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Old February 25th, 2004, 08:59 AM   #1
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How best to avoid blue spill from the sun?

Ok, I screwed up and I'm trying to learn from what I did. Fortunately, it was a wedding shot, cut, etc. for friends, for free, and they're thrilled to have anything. And most of it (shot 24pA on my DVX) looks beautiful. BUT, on one critical clip during the ceremony, which was under a garden arbor, the groom has blue spill from the sun along his jaw line, from where his jaw is against the bright sun in the background.

In hindsight I think I should've pushed them to let me hang a couple Pro lights from the trees to softly illuminate the bride and groom (they wanted natural light) so the exposure wouldn't be such a stark contrast. But would that have really done the trick? I was aware at the time that the white umbrella's were blown out over 100 IRE, but it was so dark under that arbor, all I cared about was getting the bride and groom. And except for that blasted blue spill, they look fine (too dark still for my taste, but whatever).

How would you guys have shot that? What can I do to avoid that sort of thing next time? I ask because of my doc this summer which will be pretty run and gun following kids around, sometimes shot in the hot sun, and should I come up against this again (having to open it up to expose what's in the shade while the sun blasts away elsewhere in the shot) I'd like to have a little better knowledge base to work from.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

P.S. I also ran up against limits to "fix it in post" with this. I tried all sorts of tricks, including a garbage matte, but I never was happy with the results. I told my friend to turn down the saturation on his TV and he wouldn't see it. ;-) I had to crank mine up to find what showed brightly on his. Didn't even notice it till I viewed it on his mondo set. Quite a shock.
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Old February 25th, 2004, 03:34 PM   #2
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Sounds like you might be stressing about something that is not such a big deal, Marcia. But it would be best if you could post a still or two from the problem footage for a hopefully intelligent response.

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Old February 25th, 2004, 03:57 PM   #3
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Marcia, I have a feeling that the "perfectionist" part of you would like to resolve this issue; however I agree with Wayne: since it was a freebie, don't sweat it too much. And a sample frame as he suggested might lead to some analysis and helpful tips from the other folks here.
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Old February 25th, 2004, 06:15 PM   #4
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Hmmm, frame sample. Would love some tips, but I've never posted anything like a picture on these boards before. Chris, reading the FAQ it said to hit Browse to locate the file on my hard drive, but I'm not finding a Browse button anywhere. How do I upload it?
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Old February 26th, 2004, 05:17 AM   #5
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The board currently does not allow attachment of pictures etc.
It's a generic feature that the underlying software supports, but
DVi doesn't (due to bandwidth and thus costs reasons etc.).

If you can't put it up on a site yourself send it to me through
e-mail and I'll put it up on my own site.
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Old February 27th, 2004, 04:49 AM   #6
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Click here to see Marcia's still from the footage.

What settings where you using when you shot this, Marcia?
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Old February 27th, 2004, 08:24 AM   #7
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The DVX was in 24pA mode, shutter at 1/24. Don't rem. at this point what f-stop I was using. To me this shot, so heavily shaded, looks like I'd bumped up the gain, but the gain is disabled in progressive mode (at least on the 100, not sure about the new 100A). What blew me away was some of the later the footage, as evening was hitting and the sun was just glinting off things... the color was absolutely stunning.

P.S. Thanks again, Rob.
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Old February 27th, 2004, 12:40 PM   #8
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Marcia, your footage is dramatically underexposed. I would almost bet that you used auto exposure here. If you did, what happens is the meter reads that bright sunlight in the background and pulls down the stop accordingly, leaving you with the underexposed foreground. The same thing could happen if you used manual exposure, with zebras set for 100%. You would pull down the exposure to eliminate the zebras in the sky, and end up with the same results. However you arrived at it, this scene suffers from underexposure of the foreground, and overexposure of the background.

To correct this problem when you are shooting, you can add lights to the foreground couple, and use netting to kill some of the hot sky. You can eliminate the lights if you add enough heavy net to dramatically bring down the sky light, and set exposure for the couple. Or, add more foliage to the background to knock down that hot light. Whatever, you would be advised to take a course in photography and learn more about contrast ratios and how to control them.

If you are editing the footage in Final Cut, you can help this scene somewhat by using the color correction tools, such as levels or curves. Here is a version of your still that I spent 30 seconds on in Photoshop. http://www.digitalprods.com/marcia1.jpg You can do similar work to your footage.

BTW, that blue spill that you see on the camera left side of the groom's face is spill from the hot background. Controlling the intensity of light from the background would have eliminated the spill, but as I said earlier, that is small potatoes, especially compared to the underexposure.

I hope you will educate yourself in the photographic arts so you can take full advantage of that fine camera.

Cheers

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old February 27th, 2004, 07:02 PM   #9
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Wayne, I appreciate the time you took to respond. Just FYI, everything was indeed on manual, and I am well aware that the posted clip is underexposed. The exposure is considerably better after this. I had just raced to my tripod after following ahead of the bride and her father with my monopod. I had never shot a wedding before (nor will I again), and admittedly I did a fair amount of nervous fumbling throughout. Then again, the father was supposed to wait for me to get in place before starting down the aisle, but he was nervous and forgot. By the time I made it to my spot and the camera was on the tripod I was just grateful I hadn't fallen on my face from dashing around the back of the arbor and running down a rough stone path.

In any event, the "why" of the exposure aside, I wanted to post a CU of his face so the blue in question would be easier to see, and this is the only one in this tight on him under the arbor. I am also aware of what caused the blue spill, and that lights would have aided me in making adjustments as I mentioned in my original post. But as I also mentioned, they did not want any lights used at all, and would have balked at netting which, owing to the layout of the seating, would have obscured the groom's parent's view (if placed to have the impact we're discussing), just as adding any extra foliage would have blocked their view as well. And would have looked a bit odd I think, too. But I have used netting from my bag of tricks to knock down daylight in interviews, and you're right, in those cases, it worked great. Insofar as IRE, it was indeed at 100%, but even at this exposure, there was still Zebra in much of the shot, albiet less in this tight. But in the wider shot, his parents are in the bright direct sunlight, and when I brought the bride and groom up, I pretty much lost his mom and dad. Clearly I should've just stuck with the bride and groom and not tried to find a middle ground between them.

Again, your suggestions are appreciated. Please know that I am not trying to be argumentative in any way. What you say reinforces what I surmised at the start, that I should've pushed them to let me use lights, despite their objections. You also seem pretty clear that lights, in combination with netting or foliage, would have been the only real option to really kill that sharp contrast and avoid the dreaded blue, but with the run and gun I'll be doing, that won't be an option then either. However, at least now I have burned into my brain that, in these high contrast moments, I'll either have to reframe if it all possible to avoid any such spill, or deal with the dreaded blue again in post. Guess I was hoping for a magic fix.

P.S. I used to make my living as an editor, and have onlined on Avid Symphony's as well, so I do understand what color correction is capable of pulling off. But my perfectionist streak aside, there are limits to what I'm willing to do in terms of hours spent for free, for a friend.
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Old February 27th, 2004, 08:16 PM   #10
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"However, at least now I have burned into my brain that, in these high contrast moments, I'll either have to reframe if it all possible to avoid any such spill, or deal with the dreaded blue again in post."

Here is a way to tell when you have a problem without even turning the camera on: learn to squint. When you look at a scene such as the couple in the arbor, if you squint as you see the scene, your eye will adjust to a proper level for the bright sunlight streaming through, and your subjects will appear to go to black. This is a warning that you are looking at a high contrast scene that will yield very poor results without some dramatic action on your part.

A lovely setting is of little value if it is beyond the scope of the camera to capture the moment. It's unfortunate they didn't let you light the arbor, but then I guess the video wasn't that important to them.
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Old March 4th, 2004, 03:22 PM   #11
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Hi Marcia,

I am wondering why you had so much blue from the sun
if you had your white balance set for daylight?

If it was set for tungsten, then that makes perfect sense
but the whole image would have been really blue looking.
It doesn't sound like that was the problem however.

Using lights *might* have helped a little, but unless you
own HMI (I wish I did!) fixtures, you then have to color correct
tungsten/halogen lights with Lee 201 (also called booster blue).
That gel works well, but your 1000W then turns into a 400, and
unless you have the lights only a few feet away from the
subject, you can't compete with the sun's awesome power.

On a recent outdoor shoot, I used two
575W source 4 parnels (as much light output as a 1000W halogen)
gelled with 201 and had to have them both close to the subject
(I used the sun as the back light).

The talent complained, but the video turned out nice.

I want to eventually buy some HMIs, but talking with
the owner of Joker, he said that to really keep up with the sun
at mid day, you need at least an 800W HMI. To get that much out of
tungsten lighting outside you'd need the equivalent of a 6000W!
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Old March 4th, 2004, 09:59 PM   #12
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Hi Marcia,

I am a tv news photographer, and run into many heavily backlit situations that often don't allow time for additional fill-light. When shooting a back-lit situation (either an event, interview, or a reporter standup) I try and shoot on a line that eliminates the hot background and replaces it with something darker...a building, foliage, etc.

For the wedding, if possible, you might have changed your positon to allow the dark green leaves to become the background rather than portions of the hot sky. Perhaps this could have been done by shooting from a lower angle, although the obvious problem would be the "up the nose shot" which might not be too popular with the bride.

Another possibility might have been to go for a higher angle, which might have put the "audience" and grass in the background. Or, if you could have moved to the other side, perhaps a building or more trees might have become an acceptable background.

I realize that your specific situation may not have allowed any reasonable option, but in the future you might be able to survey the shot in advance to see if you can find an angle that will allow you to use a natural, and darker, background.

Another nice aspect of backlit situations with a dark background, is that you get a natural backlight or "hairlight" and the subjects face has a nice even softlight that eases features and facial lines.

I would suggest that you experiment and and try these suggestions. I hope I have provided some useful information.
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Old March 5th, 2004, 03:58 PM   #13
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Old March 5th, 2004, 09:24 PM   #14
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Use light. control light

You have many options as the artist

yes adding pro light. with .5blue I would think would help

but what about a Flag to get rid of the hard light or a diffuser

A Chimera light Panel system or a fold up diffuser would do the trick

Only u can choose..


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Old March 6th, 2004, 10:33 AM   #15
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WAYNE, will practice my squint. ;-)

JACQUES, everything was, indeed, white balanced for daylight, but I'd done it before she began her walk, and she comes down a path that alternates heavy shade and hot light. No memory of where I was at the precise moment I did it and we got rolling. It had never occured to me that that could make a difference, ie doing it in the shade vs. sun. In fact, I only knew some of what you mention in a very vague way. Interesting stuff. Have bought several books and am now feverishly reading up!

BRAD, your experiences and suggestions are indeed useful. Bottom line, I should've been more assertive insofar as where I set up for the angle I would have, among other things. The people who run the place told me where it was best that I park to be unobtrusive and out of the way, and I stupidly did as I was told. Plus I overestimated what I could make work. So all this is major league helpful in remiding me of the inherent limitations of video and what to watch out for!

ALEX, I'm not sure a graduated ND would've been useful as I couldn't have smoothly panned across the wedding party, to parents on my right, etc. with that on. I think focusing on reframing like Brad mentions would've been the best bet.

And last but not least, RICHARD, I have the Road Rags set (great portable package) and while I never even thought to use it, as I mentioned to Wayne, I don't I would've been able to get the nec. effect w/o blocking some of the groom's parents view, given the angle and location of the sun that day. But I will certainly be more aggressive in playing with them outdoors in the future.

Thanks all. The response has been great!

Marcia
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