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Old October 26th, 2007, 09:21 AM   #1
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Please help critique the camerwork in this clip

This is from a straight-ahead contest video that I shot recently. One camera, one take, no rehearsal, no editing to hide behind. Please ignore the subject matter for the moment (that's hard to do, I know!) and help me by critiquing the camerawork, which is always my weakest link.

What do you like about the way it was shot? What DON'T you like about it? What would you have done differently?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puTIphmRvP0

Thanks in advance for your time,
Mike




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Old October 26th, 2007, 11:05 AM   #2
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The exposure is good. The camera motion is kind of on the fence... its not the intentional "wobble zoom" that you see in a videos these days, but the corrections are not perfectly smooth either. This could be a result of your tripod. If you're having problems titling and making correctiions, it can be that your head isn't high enough quality.

It looks good, but watch your framing. Early on there is a shot where he has tons of head room, but we don't see his feet. Another shot you have him cut off at the knees. Usually you want to try and avoid cutting people at their joints (neck, elbows. waist, knees).
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Old October 26th, 2007, 01:22 PM   #3
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Thanks Bert. Good critique. I knew I didn't like something about the framing some of the time but I couldn't put my finger on it. Cut off at the knees!! I won't let that happen again, you've sharpened my eyes.

As for the tripod head, it's a Manfrotto fluid head. Cost about $250. I think it's quality but I'm sure my technique with it isn't as good as it should be. Later in the day I tried loosening it up a bit more and that seemed to help. Any pointers you could give for smooth movement?
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Old October 26th, 2007, 05:40 PM   #4
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I have the same comment about the framing. There were a couple of shots with headroom and just the feet were clipped. That doesn't look right. The reason I am commenting is that you reacted with, "Cut off at the knees!" and that is not the problem. It is okay to cut off at the knees when going close, but it is odd to have just the toes cut off when there is plenty of room for a full-body shot. I believe the cut off at the knees is called the "cowboy" shot in reference to shooting cowboys with their long coats cut off at the knees. If you cut off at the knees, you will probably be in tight enough that anything over the head will also get cut off so it stays balanced. Think of the proportions and don't worry about any specific body part except the face. It is even okay to cut off the top of the head if you are in tight enough not to see the whole body. My rule with the head is to never cut below the hair line. If you cut below the hair line on a woman, it makes her seem to be balding. Consider hair to be the frame of the face and you should always include some (assuming your talent has hair).

Concerning your tripod head. I have that same model and it is not perfect. It pans nicely, but the tilt is marginal. Adjust it to your taste and practice with it and you can get decent results. Now you know why there are $5000 tripod heads. To get that last tiny bit of performance costs a lot more than the first 85% of quality.

Edit:

I just thought of something. The on-screen display of your camcorder may be fooling you into thinking that you have less headroom than is actually available. All that clutter at the top of the screen can change your perspective. Make sure to check things with your display cleared of recording data just to make sure you aren't being fooled into leaving too much headroom.
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Old October 26th, 2007, 06:49 PM   #5
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Can't recommend cutting off at the knees, the rule of thumb is as Bert says, avoid cutting at the joints but most specifically ankles and knees (the other ones are more obscure--cutting at the elbows suggests that the arms will never move in a shot, which is rare).

The cowboy shot cuts at the thighs, not the knees. The idea was to frame in the gun holster...!
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Old October 26th, 2007, 06:58 PM   #6
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Most camcorders do not "underscan" in either the finder or lcd (if so equipped). Whether this is a hold-over from "TV-Safe" or just a cost-saving measure I'm not sure. If you're trying to be critical about framing, get a monitor than can underscan to show the entire picture. This is especially important because almost all video/hd cams are now processed on a computer, and show on screens that display the entire picture. So you may not see your whole frame while shooting, but it'll definitely be there when you present it.

One thing you'll get better at as you go along is checking the corners of your frame constantly and without thought. It's easy when looking into a finder to get "tunnel vision" and concentrate on your subject so hard that when you review your footage, you're left wondering why you made the framing choices you did. Look at your composition as a whole all the time (not just when you stop). Also, if you'll be reframing actively, try to take a second or two before you start and locate visual references that you can use to know where you are ahead of time. That way, as you pan, you'll have a mark to watch BEFORE you get to the end of your move. This avoids panning or tilting past your final frame, and hunting your way back. It could be as simple as "I know that when I pan left to my farthest extent, there's a mic cable in the background that almost lines up with my right frame edge." Looking at something on the opposite edge as your move means you can follow it the entire time you move, instead of waiting for something on the left to "pop" into frame, and have to stop immediately.

That probably made no sense, but think about it and practice it a couple times. It's all about making references in your head to know where you can and cannot move.
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Old October 26th, 2007, 10:06 PM   #7
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It might be the you tube and all the compression but did you have automatic white balance on? It seems to come with the flashes where the colors go light during the flash but then slowly shift back. Would recommend a manual white balance if you were using auto. Probably just the compression though.
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Old October 27th, 2007, 06:29 AM   #8
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"The cowboy shot cuts at the thighs, not the knees. The idea was to frame in the gun holster...!"

If you're one of them pansies that doesn't carry a gun that goes down to his knees, well then I reckon you would have to compose your shot up at the thighs. In these parts, we don't take too kindly to fellers that don't carry guns that go down to their knees...

I think that it is about time for overscan on camera screens to be the default mode perhaps with guides for overscan, especially on wide format cameras. Who is shooting to only have their material be displayed on tube televisions with huge overscan anymore?
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Old October 27th, 2007, 10:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
In these parts, we don't take too kindly to fellers that don't carry guns that go down to their knees...
gotta watch out for those Hawaiian cowboys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
I think that it is about time for overscan on camera screens to be the default mode
...underscan, no?
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Old October 27th, 2007, 07:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
gotta watch out for those Hawaiian cowboys!
Known as paniolos here. Cows were brought by the "espanolos" which got converted to "paniolo" probably due to the fact that there is no "s" in the Hawaiian alphabet and words often start with consonants.

Quote:
...underscan, no?
I get confused sometimes. It is called allscan on my camera (Sony V1U).

Concerning framing, I figured that "cutting off at the knees" would assume above the knees but I guess that is just something I do automatically. I guess it is because cutting at a joint would make just the stub of the limb past it visible which would seem odd.

Switching from a 4:3 camera to 16:9 has caused the need for me to re-learn composition to some extent. The same proportions of a 4:3 full-body shot are more like a cowboy shot in 16:9 with lots of room left over on the side. I have to remind myself that I don't necessarily need to get in so close since I have more resolution now for wider shots. With SD 4:3 it is fairly critical to get in somewhat close most of the time. Big expansive shots with multiple people in full-body composition don't leave much resolution to see facial expressions in SD. That changes with HD and even somewhat with SD DVDs created from an HD camera.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 12:30 PM   #11
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Marcus:

Whether cutting off at the knees is "correct" or not doesn't matter much to me in this case. I was finding that that I didn't like that shot in my clip even before Bert brought it to my attention. I knew something was "off" I just didn't know what. But I see what you mean about how it could be fine in certain situations.

As for my my tripod and head, I didn't know thay could be so expensive!! I'm going to have to get a few paying gigs before I can afford that. In the meantime I'll work on my technique and framing.

Jaron:

I feel that my viewscreen is fairly accurate. I'd love to blame it for my bad framing, but I can't! However, your tips on framing and following motion are excellent! I did understand them and will put them into practice.

Josh:

I had adjusted the settings of the camera to the lighting before the routine began. The color shifts you are seeing are not Youtube but are the result of the lighting operator playing with different color gels and lighting intensity as the performance was going on. It was driving me crazy but I didn't think that there was anything I could do about it.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 11:08 PM   #12
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Sorry Marcus, but Charles is right, and you're wrong. A "cowboy" shot is framed to cut mid thigh, not at the knees. He's absolutely right,, its called a "cowboy" because you cut the lower framing where the guns would be. Working in this industry I've seen all kinds of distortion of terminology, but the industry standard is as Charles describes it.

Michael, shaky tripod action? Hey, finally you get to say "its not my fault" and be right! This time it really is the gear. I've been fortunate to work with all kinds of cameras and tripods; small mini dv cameras, big beta cams, Arri SR3 and even an Arri 35mm! When it comes to fluid, smooth motion, the ultimate combination is a fairly heavy camera, with a great fluid head. Lightweight mini DV cameras make it tough, and the low end tripods make it tougher. I used a Betacam on an $11,000 Sachtler head and sticks, and it was soooo easy to be smooth with that thing.

Its funny that Marcus should quote "$5000" heads..." the first tripod I bought was a $500 Bogen. After a while, I gave up using this tripod for paid shoots, I just rented a better tripod. I then went to NAB, and I tried EVERYTHING that was acceptable for my Canon XL2. By far, and I mean a long shot, the Miller Arrow 30 was the best it also costs... $5199 from B&H... I just waited until I could afford it, and then got it. So Marcus is absolutely right. For me, the biggest thing now is as long as the camera I'm using is between 5lbs and 30lbs, I don't have to worry about the tripod. It works flawlessly, as it should! I have no regrets, I just couldn't handle the Bogen. But there may be some better offerings now for way cheaper, since HDV is so popular and cameras have come down in weight.
One trick that someone mentioned here, and it does help, is to try using some sort of elastic to do pans. Put the elastic around the pan handle, and pull the elastic, not the handle. It works well, but is really only useful for pans.

One thing that I was fortunate with was that some of my earlier projects were always paid gigs, so I could just write the cost of rental into the budget. I'd really suggest trying before you buy. I found going to NAB so worthwhile, time and money well spent.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 11:19 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Pulcinella View Post
Marcus:

Josh:

I had adjusted the settings of the camera to the lighting before the routine began. The color shifts you are seeing are not Youtube but are the result of the lighting operator playing with different color gels and lighting intensity as the performance was going on. It was driving me crazy but I didn't think that there was anything I could do about it.
Ahhh... that would drive me nuts too. I cannot offer any tips for that either. I guess at that point it is all part of the show :)
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Old October 29th, 2007, 12:19 AM   #14
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This cowboy debate is oddly timed. I was on a series recently where the gaffer, who's a bit of a know-it-all, questioned my describing a shot as a cowboy as he said that referred to a shot that cuts at the waist (specifically, that it was called a "cowboy closeup" and was supposed to include the head of the horse they were riding on). I stuck to my guns that it was wider to include the guns. Being an old-timer, he asked if I had ever worked on any Westerns, as he obviously had. I replied that I hadn't, but had used the phrase for enough years that I would know if it meant something other than the way I was using it. Finally the DP came by (another veteran) and he agreed with my definition, which put an end to the conversation!

Regarding heads, it's getting complicated these days as people are starting with a 4lb camcorder then adding 35mm adaptors, rods systems, external drives etc. and finding themselves with 15lb rigs, which obviously necessitates more serious (and expensive) heads and sticks. I've always advocated buying the best head you possibly can, even if it costs more than the camera, because it will be with you for a long time, many cameras down the line. The better the head, the better your footage, not to mention years of trouble-free service they will give you, (My 10 year old O'Connnor 2575 just went to the shop for a tune-up, and they told me that other than tightening the tilt lock, the guts were perfect--that's what you get for $12K!)
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Old October 29th, 2007, 01:18 AM   #15
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Clearly, to get the guns in the shot it requires getting at least part of the knee:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yosemite_Sam

I think I regret buying a $250 tripod head but I don't rely on tripod movement much so it was more important for me to afford the head and get a compatible quick-release for my monopod. I tend to use the monopod for events and for movie shorts I use a dolly or jib more for camera movement. The head I have pans smoothly so it fits most of my needs. On the other hand, it is more expensive to buy a $125 head, then a $250 model, the $1000 even better model, then the $2000 one before finally getting the $5000 head that really does the job. Of course, it is also more difficult for me to go to B&H to try everything before I buy.

One way to deal with a tripod that is deficient in one axis is to choose a camera angle that requires less movement in your weak area. If you are at just the right level in the venue, you won't need to pan up and down if the subject moves slightly on the stage.
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