Am I a heretic - I use auto (a lot) at DVinfo.net

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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 May 12th, 2010, 06:02 AM   #1
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Am I a heretic - I use auto (a lot)

True, I admit it.
I was bought up on cameras with B&W viewfinders and poor auto settings making manual everything manadatory. Auto could not be trusted.
I find that shooting manual on the Z5 in daylight, trying to follow and focus/ change exposure between light and shade, interior and exterior is near impossible to do quickly. Especially trusting the image on the washed out LCD screen.
I LOVE AUTO - the focus, the white balances, the ND, the exposure, shutter, iris - it's been near perfect for most stuff.
OK, when I need to pull focus I switch over - and switch back - am I a bad person?
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Old May 12th, 2010, 08:15 AM   #2
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Auto modes are highly underrated. And it's a myth that they don't produce a good image -- they most often do.

I have said many times on this site that Auto modes can be very useful.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 09:10 AM   #3
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Yeah, I think they are very reliable. However it's good practice to play with manual and test it out. I've learned alot by doing so. No, I wouldn't "practice" during a important wedding scenes, however you never know when you might need to switch to manual settings to improve a bad picture. Hence, it's good to play around with it.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 10:12 AM   #4
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It's like I've said for years. Know thy gear! If you know the gear whichever piece of gear it is you know what it's capable of doing in 99% of the situations you face and know what you have to do to make it work in the others. Auto, manual, it doesn't matter as long as you know what you can achieve with those settings.
It bothers me when someone gets a new camera one day and the next puts it into a paying job. Unless it's exactly the same as the camera you currently own wouldn't it make sense to play with it and learn it's limits and where the various functions and buttons are and what they do?
Auto can be a life saver or it can be an anchor that weights you down, it just depends on the equipment and the situation. Nothing wrong with using it.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 11:48 AM   #5
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In order to use auto effectively, you have to be proficient with your camera in manual mode. This is the only way to understand the limitations and pleasures of auto mode.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 12:37 PM   #6
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The Auto modes on the FX1000 and Z5 are the best I've ever seen, especially if you tweak them a bit. I now shoot exclusively in Auto, now that I've customized the behavior slightly.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 06:07 PM   #7
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in good light i find auto just as accurate as my manual setting ;-)

adam, what's your tweaks?

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Old May 12th, 2010, 06:13 PM   #8
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Not sure if all these are tweaks I made or the defaults, but:

Smooth gain = Slow
AGC Limit = 9 dB
AE Response = Slow
AT Iris Limit = 6.8 or 5.6

All shows are shot Auto, Spotlight Mode, Indoor WB. Always on tripods so Steadyshot always OFF.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 09:50 PM   #9
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Admittedly I'm one of the less experienced with advanced cameras. I've been practicing for 11 months now to learn about shoot-n-scoot, ENG style with my z5. It's not as easy as one might think using the manual adjustments. I generally use manual for just shooting and go to auto for important on-the-fly stuff. For more stable practice, like outside interviews with tri-pods I have been getting better manually.

The majority of my upcoming "money-shots" will be in studio or semi-controlled outside with a tri-pod. I've been also practicing this with manual and some auto-mode, then I compare the two with my notes.

Auto is great, although I've discovered I can manipulate a better DoF and can bring out colors a little better manually IF I have the time to set it up.

(Between lighting, audio, actual filming and editor I've been spending ~50/wk learning what I need to know for our 1st project. Reading DVInfo is a big part of my learning)
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Old May 12th, 2010, 10:14 PM   #10
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Shooting in manual mode isn't as hard as some people make it out to be. Many of the jobs we shoot are fairly static. Think about it, weddings, seminars, conferences, even some of the sporting events. By static I mean the lighting really doesn't change at least not greatly in a super short period of time, like day to night in 1 second. So for the most part shutter speed, f/stop and gain stay the same thru out most if not all of the job so shooting in manual mode is like shooting auto mode, nothing much changes. Now remember I'm talking generalities. Of course there are times that things change quick as can be, but talk to news cam ops. They don't do anything in auto mode because the cams they use don't have auto mode, Sure there is the auto iris (pinky fingers get real adept at pushing the iris button) but no auto focus or auto gain (you set what you want and flip the switch) and most don't use the AWB function. They have a preset WB and an A and B set to the scene (takes about 5 seconds to do that).
What I getting at here is manaul shooting isn't as hard as it sounds but auto isn't as bad as it sounds. Use what works for you but learn how to go either way since conditions dictate the solution.
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Old May 13th, 2010, 06:26 PM   #11
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Two most important things for me are good audio and a CLEAN lens. There is nothing worse than having great pics and a small spot that you didn't see on your LCD.
For me, auto gives me great back-up on the fly when you might have lots of manual settings that don't apply all of a sudden. I am constantly amazed at the quality of exposure, focus and white balance in mixed light that the Z5 provides in auto mode.
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Old May 15th, 2010, 08:19 AM   #12
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"Know thy gear," is a pretty good way of putting it. Seems to me I go into the manual mode a lot more in adverse lighing conditions where auto doesn't typically give me the best image/color I'm looking for. Otherwise, I use Auto a lot as well. When I had the cam to my wife, she almost always puts it in the Auto mode much to my consternation sometimes.

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Old May 17th, 2010, 02:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
Not sure if all these are tweaks I made or the defaults, but:

Smooth gain = Slow
AGC Limit = 9 dB
AE Response = Slow
AT Iris Limit = 6.8 or 5.6

All shows are shot Auto, Spotlight Mode, Indoor WB. Always on tripods so Steadyshot always OFF.
Adam if you leave Smooth Gain to OFF (default) what is the result? and why you choose the Smooth gain to Slow instead of middle?
I set the AGC Limit to 12db and my pictures with low light are without any grain.

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Old May 17th, 2010, 02:59 PM   #14
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I agree, 12dB is perfectly acceptable and I often default to that as well. Really a matter of situation.

I believe if SMOOTH GAIN is OFF then it quickly shifts as needed, making an obvious jump on the tape. I'd rather go slowly so it's less noticeable. It's okay if it's dark for a few seconds as long as the transition isn't jarring. It's actually only for manual gain switching so I never have the need for it. I suppose in a run n' gun situation where you just need to get to the right exposure quickly, you'd leave it off.
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