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Old April 26th, 2003, 01:00 PM   #1
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How do I get the right exposure ?

I have recently upgraded from a domestic Sony camcorder to a PD150. I have several rather basic questions which I need help with mainly to do with exposure.
While in Spain recently I was getting familiar with the camera and shooting in villages where there was often a huge difference between part of a shot in sunlight and the part in shade. I was using the 100% zebra pattern as guide but I found it hard to eliminate the zebra pattern without under exposing the part in shadow So is there some way to get a balance between the dark and light areas without using grad filters? does AE shift help?( Iím a bit unclear exactly what AE shift is) and what about using the ND filters in the manual mode?
Also I used to use a Sony ECM909A Stereo mic ( Hard wire) when making radio documentaries. Would I be able to get broadcastable quality sound with an adaptor for the XLR input.
I hope I haven't asked too many questions at once!!
Thanks for any advice on any or all of this.
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Old April 26th, 2003, 03:02 PM   #2
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Robb, you have to understand that not every opportunity for a shot will yield good results. If there is too much contrast between sun and shade, something will suffer; either the sun area will be overexposed or the shade area will be underexposed. How to tell when you are in trouble? Here is a good trick to learn:
****
Here is my one word advice to you: KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) The most important item for you is to make your picture look good, so turn off the zebras for now and learn to "squint." This trick was taught to me many years ago by a film DP and is probably the one best piece of advice I ever received.

Your eyes are marvelous instruments which are much more sensitive than your camera in handling a range of contast. What looks fine to you, can end up awful on tape. Here's an example: You stand where you want to place the camera. The talent is standing with a bright sky behind her. She looks OK, until you squint. Then you notice the sky cools down nicely (good), but her face goes into darkness (bad). Don't shoot here. Another example: Your reporter is standing on the sidewalk, behind her is an important sign on a window under an awning. Looks fine, till you squint. Then she still looks good, but the sign goes dark. Solution? Move her under the awning with the sign, or, light the sign up, or, knock off some of the light on her with a grip flag or umbrella. Another example: You are doing an interview indoors and there is sunlight coming through the window behind the talent. You squint and the outdoors looks fine, but the talent is dark. You need more light on the talent or less coming through the window.

In each of the above examples you can identify the problem the same way; by squinting. And you haven't even turned the camera on yet. Squinting will work with people, lanscapes, interiors; anywhere you shoot, you should squint.

Try this. Turn off all the light in the room where you are reading this, so the only light is the computer and whatever ambient light is left. Now let's assume you want to shoot the desktop with all the peripheral stuff around the computer. So you squint, and other than the computer screen, everything else disappears. Solution? Add ambient light to fill to the level of the computer screen. Now, just how you add the ambient light is where the art comes in. Hey, if this was easy, they'd get a relative to do it.

So now you have a shot where you won't get in trouble with too much contrast in the picture, which will take care of your levels. So how do you set exposure? KISS. Let the camera do it. What is important in the picture? The talent? Zoom into her face, press the "iris" button, and allow the camera to set the level.(Yes, in manual iris mode) One caveat; do not zoom full tite or close to it, if you have to move the camera a little closer to check the iris, do so. Then move back to where you want to do the shot.
****

OK? In your situation, Robb, you could look at the scene and squint and what you would see would be the sun area looks good, but the shade area goes to black. Unless you looked directly into the shade area, in which case it would look good, but your peripheral vision would see trouble in the sun area. In general, the camera will tell you when it needs an ND. The AE shift does not enter into this, unless you are doing a lot of shooting where you need to shift the exposure, such as bright sun on snow. In this situation the camera tends to underexpose faces, and using the AE shift can be a time saver, but I think you need to spend more time on the basics before you get into this.

Remember its OK to overexpose the sky if what you are interested in are the buildings and street scene. But if you are really anal about overexposure, you better have a grip and lighting truck with you.

Have fun.
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Old April 26th, 2003, 04:26 PM   #3
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Thanks a lot for your lengthy reply Wayne. I'll start squinting right now.
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Old April 26th, 2003, 06:58 PM   #4
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Ok I squinted, in my room with nothing else but monitor light but things didn't go away as expected. How do I squint propery?
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Old April 26th, 2003, 07:44 PM   #5
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<<<-- Originally posted by RagadyAnne : Ok I squinted, in my room with nothing else but monitor light but things didn't go away as expected. How do I squint propery? -->>>

Don't know where you are located, but right now on the West Coast, the late afternoon sunlight coming through the window and illuminating my desk and my monitor show no differerence when I squint, which means a well balanced scene that will photograph quite well. If I come back after dark in about three hours, with only the monitor on, the rest of my desktop will go black when I squint, indicating I need more fill on my desktop. Make sense? Hope so. Keep asking questions as this is a great tip and I promise if you are into lighting you will really appreciate it. I did a shoot recently where I did everything myself, light and shoot. There was a tech along who monitored my work from a truck, and I told him to leave the camera set a f/2.8, and I lit everything by eye, using the squint technique. He was amazed at how fast and accurate I could light a scene without looking in the camera. Rough it in by eye, and then refer to the monitor to fine tune.
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Old April 27th, 2003, 02:05 PM   #6
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Hi Wayne. could you explain what you meant in your relpy
"Zoom into her face, press the "iris" button,
and allow the camera to set the level.(Yes, in manual iris mode)"
Thanks, Robb
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Old April 27th, 2003, 03:02 PM   #7
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<<<-- Originally posted by Robb Bradstock : Hi Wayne. could you explain what you meant in your relpy
"Zoom into her face, press the "iris" button,
and allow the camera to set the level.(Yes, in manual iris mode)"
Thanks, Robb -->>>

Sure, Robb. In normal situations, what you are most interested in is making the people look good, and obviously this means proper exposure on flesh tones. So, with the camera in manual setting (that means you can see the iris setting in the viewfinder/lcd), zoom into the face of your subject, and press the iris button. The camera will now go into auto iris mode, and set the proper exposure for the lighting situation. Press the button again, and it will hold that setting, again, as indicated by the read out in the viewfinder/lcd.

This procedure assumes average causasion skin tones under normal lighting situations. If you were to do this with a dark skin tone, the camera may overcompensate and overexpose the picture. If you were to do this in a low light scene, such as a bar interior, it may again overcompensate for the situation, and you would want to stop down a bit, less the bar and the subject end up looking too bright for the scene.

This technique works well for most situations, including landscapes, if you will adhere to the logic behind the camera's actions. Let's say you want to shoot a beautiful landscape with a bright sky. If you leave the camera on auto exposure, it will probably underexpose the landscape in favor of the bright sky. But if you tilt down and exclude the sky from the shot, set the exposure, then tilt up to your original framing, you will hold the correct exposure for the landscape. Your sky will be burned out to degree, but you will have good exposure on what are interested in, the landscape. How far can you go before the picture starts looking bad? ?That is partially a matter of personal taste, but if there is a 1 stop difference between the picture with the sky versus the picture without the sky, you are probably alright. If there is a three stop difference, you are treading on thin ice, but there are things you can do in post to correct some of this difference, or by shooting with a graduated ND filter which will knock down the sky while leaving the landscape unaffected.

It bit of logic goes a long way in working with these cameras, and of course, a lot of practice. Let me know if there are any other questions.
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Old April 27th, 2003, 03:08 PM   #8
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I frequently have to shoot in just such a situation as you described. The quick solution when you cannot change the lights is to reflect some of the sunlight onto the subject with a reflector. I almost always use reflectors whenever I'm doing fixed-camera work and I have a reflector holder.

This goes a long way towards solving the problem.

To properly use the Zebra pattern, you want a 70 percent pattern on some of the face. Usually the side or forehead. Green Grass and blue sky are also 70% situations.

Experience helps and it takes a bit of shooting to figure it all out. Fortunately the 150 does a little bit of image processing and this helps make othewise poor lighting a little bit more acceptable.
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Old April 28th, 2003, 01:20 AM   #9
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http://www.urbanfox.tv/workbooks/sonypd150/pd150exposure.htm
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Old April 28th, 2003, 12:14 PM   #10
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Hi Wayne, Mike,Alex and Bryan. Thanks a lot for your advice. If it would just stop raining here I could get out and try your out your tips.Then I'll probably have some more questions. All this help is wonderful by the way. Regards Robb
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Old April 28th, 2003, 01:40 PM   #11
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You are welcome.

Now, as for camera rain jackets . . .
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Old April 28th, 2003, 05:31 PM   #12
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HIGH CONTRAST AND NEUTRAL DENSITY

Robb, at least I think the PD150 will do about the best you could hope for at that price point in high contrast shots. I am very much the novice, but while doing a side by side shoot of similar priced camcorders at camera store, the sun came out on cloudy day--part of scenery in shadow, part in bright sun. The VX 2000 in full auto but with neutral density filter switched in (as prompted by camera), did the best job in that situation--bright colors in both sun and shade and no washed out colors in bright sun. I have since read articles which mention high contrast light shooting (as well as low light shooting) as standout features of PD150 and VX2000 due to slightly larger CCD's vs other similar price camcorders. More controversial is role of neutral density filter in high contrast lighting situation--some say no impact, others say they help.
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Old April 28th, 2003, 06:47 PM   #13
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Re: HIGH CONTRAST AND NEUTRAL DENSITY

<<< More controversial is role of neutral density filter in high contrast lighting situation--some say no impact, others say they help. -->>>

Actually, the nuetral density filters will do nothing to impact on high contrast lighting. As indicated by the name, they are "nuetral." They only lower the levels overall to bring the picture to a more manageable f/stop. There are filters designed to mess with conrast, such as "lo cons," but these should be used with caution and tests done to determine if they are creating the desired effect. They will tend to flatten out the picture, as the name implies.

BTW, I hope Robb gets out there and shoots some footage in those rainy conditions. You can get some rather spectacular footage in heavy overcast as the colors really pop, and faces look great from every angle.
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Old April 28th, 2003, 07:01 PM   #14
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Polarizer

When shooting outdoors an easy way to increase your latitude is to use a polarizing filter. It will allow you to expose "darker" areas correctly and then tune some of the brightness out of the over exposed areas. On my old VX3 what I do is put the polarizer on, lock the shutter speed and gain then let camera choose aperture. Then I turn the filter ring until I see minimum polarization. Then choose the aperture to correctly expose your subject and then lock. Now turn the polar filter to maximum polarization and magically watch the over exposed areas darken up nicely while keeping your other areas the same. A trade off is that colors get very saturated (Kodachromeesque) so depending on the look you want you may have to turn the color down in the custom preset.

Oh you probably want a circular polarizer due to the cameras light splitting prism.
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Old April 28th, 2003, 07:27 PM   #15
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A linear work just fine. Try it and see. This issue crops up every few months. I'll leave it up to someone else this time.
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