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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
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Old September 9th, 2008, 06:02 AM   #1
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EX1/EX3 Filming, Grading & Output Methods

Hello, after asking so many questions here recently i thought I’d try and give back a little bit of what I have discovered by myself even though a lot of my methods are not exactly ‘ideal’ but they have gotten me a long way so far.

Ok so first thing is the MACRO function. Putting the camera into this mode enables you to focus on objects nearer to the lens and thus giving you more control on creating a shallow depth of field. After hours of experimenting with this function I am able to produce images that much nearer match what you see when the camera is used with a 35mm adapter in regards to DOF. I shot a whole short using this function (albeit i was using toy soldiers but nether the less). You can see it here: The Art of War on Vimeo even though it can be more difficult to use the camera in this mode, it is much easier for me to isolate what i want and don’t want in focus while shooting.

Next thing is grading/colour correcting. Ok so after spending a huge bulk on my camera, editing suite tripod etc I was left with virtually no money left over to purchase a decent monitor for colour grading so I did all the research i could to find out what i could use on a budget while saving up for an ideal solution. The bottom line is, if you are doing serious video work then you do not want to compromise on a good broadcast monitor, i mean there’s a million and one posts that suggest using a normal TV or connecting a hdtv via your dvi input or black magic intensity card etc but it seems unless your using a matrox mxo box you really need a proper broadcast monitor HOWEVER...I have tested a method that seems to give me an accurate representation of my video on whatever tv/screen i test it on and it’s a bit long winded and technically it sounds like it shouldn’t work but it has gotten me the results i’ve been looking for and here’s how i do it:

1.Once in final cut pro and finished editing my footage I save it and create a new timeline

2. Now for the hard part, well more tedious rather than hard. I have a huge library of commercial blu ray movies in computer format and what i do is sift through them all and find scenes which are similar to each of the scenes in my own movie/footage in regards to colour, contrast and the ‘look’. I then cut them up and arrange them into a sort of mini movie on the new timeline in Final Cut Pro so that i have what I’d call a ‘reference’ scene for every scene of my original footage.

3. I then save my reference timeline into a self contained movie and re-import it into my previous timeline so that it sits at the very beginning (i usually put a set of colour bars between it and my original footage for separation).

4. I now send the entire timeline of my self contained reference file and original footage into Apple Color and make sure the scopes are active and playing in real time.

5. Now I’m ready for grading my footage, so what i do is go to the first scene in my timeline then find the corresponding reference scene that i inserted at the beginning of the clip and by using the scopes i adjust the contrast on my video until both original and reference clip are very similar and look similar on the scopes too (sometimes it will be hard to find clips that are similar enough for such a task so in that case i just make sure the blackest points are the same and the whitest points are the same so that way i can be more confident my footage wont be too dark/bright). Apple Color gives you enough tools so that you can finely adjust your lows mids and highs in order to match clips, however there is a tool within color (still store) that allows you to load a still reference frame and color correct to it.

6. After i have matched the contrast I do the same for the colour, and this can seem pretty tricky if your reference video has completely different colours to your video but all I’m really concerned with is making sure that the video hits the same or near enough the same marks on the vector scope.

7. Because a lot of my scenes will usually be grouped together in locations with the same lighting setup etc, i can usually assign my colour correcting to a group and apply it to a number of clips and just fine tune along the way which saves a lot of time.

Just a quick note on this, even though i use Apple Color for this, i don’t see no reason why you couldn’t use FCP/Sony Vegas/Edius etc, as the principle is not application dependant. Oh and when i do this colour correction I am using my normal monitor which is a 24inch Samsung and displays 1920 x 1200 pixels, and when i go back to FCP I make sure everything looks as it should by doing a firewire out preview to several consumer television sets.

My method for referencing comes from my time as a sound engineer when i would often use commercial songs as a reference for what i wanted the song i was mixing to sound like.

Ok so what else can i share...Oh yeh using the Black Magic Intensity Card with the Sony EX1. Ok so straight away i know it’s not possible to monitor a full 1080p signal from FCP via a Blackmagic Intensity card due to lack of resolution handling etc, but the card will output a 720p timeline from fcp via a HDMI signal to a HDTV.

The reason i bring it up is because like myself, if on a budget it can work out cheaper to get one of these cards to do colour grading on via Apple Colour or Magic Bullet (providing you have an HDTV already that does 1080p), but because the card doesn’t handle 1080p a lot of ex1 users wont touch it because many of us shoot 1080p and don’t like the idea of having to shoot in a lower res just to be able to monitor what we’re doing. But what if we were to treat our footage like a film process and created a, for lack of a better word a ‘proxy’ file, as in create a 1080p timeline, then duplicate the timeline, change the sequence settings to 720p, down-res the footage via a render so you are really working with a 720p timeline, then hook up the Intensity card and do all your colour corrections etc as you should now be able to see what your doing fine on your hdmi output and then when complete just copy the attributes of your 720 footage back over to your original 1080p timeline and output your final video. Anyway just a thought and it makes sense in my crazy head.

I think that’s it from me for now, it may all be a bit random but i hope it’s food for thought for those who like me are on a budget 
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:00 AM   #2
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Location: Tampa, FL
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Wow, great post. Maybe worthy of a sticky? Thanks for all the pointers!
Sony EX3, Vegas 9.0 64bit, Windows 7(64), Core i7, 12GB, RAID1 & 0, HotSwap SATA, 30" LCD(2560x1600)-GTX285 & 24" LCD(1360x768)-7800GT
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Old September 9th, 2008, 07:11 AM   #3
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Thanks Ted, I really have learnt a lot of info here and so i really wanted to share my own knowledge even if it is a bit unorthadox in approach.
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Old September 9th, 2008, 10:54 AM   #4
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Location: Dakar, Sénégal, West Africa
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What a good idea !
Dakar - Sénégal - EX1- Nikon D7000 - HVRA1 - H4 - FCP 6.0.6 / http://brunodemeocq.viewbook.com/ bdeme@mac.com
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