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Sony VX2100 / PD170 / PDX10 Companion
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Old December 13th, 2005, 09:41 PM   #1
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Newbie VX2100 Video Advice

I just bought a slightly used vx2100 (my first professional camcorder) and I've been diligently reading the manual and these forums for advice on how to get the best results with it.

The problem I'm experiencing is that my vx2100 video at once looks soft and grainy. I'm shooting mostly out doors during the day (California's wonderful National Parks).

With seemingly everyone agreeing that the video from a vx2100 looks great, I'm guessing it takes some experience and knowledge to get this camera to work it's magic.

So here's my question:

What does it take to get the best video out of a vx2100?

In the mean time I'll keep practicing, reading, and experimenting.

Thank you for your help!

Gordon

Last edited by Gordon White; December 13th, 2005 at 09:44 PM. Reason: Title wasn't accurate 2
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Old December 13th, 2005, 10:05 PM   #2
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Full auto with the ND filters off? No other filters in place? Lens reasonably clean? On a tripod and zoom in to focus (manual focus) then frame? Should be quite sharp, Gordon.

This assumes you aren't sitting inside the bole of a Redwood and expecting sunlight quality.

If you do all of the above and it still isn't sharp, try resetting the camera just in case. If it is still not as sharp (video direcectly out of the camera and into a monitor, then something is wrong.

NTSC video itself isn't great but it is OK.
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Old December 15th, 2005, 01:47 PM   #3
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Thanks for the advice. Yesterday I reset the camera and bought a Bogen tripod (3001 Pro) and fluid head (3130). Per advice on this forum I've bumped the sharpness up a notch and knocked AE down a notch on the custom presets as well.

What I'm struggling with now is exposure. I've set my Zebra at 100 (again, per advice on this forum) and I'm looking to keep it at 4.0 or 4.8 and then use the ND filters and shutter speed to compensate. The only thing is that rarely works - too much light or not enough to keep it at 4.0 or 4.8.

Can anyone give a good overview on how to think and use the exposure settings?

Thank you for the advice. It's invaluable!

Gordon
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Old December 15th, 2005, 01:51 PM   #4
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Mike -

Yes, full auto and experiementing with manual. ND filters on when camera asks for it. Lens cleaned with lens cloth (from my 35mm camera bag) and looks good. Now on Bogen tripod. I'm now zooming in and manually focusing before composing my shots. I'm getting better and the footage is improving.

Thanks,

Gordon
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Old December 15th, 2005, 07:15 PM   #5
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Whether you use 70 or 100% Zebra depends on what you are shooting. But ultimately, F-stop is going to have to give way for exposure compensation. You can't move far off 1/60th of a second shutter speed before you generate motion artifacts or reduce your resolution. You only have 2 ND filter positions unless you start adding some on the front or add a box so you can use jells.. So if you cannot control the light, f-stop is gonna go.

In general, unless you are pointing at static-only scenes (and then why use video anyway?) the degredation in image quality across the range of f-stops is not very important. If you are shooting static scenes, then a digital still camera would work far better for initial image capture.
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Old December 15th, 2005, 10:37 PM   #6
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I believe on the 2100 Gain Up (which can make image grainy) doesn't engage unless one is not getting enough light at F1.6 (I have PD170).

I'd start fully manual (you'll learn more that way). If ND1 or ND2 flashes on screen it's usually a good idea to use the ND filter.

I use 70% for flesh tones - how much peak depends on mood, flesh tone, etc.

Ideally keep anything from hitting 100% Zebra but that depends. If you're going to higher numbered fstop, it darkens key parts of the image too much sometimes. You have to live with overexposing sky, snow top mountaing peaks etc. otherwise.

Set Fstop to minimize the amount of zebra 100% you see but it depends on your main subject, To make dark tree bark look good you might have to live with overexposed sky for example.

Check video on NTSC (or PAL as the case may be) Video Monitor to see what was really recorded.

You can do all sorts of things to change the LCD brightness and color which has no affect on the recording but may make judgement using such device even more inaccurate than it already is.

Most people dial DOWN the sharpness, finding the VX/PD too sharp at default. Rarely is there a reason to dial it up.

Just a reminder that higher Fstop number makes image darker - lower Fstop number makes image brighter.

Keep shutter speed at 1/60 (NTSC) unless you want slow shutter smear or high shutter "Saving Private Ryan" effect.

Lowering shutter adds more light and creates smear. Raising shutter darkens image but creates a . . . less motion in a field/frame effect. High shutter speeds can be usefull with sports for sharper slow mos and maybe for shooting skiing for example (white snow, lots of sun light).

Last edited by Craig Seeman; December 16th, 2005 at 09:14 AM.
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Old December 16th, 2005, 09:08 AM   #7
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Try playing around with the Custon Presets. That should help a good amount.

-Ricky.
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Old December 16th, 2005, 10:03 AM   #8
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I think that messing with custom preset is not the best thing to do. As much as I've heard from pro's, it is suggested to keep the default settings and do any adjustments in post if you really need and that's why my Custom Preset is turned off right now as well. Actually I've experimented that in some cases it might be good to add a few notches on the White Balance to make the picture warmer, but sharpness should probably stay where it is.
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Old December 16th, 2005, 01:34 PM   #9
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Wow - a lot of good advice. It sounds like there's a lot of different opinions of how to best shoot with a vx2100.

One handicap I have right now is that I'm traveling without a monitor. Everything is viewed through the camera or on my iBook (current model).

I've been told that vx2100 footage looks a lot better through an NTSC monitor.

Any opinons on that?

Thanks again for the help.

Gordon
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Old December 16th, 2005, 02:02 PM   #10
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A NTSC display can reflect more accurately what the camera is capturing. Nothing else is a good substitute, especially the LCD screen on the side.

But a good NTSC monitor, one that can be and will hold calibration is about $400 used (Sony 8" portable) and requires that you have a battery supply (although it takes slide-in NiCad batteries that it will charge). I bought one and use it on all my important shoots where the setup is fairly stationary. For one thing, it keeps the Director out of my viewfinder and hands off the camera.

The next step up the line is to also carry a portable waveform monitor. That's where you really get the lowdown on exposure. I also carry one of those. It can even hang around my neck and it includes a NTSC monitor along side it. Both displays are about 2" but they are life-savers when the shoot is really critical and the scene is difficult. I power this setup and the bigger NTSC monitor off a battery belt or a car battery depending on how static the setup will be.

For boom work, I have one of those 6" LCD screens but it is used strictly for framing. An early unit, it has viewing angle and image quality problems. But as a framing device, it is OK. I also use it for a Director's viewfinder at times. However, the camera's LCD panel, reversed and folded back against the camera side is usually good enough for the director to handle framing.
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Old December 17th, 2005, 01:15 PM   #11
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You're doing all the right things Gordon. You understand that using a good tripod is hugely important, and that avoiding the ends of the aperture range also helps.

So for the very best in picture quality I'd have Steadyshot on, a good solid tripod (Oooh, I can hear the sharp intakes of breath even as I type), use the default shutter speed, switch off the custom presets, abandon any filters or supplimentary lenses, stick to f/4 ish, get spot-on exposure and use a really good deep, black lens hood. Then show the footage on a proper Sony CRT monitor.

If you're still not happy with your results then there may well be something up with your camera. Try and get another Sony alongside it and do some comparative A/B tests. That always sorts the men from the boys.

tom.
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Old December 17th, 2005, 02:47 PM   #12
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Once it stops raining here in Napa, California, I'll get back to shooting and learning. I know there's no substitute for experience.

What model video monitor should I look for? I can't afford it now, but it's good to know.

It's a shame that the 'monitors' on the cameras are not up to snuff for actually seeing what you're getting. That's life!

Thanks again for all the help!

Gordon
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