DSLR Focus on Steadicam/Glidecam during Weddings at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Wedding / Event Videography Techniques

Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old November 9th, 2009, 10:31 PM   #1
Major Player
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 253
DSLR Focus on Steadicam/Glidecam during Weddings

The biggest issue I have with using my 7D for weddings is focus. Every time I have shot during daylight (no accessories, just the 7D body and lens) I have gotten back to the edit and found that my focus was off by a couple of feet - and a little out-of-focus is just as bad as completely out. Overall I'd say at least a third of my footage with the 7D alone has focus issues. With handheld shooting the Z-finder seems to be the popular solution, and I know that getting one would help. But for Steadicam/Glidecam use, the Z-finder is impossible.

I'm wondering how people who are using DSLRs with steadicams/glidecams are able to get good focus, especially when moving around? What are you using to monitor? How are you avoiding these focus issues? I mean, with a prime lens and a large aperture setting it is going to be extremely sensitive and hard to control. Do you just avoid this by using small aperture settings so that most everything is in focus when using the steadicam?

The HD monitoring on the 7D is better, from what I understand, than the 5D - so HD monitoring is possible - is that the best comprehensive approach?

Overall, can anyone doing steadicam/glidecam work with the 7D, 5D, or Panasonic share their focusing experiences/tips? Thanks so much!!
Bill Vincent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 9th, 2009, 11:30 PM   #2
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
This is, as we say, a sticky wicket.

The 7D has roughly the same image size as 35mm cine. For 30+ years, it has been a given that to do Steadicam on a 35mm project, you have to have an assistant pulling focus with a remote system. Even though the Canon DSLR's are far less expensive than 35mm cine shooting, the rules of optics still apply, and focusing is just as critical as it ever was. This applies not only to Steadicam, but to any kind of shooting as well.

How to get around this? By shooting your Steadicam shots as wide as possible, and with as deep a stop as possible (i.e. stopped down). Maximizing your depth of field is your best weapon, as well as keeping a consistent distance to the subject. Ironically, the only way to ensure that you are achieving critical focus in a spontaneous environment (such as event or wedding photography) will be to expand the depth of field, which seems odd because that's why everyone is shooting with these cameras to begin with.

There are going to be plenty of folks who disagree (perhaps violently) with this. There is even a burgeoning aesthetic developing where it's considered OK to have out-of-focus shots (or "hunting" focus shots), spurred by the fact that technology has made large-format chips available and affordable without any accompanying advance in the art and science of focus pulling--thus the vast majority are turning in soft shots left and right. While this may be considered cool or trendy for a music video or indie film, it's likely that your clients will be less than thrilled with this result.

There is a low-cost remote focus system on the horizon which will make the required technology available to the masses. However, you will still need a dedicated person to pull focus, and the skill is not an easy one--and whether you are able to afford to have such a person onboard is a whole other question.

Perhaps within the next few years there will be a technological solution to this issue (the next generation RED cameras have hinted at a "tap to focus" touchscreen system; it will be interesting to see how it works). For now, as I said, shoot wide and deep. At least you have a better chance of maintaining focus with the 7D over the 5D...!
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 10th, 2009, 01:04 AM   #3
Trustee
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
Posts: 1,200
Bill,

I for one (I maybe the only one), appreciate the fact that it is difficult to maintain focus with a DSLR. Why? Because if it was easy, anyone could do it, and that's what makes those special shots so special. If it was just point and shoot, then everyone would - especially at this price point.

It is a grind on the 5d having to use the 5x-10x zoom, pull focus and shoot (rinse, repeat). I'm trying to follow along on a photo shoot - and the photog is shooting handheld in full auto - and I'm working as fast as I can just to stay behind with a tripod and in manual mode. But to me, it's absolutely worth the hassle.

I've maintained that these cams are really best suited for a tripod (or brace if you have a remote focus). I've shot the 5d on my Glidecam 2000, and it is a bear to maintain focus, even just trying to keep the vf at something close to eye level. You are best off by setting focus and mentally measuring your distance when target is moving. But I'm very far away from having the 5d on the GC mastered. Also make sure it's not critical footage (ie, have another cam running). I'm committed to practicing walking around with the 5d on the GC all winter to hone the craft.

When I shoot my 5d at a wedding, it's as b-roll. I usually cover the in-between (ceremony and reception) with the DSLR only. And then bring it out again when the lights go down.

Good luck
__________________
C100, 5DMk2, FCPX
Ken Diewert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 10th, 2009, 02:18 AM   #4
Major Player
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 689
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
This is, as we say, a sticky wicket.
There is even a burgeoning aesthetic developing where it's considered OK to have out-of-focus shots (or "hunting" focus shots), spurred by the fact that technology has made large-format chips available and affordable...While this may be considered cool or trendy for a music video or indie film, it's likely that your clients will be less than thrilled with this result.
No argument with that. If you've been around long enough in the event videography business you know that trends arise mostly because the technology makes them possible. Back when digital synchronizers became available to tape-to-tape editors dissolving between a freeze frame of the end of the last shot to the incoming shot was the rage. The synchronizers also allowed strobe, posterizing and paint effects and wipes and pattern transitions that were just a button-push away. We could do effects now! And we did. Then non-linear editing became affordable and we could do dissolves between moving shots that didn't involve an A/B controller. We could do slow motion even if we didn't have a variable tracking deck! And man, did we do dissolves and slow motion. Diffusion, glows, movie effects, vignette - all simply because we could and until we got tired of their uniqueness. Now in the course of 2 years we've gone from ungainly lens adapters to DSLR's which make narrow DoF shots possible for anyone. In the same way as the other trends you'll be able to date many event productions by the prevalence of focus hunting and focus pulls. The overuse of sliders will also fall into the bin of dated effects as quickly as reveals did 5 years ago. Because they become dated doesn't mean they aren't valuable. All you have to do is look at the productions that win awards. Each year the winners are the ones that have capitalized on trends. By the time the trend becomes cliche' the innovators have moved on to use tools that new technology has made affordable to producers other than those with hollywood-sized budgets.
Joel Peregrine is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 10th, 2009, 10:33 AM   #5
Major Player
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 253
Absolutely great responses so far. Joel, I understand what you are saying about trends. Plus we are all looking for that competitive advantage. Interestingly enough the window for special equipment providing a competitive advantage is shrinking as the Internet allows everyone to not only see what trendsetters are doing, but to immediately order that equipment for themselves. Honestly tho, I think the truly great ones will be able to demonstrate excellent work no matter what equipment they use (or don't use). It's often an undefinable quality in the work of the great artists - in other words you could hand a lesser talented individual all of the same tools as the great artist and they still won't be able to produce a work that has that "something".

Getting back to talking about focus on a SC or GC rig, I'm glad to hear validation that it really is an extremely difficult thing to do. I also appreciate that in general, DSLRs are not easy tools to use and not everyone can just pick up one and instantly have great shots. I've said before that I have to coax great footage out of the 7D - it doesn't just give it up magically - but when I DO get it right, it's like nothing else out there.

Is anyone using external monitoring with a SC/GC, and what are you using?
Bill Vincent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 10th, 2009, 02:46 PM   #6
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Joel:

A thoughtful and honest response, much appreciated. I'm not in the wedding or event world but in my distant past have dabbled in both so I understand what you are referring to.

I have long championed 35mm-style depth of field (was an early adopter of 35mm adaptors; a piece of history here) but for me it has always been preferable to use the effect with discretion. I've virtually never "forced" a shot to be shallow unless I had a good reason for it. This may be a function of having shot plenty of 35mm film and already having an aesthetic from that. In addition, I am always conscious of what will assure a properly focused image; when going over 75mm, say, I will likely stop down to give the focus puller more of a chance of success.

All this is to say that I have perhaps somewhat more conservative taste when it comes to shallow focus and have thus been a bit underwhelmed by how much of it I have been seeing lately. Actually I think it can work quite well in the "gauzy/misty/dreamy" look that fits the wedding genre (particularly the pre-wedding events). The idea of missed or hunting focus as being a desirable look (as opposed to an unfortunate by-product of circumstance) is fascinating. It will be interesting to see if this does play out as a trend, because I'm not sure what will win out over time--yes, people will become more adept at focusing with minute depth of field and possibly there will be some flavor of focus assist that may pop up--but it's hard to imagine that people will revert back to smaller chips now that the cat is out of the bag. Certainly faster cameras like the 1DMKIV will make it easier to fire up the ISO as needed for a given shot so that one can stop down as desired--I myself tend to shoot at a 5.6 most of the time, occasionally venturing down to a 4 but rarely more open than that, again to ensure critical focus.
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 10th, 2009, 03:53 PM   #7
Major Player
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 253
I just watched a clip today from a peer who just bought a 7D. In a wedding highlight clip they did they had all kinds of "out-of-focus to in-focus" shots. They did it so many times I lost count. After a while it became really old, I think. You can cover a lot of mistakes with a highlight clip - but you're not going to be able to cover those mistakes as easily in a full ceremony edit or a longform piece.
Bill Vincent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 10th, 2009, 04:10 PM   #8
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Apple Valley CA
Posts: 4,866
A "special effect" is no longer "special" when overused...

There are reasons to use rack focus type effects, but it's an effect, to be used with thought and craft. If overused, it just looks like your camera has broken auto focus! I looked at a site yesterday, and was shocked to see the main graphic/photo was noticeably out of focus - would have turned me off immediately if I were looking to hire that photographer - if you can't nail focus, what else is going to be off?

I'm itching to get a DSLRV (if Sony ever gets around to producing an ALPHA body with the capability... sigh), but it's to augment, enhance, and "season" footage, not replace or overwhelm - I see it's place (and dang I'd love to shoot with some of the old Minolta glass sitting around), but IMO, one needs to keep it separated mentally from a "video camera".
Dave Blackhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 12th, 2009, 01:56 PM   #9
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: NYC Area.
Posts: 550
I agree. I shoot with a Canon XH-A1 and the 5D only comes out when I need the effect, or I am in a low light situation.

With regard to the steadicam. I soot with a 5D on the steadicam because I like using a really wide lens. To keep your subject in focus. Try to stay a set distance from them, and try to stop down as much as possible while still getting a good exposure. This lets you have room for error with distance from your subject.
__________________
Red Epic available for rent, starting at $500 per day, Scarlets, and Lenses available too. rentals.maddalenamedia.com
Louis Maddalena is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 13th, 2009, 09:35 PM   #10
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Tampa Florida
Posts: 347
The 24mm 1.4 lens is my best friend when using the Glidecam.
check one example of my recent work with 5d/Glidecam + 24mm lens.

Jose Ortiz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 13th, 2009, 11:08 PM   #11
Trustee
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Posts: 1,104
A wide angle lens with a large aperture that can "see in the dark" is a great tool but I don't like what it does to faces when used for close ups. It distorts facial features in an unattractive way that most people will not like - especially the big nose look. Some of the scene shots look great with the altered perspective that a wide angle lens provides. But they often are not kind to people. You really don't want to hand a bride a video that makes her look like her nose weighs 7 pounds. She want to look glamorous, not deformed.
Jim Snow is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 15th, 2009, 07:59 AM   #12
Major Player
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Arta, Greece
Posts: 342
Maybe I'm going a bit off topic (since I've got no solution for the focus problems, we're still using camcorders), but I think the DSLR "revoultion" really doesn't deserve the hassle. Of course it offers some tremendous video detail, but to master such problems as precise focusing or lens changing etc, it requires efforts that are too much in my opinion. Don't misunderstand me, in this business the most important thing is to be always better, evolve and give more in every new production and all those can't happen without hard work and experimenting. But one has to find a balance between what is needed and the means to achieve it.

So, my opinion is that if I want amazing picture quality, I can always invest (and I will) my money buying an EX1 or EX3 and achieve what needed, superb clarity and real camcorder way of use. And I think that the DOF and the "videoclip out-of-focus style" experimentation that I see recently everywhere is becoming really too much, and indeed I'm afraid this trend will soon wear out, much faster than other trends of the past. Ok, we use a DOF adaptor in one of our camcorders, so I can't reject the beauty and use of it but it's getting really "usual" now, like many other once original things in the industry. But of course, a new trend will soon come out, to keep the industry busy (and make the money flow)! :)

A personal opinion that surely doesn't have to be a correct one.
__________________
"A successful wedding videographer is the one that offers for viewing some excellent videos and some boring videos, and gets positive reviews for both".
Dimitris Mantalias is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 15th, 2009, 11:48 AM   #13
Trustee
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Posts: 1,104
Well said Dimitris, I very much agree with your points. Perhaps the next avant garde trend will be extremely full depth of field. People will remark with amazement that "you can see everything - wow!" I'm being a bit facetious but I agree that the overuse of shallow depth of field (along with poor focus control) is rapidly becoming cliched, even tedious or annoying.

Shallow depth of field shots can add a great deal of production value as long as they are used with a deft hand. But every shot shouldn't be yet another "dose" of shallow depth of field. Often a less "severe" shallow DOF shot looks much better. In many cases, just a softening of the background looks best rather than obliterating it. It's over the top when a quarter-angle shot of someone's face requires a rack focus to switch from one eye to the other.

Please don't take me wrong. When used appropriately by a skilled shooter, shallow DOF looks great. It's easy to overuse it though and then it becomes a turn-off, not a plus. I believe a couple of things explain this. Prior to the video DSLR cameras, shallow depth of field shots were difficult with camcorders. DOF adapters were used but they were clumsy to use especially with run and gun shooting such as weddings. When shallow DOF DSLR cameras were introduced, it was like a child left alone in a candy store. A couple of chocolate covered cherries tastes good but a couple of boxes quickly becomes sickening. The problem is that some people are already into their second or third box of chocolate covered cherries and people are starting to get sick.

The other problem is the "in lieu of" shooter who is looking for a quick fix to their production value. They saw an example of shallow DOF that was done well by someone so they think they have found the magic fix for all of their poorly planned and badly shot video "specimens" and rush out to buy their "fix". But in those cases it doesn't fix anything. It just becomes another way to shoot poorly planned and badly shot video "specimens."

Last edited by Jim Snow; November 15th, 2009 at 12:20 PM.
Jim Snow is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 15th, 2009, 06:09 PM   #14
Major Player
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 253
I agree with much of what has been said about the cliche' of shallow DOF. I'm definitely already tired of the out-of-focus to focused shots - which are more often than not just bad focusing that is edited cleverly to hide it. Very rarely do I see a good rack focus shot that really has purpose and a good effect. Most of it is sloppy and overused.

The 7D has helped prevent over-the-top shallow DOF, due to the smaller sensor - and that's good. I like that about the 7D, although some think the opposite. I will say though that some of my best shots come from my trusty A1s and my HF20. The A1s is set to record rather flat, but when you start tweaking the color in post - WOW. I can't say enough good about the HF20 either - at least in daylight. It doesn't do well in low light, but in daylight that small little package delivers a huge punch. Every time I bring back footage from that cam I'm always just amazed. When I do get a steadicam I'm not sure it will even be the 7D that ends up on it... :)
Bill Vincent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 24th, 2009, 12:02 AM   #15
Major Player
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 378
I'm a big fan of using Video DSLRs for weddings. I'm using a GH1 with a 50mm 1.4 lens.

During the ceremony this camera stays in the back and I stop it down to get the area up front in focus and no ghosting. I man a regular video camera up front since I can control the audio and do smooth zooms.

During the reception the low light ability comes in handy and I also enjoy the shallow(compared to 1/3" chips) DOF. I admit that I do miss the focus sometimes, but I think this kind of makes the video have a look like it was shot on 8mm or 16mm film used for home movies in the past. The GH1 has a fantastic EVF so that greatly helps getting shots in focus.
I also think doing rack focuses and panning between people dancing during slow songs makes the video more interesting than just pans, dissolves and cuts.

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts Joel, kind of a history of wedding videography.
Eric Stemen is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Wedding / Event Videography Techniques

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:51 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network