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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
Sony PMW-300, PXW-X200, PXW-X180 (back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.


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Old May 11th, 2008, 08:36 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Mike Stevens View Post
Look at the Yosemite clips under the climbing thread. To me, that looks exactly like film.
I'll jump in here since Mike is making reference to my Yosemite stuff. I don't think that I tried to achieve a film look on purpose. What I wanted to do was shoot as clean an image as possible at the highest resolution. I used a polarizer on the lens, but did all the work in post. When shooting my goal (shooting 1080p30) was to have as slow pans as possible. No zooms at all. Use DOF to my advantage. I kept the f-stop around F4 when possible. Some times it was wide open. Also use your composition to make sure that the shot doesn't look flat. I am not talking about color but depth. Does that make sense? It 's funny what different people like. I loaded the same clip up on the Exposure Room site and one of the guys there ripped it as looking like video. He also didn't like the Magic Bullet. To each his own.

That brings up my final point. What one person calls a "film look", another person may not like. The key should always be, good composition, good exposure, great subject matter and tell a story.

Daniel Weber

Last edited by Daniel Weber; May 11th, 2008 at 09:24 PM.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 08:52 PM   #17
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Daniel,

Yes, I think that "film look" is an empty goal, except as a special effect.

The qualities we associate with good filmmaking should be the goal, whether or not the result actually "looks like film."
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Old May 11th, 2008, 09:23 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Eric Pascarelli View Post
Daniel,

Yes, I think that "film look" is an empty goal, except as a special effect.

The qualities we associate with good filmmaking should be the goal, whether or not the result actually "looks like film."
Amen.

If a shooter wants to use "film like" as a term for producing top notch, high quality images that stand apart from regular "video", then that is great.

We should always strive to produce the best we can. And if it takes a "film look" to do it then so be it. Just don't let a "look" get in the way of telling the story or what ever goal your project has.

Good discussion.

Daniel Weber
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Old May 11th, 2008, 09:59 PM   #19
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And If you have ever seen film shot and projected at 60 frames per second (as a film print without any digital intermediate or processing) as with the Showscan format, you'd be amazed at how much it looks "like video." Only the dust and dirt that fly by onscreen detract from the look. Gradation of color has little to do with it.
I think here we're talking about "how can I identify whether material is film or video?" Sometimes I think the argument is based on old technology versus new technology, which seems a bit unproductive because there is a great deal in favour of video as a technology. People wanting to fake an obvious look of film use low frame rates, add scratches and dirt, uneven exposure, and so on. The audience assumes that this is old film. Similarly if your main identifier is frame rate on otherwise well shot material, then you may check out the cadence. So if these are the characteristics of the look of film, why would they be desirable? People argue that it is because these are characteristics of films seen in cinemas, and therefore this must be the difference between what they shoot and what wins Oscars. Personally I like film for the characteristics I mentioned above and it is those characteristics that I found so lacking in video when I changed, for reasons of production costs, from shooting 16mm neg. I've grown up with 24 fps and I don't associate that with a film look. Possibly what one watched as a child has a great influence, and if your first influences were video then probably you come at the question from a different viewpoint. To start with, you're used to lousy image quality.
Anyway, the EX1 is the first video camera I've actually owned that has the capabilities for giving me the look I want. I'm perfectly happy for people to guess whether it's sourced on film or video; that's not of interest to me. Much of Phil Bloom's output possesses that "film look", and I haven't noticed what frame rate he uses. Yes, he employs restricted DOF, as an aid to composition and artistry. But you'll be aware that there is growing technical interest, associated with 3D, among DPs for highly enhanced depth of field, involving merging several images focused at different depths (already used in stills). I like to keep myself aware that equipment is an aid and not the essence of artistry.
The only point in discussing this question is to discourage people going up expensive and unproductive blind alleys in pursuit of ill-defined outcomes. It is important to understand the goals, even if there isn't universal agreement on how to get there. So there is a good reason for being thoughtful about the nature of that holy grail and in being very open in discussion.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 10:02 PM   #20
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I've been reading posts and pronouncements about what constitutes the "film look" ever since the Pana DVX100 was introduced. The conversation has hardly changed over this time, which suggests to me that it's largely in the eye of the beholder. I suspect there is no ultimate truth to be discovered about this.
To me, Daniel's Yosemite clip is a case in point. They are beautiful shots for the reasons he outlines. The EX1 seems to be a tool that, at 1080 HQ, can provide the detail, subtle color, depth, and dynamic range, regardless of frame rate, to make images that look like they "might" have been shot on 35mm film, certainly much closer to film quality than previous small cams. If you can frame a beautiful well lit shot, you can set up the EX1 to record a beautiful rich image. My theory is that if you are presenting your audience with beautiful photography, only a few are going to be wondering about it's framerate or origin. Actually, my best audience responses have always come from programs that have had the capacity to suck the viewer into the story big time. Never mind details of the image quality, shaky hand held shots, blown out hi-lites, etc. It had more to do with editing, script, and a good audio track than about photographic excellence. Personally, since acquiring the EX1 I have begun to really focus on the details of image quality because the payoff is so big with this camera.
But, film,or not film... I dunno...
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Old May 11th, 2008, 10:25 PM   #21
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Robert,

Funny you mention the DVX100. The first thing I ever shot with that camera was a short spot that we took the time to light correctly. It was shot at 24p (not 24PA) and the CC work was done in Magic Bullet.

I had people swear I shot it with 16mm film. What made it was a combination of lighting, the Magic Bullet "look" and the cadence of the 24p image. It just didn't look like "video".

Again, nothing beats correctly, composed, exposed and edited series of shots. When the viewer is focused on what it happening in front of them and getting the point of what you are trying to "sell". Then you have done your job.

Daniel Weber
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Old May 11th, 2008, 10:56 PM   #22
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Daniel
Well, that seems to be the story of my 24p life. People like you (who must actually know what they are doing) dip into a 24p project and get great results. Every time I try it (from the DVX100 to the EX1) it always looks like bad 15 fps video, and it never, never looks anything like a Hollywood movie.
Part of it is that I shoot a lot of run & gun action/event type of stuff which is probably not suited for 24 fps. But obviously it can be done- look at all the people shooting PAL everyday (24 fps-25 fps: hardly a difference) for every kind of market and delivery format.
My shameful secret: I think 60i looks great!- but don't tell anyone.
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Old May 12th, 2008, 12:41 AM   #23
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Robert,

Yes 24p was not meant for action footage. That is what 60i or 720p60 is for. Trying to cover event stuff with 24p can be frustrating. 24p looks great when doing interviews or dramatic stuff. You can still do things with 60i to make it look more "film like". Keep working at it.

I have been shooting for more than 17 years (man I suddenly feel old!!) and every day I try to learn something new.

Keep at it!!!

Daniel Weber
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Old May 12th, 2008, 03:35 AM   #24
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Daniel, it is as you say: learning something, or several things every day. That's why these forums have been a blessing for me. I started about 12 years ago when cheap DV videocams became avalible, and editing could be sort of accomplished with ordinary desktop computers. We moved up to Sony PD 150s, but the emphasis was always on just getting the shot, and enough coverage to have some editing choices. We were always doing long form projects (45-60 min). Doing great photography didn't play much of a role; content was king. But now these cameras are so fanrtastic, with just a little knowledge and attention you can do really good photography. When we moved to HDV in 2006, the days of sloppy shooting started being over. HD was much less tolerant of our lapses- the standards were being lifted. I saw a presentation at Sundance by Jody Eldred, shot with the EX1. It was beautiful and brilliant. I realized that this small affordable camera was capable of producing the highest level of professional product with very little in the way of compromise. Since I got the EX1 I have started shooting short "music" videos (3-6 min.) for the first time, just for fun and to learn how to use every feature of the camera to try and capture the kind of "beauty shots" that were previously out of reach, except by accident. It's quite an education for me, and quite pleasureable to be placing emphasis on the details of the photography itself for a change. And the payoff is so immediate and evident on a 50" HD screen. Sometimes absolutely breathtaking.
There is a lot to learn, but I feel like I'm at the edge of a new frontier.
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Old May 12th, 2008, 11:43 AM   #25
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Doing great photography didn't play much of a role; content was king.
Funny you should say that. I was a professional still photographer before getting in to video. One of the first big photo assignments I did after getting out of photo school was a 3 month shoot in the Dominican Republic. (Believe me I wasn't on the beach all the time!!) A video crew went along to document the project I was working on. The video guys knew little or cared little about composition or photography. We very quickly butted heads. It got so bad that we had to start going out at different times. At that point I hated video guys because all they wanted to do was roll the camera without thinking about what they were shooting. To me, video shooters were not photographers.

Then about 5 years later I got into video and found out that some of the best video shooters had started out as still photographers. To me that made sense. Every time you fire up a camera, your brain should start focusing on the composition and sequencing of your shots. People tell me that I shoot from unique angles and get shots that others don't get. I really think that comes from my photography background and my always pre-visualizing the shot before I even put the camera up to my eye.

Keep at it. Learning how to be creative with your video work is so much fun!!! I wish that more people put an emphasis on it.

Daniel Weber
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Old May 12th, 2008, 01:24 PM   #26
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well said daniel.
loved the yosemite piece!
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Old May 12th, 2008, 01:32 PM   #27
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What Daniel says may be in the nature of the beast. When I shoot stills I take a long time. I kneel down, I stand on rocks, I play with DOF, I look at all the angles. When I shoot video I really have to force myself from not pressing that button then looking through the view finder! Maybe it is because video cameras have more controls or are just heavy and bulky. A good plan is to leave the video cam off and make that frame with your fingers and pretend you have your old F3 round you neck and take a few minutes absorbing the scene before you touch the EX1. I'm trying hard to do that and it helps.

Another issue is that when taking still you work alone without pressure. Video guys are often in a team with the boom man getting his arms tired or the focus puller is getting thirsty.
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Old May 12th, 2008, 02:37 PM   #28
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Old May 12th, 2008, 03:12 PM   #29
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Daniel, you and I have similar backgrounds. I was a Film major when I was in college but I veered off into Photojournalism and eventually into Commercial Photography. I've stayed with it for my entire career. However, with the ability now to do video for a fraction of the cost of the "old days", I've come back to video because my clients have been asking me to provide it for their web sites. I feel like I can now work with another part of my brain but apply all the skills (composition and lighting, especially) that I've developed in my years of still photography. I'm only hoping that the EX1 can rise up to meet my expectations instead of frustrating me with all its' little problems.
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Old May 12th, 2008, 05:15 PM   #30
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I'm only hoping that the EX1 can rise up to meet my expectations instead of frustrating me with all its' little problems.
All those 'little problems' can be extremely frustrating, if you look for them and let them get in your way. Best to rely on your raw talents as a shooter/ photographer/ designer and use the tools. Dont let the tools drive you insane.

Embrace your constraints.
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