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Sony HVR-Z7 / HVR-S270
Handheld and shoulder mount versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.


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Old December 5th, 2010, 04:56 PM   #1
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Stage Show - Settings

Hi, I have been asked to film with my HVR Z7E a Stage show. The help I am looking for is up till now under low light, I have had mixed experiences.

This job could lead to others so I don't want to give my client some of the results I have had so far. The level of noise/grain that I see, I know can be fixed with settings in the Camera, but as I am entering unknown territory.

I was hoping someone could provide some settings to try?

I am currently shooting in 1080 25p to my MRU, I know a faster card and enough light on Stage will help, but with this performance it will be darker on the stage.

I just wanted to check ahead of the filming on Friday 10/12/10.

Thanks for any help.

James
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Old December 6th, 2010, 10:10 AM   #2
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This is not exactly an answer to your question but . .

I shoot a lot of stage productions. And my frustration rises as the stage gets dimmer. But this seems to help.

I use two cameras. With the first camera I shoot the entire stage. I usually end up opening the lens up to F1.6 and gain of 3db. Any more gain and it looks bad against the dark stage. I bring audio from the sound board into this camera. Hit record and hope for the best.

With the second camera, I follow the "action" on the stage fairly tight. The "action", at least in the stuff I shoot, tends to be better lit than the general stage so sometimes I can reduce the gain to 0db.

Focusing and compostion can be a problem, so I use an 8" IKAN HDMI monitor.

Then merge the two streams together and it generally looks OK.
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Old December 6th, 2010, 10:44 AM   #3
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It is common in stage shows to use all colors of gels on lights.

The video camera is much more sensitive to this than the eye.

I feel that it's important to have a discussion in advance, in which you explore this issue with the client.

Is there much color efx in their production?

Will color reproduction matter when it gets to video? (here it would be nice to show some samples)

Can you have white light at a tech rehearsal? (maybe)

Will they relight for video? (probably not, but worth asking)
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Old December 6th, 2010, 03:35 PM   #4
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I can't speak for the Z7, but I've recorded dozens of stage shows with a Sony Z1 over the past 5 years. The most valuable tool for low-light shooting in a theatre is the gain control. I was hesistant about using gain at first but now regularly push the gain to 12 or 18 db when required - the resulting image can look a little 'overcooked' but the noise should be minimal. Obviously will you need to open the iris fully before resorting to gain.

If you are really struggling to capture a satisfactory image then drop the shutter speed to 1/25th - you may notice a slight flicker in the image but that is a small price to pay for the extra light-gathering ability.

WIth all of these settings applied, you should be able to record anything that you or the audience can see.
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Old December 6th, 2010, 03:43 PM   #5
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Hi, Thanks for the Replies William and Seth.

William - I would have done the same setup as you mentioned, maybe the only difference depending on the shows final lighting would be the gain value.

To say you could not answer, you have backed up what I would have done, but I know with the Z7 she can be tweaked with settings or use PP4. The question I asked was merely as a result of so many answers available on this forum.

I knew of focus issues as I thought the first time I saw this, it was my dodgy eyesight, Optician's said I was fine.

My way of thinking if I can't get the settings, post a question and hopefully someone can help.

So Thanks for that.

Seth - I never looked at the Lighting in the manner you mentioned, as being new to stage shows, Thanks for the advice. I will check this with the client.

Thanks for the help and I appreciate your time in getting back to me.

James
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Old December 7th, 2010, 08:39 PM   #6
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I have done several ballets with the Z7. I preset my gain settings to 0, 6 and 9. I only use 9 in an emergency. If I don't need the gain, I will use 0db gain. In addition, I set the camera so that I can change the white balance with the adjuster on the side of the camera. In my experience, stage lighting is usually around 3200k and that is my base setting. But if they use a spot light, it is closer to 5600k so I quickly role WB up to that value so that the soloist doesn't look blue. When they dim the spot and revert to normal lighting I quickly adjust back down to the 3200k range. I always like to use a "safety" static camera also, if I can. It is helpful to use a large monitor to check focus and it reduces eye strain on longer performances.
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Old December 7th, 2010, 08:51 PM   #7
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I would really like to Thank everyone, for the responses so far. The suggestions presented are what I have had experienced up till now, I just always blamed my dodgy eye.

The option of the larger monitor? what size would be the smallest I could use, the reason I ask I don't drive and use Public Transport on shoots. I will however have a chance of a lift for this shoot and I will have time to do some testing.

So as a bonus I was taking my Mac Book Pro, as this is where my Footage ends up and it is only after a shoot, I see the footage looking different to what I saw on the Z7 LCD.

I also contacted Sony and provided a Sample of the level of Noise/Grain....Sony's response that's what you get with a cheap camera?

They advised I can change Menu settings, but I need to know and I don't so I did not touch, but with the confirmation so far. I was using the right settings by the looks of things.

James
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Old December 8th, 2010, 08:59 AM   #8
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I use an IKAN V8000HDMI 8" monitor. Along with that I use an IKAN monitor arm. I plug into the HDMI port on the camera. I bought a small padded bag, designed I guess for a netbook. It is well-padded, easy to carry and not big at all.
The IKAN monitor allows very precise focusing and is much easier to watch during a long performance. I use the camera monitor to display settings.
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Old December 8th, 2010, 03:10 PM   #9
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Hi William, Thanks for posting your picture. I recently saw a Datavideo TLM-700HD at a show here in Glasgow. I had thought ages ago about buying the Marshall V-LCD70XP-HDMI.

To me in the end I could not justify the cost at the time (did not see the full benefit)

It was only when I started shooting more in Low Light and I see the benefits now, this has also been confirmed by the responses so far to my question. I will be looking at this more seriously after Santa has been.

I am due at BVE in Earls Court so I will get some questions answered then.

Thanks
James
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Old December 9th, 2010, 06:07 AM   #10
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At the risk of being obsessive about this, I have also found another thing very useful. I suspect you know this but here goes.
Attend a rehersal of the production. The dress rehersal if possible.
Nothing beats first hand knowledge of the production you are going to shoot.
Good luck on the shoot.
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Old December 9th, 2010, 08:34 AM   #11
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Hi William, I had and we are going in to see them do a run through, I also got a copy of the script. To work out some shots, as at first it was a one man shoot now I have two cameras.....

Thanks Again

James
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Old December 9th, 2010, 11:45 AM   #12
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Most of my work is theatre based. The critical element is the 6 P's.
Proper Planning Prevents Pi55 Poor Performance.

It's essential for theatre to see in advance what is going to happen. Lighting can be almost impossible sometimes, but if you know what's going to happen, you can deal with it - but only this week I've had my first production that is impossible to shoot - I have tried 3 times using different camera positions and settings and none work.

The problem is it's an illusion in essence. A character flies. They lift off on stage, and then head for the audience, hovering above their heads, swooping about. The artiste is basically on the end of what looks like a chunky Jimmy Jib, covered in black velvet. The 4 operators are also covered in the same stuff, and the trick is to have plenty of lighting shining towards the audience. In this case, a row of fixed PAR16s and lots of powerful moving lights in vivid colours that carefully do what looks like figure 8s over the audience, carefully missing where the arm is. The artiste is lit by side lights with operators just on the audience side of the stage - these hit her body, but not the arm behind. The trick is that the bright lights shut your iris down (the one in your eye) and although you see the artiste, you can't see anything in the shadows. It looks stunning. However both stills and video are horrible. If you try to expose the subject, it's so dim compared to the moving lights that the glass in the lens diffracts and you wash the image out. Expose for the lights and you cannot even see the flying! I've tried every manual setting and exposure trick I can think of, and the contrast range is just far, far too high.

With general theatre lighting - it's common to have a bright state, which if you can get them to show you before the show you can establish the maximum brightness and aperture setting. In many cases, if there is a really dim scene, then it's meant to be dim - and ramping everything up to get brightness might well reveal things unintended. It's unusual for things to be so dim as to be bad.

The lighting designers design for the perpetual long shot - so they shift emphasis from place to place with lighting. Imagine the Agatha Christie 'who dun' it' type play. For TV, you'd cut to the villain secretly pouring the poison into the cup, but for theatre they rely on the fact that your brain is drawn to the brightest part of the scene - so just before the dodgy deed, a special will brighten up the villains area, and the rest will dim - slowly and not drastically, but the audience will follow the light without thinking, and see the thing the director wants them to. Without the rehearsal, you won't spot this and may well miss the critical movement - viewfinders are rubbish at subtle stuff like this.
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