Z-1 in low light at DVinfo.net

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Sony HVR-Z1 / HDR-FX1
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CCD HDV camcorder.

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Old December 6th, 2006, 11:55 AM   #1
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Z-1 in low light

After reading this, most people will say why did you buy one if you don't know how to use one. I bought my Z-1 because I could and I thought I would be using it more. I kind of jumped from the concept of operating one to being a producer and hiring out my work.

I have the opportunity this weekend to film an interview with a prominent singer/songwriter but I will not be bringing this crew. I am unable to set up properly for this 20 minute shoot because of the venue. I have to be on standby and be able to adapt at a moments notice. I am anticipating low light conditions. I will probably not be able to bring a light kit however I can rent one and be somewhat prepared if I get to use it.

My question is this. Is there anyway for a crash course on settings so when I get my chance I will be able to modify my camera settings? I don't know much about iris and gain and such. Like I said, I normally have someone to do this for me shooting HDCam. I really want to make sure my stuff looks as good as it can. I mean no disrespect to those of you who know your stuff. I know I can't learn it online. I just don't want to waste this opportunity.

Thanks for any and all help. If you have a suggestion for a one man light show for an interview, I'll take that advice as well.

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Old December 6th, 2006, 12:07 PM   #2
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Here is an option for you. Take the camera, turn your lights off in your house, find various lighting degrees and just start pushing the buttons; shutter speed, white balance etc. That'll give you your best idea. I'd have an oncamera light if possible. I use a Gl2 and a Z1u at weddings and such, and my GL2 puts my Z1u to shame when low light is concerned. Ok, maybe shame is a harsh word.

But either way, I would run around your house and test it. If you can see the interview spot in real life or picture, that'll give you an idea of what lighting you might prepare for.

I think most here will agree though, experience is the best teacher when it comes to lighting, and your house is a safe place to 'miss it.'

God speed.
What happens if I push the 'Red' button?
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Old December 6th, 2006, 12:53 PM   #3
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If I was handing this camera off to someone on a first shot basis, I would:

Set the gain to a maximum of 12.

Set the camera on automatic WB.

Set everything else on auto.

Use autofocus unless you are seeing a lot of drift due to low, light, otherwise shift into manual.

Concentrate on framing.

Fix in post, if needed.
Chris J. Barcellos
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Old December 6th, 2006, 01:13 PM   #4
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Thanks, guys! Jeff
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Old December 6th, 2006, 01:48 PM   #5
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I'd go into the picture profiles and create one which just has all the defaults except for black stretch turned on. Be certain you are not using either of the cinematone settings.

If you use manual settings I would program the gain switch at 0, +6 and +12 dB (or you might use +3. +6 and +12 if very dark conditions). Are you going to downconvert to SD? If so then you can set the shutter speed to 1/30 without a noticeable quality loss.

Depending on what you expect, +15dB gain or even +18dB gain might be usable in a pinch. Try to shoot at full wide zoom setting if possible, you gain over a full f-stop at the wide setting compared to full telephoto zoom.

I think that's about the limit of what you can do, unless you can use the hypergain (+36dB) feature as a very stylized noisy video effect.
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Old December 9th, 2006, 11:41 AM   #6
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Like Boyd said...

... Just to add a few oily rag tricks for shooting in candle-light:

- Shooting in HDV, ingesting at HDV, then scaling down to SD can help reduce the graininess of +12dB and +18dB gain

- I can shoot HDV at 25fps for PAL, because at 25fps you get an extra stop at the expense of vertical resolution and faux progressive - but 1080/2 is close to PAL... (is that the equivalent of shooting at 30th on NTSC?)

- Using the fixed daylight white balance, then assigning buttons 2 & 3 to move the fixed white balance up and down means I can dial candle light (-7), dimmed stage lighting (-6), standard tungsten (-5), mixed daylight/tungsten scenarios (usually -3), stuff in bright sunlight (+1) and in the shadows (+2 to +4).

The latter point is no substitute for doing a proper white balance, but it's better (IMHO) than using AWB because AWB tends to drift over time - and the editor is going to have a right royal shoe flinging moment when trying to cut together takes with different AWB settings.

I've seen marvelous things done with those little battery powered LED lights. I've not got one, but I have a Sony thing that runs of standard Z1 batteries, but is too bright and hard for sensible use. An LED light can be enough to lift the shadows from overhead lights, and perhaps a magic arm off a fig rig to provide some modelling will work (I've been thinking about this <g>).
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Old December 26th, 2006, 01:30 PM   #7
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Well, I just posted a short clip of what had was able to do with the low light. It is at web.mac.com/yasgur

At the last minute I was able to get backstage and they set me up with no light. I opened the iris all the way and tried the +18 gain. It's a little grainy on my monitor in native HDV but isn't so bad d/c'd. Any comments or suggestions of what I shold have done?

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Old December 31st, 2006, 10:18 AM   #8
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Was the clip "This is a clip from this years “Cowboy Christmas Ball” at Bass Hall in Fort Worth, Texas"?

If so, I didn't see much grain at all. Also, the faces were kind of hot. You probably could have shot it in 0db gain.

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