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Sony HVR-Z1 / HDR-FX1
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 11:27 AM   #1
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Please Help a Newbie on FX1

Hi All

Myself and a few friends have been filming bands live.. We have one FX1 and a few miniDV cameras... we all come from an audio background so our filming skills are probably average at best.. We are having trouble at some shows where the lighting is in the extreme, its over exposing peoples facing and you cant see their features at all..

I had a quick look through the FX1 last night (its my friends not mine) and i noticed a few things that look like they could help alleviate the problem but im wondering whats the best way to overcome it ?

We already have the spotlight button on and that makes a small difference.. But i noticed IRIS, Gain and ND filter all could help solve our problem.. Any maybe white balance ? Does anyone know how i can get it looking better ?

The gigs are a setting where one minute we'll get extreme white and the next it will be near black.. IS there anyway to drop the white but not darken the whole image so when it goes nearly black we can still see a bit of definition ? Or does it all get back to the lighting person not being so extreme in what he does ?

The other thing is we dont really get a chance to see the bands on the stage before the shows, they just come on and we sort of fly by the seat of our pants.. So how would we set white balance or things like that in that situation ?

We generally get pretty good results with audio and some of the editing looks good but i just know our source footage is the weakest point at the moment and im trying to work out how to improve.

Here is an example clip from a recent gig.. I tried to edit out most of the really bad shots where the white was totally blown out but you can still see it in spots..

YouTube - The Radiators - Gimme Head "LIVE"


Examples

Bass players face at 44 secs
guitarist face at 1min 43 secs
spotlight shine at 1 min 50 secs
zoom in on guitarist at 2min 3 secs
Drummers head at 2min 55sec


Would appreciate any help..
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 12:22 PM   #2
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Hey Randy:

Wow... those shooting conditions are pretty extreme. The camera actually stood up well in those conditions. With the lights coming up and down, and all that strobing, its amazing how well the camera reacted.

So some other questions need to be answered, but maybe this will address your issues:

1. Was the camera in auto mode ?. (Slider on left side of camera, bottom left corner, needs to be in middle position, to be manual. ) If it was, you really have no control.

2. Next is gain issue. Whether or not you are in manual mode, the FX1 is in "auto gain", unless you depress the gain button and select one of the gain presets programmed into the three position gain switch. If you don't select one of the gain positions, it won't matter what you try to do with the Iris, the camera will try to adjust exposure using gain. Essentially, you would still be in a psuedo auto mode.

3. You should use zebras to check your exposure. Turn that switch on, so you can tell what is being over exposed. In the menu, you should probably set zebra's at 90, so when you see a small amount of zebras on the lcd, you know you are close to blowing out the area, and you can adjust your exposure properly.

4. Remember, there are four ways to affect exposure:

adjust iris
adjust shutter speed
adjust gain
employment of Neutral Density filters
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 01:34 PM   #3
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Hey Chris

Yeah the conditions can be extreme and it makes it harder when we are all total novices. we look at each other like cavemen and point at something...errrr wuts that one ???? dunno, should we press it ? nah, might cause problems... errr right o!!

IF i lower the gain or add the neutral density filters will that make the darker moments in a show even darker still or will it adjust just the bright spots down ? The other thing im realising is its important to get a word with the lighting person beforehand and really try and get some synchronisation with us and him.. I feel like it would be great if i could run a line of tape across the light faders to prevent them hitting any more than 80% and no lower then 20 or 30%...
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 02:24 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Sanchez View Post
IF i lower the gain or add the neutral density filters will that make the darker moments in a show even darker still or will it adjust just the bright spots down ? ...
The FX1 doesn't have "black stretch," so all you can do is make everything darker. Unfortunately you can't do this and still preserve the details in the shadows.

Manual exposure is fine in theory, but you can't possibly ride the manual exposure functions quickly and accurately enough to handle the changing lighting conditions in a live theater shoot. After doing this for a couple of years I've learned the following:

1. Shoot in Auto, but use SPOTLIGHT mode. It does help, more than you think.
2. If highlights are still getting blown out, use AE SHIFT. Start with -3, and increase to -5 or -7 if necessary.
3. Set AGC LIMIT to 12dB if you can tolerate some grain, or 6dB if you want none at all. You do this in your Picture Profiles. Then you can leave gain on auto.
4. Lock the WB to INDOOR.
5. As Chris says, always use Zebras. I set mine to 100 but you could use 90, although in my experience that's a little unrealistic. Then you can see what's getting blown out and adjust manually if necessary.
6. Don't even try to persuade the lighting guy. He couldn't care less about your tape.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:54 AM   #5
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thanks for the tips.. I will tweak the settings you have mentioned and see how i go.. Im planning to do a couple of shows solo just with the camera so there is no pressure if im screwing round.. Hopefully that will give me a better idea of how each setting can help..

In regards to lighting... Ive found a lot of lighting people in small to mid sized music gigs to be disgruntled, they seem bitter and it does make it hard to work with them at times.

When we film its done with the bands support though so im really expecting to find a way to get more control of the lighting.. Othewise if its pot luck than its pointless.. when lighting is well handled it basically solves most of the problems in one go, if its badly handled it undermines everything.. At the end of the day there is too much logistics in organising a live recording to just allow one persons bad attitude to bring it all down..
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:07 AM   #6
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For extreme situation like this, you want to manual exposed for the highlights (brightlights) and leave there, that way you don't loose any details in the highlights, the black you can lift in post and recover some details and brighness, but you could never recover details in highlights if it is lost during capture, so during post, use your color correction tools or whatever you have on you NLE to lift the black and brightness during scenes that has no bright light, and remove the correction for scenes that has bright lights, also small camera like what you are using has less dynamic rance than bigger chips camera so you just have to live with what you have.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:15 AM   #7
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For extreme situation like this, you want to manual exposed for the highlights (brightlights) and leave there, that way you don't loose any details in the highlights, the black you can lift in post and recover some details and brighness, but you could never recover details in highlights if it is lost during capture, so during post, use your color correction tools or whatever you have on you NLE to lift the black and brightness during scenes that has no bright light, and remove the correction for scenes that has bright lights, also small camera like what you are using has less dynamic rance than bigger chips camera so you just have to live with what you have.
BTW if you don't know how to manually exposed, in this situation I probably leave the gain at 0db, shutter speed at60th of a seconds, and use your iris to adjust, depend on what settings you set on your zebra, if you set it at 100% then when the brighlights hits, adjust the iris until you don't see any zebra on the faces, and leave it there.
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Old October 25th, 2009, 04:36 AM   #8
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Hi Khoi... Thanks for your help.. I will look at doing what you have said exactly at my next gig.. Its good to know you can raise the black levels in post as you say.. Thats what i wasnt sure about..
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