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Sony NXCAM / AVCHD Camcorders
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Old April 27th, 2011, 05:11 PM   #1
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Camera settings

I have moved from a FX1000 to a new NX5U with FMU. Shot all on "auto" with good results on the FX1000. NX5 looks like a different ballgame.

Going back to Africa for a month of safari and would appreciate any views on cam settings.

Subjects will be animals, outdoor , generally good light, moderate motion My thinking now is HD on the SD card drives and DV on the FMU.

Any thoughts?
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Old April 28th, 2011, 08:27 AM   #2
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Re: Camera settings

The standard definition on the NX5U is MPEG2 not DV so be aware of that. Personally I wouldn't bother with SD and if you have both FMU and cards use as a backup for important shots. If I want to shoot all auto I use my smaller Sony cameras as they do a much better job on auto. The consumer cameras focus faster and more accurately and the intelligent auto modes get exposure better too. In full auto my NX5U cannot match my XR500 or CX700. For me the NX5U is a full manual camera. If you have a lot of fast motion you may want to shoot 1280x720P60. Get used to using the zebra and peaking and stay manual and I think you will get much better results.

Ron Evans
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Old April 28th, 2011, 10:40 PM   #3
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Re: Camera settings

Ron is right. The NX5 fairly begs to be run with at least some manual functions. Skip the standard def video unless you absolutely need tomake imemiate DVDs for somebody.
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Old April 29th, 2011, 10:47 PM   #4
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Re: Camera settings

Jay/Ron

I am interested to know more about why you believe better results can be generated from the NX5 in manual mode. (I also thinks its interesting that a $1200.00 Sony Cam has better focus/exposure vs a $4800.00 semi-pro camera)

I shoot a lot of fast motion competitive skiing, so manual focus is not an option for me becuase the focal plane is too dynamic.. I have to rely on the camera .. so far i thinks the results are good, but i previously had a FX1, so i am still excited by the jump in image quality that the NX5 provides at 720:60p

regards

Justin.
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Old April 30th, 2011, 12:05 AM   #5
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Re: Camera settings

Manual focus: Where I find manual focus on the NX falls down most is in shooting with theatrical lighting and in shooting in dim light (as for wedding receptions), neither of which seems to be an issue for you. Generally, I've found the NX autofocus is okay in bright light. But, the NX glass is much bigger and there is more machinery to move around than with the tiny CX cams, Seems to me that it is basically physics. More mass means the the NX autofocus does not work as swiftly or as precisely. Also, I suspect that Sony programmers did more with the tiny CX cams because those cams are designed for mainly full auto modes. Full manual focus on the NX is not difficult. Zoom all the way in, switch to manual focus, press the expanded focus button, check and adjust the focus then switch off the expanded focus focus and zoom back out. You are now set for focus for a considerable depth of field and can zoom in and out as you choose. I have not shot competitive skiing, but I have shot some downhill mountain bike racing using this technique. But, if the autofocus with 720p is working for you, that is great.

It should not be surprising that a "semi-pro" camera will excel with manual adjustments where a forthrightly consumer-type of camera often does best with automatic modes. The way I look at at it, the NX is basically a different tool than the CX cams are.
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Old April 30th, 2011, 07:01 AM   #6
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Re: Camera settings

Like Jay my projects are theatre too. Same issues as Jay brings out. The money in the NX5 is for all the manual controls both video and audio, big 20x zoom, 3 chip. Like Jay I focus mid stage and arrange depth of field to cover most of stage so I don't have to re-focus all the time just zoom within the depth of field range to have the picture in focus. I adjust gain to keep my iris in the f4 range to keep the depth of field about the same. For real close-up I will then re-focus using the peaking/expanded focus. The auto focus on the NX5 is no better than my Fx1 which I found poor at best too in this theatre environment. Use zebra to manually set exposure. For theatre with lights going up and down etc everything is in manual or the camera keeps trying to adjust and will not portray what the performance is all about. I use the small cameras as fixed position for the theatre and set those with manual focus too for the same reasons. I use the spot focus function for this so that I can frame the shot then focus as these little cams do not hold focus throughout the zoom range. I set the small cams with AE shift at -3 most of the time and this allows them to be left unattended still leaving the auto scene detect active. All cameras are set for fixed preset indoor white balance for the same reasons.
I have done lots of testing of auto functions both with my FX1 and the NX5 compared to the small cameras and the small cameras always win. They are designed for point and shoot for people who have no interest in manual controls but want good pictures every time. They focus faster and seem to do a better job of exposure too especially if people are in the picture as they automatically manage exposure/focus for the whole frame with a bias to people faces. The NX5 does not seem to manage this way, seems to focus on something loosely in the middle of the frame but biased to the background !!! Same as the FX1 though.

Just returned from a ski trip and used my new CX700 handheld skiing next to my grandsons. Very impressive active stabilizer considering I was holding the camera out in front of me while skiing next to them. I shot everything in 60P too very nice and wish the NX5U had 1920x1080P60 too. I used a variable density filter on the CX700 for the trip. It was in full auto the whole trip!!!

Ron Evans
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Old May 3rd, 2011, 12:37 PM   #7
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Re: Camera settings

Thanks guys. Lots of good info. I appreciate
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Old May 28th, 2011, 07:46 AM   #8
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Re: Camera settings

I have spent about a week going through the forum looking for answers about our new NX5. You guys have answered a few here but I need more help quick! For years I have shot in DV and just recently purchased a new NX5. I am new to HD and working with video shot in a compressed format.

I have a school graduation and a Stage Dance Recital shot with our new NX5 and with terrible results. Whenever someone moves their faces get pixilated (or blurry) everything else seems to stay in focus. I shot in manual settings and captured in both HD and SD at the same time. I have tried everything I can think of. I rendered both HD and SD to and avi, I downloaded and tried Cineform's "Neosceen", I have changed fields, rendered as progressive, etc. I can only assume it is either a bit rate issue or the nature of compressed video (I, B, and P frames). I am ready to sell this new NX5 on Ebay. Can anyone set me straight?
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Old May 28th, 2011, 11:56 AM   #9
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Re: Camera settings

What are you viewing the video on? Is this from the camera via HDMI to a HD TV? Do this first that will at least tell you if it is the video or your playback system. The characteristics likely are a PC playback issue. Not enough power to decode and playback. At least that is my first thoughts.

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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:23 PM   #10
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Re: Camera settings

First I burned a DVD and viewed it on both a standard television as well as flat screen LCD HD television. Then later I hooked up the camera via RCA video out and viewed on the HD television. Even straight from the camera the pixelation is very noticeable. And in some of my many re-renderings the blurring diminishes when viewed on the computer monitor and in some renderings it is very bad.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 10:12 PM   #11
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Re: Camera settings

My initial reaction was that you either have a seriously defective camera or else you do not understand (or maybe did not realize) what settings you used for shooting or playback.

What you describe sounds like a bit-rate issue, but I'm still not clear on what settings you used for shooting and the setting used for viewing the footage and what your computer specs are. For example. your description sounds (to me) like the kinds of motion artifacts I would expect to see when a dance recital is shot in 24p using FH (lowest quality HD). Or maybe you are looking at LP SD signal fed out through a composite cable to an hdtv? Have you set the camera to down-convert video signals? What setting did you enable for "video out?" (Manual p. 77). If you use the component cable, is the video still as bad?

Did you record to both an FMU and an SD card? (I ask because I recall reading a similar complaint somewhere last year where the NX5 user thought he could record HD on one card and SD on the other card and did not realize one can only do dual-mode recording an FMU and an SD card.) Which did you have set to what?

How did you import your video to your computer? Did you use the CMU software or something else?

If you are looking at SD video on an HD system, you could be seeing "defects" like those you describe, especially if you are looking at video shot with SD in LP mode and using a composite (yellow) cable for the video feed.

What NLE are you using and and what are your computer specs? These all can affect playback in different ways.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 12:09 PM   #12
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Re: Camera settings

I am using Sony Vegas Pro 9 to edit. I bought the external backup unit along with the camera and so I recorded in both SD (480 60i) on the external unit and HD (1080 60i) on the SD card. I did this as backup because of the camera being tapeless. Both SD and HD versions have this jitter, blurring, pixelation problem. Even in shots where there is little movement the plants on stage blur in and out as though the camera is trying to focus but everything else looks ok. I am new to the whole capturing and editing in compressed video. I can't help but think that it has something to do with the B and P frames but I may not know what I am talking about. I always try to shoot with almost everything on manual however because I am not that familiar with the camera something may have been on auto that I was not aware of. One shot was under gym vapor lights and one shot was on stage under stage lighting.

I did not use HDMI cable to connect to the TV but I used the component hook up from the camera (yellow). I can try hooking up the TV to the camera with HDMI if you think that would make a difference.

I did not use autofocus. I used manual focus and I know I used manual iris. I think I manually set the shutter to 60 but it may or may not have been on auto.

In the graduation video that we did, it is really noticeable in people's faces as they are moving across the stage. Is it possible it has something to do with the I frame not being established correctly so that the B & P frames are jumbled up? It is occurring in small details. I have read on the forum that cameras that shoot in compressed formats are horrible when the subject is moving.

I used the CMU to get the video to the computer.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 12:29 PM   #13
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Re: Camera settings

You may have a defective camera, but, with the long weekend, there are some things you can rule out before you get hold of Sony on Tuesday.

The following seem (to me) the most likely culprits if the camera is not defective.

1. Component is not the yellow cable. That is "composite." Composite has one yellow cable for the video signal. With a composite connection, you might be getting 300 lines of resolution through a composite cable. No more. That is of HD resolution. Anything you send over a composite cable is SD. No exceptions. Component cable has three video feeds (red-green-blue). For HD video, you want to use component (analog) or HDMI (digital) for sending HD signals to a tv. When you were playing back to a tv, you were playing downconverted SD video to an HDtv so things can look pretty poor if you were expecting high def video.

2. This is so even if you went into the "rec/out" menu and set "video out" to component. Definitely try the hdmi cable and be sure you are playing. Also, be sure you go into the "rec/out" and be sure that "SDI/HDMI/Component" is set to "1080i/480i" and that "Output Select" is set to HDMI Finally, check the tv to be sure it is not set to downconvert, either.

3. I do not use Vegas much, but I have noticed issues like you describe when running AVCHD in it. (I have Vegas 8.1). When playing back in Vegas, did you adjust your playback monitor settings? Vegas may have been set to play at resolution in order to accommodate the HD data stream.

4. Do you see the same problems with the HD files when you play them with Windows Media Player? If not, there may be a problem in your playback or sequence/project settings in Vegas.

If the problems are not in those four things, I can speculate about a number of other things to check. I was asking about these in the previous post but let me list these out in more detail.

A. Were you shooting from a tripod with active steadyshot engaged? Did you have active steadyshot set to standard or "wide angle." I've noticed that the active steady shot/wide conversion setting as well as the "hard" steadyshot settings seems to result in image disturbance when used when zoomed in and durung pans. Were you shooting with a long zoom and maybe you had digital zoom enagaged?

B. When you were using manual focus, did you first set the focus switch to "man" (the one on the left side of the camera) or did you just start using the manual focus ring? You can use the manual focus ring even when shooting in auto focus, but, when zooming or panning or re-aiming the camera, the auto focus kicks back in if the "man" setting is not engaged. I have found when shooting theatrical type events (indoors, low light or very high contrast shots, especially with dark backdrops) that the NX5's autofocus can be slow and imprecise. I usually set a deep manual depth of field before I shoot "stage" events. When I've used auto focus with stage shots when I'm in the back of a room, I've noticed some focus hunting can be caused by motion from intevening audience members. (For-example, somebody holding up a cell phone to get a picture --- the raised arm seems to momentarily grab the attention of the auto-focus and then the camera hunts for a proper focus.)

C. Not having seen your video, but relying on your description, I'm wondering if you might have excessive gain dialed in. Did you have the gain switch (lower left side) set to "H" or were you using AGC or did you have hypergain enabled? Did you notice anything while shooting? Did you have peaking enabled? Were you using the viewfinder or the viewscreen for your focus decisions? Did you use the expanded focus feature (i.e., viewscreen image enlargement) to check focus during the shoot.

D. I vaguely reading somewhere last year that, when doing hybrid recording, one should shoot HD to the FMU and SD to the cards. (For some reason, I associate Victor Wilcox's name with this, but I cannot find the post.) I do not recall why one was not supposed to to the reverse. You might try an internet search.

E. Were you using the FX quality setting or a lesser one?

F. It is not a compression issue nor is it a B&P frame issue. A lot of us get excellent results from the full 24 Mnps AVCHD setting on the NX5. Is your computer up to real-time playback of AVCHD? What sequence/project settings did you use for Vegas?
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Old May 29th, 2011, 02:31 PM   #14
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Re: Camera settings

And by the way, the FMU is not really a back-up unit. I use it (as does Ron) as the primary recording medium and only use the cards as back-up. (Much faster file transfers.) I know there were several early adopters who shot HD to the FMU and SD to the cards so that they could quickly dump footage for DVDs (as during day-long festivals).
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Old May 29th, 2011, 02:55 PM   #15
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Re: Camera settings

Hi David--

First off, welcome to the world of HD, which introduces a whole new set of variables, as you've seen. I can't add much to what Jay and Ron have said and I think their advice is spot on, but I think some of their points bear repeating, and I think there's hope that your cam is fine. The important thing here is to rule out the simple before we jump to the complex. I should point out that I don't have an NX5 but I do have and use the Z5, and they are about 90% the same cam, with the really significant differences being codec related, which is exactly what we are talking about here, I realize -- but many significant principles are shared.

Several things jumped out at me from your post #10: "DVD", "RCA" and "re-rendering", all of which said to me: not camera original HD. Not HD at all. So no way to tell what condition the files are in. You must look at the camera originals before you can tell what's going on. When you said RCA I assumed you meant the yellow composite cable, which you confirmed in a later post. You must really use the HDMI or the Red, Green, Blue Component direct to a good HDTV, and as Jay points out make sure both the cam and the TV are not downconverting, and if you recorded both HD and SD on the cam to two different destinations, make super sure you are playing back the HD source. I have also read repeatedly (IIRC) that if you do both HD and SD that the HD should be to the FMU so double check this.

You absolutely cannot trust anything you are seeing on your PC, because so many issues can arise even during simple playback, as has been pointed out, resulting in the symptoms you describe: your PC just might not be capable of playing back AVCHD smoothly, either inside Vegas or outside. And re-encoding and burning to DVD will likely make it worse and of course, no regular standalone DVD player hooked up to a TV can play anything back in HD.

When troubleshooting something like this it's really important to try to knock down one variable at a time. So let's determine the condition of the original files first if possible.

This also points out the value of doing test runs of new gear before big events if possible. Now I admit there was one occasion when I actually did divert to the Sony Store on the way to a shoot and buy two new cameras that we literally unboxed at the theatre and put into service thirty minutes before the show, but that was an emergency. I normally like to put new cams through their paces for a week before an important event so I can do all my screwing up in private, because if there's a way to mess something up, I'll find it. Not saying you did anything wrong, but I know I will, given half a chance.

Anyway, let us know how the files look straight from the cam via HDMI to HDTV. That has to be your first step before you do anything else. If the files are fine then you move to level 2 of sleuthing, your PC. If the files are not fine then you should be able to export and post a single frame which shows us the pixelation, aka compression artifacts or macro-blocking, so we can help you diagnose it, and then the key question will be, as Jay asked, are you sure you are recording at the highest quality level, i.e. FX (the least compression)?
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Last edited by Adam Gold; May 29th, 2011 at 03:38 PM.
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