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Sony VX2100 / PD170 / PDX10 Companion
Topics also include Sony's TRV950, VX2000, PD150 & DSR250 family.


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Old August 31st, 2005, 09:48 AM   #1
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How to make your VX/PD footage look twice as sharp

It's easy really - use a good solid tripod. I've just done some tests using the VX2000 hand held with Steadyshot both on and off, on top of the Manfrotto and hand held.

With the hand held shots I do what I always do - I brace myself, take a breath, let out half of it, pull my elbows into my sides, use the side-screen with the camera at waist height and concentrate hard.

Firstly the Steadyshot off scenes. The results on screen are pretty good I think, and I'm pleased with what I see. As soon as I turn Steadyshot on the tiny irregular 'blips' are effectively smoothed out and the footage looks better. But once on the tripod the picture is rock-solid. All camera movement has been eliminated and you find you're watching the subject with much more single-minded concentration - the distraction of even tiny camera movement having been eliminated.

Now to telephoto. The footage is almost unwatchable at 72 mm with Steadyshot turned off. However hard I concentrate, my pulse is visible on screen, there's no getting away from it. With the OIS turned on the tiny amounts of camera shake takes on a sine wave fluidity - and it is much more watchable. But I can only keep this sort of steadyness up for as long as I can hold my breath, so that's somewhat limiting.

So I put the VX on the Manfrotto and it's laughably easy to get exactly what you've paid for - and you get to see that you've bought yourself a most excellent lens of quite incredible sharpness. You can play with the depth of field because with the shakes removed all the apertures are at your disposal.

I'm using a tripod more and more for my event filming. The extra hassle is more than offset by the fact that I have a real and very useable 12x zoom at my disposal, and the solidity of the 'picture frame' view of the world lets you see what I want you to see, and you don't suddenly start noticing that the edges of the frame move gently left, right, up and down.

I'm telling you all what you've known for yonks, of course. But I thought it worth dredging up again.

tom.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 09:54 AM   #2
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Sony recommends that SteadyShot be turned off when you use a tripod. Normally it won't make any difference but there are panning and tilting speeds that will cause the SS to appear to make the picture lag and then overshoot at the start and stop of the motion. It is quite noticable and not at all what you would want.

It really is too bad they couldn't find room for a SS on-off switch somewhere on the outside of the camera as they did with the VX-1000.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 01:41 PM   #3
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Hi Tom

Thanks for your replies on the FX1, PD forums, you talk with affection about the VX2000 getting the best from these lovley camaras, can we take it that you won't be jumping on the HDV bandwagon just yet! and these cameras do have a few years in them yet.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 02:10 PM   #4
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I always use the steady shot... even on the tripod. I know what the manual says and I always wondered why after comparing footage with and without, on a tripod. Never made any sence to me because there's shake on a tripod all the time when you touch the handle, when the legs are bumped, or sometimes it's just a bit shaky when it's extended beyond 2/3 the way up. I've never seen this lag or over shoot, perhaps my movements are too slow?
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Old August 31st, 2005, 02:55 PM   #5
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When it happens, you will know it. Your movement will be ruined by the results.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 03:26 PM   #6
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I've discovered that the benefits of SteadyShot while on a tripod outweigh the potentially detrimental effects. Yes, I've experienced the overshoot effect, but it wasn't bad enough that it ruined my footage. It was noticable though. I've weighed this issue extensively over the past couple years while shooting events with my PD170 and came to the conclusion that I'm better off with than without Steadyshot.

John
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Old August 31st, 2005, 05:20 PM   #7
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Yep. Mike, I totally agree with you, it does noticeably drift. I have an XL-1 that does this as well. There's nothing worse than performing a great pan approaching a perfectly tapered stop until you do stop and that OIS gives you that subtle but noticeable extra push as if you overshot your stop. It is clearly visible and annoying as hell. In the future, you will remember to turn it off while on stix after being screwed a couple of times because of it.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 01:30 AM   #8
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Hi Ian,

You're right - I'm not jumping onto the HDV bandwaggon just now as the potential energy stuffed inside every 4:3 VX/PD has yet to be fully exploited by most people. That was the point of my original post ~ that once on a good solid tripod the beauty of the VX2k's image quality is exposed and visible to the world.

I get a lot of compliments (cough, blush) about the picture quality I extract from my VX2k, but mine's not special in any way, I just know how to eek out every last ounce it has to give. Here are tom's top ten tips.

1) Tripod (obviously) with the best fluid head you can afford.
2) Custom presets - sharpness up a notch, AE down a notch.
3) Filters? leave them off.
4) Apertures? Aim for f/4.8. Use a combination of the internal NDs and shutter speeds.
5) Shoot into the light and get the exposure spot on.
6) Look for differential focus effects (long tele, wide apertures). This makes the MPEG2 compressed DVD footage (and this is all the client is ever going to see) look its very best.
7) Use a very good lens hood. Move back under that tree if needs be. Always be on the lookout to shade your front element.
8) Avoid converter lenses. Yes, they're sometimes necessary, but they all degrade your image.
9) Use TLC at all times. Don't be in a constant rush. Slow down a bit, but get that shot.
10) white balance at the scene. I know it's tempting to think you can correct it in post, but this will degrade your image.

tom.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 02:08 AM   #9
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Nice one Tom!

Steady work is always the way to go. I was taught that a movie camera is a camera that doesn't move - it only "captures" movement! Dollies, pans and tilts still rely on the camera being rock solid. Of course all these "rules" can be broken. However I'd be breaking them, for the "shot" AND from a background knowing what I was doing.

No Tom, well worth bringing this up again and again if needed.

Great stuff, and from an Essex Boy! "Rickkieee"

Grazie
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Old September 1st, 2005, 02:32 AM   #10
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Yup, an Essex boy. But re-reading my post it makes my movies sound very static, staid and boring. I feel I must correct this impression by saying that a movie is a collection of action and reaction, of static and movement, of light and shade, of high and low viewpoints, of long tele and super wides, of colour and black 'n' white, of loud and soft, of sweet and sour, breaking and keeping rules, being brave and keeping calm.

It's just that when you need to squeeze blood from the stone and get the best the lens has to offer, tom's ten tips is the way to go.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 02:53 AM   #11
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Tom

You say to keep the camera at around f/4.8 use the Nd filters and shutter speeds, if you up shutter speed above 50 don't you sometimes get strobie affects with movment!


You say that you always white balance at the scene, does that include in the church as well, I use the presets as in the past i have found that setting white balance with a white card sometimes gave me a brownish tinge to the footage.

And I have just fitted the wide converter that comes bundled with the 170 and was going out to test it ( first time I have used it had camera a year) you think its better not to use it if you can get away with it, seems a pain to have screw it on and off.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 03:44 AM   #12
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Yes Ian, if you up the shutter speed you'll start to notice the stacatto effect as large parts of the scene in front of your camera don't get recorded. I've talked about this at length before. It also spoils any slow motion that you might want to do later in post.

White balance is a difficult subject. Takes time to do and takes experience to get right. Use the presets if you're not sure, but often a wedding presents you with a huge variety of mixed light sources, so the presets turn out to be only a quick compromise.

And yes, it's better not to use the wide-angle converter unless it's absolutely necessary. Using it will increase the flare levels while at the same time increasing the barrel distortion and reducing the contrast. It also opens you up to tiny foreign bodies on the glass elements shadowing the chips, so it must be kept absolutely spotless and well hooded. The PD170s hood is useless when the 0.7 is in place.

But OTOH, using a widie is a lot better than constantly hose-piping the bride and groom trying to 'get them all in'

tom.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 03:46 AM   #13
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I have yet to see Steadyshot lag on the tripod with the PDs. I remember seeing severe bouts of it with the XL1S a few years ago, but that's with a rather long lense. Maybe I just don't spend a lot of time at the far end of the zoom.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 04:04 AM   #14
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Same here Shawn. Maybe some VX/PDs are more susceptable to the effect than others, but I do a lot of panning work with my VX on a tripod and have never seen the need to switch the OIS off. And I'm pretty critical when it comes to quality.
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Old September 1st, 2005, 09:11 AM   #15
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Tom

Just been out and done a few shots alternation between auto outside and manualy white carding white balancing, and yes this time i must of got it right, the auto ones seem be colder in appearance and the manual ones seem to give a warmer and better accuracy of what you see.

Thanks Tom
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