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


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Old August 13th, 2010, 12:32 PM   #1
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1/25 or gain?

PAL Canon XH-A1S

Reception speeches: often the room is rather dark for normal filming (normal meaning 1/50 shutter and 0 gain).

So with the iris open as far as it will go and realising things are still too dark... are you choosing to lower shutter speed or add gain?

There are pros and cons with both - slower shutter lets a load more light in, but can 'strobe' a bit with vigorous movement (seems fine so long as people are not moving around very fast - sometimes hard to predict the situation). I believe I see a slightly softer focus as well with 1/25?

Gain (6db is as high as I would go) lights things up a lot better too, but on the big screen at home those dancing pixels are not nice. Yes we can apply filters like NewBlue, but I believe a softening of the picture is inevitable in the process.

There is a 3rd option of lighting, but this not always practical so I will rule it out for receptions at the moment.

So are you going with slower shutter or gain?
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Old August 13th, 2010, 01:24 PM   #2
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In a low light situation we will always drop the shutter before introducing gain. We shoot on 7D's and we will go down to 1/30 (would go to 1/24 but that is not available) before we would increase the ISO and add grain to the image. Even for dancing, 1/30 (or 1/25) won't look bad, and your client is more likely to notice a grainy image (in my opinion).
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Old August 13th, 2010, 03:22 PM   #3
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For speeches we go to 1/25 but for the first dance IMHO 1/25 is too slow a shutter and it shows up movement badly especially steadycam footage so we use lighting if needed, in fact we use it almost all the time now for the first dance.
we worried about it at first but speaking to brides they dont even notice it and it makes all the difference.
I hate using anything other than -3 db gain on the Canon as I hate the look of grain even at 0 db.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 03:31 PM   #4
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All good advice. You shouldn't see any softer focus at 1/25, but more motion blur may give that impression.
I think the key is to give yourself an upper limit where you're happy with the noise level (probably +3db for you) and take any steps you can not to go above it - ie 1/25th shutter.
For statics/fairly static shots I think you'll hardly notice it, and even moving shots it's often not too bad.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 05:51 PM   #5
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Rob, we share your concern at the reception but believe there is another option before taking either of the actions you propose, turn up the lighting.

We always explain to the couple that we need adequate lighting to make a decent recording of the speeches etc and get their permission to arrange with the hotel/venue to turn up the lighting to full immediately before the speeches start.

The hotels/venues generally have no objection either because they'll invariably want to clear the room for the evening event as soon as the speeches are over and will turn the lights up anyway.

For the first dance we use either night techniques (pools of light, silhouettes etc or 3w LED lamps on each camera. You can't risk destroying the ambiance of the first dance and although the ligts give adequate light the effect is almost invisible to the eye.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 06:36 PM   #6
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Travis are you saying you dont up your ISO on the 7D at all? what's the highest ISO you'll shoot at ?
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Old August 26th, 2010, 01:28 PM   #7
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I usually advise both the couple and the organisers that best quality video is achieved when the lights remain on during the Speeches at least.

Something else to consider when considering lowering shutter speed or adding gain is the use of any slow motion in post-production. 1/25 shutter obviously does not produce great results when slowing down the footage, with too much jerking in some situations.

Why slow anything down? Well, apart from creative decisions, some brides seem to bomb down the aisle like olympic sprinters, while others prefer the slow (and much more appealing) approach towards the groom. Therefore if a 'fast aisle' is anticipated, I'm tempted to choose gain over low shutter for better slow motion results.
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Old August 26th, 2010, 06:17 PM   #8
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ISO Gets pretty bad with the 7D so I stay under 1600. I'll shoot up to 3200 on the 5D with no worries.
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Old August 30th, 2010, 11:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Harlan View Post
So are you going with slower shutter or gain?
Organise your lighting beforehand. If not, then add small amounts of gain. Low shutter speed is useless if you want to make any hand-held camera movements - and why should you be relying on mulitple cameras on legs to get your shots for speeches? And at what cost to the client?

Nice if you can get it in these economically strapped times.

:)
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Old August 30th, 2010, 12:39 PM   #10
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We've never had a problem with reception lighting - houe lights/outside light has always been fine. WIth dances we check in advance with the B&G that they are happy for lights to stay partially up for first couple of dances; never had an objection so far but will happily go to 9db gain (EX1)

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Old August 30th, 2010, 07:48 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by David Schuurman View Post
Travis are you saying you dont up your ISO on the 7D at all? what's the highest ISO you'll shoot at ?
Sorry, missed this question until just now. d;-)

No, we do increase our ISO depending on the situation. We generally don't ever shoot higher than 1600 in a dark venue, although we've shot a few things at 2500 when it was REALLY dark.
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Old August 31st, 2010, 08:53 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Claire Buckley View Post
Organise your lighting beforehand. If not, then add small amounts of gain. Low shutter speed is useless if you want to make any hand-held camera movements - and why should you be relying on mulitple cameras on legs to get your shots for speeches? And at what cost to the client?

Nice if you can get it in these economically strapped times.

:)
For the speeches, we use 3 tripod-mounted units: one pointed at the speaker, a second covering the top table in wide angle, and a third for the guests reactions. I'm not sure why you would want to operate a hand-held camera during 30 minutes plus of speeches - a part of the day where substance is clearly the preference over any dynamic camera movements. This method is relied on because it is tried and trusted, and as part of our normal service there is no additional cost to the client.

My tests have proven a lower 1/25 shutter speed is quite acceptable when there is not a lot of fast subject or camera movement (i.e. during speeches) - very little ghosting, and even if it does rear its head with someone suddenly moving around then a simple synched cut to another camera eliminates any issue.

For the dancing, I find the decision between shutter and gain can depend on several factors - including style of recording (i.e. hand held, steadicam, tripod) and anticipated style of dancing (i.e. slow shuffle or energetic).
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Old August 31st, 2010, 11:37 AM   #13
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Here we don't have the luxury of adding lights at a reception, that's just not done and must say shooting with the xh-a1 at 25f, 1/25th shutter and 6db gain gives good enough results, we will notice the grain because all videographers are pixelpeepers but the couple never will say anything about it. I always use an on camera light when it gets too dark just to get more color and detail in the centre of the image.

The xh-a1 is just not a good low light performer and above settings are the best you can get out of it, you can also try certain presets that do a good job but often with side effects like ghosting.
Since some weeks I am using a 550d/nikon nikkor 50mm 1.4 combo for receptions and max 1600 iso and that's like night and day compared to my xh-a1 but its very shallow dof that goes with a wide open iris is sometimes very nice and sometimes a curse. For one person it's ok but if your filming a group the dof is just a few cm's which trows everybody out of focus except for that one person and I don't always want that. But I rather have that then the very muddy image you can get from a xh-a1 at very dark receptions and if you don't use extra light.
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Old August 31st, 2010, 12:36 PM   #14
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Rob, I'm going against the grain here (agggg!) by saying that I always up the gain before slowing the shutter speed. Dropping from the default 1/50th to 1/25 lets you work in half the light, sure, but at what cost? Any movement on screen, subject or camera, just looks jerky and nasty - there's no two ways about it. Audiences are used to seeing low-light grainy footage on TV every night, so clients too will be well aware that 'romantic' lighting has its downsides.

But I'd also say that your Canon lens loses a goodly 2 stops from wide to tele, so that if you're filming wide-open, zero dB gain at wide angle, you'll need to be using +12dB of gain up at telephoto in the same lighting. Or put it another way - if 2 100 watt bulbs illuminate the top table at wide angle, you'll need eight 100 watt bulbs turned on to film at tele.

Moral: Keep to wide-angle to avoid the shutter speed jitters and the dancing grain. Oh, and two days ago I used my 160 Cheepie-Chinese LED on-camera light for the first time in the dimly lit speeches and although still a bit under-exposed, at least you can see what's going on. I was impressed at what it could do from 3 metres.

tom.
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Old August 31st, 2010, 01:50 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Rob Harlan View Post
I'm not sure why you would want to operate a hand-held camera during 30 minutes plus of speeches - a part of the day where substance is clearly the preference over any dynamic camera movements.
Point taken, but I seem to have many more animated and dynamic speeches than you probably do - dunno why. I get very few that are rooted to the same spot. The results are much less static and have more energy. Just the way I and my clients prefer it.

I also get less long top tables in my neck of the woods and many more round table setups - you need to be a bit more nimble when they all decide to stand up to toast. On legs all you'll get are the backs of a few heads if you're not very careful. So given that I stay hand-held on the A camera.

A bit more work, bit it works for me :)
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