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Sony HVR-Z5 / HDR-FX1000
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.


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Old February 9th, 2009, 10:20 PM   #1
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Using Zebra

I was wondering if/how most people use zebra. Do you leave it on while shooting? What exactly is it showing? Do you try to expose to minimize it?

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Old February 10th, 2009, 05:57 AM   #2
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Simply put, the zebras show you areas of overexposure. If the overexposed subject matter is important, the zebras allow you to drop the exposure by just the right amount to avoid this. It's easy to see when the zebras disappear.

Of course there may be other areas in the picture that are of a lower brightness that you need to expose correctly and thus the overexposed areas in the picture may not be that important.
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Old February 10th, 2009, 09:32 AM   #3
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I've tried using the Zebra feature but in certain situations it distracts me too much, so I stopped using it all of the time.
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Old February 10th, 2009, 02:03 PM   #4
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I've tried using the Zebra feature but in certain situations it distracts me too much, so I stopped using it all of the time.
Same here Jeff more than a headache than help.

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Old February 10th, 2009, 02:59 PM   #5
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It depends on how you choose to use zebra on your camera. If you set zebra to 100 IRE, you are going to see it where areas are overexposed. At 95 IRE you get to see areas that are ABOUT to over expose. If you use them like I do at 75 IRE, you get zebra on only the highlight areas of caucasian skin tone, assuring "normal" exposure ("correct" exposure could be ANYTHING, depending on what sort of look you are trying to achieve). AT 70 IRE you should have zebra on the key-lit side of caucasian skin tones, again for "normal" exposure.

PS. My zebra markers are ALWAYS on, regardless of what camera(s) I'm using, handycam or broadcast. This gives me a constant, since in a rental or group use scenario, someone may have messed with viewfinder/LCD brightness/contrast making it impossible to judge safely by eye. If it's YOUR camera and no one ever messes with it, you may never have use for zebra.
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Old February 10th, 2009, 03:21 PM   #6
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I use 70% zebra often but I rarely have it on. I just do it to confirm exposure like Shaun said. Once I feel comfortable with my exposure, I turn it off.
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Old February 10th, 2009, 05:26 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the interesting and valid opinions and approaches.

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Old February 10th, 2009, 10:32 PM   #8
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zebra - a great reference

This is a great discussion about Zebra.

Recently shooting on the FX1000 for the first time a-lot of my shots (in fact all of them) were over exposed.

It seems the new LCD screen really threw me and to put it simply if I had have used zebra as a reference then it would have been fine.

Like Jeff Zebra on the screen all of time puts me off and I usually turn it off but referring to it as a guide is a must do from now on for me.

Also referring to the auto iris can be good as well as its usually pretty close. Usually a bit hot but close to spot on.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 06:41 AM   #9
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I was a bit surprised by the number of comments opposed to zebras. There is no better way (and really the only accepted way) to determine areas of overexposure. If you don't use them, it's a pretty good bet your video will be overexposed somewhere.

Marin, remember you also have the AE bias control which can tell the camera to constantly overexpose or underexpose from what it would want to do by a predetermined amount set by you. Thus if you feel your video is a just a bit hot on a fairly consistent basis, you can tell the cam to just reduce the exposure a bit.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 10:24 AM   #10
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Ken, unless I missed something, as I often do, I didn't read any posts that was "against" using the zebra tool. There is no argument or debate here, just guys discussing how they use it.

Some of us simply find it distracting. A bit of overexposure here and there does not hurt anything anyway. As a run and gun shooter I cannot be turning zebra on and off constantly to check for a perfectly exposed image. If I'm shooting with my shoulder mount it is downright impossible while walking, etc to even think about it.

Over and under-exposed images are everywhere. It is not the end of the world when it happens.

The more I shoot and edit for a living the more I find that it is counter-productive to shoot for absolutely perfect images all of the time. It is more important to capture the moment than to be fussing with settings and to miss something, which has happened to me more than once.

I do hope to get better at adjusting on the fly like Mark Von Lanken and the top pros do, they set a great example. But my primary focus as a wedding shooter is to capture the moment, that is the biggest concern to my clients.

I'm not sure that there is one "only accepted" way to set exposure. I have used the zebra tool only to find if I had followed it to set my exposure I would have lost my subject. There are plenty of situations where overexposure is necessary, particularly in backlit situations.

None of my local friends in the business use it at all. My friend Jeff has been shooting video since the 80s. One of his new shooters (just out of film school, of course) left the zebra on Jeff's camera and Jeff was actually quite irritated. Jeff feels it is a useless feature for people that don't know how to shoot without it. Mind you that is his opinion, and I don't agree with him or disagree with him, that is just how he feels about it.

I have only seen a few "how to shoot videos", such as Mark's, but the ones I've watched all showed setting exposure by sight, not using the zebra tool.

Zebra can be a useful tool, but it is not perfect. Any seasoned pro can likely shoot quite effectively without using it.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 11:37 AM   #11
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Quote:
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I'm not sure that there is one "only accepted" way to set exposure.
Jeff, not the only accepted way to set 'exposure', but it's really the only reliable way to avoid overexposure. There are many times that areas of overexposure are not important (as you implied) because they are not the subject matter of the video. However, if the subject being emphasized is overexposed, that can get pretty ugly.

Nobody is saying you must use it, but if you want to avoid overexposure more accurately, then zebras are the way to go.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 01:38 PM   #12
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Must say that I tend to have zebra on all time set at 70 as this was one of only two settings that the PD170s had but now with the Z5 we have a choice in increments of 5 so wondered what setting you guys/gals use.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 01:40 PM   #13
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Must say that I tend to have zebra on all time set at 70 as this was one of only two settings that the PD170s had but now with the Z5 we have a choice in increments of 5 so wondered what setting you guys/gals use.
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Old February 11th, 2009, 02:35 PM   #14
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When I use it I set use it at the default setting of 70. I have read elsewhere that others are finding that to be a good starting point also.

70 seems to be a good balance.
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