere, the hands moved already and I was just chasing the hands and most of the footage turned out out of focus. I need to handhold the camera because I am usually in tight spaces and there is no room for another tripod. I usually shoot with DSLRs. I tried f4.0 last time.
Any tips on how to successfully do this?

Thanks
Kathy
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Old April 15th, 2014, 07:49 AM   #2
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Re: Handheld closeups

Kathy:

It's largely a matter of practice and anticipation. Trying to do a shallow depth of field on a moving object is often very tough. Some things to try:

1. Go a little higher on your f-stop, and trade a bit of background roll off for a deeper area of focus that the hands can move inside.

2. Let the hands come to you. If the person talks with his hands a lot, find a spot where he moves to often, set the focus there, and let him move his hands into focus for you. You can pick a closest to you, mid-lap and opposite lap focus area, and let the hands move in and out of each of those areas in turn.

3. Go a bit wider.

4. Practice a bunch with your DSLR on following focus. It's a matter of developing muscle memory: "the object moves like this, then I rotate focus like that." It's a skill acquired over years of practice.

Don't be too quick to abandon the tripod. If there is enough room for you and a DSLR to squeeze in beside the interview subject and still have enough separation to be getting shallow DoF hand shots, there should be enough room for a tripod or a monopod. I have yet to see even an experienced DSLR shooter provide rock steady video handholding the DSLR without a tripod or huge rig attached..
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Old April 15th, 2014, 09:16 AM   #3
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Re: Handheld closeups

Thanks Bill. That's helpful. Would having follow focus installed help?
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Old April 15th, 2014, 10:55 AM   #4
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Re: Handheld closeups

A follow focus certainly helps. That said, when shooting handheld, I use the follow focus more for major focus changes and control the micro changes "with my feet". By moving the camera in and out to match the movement of the hands, you don't need to refocus at all.

Of course, the "feet" method assumes that the subject's hands are moving subtly. Also, for any items at an angle with shallow DOF, you need to consider which part of the object should be in focus. For instance when taking a photo of a margarita glass, do you focus on the salt on the front of the rim or the most interesting ice cube? (In general, don't focus on the back of the glass, though that rule can be broken if something interesting is back there.)

One nice thing about shooting moving items handheld is that when tracking them, the audience is less aware of any jerky motion by the camera. Shooting still objects handheld is tough.

Another "trick" for shallow DOF shooting is to love the out of focus shot. If your edit includes a series where, say, every fourth cut shows a moment of missed focus, the effect becomes intentional. When there is only one moment of missed focus, it becomes a mistake.

Here's a video I shot some time ago of my daughter signing. I used an 85mm lens at f/1.8 on a full frame camera with no follow focus. The camera was on a cobbled-together shoulder rig. She sang the song twice - I shot b-roll during the warm up and the front shot during the main take. I'd do major focus changes with the lens and micro changes with my feet. I don't normally shoot extreme shallow DOF. It was a fun challenge!

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Old April 18th, 2014, 12:56 PM   #5
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Re: Handheld closeups

Thagnk you, good advice. I am going to practice. Nice video of your daughter playing!
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Old April 18th, 2014, 02:56 PM   #6
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Re: Handheld closeups

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
Here's a video I shot some time ago of my daughter signing.
Nicely done. Interesting framing.

A few questions if I may. First, why not show her hands playing the guitar? It works the way you did it, I'm just wondering is all.

Second, how'd you manage the sound? Single boom above? Second mic on guitar? Stereo pair on guitar? And is this why you didn't crop lower? How'd you manage the background noise? It's almost non-existent except for some wind buffeting around the 3:30 mark. What kinds of things did you do in post to sweeten? The reverb was post surely.

Again, nicely done.
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Old April 19th, 2014, 02:20 PM   #7
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Re: Handheld closeups

+2 Kathy's comment "Nice video of your daughter playing!"

+2 all of Bruce's questions!

She has a sweet vocal voice. Almost old school in a way. Today, when one listens to popular music or watches America's Got Talent it seems all the singers basically yell into the mic. Perhaps this makes up for and masks their lack of singing ability. Anybody can yell into a mic but very few can sing well. She's at a good age for developing her vocal talent. The vocal, or voice, is the greatest musical instrument.

The acoustic guitar fits in nicely with her voice and the "package" (guitar, necklace, etc) almost has a late '60s to '70s look. I was looking for a lavalier mice hidden somewhere but based on the camera shots it was probably a mic on a stand.

You're luck to have such a talented daughter and she's lucky to have a talented dad! You two are a good package.
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Old April 21st, 2014, 03:44 PM   #8
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Re: Handheld closeups

Thanks everybody,

I'll answer some questions quickly, but let's then get back on topic, which is handheld shooting closeups - especially with shallow DOF.

Why not show her hands playing the guitar? Why didn't you crop lower?

- We had a mic above her (Rode NT-1) and another in front of the 12th fret of the guitar (Shure SM57). This limited the framing. I wish I had stepped back a few inches but I would have risked showing the mics.

How'd you manage the background noise? It's almost non-existent except for some wind buffeting around the 3:30 mark. What kinds of things did you do in post to sweeten? The reverb was post surely.

- Fortunately, it was not windy. We did no noise reduction. You can hear some birds. :) The main thing was getting the mics as close as was practical.

- EQ was the main deal. On voice, I balance the fundamentals (2-300 Hz), boost the consonants (sharp 1 kHz), fine tune the nasal/dull balance (various stuff around 2.4 kHz), and give it some air (5kHz+). For guitar, I boosted below 200 Hz and in the air region and cut at 250 Hz, 1 kHz and 2.4 kHz to make room for the voice. I then added complimentary EQ on the left vs. right for the guitar to simulate stereo.

- Yes, a touch of reverb was added in post and the end result is *much* stronger than I intended. For whatever reason, the Vimeo version sounds really wet and my uncompressed version sounds fairly neutral. I must not have prepared the audio for their native compression correctly.

To John's comments:

- Melissa started voice training many years ago. (I don't recall her age then.) And yes, she can belt it out like a wanna-be pop star but her chosen style is more subdued. Currently, she's singing and playing in a local band. I just attended their gig on Saturday night and they rocked the joint. If anything, they have a Jefferson Airplane sound with Melissa as a modern Grace Slick. :)

LIVE ISLANDVancouver Washington - Home

And now back to handheld closeups. :)
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