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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old May 18th, 2010, 12:40 PM   #1
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1st wedding shoot - catastrophe!!!

Ok, I don't want to get into a lot of detail and before I start this I want you to know I have never shot a wedding before; I have shot indoors and have never had this happen before.

Last saturday I was set up on a tripod with my Z5U and MRC1 recording my friends wedding (as practice) I stayed on (dont stone me) Auto settings because everything stayed in good form (through the lcd and in my settings) so I thought... I stayed on a shutter speed of 60, and the aperature was always wide open due to the low or fluctuating light sources, now I have my gain set on auto with a max of 12db and it SEEMED to stay within an expectable range. Now, I shoot outside the venue, in the church, at the reception, on the party bus and at the photo shoot and when I previewed my footage of the inside of the church and at the reception and got nothing but grain!!! What should I have done different BESIDES shoot in manual!?!? I expected the reception to be grainy and I different have any additional light sources (which a good on board light is next on my to buy list) but did turn the camera down to a shutter speed of 30.

Maybe I'll just stick to shooting wildlife where if I miss a shot, I don't get sued of get my back end bit off...
Jeff Mayne
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Old May 18th, 2010, 12:50 PM   #2
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I know you said "besides shoot in manual," but that's really the only way to learn the ins and outs of your camera. I always shot auto iris until I got a new camera with an old lens that didn't work with auto iris. I was forced to shoot everything manual. It made moving that iris ring and checking the zebras an instinctive thing in my head.

Am I saying always shoot manual, no. I am just saying to learn how to do it so you know when the auto settings are right and when they are wrong. That, and always keep your display up if you can put up with it. I don't know if it shows the gain setting when in auto, but I think it does. That way you will know what the gain is doing and know if you need it to pop into manual so you can override it.

I was fortunate to learn how to shoot by doing sports and news where you don't have time to really think about all that stuff, you just have to do it. I would challenge yourself to practice in manual and really work with your camera so when you walk into a lighting situation, you know what color, gain, iris, and shutter settings will get you the best results.

I hope this didn't sound like I am talking down to you. I only want to help. These are the things that have worked for me, and I hope they work for you. Best of luck and remember to have fun!

Mark Hendren, Mark Five Productions
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Old May 18th, 2010, 01:05 PM   #3
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Mark, thanks for the reply it's greatly apprectiated! I know my camera in and out and the only reason I didn't find I had to shoot in manual was because everything I was seeing in the LCD and the Viewfinder looked good. It wasn't until I put it on my 24" monitor that I seen the grain; otherwise the exposure looked awesome. I should have NEVER allowed the gain to hit 12Db I guess. Audio turned out great and actually the reception turned out better than some of the ceremony. Alot of the ceremony looked good as well but the church had a dark shade brown wall that I was shooting against and I think that may have been part of it, plus most of the lightng was behind or to the side of me. Oh well, I guess that is why it was practice and a lesson learned. I think, if I am not mistaken I can apply a filter in PP CS5 to help reduce some of the grain?
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Old May 18th, 2010, 01:09 PM   #4
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Sorry to hear about this Jeff. BTW how do you manage to control iris and shutter when in Auto?

Anywho, Auto is good for controlled, "well lit" situations where light does not vary drastically. For example, if you are shooting in a room with sunlight pouring in, and you are constantly moving, you will not get good results. The camera can only make certain choices, and if it's on Auto, it's just going to keep making decision after desicion. As far as the grain, well it sounds like the area just wasn't lit well. I'm sure outdoors you did not see any grain, assuming it was daylight. Shooting at 1/30 can also introduce grain, but usually not enough for the human eye unless it is complimented with high gain.

Depending on how varying the footage is, you may be able to peace together a highlight. If you have access to After Effects, it has a decent grain removal tool. It's a sad thing, but you can't really trust small LCD screens. Use them for reference and framing, that's it. If you are not comfortable shooting in manual, maybe try Tv mode (shutter priority). Don't stress my friend! The problem is over, time for the solution.

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Old May 18th, 2010, 01:13 PM   #5
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John, I didn't have any control of the shutter speed or aperture but the condiitions I was shooting in (LIGHT/DARK) allowed my camera to stay within acceptable ranges. The most variance that I could see (alot to monitor and keep track of) was the auto gain. I was jsut a little frustrated, but I am going to take your advice and just do a montage or highlight piece... Thanks
Jeff Mayne
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Old May 18th, 2010, 02:44 PM   #6
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We use to use the FX1 and auto gain was often more than fine. We would even go to 18db and I cant imagine the Z5 being too far off.

While the grain looks bad in the edit software it is nearly non-existant once its onto DVD and pretty much the same when on Blu-Ray.

We would only use gain for dark ceremony's, churches or the evening. We would go down to shutter of 25 before we used gain. While people say this is a sin no one has ever noticed it in our footage as Sony Vegas does such a cosmic job of managing the footage.

Before you panic just output it to your desired format and see how bad the grain is.

Failing that there are a number of plugins out there which will sort it out, depends on your NLE.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 05:39 PM   #7
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I agree with Danny that it would be best to view your footage on DVD or Blu-ray before you panic. If you need a noise reduction filter, I hear Neat video works well Neat Video - best noise reduction for digital video. It may soften your video a little, but that will be the trade off for low grain. I hear it's a render hog though.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 09:11 PM   #8
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I have FX1000 and I let the gain go up to +15db - on DVD it doesn't show at all - looks all good. I think you're too harsh on yourself.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 09:25 AM   #9
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Strange. I thought the Z5U had good auto control. Myb try white balancing the camera manually, trying to leave alot of the settings alone.

As Aaron said, try Neat Video, I've seen still of it and yes it does seem to do wonders.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:03 AM   #10
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Thanks for the responses guys... Just frustrating when you expect nothing but top notch out of yourself! Will keep you updated once I get it on DVD...
Jeff Mayne
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Old May 19th, 2010, 01:37 PM   #11
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12db doesn't sound bad for a z5, have been shooting with a fx1000 and a xh-a1 side by side and 6db grain on the canon looks worse then 12db on the Sony. Once you go to dvd though the grain disappears in the compression. On a full hd tv, well, depends on what distance you look at it, never watch at a hd screen from up close, then you will see more artifacts then you would wish for :) Always view from a "normal" distance and then it will look just fine.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 04:14 PM   #12
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Neat video program works very well..we use it all the time, but expect a rendering time of over 24 hrs for a 1 hour clip
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Old May 20th, 2010, 11:44 AM   #13
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NEVER shoot in AUTO! Unless you want your video to look like something uncle bob could make with his palmcorder. This goes for any type of shoot... wildlife, narrative, live event, corporate, etc...

The problem with auto (as I'm sure you know by now) is it doesn't know what part of the frame needs proper exposure. If the groom walks six feet to the left, his face might be black now because auto exposure sees this white background where the groom was. If you wanted to do a silhouette shot (or any special lighting shots), auto mode would be your worst enemy. Auto mode (depending on what you have set on auto) can destroys your f-stop (depth of field), shutter speed (motion blur), and gain (how much noise is in the picture). All of these aspects are there for creative control and should be set to certain things for a reason.

On a side note... use manual white balance too. If you shoot in all manual (white balance and exposure), your images will stay consistent and their will be no need to re-color and re-expose clips (if it can be saved) in post to match before you do your final color grade on the master.

If you do shoot anything else (especially a wedding), please shoot in manual mode. Do it for yourself (to become a better shooter), for the video industry, and for me :)
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Old May 21st, 2010, 12:58 PM   #14
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Hi Jeff,
I'm new to this forum but I saw your post and I wanted to post somenthing about your wedding shootings.
First of in a wedding situation the lighting conditions are never good, unless you have a lot of lights equipment but the wedding by definition it's something that happends pretty fast. Now about the shootings in low light, you should check your camera for the highest amount of gain possible without having too much grain (usable in post) at the maximum aperture (lowest f-stop), and I can asure yout that your camera will do very well in low light conditions like a dark church (it will always help to have an on camera light for the curch (some will require light some churches will not), then you'll know how much you can push the gain on the camera. As for full manual vs full auto I wouldn't go with either one. I will recommend that you use auto focus, auto iris ( with the option to lock the exposure when you want to control the iris) but never auto gain and auto WB. You can set WB pretty fast if you know how to do it and "where" to do it and you can preset yourself different amounts of gain ( for example I have a XH-A1 and i have my gain set on the L M H switches). I could have gone a lot more than this with the explanations as anybody here could but you have to do it yourself, it's a trial and error process that you can try yourself prior to the wedding, and remember this it's better to have underexposed picture than overexposed not that i recommend either of them.
I hope I made some sense with this post ( my first post) and I didn't amke a fool of myself.
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Old May 21st, 2010, 03:06 PM   #15
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Trust me, get neat video. Before shooting all DSLR's this little piece of software saved us many times over.

You can thank me later :)
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