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Old July 27th, 2003, 01:36 AM   #1
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Advice for novice: Add on LCD or field monitor?

Good evening, all. After many months of evesdropping, this is my first actual posting (fanfare...). This is quite possibly the best general dv website and forum around. I have learned a ton, and have only just begun. Without going into too many gory details right now, my basic questions are this: for fast pace manual focusing in rather spontaneous situations, might one want to use an add-on black & white LCD monitor (5-7 inches), or a standard field monitor (b/w)? Do "they" make add-on b/w LCDs? High quality? Expensive? I have been shooting with a Sony dcr trv740 d8 cam, and am having a fair amount of difficulty making out true focus on the built-in color LCD. Scrunching one eye against the built-in b/w viewfinder inhibits my ability to observe and anticipate the action in front of the camera, so that's out. I need the distance that an LCD offers, that I may quickly look from the action to the cam, pan or zoom or whatever, and refocus easily.
This isn't martial arts i'm filming, it's a teacher tutoring a student in basic math, sitting on a right angle of a semi-broad rectangular table, working with page materials between each other, with me sitting near the diametrically opposite corner to them, the cam on a tripod in front of me. I am shooting their session with a single cam in single 45 minute takes, with as much grace, pace, and perfection as I am able to muster, covering wide angle upper bodies, single person closeups, and hands on table top working with graphic number charts and writing out problems. These sessions will eventually be edited for use on a teacher training dvd/video series, but for now, I am shooting for the perfectly, thoroughly usable 45 minute take.
Of course, this sort of perfection is hard to come by, and, right now, my main troubles revolve around fast and easy, true, manual, focus. I have never worked with a separate field monitor before, but I am concerned that it would be too, I don't know, disembodied a way of following the action while performing subtle operations with the camera. My sense, however inexperienced, is to keep the screen attached to the camera, where my attention really ought to be. What does the wiser man out there say? Could I just as easily, in time, work with a separate monitor in this sort of scenario? Within the next few weeks the Sony d8 will be replaced by the Sony PDX10, and, after a few more months, I may be able to get a second pdx10. I am aware of the pdx10 having a touch screen focus ability, but, frankly that sounds like a high end consumer novelty gadget designed to infuriate and/or break, and not especially useful while rolling, zoomed in. We shall see! Hope this post isn't too awfully long winded. Seemed appropriate to provide context..........Add-on LCD or field monitor?.......Thanks very much in advance!
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Old July 27th, 2003, 03:22 PM   #2
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For me, I find it easer to follow action and see what's going on when looking through the camera's viewfinder. I can keep my left eye open and see things coming toward the frame, etc. When I look at a monitor, it's away from the lens, and I don't see what's right in front of me. This may be different for you--I got to video from the 16mm film world, so I was accustomed to no monitor at all, and I still shoot that way, except for some studio things.
Not having a manual focus lens is a drawback for what you're trying to do. I don't know how the touch screen stuff on the PDX10 works, but I would guess it will be more of a pain than the auto focus button they put on most "prosumer" type cameras. If yours has the auto focus button, you might try using that to focus with, rather than trying to use the camera's electronic focus ring. When I shoot with a non-professional camera, I usually find that it's easier to use the button than the focus ring. Of course, that only works if the shot is composed for it, or you're zoomed in. Trying to follow focus on a 45 minute take without a real lens would not be something I would be happy about trying to do.
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Old July 27th, 2003, 06:44 PM   #3
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Thanks for the input, Bill. I maybe should have mentioned in the original post that I had shot the first few weeks in autofocus without a proper way to play back dailies, and, as far as I could tell by watching on the LCD, all was well. But upon getting FCE up and running on the new G4, and capturing a batch or two of footage, I found that all was not well. Certain things, like papers much brighter than faces, or shooting subjects too close to a wall, were giving the auto too much to consider. Such is the double edged nature of freedom, he waxed philosophically to himself. Some of it can be helped, through composition, as you say, which has been coorected, though more for aesthetic reasons, but some factors seem less correctable. I'm up to the challenge of learning to quickly and nimbly man. focus under less than predictable conditions, no one is going to fire me, and what a great way to hone my skills quickly, but I need a bigger and, preferrably, chromatic image to work by. Your evaluation of separate monitors resembles enough my own thought on them to persuade me to explore a different solution. A google search for b/w add-on LCDs was fruitless. This tells me.....something. Professionals, the ENG run and gun types, apparently handle this kind of situation differently....Not with handheld camcorders? Will give the b/w viewfinder another try in the meantime. Thanks again!
Shawn
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Old July 28th, 2003, 08:40 AM   #4
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The reason pro cameras have B&W viewfinders is that they are brighter and higher resolution, so it's easy and quick to focus under any conditions. There are 3" and 5" high res B&W viewfinders that attach to the top of studio cameras. They look like long skinny TVs. They're designed for studio cameras and would require some sort of cable modification to work with a little camera, not to mention a place to attach. One of these would be about 5 times as big as your camera, probably.
Considering your situation, if you can place a separate monitor in a position that works for you, you might be able to use it effectively with some practice. Look in the Markertek catalog (their website sucks, but you can call and get a catalog free)--they used to sell B&H pro monitors .
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Old July 28th, 2003, 11:23 PM   #5
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Thanks Bill for the Markertek tip. It would be great if those LCD adaptor arms could screw onto the tripod, like a camera, rather than on the camera. Perhaps they do. Would like to try the separate monitor thing out for a while before spending any money. With proper placement, it might work out well. Have you any experience with LCD magnifiers? That could turn out to be the least expensive solution, for right now. Well, I am aboout to draw up B&H and press the magick buttons for one PDX10. Ta!
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Old July 29th, 2003, 09:09 AM   #6
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Well, all cameras have magnifiers in the eyepiece, so maybe you could devise something similar for the LCD screen. Might work.
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Old July 29th, 2003, 10:41 AM   #7
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http://www.centuryoptics.com/products/dv/lcd/lcd_mag.htm
Century optics make one. I think hoodman and a few other maufacturers have one as well.
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Old July 29th, 2003, 10:46 AM   #8
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That's great--looks like that's about what he's looking for. Only problem I see is in the photos they show, they put the magnifier on and all of a sudden the picture changes from the pitcher to the batter. (One of those minor annoyances to me--why the hell people do that: when they're trying to sell something that does something to the image, they switch the photos, rather than keeping the same image so you can compare before and after. Tiffen does this too--they show a long shot without the filter, then a closeup with the filter, so you really can't compare what it does.)
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Old July 29th, 2003, 10:31 PM   #9
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Hmmm, yes, this does sound promising. Wish they made the LCD black/white optional, the way field monitors seem able. Perhaps some do. Not a feature that seems to be highlighted in the brochures if it does in fact exist. Maybe I'll just shoot in b/w only. Ha! All my problems solved....I am actually deeply in love with b/w (film really is what I'm referring to, it's what i'm used to), it wouldn't be at all uncharacteristic of me shoot largely monochrome, and the short comings of video quite often, to my eye, add to b/w's properties. But to get back to topic, first try the magnifier, and eventually experiment with monitors when budget permits. Any monitor and gear experiences out there? I am especially interested in the lone budgetless perfectionistic sensitive world documentarian modus operandi, so any and all analagous anecdotes are welcome. Familiar with the films of Chris Marker? Sans Soleil. La Jetee. The Last Bolshevik...This is my guy. Simple and ingenius. Thanks for contemplating with me!
Shawn
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