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Under Water, Over Land
Tools & Techniques for Nature, Outdoors, Wildlife & Underwater Videography.


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Old November 26th, 2009, 01:20 PM   #1
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Action, second; checklist first

I usually have to travel 100s or 1000's of kms (or miles) to get to favourite filming locations. By the time I get to the cliff top or mountainside or remote island I'm pretty wound up with anticipation. Just as I'm about to line up and shoot my first bird-in-flight, handheld, I need to stop being frantic and check that my Sony V1 is ready to get the best images in the conditions of the moment ...

Before leaving base I do ensure that I have enough charged batteries and blank tapes and a tripod for rare occasions. Then I should have a checklist (off by heart!) of the settings & tweakings to be done for the conditions prevailing. But I don't have, because I don't know how and I'm not sure why to compensate for/take advantage of poor light or strong light or fluctuating light or high cloud or clear blue sky or heat haze or reflected light or side light or low cloud?

What is your last minute, technical checklist and when do you make adjustments?

Last edited by Brendan Marnell; November 27th, 2009 at 10:55 AM.
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Old November 27th, 2009, 09:50 AM   #2
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Check the zebras.

If they cover your subject, use a smaller aperture or faster shutter speed, or add ND filter.

If they don't cover the subject, check that the subject can be seen reasonably clearly - ie that it isn't too dark. If it is, make sure the ND is off, then use a larger aperture, or slower shutter speed.

Then beg your subject to stay in the same conditions while you shoot.

The most difficult ones to compensate for are a pale bird against a dark cliff moving out to being a dark bird against a bright sky.

In that case, use an expo-disc or similar to set a manual exposure according to the light source - this should be more reliable where your background is changing.

I note there is now a cheaper alternative to the Expo-disc made by Seculine - I haven't seen any reviews of it.
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Old November 27th, 2009, 11:37 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie Haycock View Post
Check the zebras.

If they cover your subject, use a smaller aperture or faster shutter speed, or add ND filter.

If they don't cover the subject, check that the subject can be seen reasonably clearly - ie that it isn't too dark. If it is, make sure the ND is off, then use a larger aperture, or slower shutter speed.

Then beg your subject to stay in the same conditions while you shoot.

The most difficult ones to compensate for are a pale bird against a dark cliff moving out to being a dark bird against a bright sky.

In that case, use an expo-disc or similar to set a manual exposure according to the light source - this should be more reliable where your background is changing.

I note there is now a cheaper alternative to the Expo-disc made by Seculine - I haven't seen any reviews of it.
That is a very useful answer, Annie, thank you.

I never realised that shutter speed can be used to similar effect on Video as with DSLR on Stills. I was assuming that the filters were my only option. I think the shutter speed control is handier on the Sony than on my Canons. But, as you say, the zebras tell a lot and fast.
By using them your way I should be able to re-assess my settings and compensate quickly for changing light

Regarding the consequences of sudden change of background, your assertion is pretty well proven by these clips, upgraded on Vimeo ...

It is no wonder these are among my best flight clips, because I had the vultures near or below eye-level with a solid background. Still I could always do with advice on how they might have been better.
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Old November 28th, 2009, 04:35 PM   #4
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These are broad guidelines. There is probably less room to manouvre with video compared with a DSLR in getting the balance of shutter speed and aperture right.

On my Canon XH-A1 I try to keep the aperture at around f3.5 and the shutter speed around 1/50 (I shoot 25p) and use the ND filter as the primary adjustment. If I let the aperture get too small, the image is blurred. And if the shutter speed is too slow, I get a different kind of blurring.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 06:31 AM   #5
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Don't forget to monitor your audio. Great video needs great audio. Bob
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Old December 1st, 2009, 01:36 PM   #6
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Brendan,
These shots are truly impressive. I have never been able to get such steadiness handheld. Are you holding the camcorder on your shoulder, or do you have a special technique? Also, at about 26-27 seconds, a little rattle noise is heard that I assume is your auto focus. With the bird moving around the field so much, how do you keep the camera from hunting in autofocus? Is it a feature of the Sony? Any Canon I have ever used hunts all over the place in a situation like that.
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Old December 1st, 2009, 05:23 PM   #7
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Clips were culled from 5 tapes filmed on a low cliff in Spain and 4 tapes from a high cliff in Crete, using Canon XM2 (GL2) over 4 weeks in 2006/7.

Handholding was not difficult with XM2; keeping it steady was more likely when I was following steady flight than when the bird was stationery. Spending all that time videoing, I was sort of bound to get it right for a total of 2 minutes. (With a dslr I was shooting 1000's of shots to get a few good BiF images, not smart).

Both locations are lovely places to be and easy to access, but high location in Crete took years(@ 2weeks p.a.) to find.

The creaking sounds are made by my swivel seat as my arse strained to swivel it. The clips towards the end are slightly slo-mo, as evidenced by the unusual pitch & duration of bird sounds.
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Old December 1st, 2009, 06:51 PM   #8
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Brendan,

the footage is great, but the first part you need a blimp to cut down the unwanted audio. I have had huge trouble with wind through the years. a blimp with a shotgun mic in it and then derumble in post and add some music and your shots will be to die for.

On the first bit of footage I would cut out the audio entirely, take the audio background from another windless day, add it to it for ambience and then a real suble background music. that would make it fantastic!!!

I look forward to more of your videos Brendan!!

Oh yea, I turned on the hd and it was better so I actually thought you shot it in HD, shows how good your focus was!!

I am really curious how you like the sony and how easy is it to get critical focus for hd? I am thinking of getting a point and shoot hd camera so I do not always have to lug the xlh1 about!
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Old December 6th, 2009, 07:21 PM   #9
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Hello,

You might try a monopod. I use one with a fluid head on the foot of the pod. This helps keep one of the axis steady. Also try and use your cameras dummy button. It might be faster on changing the iris and speeds than you are, and it might look great.

Ken
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Old December 10th, 2009, 04:49 PM   #10
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Quote >>> You might try a monopod. I use one with a fluid head on the foot of the pod. This helps keep one of the axis steady. Also try and use your cameras dummy button. It might be faster on changing the iris and speeds than you are, and it might look great.

Ken

Do you know of a monopod with a mechanism (maybe a spring) which facilitates fast raising and lowering of the head between, say, 5 and 6 feet ? That could be useful for birdflight ... that's what's required with handheld shooting.

By "dummy button" do you mean putting handy presets on a Function button?
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 09:18 PM   #11
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Dummy button

My Canon XH A1 has a green button, and it preset all functions on the camera. I do not use it very often, but in changing light it might work well.

Ken
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Old January 29th, 2010, 11:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie Haycock View Post
These are broad guidelines. There is probably less room to manouvre with video compared with a DSLR in getting the balance of shutter speed and aperture right.

On my Canon XH-A1 I try to keep the aperture at around f3.5 and the shutter speed around 1/50 (I shoot 25p) and use the ND filter as the primary adjustment. If I let the aperture get too small, the image is blurred. And if the shutter speed is too slow, I get a different kind of blurring.
Annie,

Q 1.What use do you make of the preset function button that Ken mentions?

Q 2. Do you fix f3.5 and leave it at that until the filters no longer fine tune exposure, or what?
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Old January 31st, 2010, 12:26 PM   #13
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I have never used that green button. It is the equivalent to program mode on a SLR camera, and my experience of that was that their ideal settings were not the same as mine!

I usually use TV mode at 1/50 shutter speed, check the aperture from time to time, and if I can't get somewhere below f5.6 with the ND filter, I start fiddling with shutter speed and aperture til I get somewhere close to what I want.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 06:26 PM   #14
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Brendan, Careful up there, it looks a long way to fall. It is easy when looking through the viewfinder to forget all the things around you.

Bob
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 04:53 PM   #15
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Bob,
Throughout the years we have sat on this cliff (top of ridge on right of photo) I have wondered now and again whether it has ever or even often crossed my wife's mind (sitting behind me, always) to give me a gentle but firm push ... I guess that, as I topple over, I'll still be wondering if she did it!

Towards the end, this clip gives a perspective of the depth of the gorge ... An adult descending and finally landing in rocks | the Internet Bird Collection
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