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Old December 29th, 2008, 05:36 AM   #1
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HD200 to EX3 "wildlife" teething pains (with video)

Yes I know already - I'm retarded, I don't know what I'm doing, I'm an insult to the EX3 community and my mother wears army boots. Now that we've got that out of the way I've got a few observations I'd like to share, and a question I'd like to ask.

I've been shooting with an HD200/100 for two years. I love the camera. It's like a third hand and I shoot great images with it effortlessly. But I sold my 200 seven months ago to buy a RED. Then the Scarlet was "released" a week before my camera was supposed to ship, so I bought an EX3 instead of either of them...

I shoot a lot of wildlife so I ordered Mike Tapa's MTF Nikon adapter for the EX3, just like the one I've always used on the 200. This weekend I shot with the EX3, for the first time ever, while it wore a Nikon 300mm 2.8 ED lens on it's nose - just like I always shot wildlife with the JVC. Here are some of the differences I noticed between the two cameras.

Observations:
1 - it's so great not having that lapse in time while waiting for the tape to roll on the JVC. New world..
2 - The JVC has a focus assist option in the LCD which turns the highest contrast areas of the image blue. This is great for use with the Nikon lenses mounted because that option is in the camera. The EX3's focus assist option is part of the stock lens, which is in the bag at your feet while you're shooting super telephoto. Both cameras have adjustable peaking in the lcd, and both lcds are of a similar size. So really, even though the EX3 has a much higher resolution monitor, out in the field they're really not all that different. But the focus assist option on the JVC, which works with the Nikons, makes focusing easier than on the EX3. At least that was my first impression.
3 - When I shoot with big glass mounted to either camera, my right hand holds the tripod handle and my left hand runs the focus/aperture/shutter/record button. This really sucks because while you're following a bird, for instance, you have to look away from the bird if your finger doesn't find the record button right away. And when you're shooting such telephoto it's real easy to lose your subject, so the last thing you want to do is look away. On the JVC, the way it comes stock at least, there was nothing I could do but deal with it. On the EX3 we've got a remote. This remote will live in my left hand. Maybe I'll even velcro it to the lens hood. That's gonna be great..
4 - Side note for both cameras. Someone recently asked me if I use the eye piece or do I look at the lcd out in the open. On the JVC I always used the LCD out in the open. On the EX3, after only an hour of use, I found myself adopting an entirely new technique which is much better. I now use the eye piece with the boot turned backwards - left eye. This frees up my right eye to sight down the body of the camera and lens, keeping a much wider view of what I'm chasing in the sky, or of what's about to run across the camera's view. This is a huge improvement. No idea why this never occurred to me while shooting for a million hours on the JVC exactly this way - yet it hit me in less than an hour while shooting with the EX3...?
5 - The EX3 is lighter to carry. Maybe you think this isn't a big deal, but wait till you have to carry the thing for nine miles with 26lbs of lenses and a huge tripod to carry. Believe me, it's a big deal.
6 - Here's a gripe. While I am completely new to this camera, and for sure I don't have it set up even close to optimally, for the life of me I can't get it to stop clipping the highlights. Yes I know there's a histogram, and yes I know all about zebras. I'm actually thinking maybe this camera is defective or something. I'm talking NO ZEBRAS, and the histogram right SMACK in the middle of it's range with nothing anywhere near either end. Image looks unbelievable in the monitor, and in the thumbnails menu. Beautiful. But when I get them into FCP, it's like they were taken with a different camera on a different day. What wasn't even close to over exposed suddenly has no information at all. I honestly think something might be wrong. With both me AND with this camera.
7 - C-A. I used to get this under extreme situations with the HD200 also. Once Paolo offered me some time setting my HD200 up with the Nikon lenses, I never had it again. Maybe this is what I need again. I only saw it once, at wide open aperture - again, with the histogram way in the safe zone. I could actually see the CA in the monitor, which is great because I never could see this on the JVC monitor. But it's still there, which kind of sucks for me right now. I do have faith though. If we fixed the JVC, for sure we can help this camera as well.
8 - Shiny blacks, soaking wet, in hard bright sunlight ALWAYS freaked the JVC out. It was almost funny what it did to the image. Purple haze, blue fringe, green teeth - you name it. Especially if you were zoomed way in or had big glass mounted to it. The best of the best said it wasn't actually the JVC in particular, but more it was the 1/3" chip dilemma. Well they must have been right because this EX3 handles the exact same situations with no problems at all.

Question:

Can someone please help me solve the clipping problem I'm having? Again, please understand I do know how to use a histogram, and I do understand how zebras work. Neither of these indicated the conditions that the camera actually, apparently, recorded. Do you think something might be up with the camera I have? It IS from one of the first batches that arrived here in the US..

Finally, here is the test footage I took today, COMPARED to similar footage that I took with the JVC - with the same 300mm lens mounted.

Obviously I need to do a lot more reading than simply the manual or the seven billion pages on EX picture profiles..
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Old December 29th, 2008, 05:43 AM   #2
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Excellent summary Eric!
What value is the zebra set to, and what gamma are you using?
Can't remember the details off the top of my head, but one of the gamma settings extends the dynamic range quite a bit (at the expense of flat-looking pics straight from camera, ready for grading). If your zebra is set for peak white at 95% or whatever and you get them out of the shot then there should be no clipping, and as you say the camera might be faulty.
Why not mount the stop-start remote on the pan handle?
Steve
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Old December 29th, 2008, 07:24 AM   #3
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Setting the exposure properly with these cameras is quite diffrerent from any other camera I've ever used! It depends on your Gamma settings mostly. Are you using Cine Gammas? This camera (and my EX1) tend to compress mid-tones around 65% IRE, you need to set one of your zebras for that and make sure certain things like faces, skin tones etc don't go higher than that. I use STD4 mostly due to the lack of a knee setting in the Cine Gammas. Some like those looks better though so you should definatley experiment.

Here's a thread that discusses it at length:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/sony-xdca...ure-cine1.html

There are many others on this forum! Just search under "Exposure EX1"

Adam Wilt had an excellent description of how the Gammas all affect the image on ProVideoCoalition.com see here:
http://provideocoalition.com/index.p..._camcorder/P3/
Good luck!
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Old December 29th, 2008, 07:44 AM   #4
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Surely the only effective way to know exactly what you're getting is to set the zebra for white clip level, then you know that if you see zebras there's nothing there.
If you set it for mid tones you're just guessing what the whites are doing.
Steve
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Old December 29th, 2008, 08:24 AM   #5
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You can assign the focus assist function to any of the assignable buttons. It's in the "others" menu.

I suggest you give either cinegamma 2 or cinegamma 4 a try, that should help with highlights. If you don't like the cine gammas then you will need to set the knee to suit your shooting style and help with clipping.

I like to set my zebra to 95%. Then I expose so that the brightest part of the image is just showing the zebras. I don't use the histogram unless I'm doing chroma key.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 09:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Phillipps View Post
Surely the only effective way to know exactly what you're getting is to set the zebra for white clip level, then you know that if you see zebras there's nothing there.
If you set it for mid tones you're just guessing what the whites are doing.
Steve
On most any other camera I've used, yes, this is the way to do it. On my EX1, long before you reach 100IRE, the mids are "Compressing" or crushing causing a "bloom" effect. I find it on all the gammas, even the standard ones but less so than the Cines. Skin tones especially become waxy or pasty looking long before the whites are near clipping. If your zebras are set for 65IRE, then make sure skin tones are just starting to stripe, then they will be OK.

This is mentioned in MANY, MANY posts here, most explain it with different terminology, you lose detail in whites (such as Erics white feathered bird clip he references) and midtones become pasty long before you reach 100IRE.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 09:39 AM   #7
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Is this not something you deal with in grading, when you change gammas etc., to strecth the dynamic range you're bound to end up with skewed results, but you put them right in grading, so boosting contrast, selectively bringing highlights down and deepening blacks, colour correcting mids etc.? Sorry post production is not my area!
Steve
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Old December 29th, 2008, 10:37 AM   #8
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Quote:
If you set it for mid tones you're just guessing what the whites are doing.
You can see what the whites are doing. I find it better to expose for tones that I know should be a certain exposure or thereabouts. The fact is that if you are running and gunning you aren't going to avoid over exposure all the time. In such instances as news it is better to expose for your subject of interest and let the rest take care of itself.

If you protect the highlights all the time at any cost then you will have a lot of trouble in many situations where you really need the shadow areas exposed correctly and you don't have much choice of background.

If I can expose for a skin tone I can then make a better judgement of how much to back off to bring highlights back in or shadows. Using mid tone (70%) zebras also helps to eliminate any exposure issues due to a badly set up or old viewfinder, because 70% is a good exposure for certain surfaces. In other words you have a direct reference. Exposing for the highlights can lead to trouble with a bad viewfinder.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 11:11 AM   #9
 
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Originally Posted by Alister Chapman View Post
I like to set my zebra to 95%. Then I expose so that the brightest part of the image is just showing the zebras.
Ditto. I'm with Alister. Too many years of experience have proven this method for me. No need to elaborate. What works for one may not work for another.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 11:21 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Simon Wyndham View Post

If you protect the highlights all the time at any cost then you will have a lot of trouble in many situations where you really need the shadow areas exposed correctly and you don't have much choice of background.
That's fine for news but for high end work there's nothing that shouts "amateur" and "low grade" more than blown-out whites. It's amazing what you can pull out of the blacks, and all thought these days for high-end work is protect those highlights. Spent a long time with the Phantom HD's strange, multi-coloured "threshold" system trying to establish just how far down we can go with the whites yet still get useable detail in shadows.
In quick use I find it's also easier to look for highlights with 95% zebras and eliminate them than searching for "mid-tones" which are more of a variable quantity.
Steve
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Old December 29th, 2008, 06:41 PM   #11
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hat's fine for news but for high end work there's nothing that shouts "amateur" and "low grade" more than blown-out whites.
Yes that's very true. But for higher end work I'd rely on much more than just a simple zebra setting on the camera. The last dramatic thing I DP'd for example I made sure that I had scopes to look at, and on those types of shoots you need to be in control of the light in the shot, even if it is natural light, not just to expose based on the conditions.

Quote:
It's amazing what you can pull out of the blacks, and all thought these days for high-end work is protect those highlights. Spent a long time with the Phantom HD's strange, multi-coloured "threshold" system trying to establish just how far down we can go with the whites yet still get useable detail in shadows.
That's all very well with a high end camera, but with the lower end and only 256 shades of any individual tone or colour, and the shadows are not a nice place to have to bring up in post! They are often full of noise, and quite often macro blocking in extreme instances. it is also very difficult to bring up shadow areas by any large degree without things starting to look a little weird unless you are a master grader.

With 8-bit recording on lower end cameras, and that includes the 3xx series, I would not want to have to bring up or bring down any extreme end of the picture. If you are doing higher end work then you will be using higher end equipment and have a crew and the ability to control the light somewhat. At the lower end you have to be more considerate about where you shoot, when you shoot, and what you can do to manage things. Can't protect the highlights and shadows simultaneously? Simple, change the shot angle, shoot at a time of day when the light is less problematic.

Now with wildlife a magical moment only happens once, and yes ideally you would want all extremes protected, but the fact is that this isn't always possible. You can strive for it, but when it comes down to it that is why all serious wildlife videographers have the best camera they can possibly get their hands on, and more often than not that still means film. That's one reason why the RSPB for example are reluctant to move to HD across the board for their film unit. The cameras simply aren't up to snuff in that capability nor the framerate ability. Not even the Varicam.

Using 70% zebras isn't an iron clad rule. You have to judge it and make a call. It is a guideline. Quite often on my full size cam I will have both zebras enabled, but on the EX3 it is too confusing to do this. But generally I can see what is plain white by looking at the screen. The 70% zebras offer me not only a guide, but also as I mentioned an insurance policy against knackered or badly setup viewfinders. Using peaking can also sometimes give a false impression of the overall brightness of a scene if it is set high.

All said and done I'd much prefer a realtime waveform display like some of the Panasonics are starting to do.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 09:56 PM   #12
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OK so thanks very much for your responses. Very informative. Enlightening. Thanks for the focusing button tip Alister, and everyone for the theories.

It was really late last night when I posted. I was drooling. I can add to this now. I actually took a photo of what I saw in the monitor, just in case the exposure that the EX3 recorded turned out to be very different than what the histogram, zebras, and monitor were indicating. Turns out what got recorded actually was very different. By the way I have been up and down and back again on the monitor adjustments. Nothing's helping.

Here's the scene

Here's what the monitor showed - note, NO zebras, and a nice, safe spread on the histogram

Here's what the camera recorded - note, whites clipped, CA around highlights, sensor having a heart attack

What I would like to know is simple - if I can't rely on the zebras, if I can't rely on the histogram, if I can't judge by the monitor (someone please tell me that image in the monitor is showing signs of clipping) - what do I do now?


Simon, you state here: "generally I can see what is plain white by looking at the screen." Well this is exactly what I 'used' to be able to do so well with the HD200, but cannot yet with the EX3.

There was no histogram on the JVC, but there were zebras. And when they first showed up, this was a warning - the way it should be. But so far this EX3 is treating me like a pregnancy test treats a teenager - no warning, just the answer.


On a related note, today I remembered watching a guy shoot at Mavericks last month with an EX3. Guy was real proud of his cam. Said he'd shot the previous day from a photo boat out there by the break (on the day I saw him we were both on a cliff about a mile away from the break). By the next week his footage was up on the Mavericks website. It looked horrible. Yes that's right, totally blown out. And while I feel his pain, white water in broad daylight is a tough subject to nail, this guy wasn't even close. It was really poor footage of a really great subject. So now I'm thinking back today, to that guy, and I'm wondering if maybe it's not just me here struggling all on my own? Remember, my buddy Brian totally fried his subject (model about six feet away) on an overcast day while shooting fully auto ....and she has dark skin and was wearing a cream colored sweater.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 10:20 PM   #13
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I have an EX1 and shoot outside all the time and I'm not running into any clipping problems. In fact I'm surprised it doesn't clip, especially on very white sand under bright sunlight. I am using a PP from the Vortex EX1 Training video, I think the zebras are set at 95% and it's a Cine4 gamma. The default settings that came with my EX1 clipped bad... I couldn't even shoot anyone wearing a white shirt outside, even on a cloudy day, it just blew it out. Once I changed settings I've never had clipping problems since.
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Old December 29th, 2008, 10:35 PM   #14
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Thanks Buck, I haven't tried 4.

Tomorrow...

just for kicks, when your EX1 clipped, did you get proper indications on the monitor/histogram/zebras? That your whites were too hot? Or did the footage look exceptional in the monitor/histogram/no zebras and only when you captured it did it look horrible?
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Old December 29th, 2008, 10:55 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Buck Forester View Post
I am using a PP from the Vortex EX1 Training video, I think the zebras are set at 95% and it's a Cine4 gamma. The default settings that came with my EX1 clipped bad... I couldn't even shoot anyone wearing a white shirt outside, even on a cloudy day, it just blew it out. Once I changed settings I've never had clipping problems since.
Perhaps the EX3 is in need of its own scene file recipes as the EX1's don't seem to crossover too well. It's amazing that the default settings cause clipping regardless of what any of traditional metrics are telling us (zebras, histogram, VF). Paulo Ciccone came up with some great custom scene files for the JVC PROHD series a few years back.http://tinyurl.com/87ptut Perhaps the EX3 needs its own Paolo Ciccone.
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