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Sony VX2100 / PD170 / PDX10 Companion
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Old March 4th, 2006, 06:54 PM   #16
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I don't know, because I've never had my hands on either, but I would think the 1/3" CCDs in the VX would produce a cleaner image than the 1/4" CCDs in the GL2. I know the DV300 sure shoots clean (1/3" CCDs also) for a camera in this general category.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 08:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Rehmus
But the degree of 'lightening' is a matter of where you set the controls on the camera. You can set the Sony's to perform at the same levels as the Canon, All you have to do is reduce the gain and close down on the aperature.
I don't find it to be quite that simple, Mike. I find autoexposure mode to be a must to keep up with lighting changes in a dynamic production--manual adjustments stick out like a sore thumb. Without any presets in the VX, both cams compute similar exposures within most of the range and I wouldn't want to change that. But below a certain brightness level the Sony's gain kicks in while the Canon's response continues to track with the lighting of the scene.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 09:01 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
I find autoexposure mode to be a must to keep up with lighting changes in a dynamic production--manual adjustments stick out like a sore thumb.
Unfortunately the VX was designed such that the manual iris moves in very noticeable "clicks." However I can't agree with your assertion there, if you're serious about shooting performances you need to use manual controls and make the best of them. I've been shooting video of our performances here at the Opera Company for several years, and wouldn't dream of setting the camera on automatic.

But this is one reason not to favor the VX cameras for such an application. The PD-170 has twice the number of iris clicks in manual mode and should perform better. I'm now using a Z1, and it has an excellent iris knob which can be adjusted very subtly.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 09:10 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Robert M Wright
I don't know, because I've never had my hands on either, but I would think the 1/3" CCDs in the VX would produce a cleaner image than the 1/4" CCDs in the GL2...
Well, I've had my hands on both plenty, and I believe I do know. Yes, the Sony's image is slightly crisper, and that's good for ENG and documentary footage and such, but that's not what I want for dramatic / romantic footage. The GL2 wins there, IMO, with its very clear but softer edged image, its warmer tone, its frame mode effect, its 20x lens and its more accurate autoexposure tracking with stage lighting conditions.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 09:46 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
...if you're serious about shooting performances you need to use manual controls and make the best of them. I've been shooting video of our performances here at the Opera Company for several years, and wouldn't dream of setting the camera on automatic...
Boyd, why? In the absence of specific reasons that simply sounds snooty. I'm quite serious about my work. I shoot from three angles. If the three operators were each excercising their discretion with manual adjustments, the result would be a mess in post. I know--I actually tried it. Using the features and capabilities of all three cams that I paid for, I get polished results. If your results are as good or better than you would get with auto, it must be that you are very familiar with and able to anticipate the changes. Making visible corrections for changes after they've occurred doesn't look good.
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Old March 5th, 2006, 12:16 AM   #21
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I use a combination of auto, manual, and sometimes all manual. I work with a guy that only uses all manual and it is a pain to edit his footage compared to mine because his footage has noticable adjustments that needs to be edited out while mine doesn't. I tried to teach my method to him but he tells me he is old school and refuses to learn anything from someone younger than him. All manual is the only way to be professional is his motto. I don't agree. I think different situations call for different controls especially in event capturing.

Tonight I came up with a great method for extreme lighting differences on a stage when using the pd 170. Changing the shutter from 30 to 60 to 125 to 180 to adjust for the low lights and the bright lights nailed the performance. The only thing I left in auto was the iris and focus everything else was manual except for the audio. The iris worked with me so when I zoomed in & out it would adjust smoothly. I reviewed the footage and it came out great. I took a chance against what most others say about keeping the shutter at 60 and found a great way to control the image in extreme light differences. When I used the manual iris I was not getting the control I needed and the manual shutter brought in that control. I was lucky and able to try out many combinations in rehersal so I could find the best combination.

The pd170 is a great camera for low light and the different combination of manual and auto controls should be explored. That's what they are there for.
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Old March 5th, 2006, 12:17 AM   #22
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We all shoot what we want, nobody is arguing which way is best and I'm not saying you are wrong, Fred.

The custom presets (at least with the 150/170 allow you to change the level of sharpness and limit auto gain to 6 dB or 12 dB.

While auto operation will allow you to make, perhaps, a better looking video, it won't reflect the lighting designer's effects and it certainly can look strange as the background gets lighter and darker and actors not in the lights do the same. From a personal taste standpoint, I wouldn't like the results and neither would the Artistic Director that hires me to do the work.

If someone wants me to tape a stage play so it looks more like a movie of a stage play, then I want control over the lighting, I don't want an audience and I will shoot the same scenes several times in single-camera mode. It has become a movie and not a play. Generally, just raising house/stage lights can level out the lighting enough to obtain good shots while not destroying the lighting designers work.

However, I think the 2000/150 & 2100/170 camera as with most of the integrated prosumer cameras, not to be particulary good at taping stage plays. I always use my DSR-300 with the stepless aperature, better DSP and smoother zoom. Easier to focus in dim light too. Overall the pro cameras just work faster. And a good trio of camera operators with pro cameras will deliver very good footage.

'Smoothness' is a processing artifact that can be obtained in the camera or in Post. I prefer to obtain a neutral image and then manipulate it in post for a specific application.
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Old March 5th, 2006, 05:00 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
Boyd, why? In the absence of specific reasons that simply sounds snooty.
OK, maybe I was a little inflexible by saying "if you're serious about shooting performances you need to use manual controls." If you're getting results that you like with automatic settings then by all means keep doing it.

But I would not personally be happy with this, mainly for the reasons which Mike mentions (and I'm a lighting designer myself :-). There are times when you want everything to look dark. And there are lots of other conditions under stage lighting which will confuse autoexposure. And yes, I try to be very familiar with the work that I'm shooting in advance, so I have a general idea of when a lighting change is coming that I'll need to adjust for.

But I do agree that the VX makes it hard (if not impossible) to subtly adjust the iris as you shoot. I shot a lot of performances with my PDX-10, and it has the exact same controls. You will get some noticeable bumps as you adjust, but I found this an acceptable trade-off for having the manual control I wanted. But as I mentioned, I don't use my VX-2000 or PDX-10 anymore to shoot performances. The Z1 is much better, mainly due to the iris control.
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Old March 5th, 2006, 07:26 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
The Z1 is much better, mainly due to the iris control.
Not to mention the black stretch functionality for those lower lit conditions. The additional fortunate fact about the Z1 is the fact that adding gain in small increments in lower lit conditions does not adversely affect SD delivery - even by up to as much as 12db.

Furthermore, the PD150 and VX2100 are as far as I know no longer being manufactured by Sony

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Old March 5th, 2006, 07:52 AM   #25
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Well clearly the PD-150 is out of production. Nobody can say for sure whether the PD-170 and VX-2100 are actually being manufactured today, but Sony lists them both as current models on their US websites. I think it's safe to assume that their days are numbered, but Sony will probably keep selling them as long as the demand is there.

Yes, black stretch does help. And you definitely don't want to use the CinemaTone settings in dark conditions. 12 dB of gain is still quite clean. I think the VX and PD still have a bit of an edge in filming REALLY dark things however.

But I wish there was an option on the Z1 to make the gain behave like my VX-2000. In other words, after you open the iris completely, with each additional turn of the wheel you add gain in 3 dB increments. The 3 position gain switch is nice, but can be problematic for shooting performances where the light levels change a lot.
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Old March 5th, 2006, 10:07 AM   #26
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Boyd and Mike, thanks for your patient indulgence of my views. I know that you guys are quite expert at all this.

I suppose that one difference in my approach is philosophical and was nailed by Mike--I definitely am looking to reproduce the play as more of a movie. That's why I shoot three angles and sometimes choose closeups and two-shots for my finished video at the expense of coverage of the whole stage. I think that some of the elements of a satisfying entertainment experience are different in the living room than they are in the theater.

If it were my objective to accurately chronicle what happened in the theater I'd be more worried about any compromises attending the use of autoexposure. But I'd also probably go with one camera, using a static framing of the whole stage.

Sorry for taking this thread on a side trip. My initial point was on topic--that the senstitivity of the VX was indeed all that it was cracked up to be but that its implementation in the VX did not always make it a better choice than cams with a lesser range--that, for example, the GL2 does a better job in autoexposure mode than the VX in autoexposure mode for stage lighting IMO.
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Old March 5th, 2006, 10:21 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
The 3 position gain switch is nice, but can be problematic for shooting performances where the light levels change a lot.
Boyd, good one there. I'm sure in your environment this happens often - what do you do in a multi-cam shoot with each camerman using his/her own decision on exposure

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Old March 5th, 2006, 10:28 AM   #28
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Well I can't do multi-camera performance shoots due to union agreements, not to mention lack of space for cameras during performances. But you need a bit of a strategy with the gain before you begin. For example, on the most recent show I set the gain switch to 0-3-6. But there were two very dark scenes where 6dB really wasn't adequate. This is a problem, because it means going into the menus and changing configuration during the shoot.

Based on what I learned at the first show, I set the switch to 0-6-12 the next time. The 12dB boost made a big difference, however I didn't want to leave it set that high for the whole show, since much of it was quite bright (shooting at ~f2.8 1/60 0dB most of the time). That leaves you with no choice but flipping the switch and cutting gain by 6 or even 12dB during the show... ugh.

But I timed this such that it happened in a different part of the show the 2nd night, so I'll just edit around it as I combine both shows into a single disk.
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Old March 5th, 2006, 10:36 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
But I timed this such that it happened in a different part of the show the 2nd night, so I'll just edit around it as I combine both shows into a single disk.
Ahhh, the joys of double takes
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Old March 5th, 2006, 12:54 PM   #30
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In a 'real' video enabled theatre (one of our two is like this) we have all the cameras connected to CCUs. That way, the camera operators are working focus and framing. Nothing else. It is the responsibility of the engineer to keep the camera exposure set correctly.

In the teaching theater (100 seats) we have wall-mounted cameras plus hand- and tripod-held cameras. These can be mixed to a single track or recorded on separate (the non wall-mounted cameras are all camcorders) tracks.

This remote control of camera exposure is the same we have in our television studio. It makes an immense difference on the quality of focus and framing when the operator does not have to worry about exposure.

What almost the entire discussion has wound around is overcoming the inadequacy of the prosumer camera in difficult lighting conditions. Beg, borrow or rent a pro camera for one event and discover the delights of long tape run times and instant and stepless response to exposure changes.

And Fred, as I said before, a savvy operator can change the performance of the Sony's to produce nearly the same video as the Canon.
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