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


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Old May 19th, 2011, 12:41 PM   #91
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Does "overexposed" mean kind of "washed out" (brighter than you would like but the kid was still more or less recognizable) or does it mean "blown out" (unrecognizable white blur)?

If this was a case of "just brighter than you would like," and you are only using the CX as your second cam, I might just live with it. Maybe adjust the scene a bit in editing with whatever controls your NLE has. With your soon-to-arrive XR cam, you avoid much of this by using the AE shift (-3 for plain stage lights, -4 if there will be a spotlight). Unfortunately, one of the limitations of the CX160 is the lack of AE shift.

If it is a case of "blown out," you could try enabling the "spot meter" function on the CX. While watching the viewscreen, you touch the area that seems blown out. (The 3" hd videwscreen on the CX will give you a pretty good sense of this.) The camera adjusts the exposure for that area. When the "bright" kids move in the frame, follow with a touch. The disadvantage of this method is that each adjustment momentarily bumps the camera. Still, it gives you something like manual exposure control while maintaining a wide depth of field with the manual focus (per the instructions several pages ago.) This is intuitive enough that, if you are using the CX as your fixed cam, you could draft one of the family members to do this while you run the XR.

Another alternative for control, particularly if the CX is being run as the second cam, would be this. Turn on "spot focus" and point/touch to mid stage. (If it is a fixed cam, the mid-stage focus is most likely to have everything in focus with a proper depth of field.) Re-set the manual knob from "focus" to "exposure." Leave the camera set to auto exposure until there is a dance with a lot of white/very light apparel. Press the button to activate control and then ride the exposure knob for that dance, dialing down as needed. Of course, everytime you make an adjustment will bump the camera. If the XR does not arrive in time and you need to use the CX as your primary camera, you could try the combined spot mtr/focus touch screen control for dances with a kids in white costumes.

Am I correct that the controllers on the Sony tripods do not have anything that would control exposure or focus on a CX cams; that they only have controls for start-stop, zoom and still photo?

I haven't used the CX menu setting for face detection setting much, but it has seemed to help on some occasions. Maybe Dave can contribute more on this.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 02:23 PM   #92
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Definitely want to enable face detection, as it will allow the camera to look for proper exposure when it "sees" a face. As Jay noted, "overexposed" may still be tweakable in post with these cameras - they tend to have pretty good lattitude, meaning the chances are the data is there to be tweaked in post, not just "blown out" and gone, like old school film might be. Drop some of the footage into your edit program, and play with it a bit.

The problem comes when the camera is trying to adjust to the entire frame, rather than the faces (thus face detection!). Light costumes/clothing on a dark background will tend to overepose because of the dark background being dominant - that's where riding the exposure or using spot exp/focus "might" be an option. AE shift is the more reliable "fix", but since the 160 lacks that...

I actually looked at a 160 at the big box store yesterday, I think you'll find it more than acceptable in quality, what I could see from a brief hands on was pretty good.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 10:28 PM   #93
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

OK... It's been a long day!

Rehearsal was tonight and I got the XR500 about an hour before it started. It was sent to a wrong zip code and I had to drive out of my way to go pick it up once I found out which post office had it. Then I found out the seller didn't include the AC adapter and both batteries were completely dead. I did manage to get some rehearsal footage from both the CX160 and the XR500 using the AC adapter from the CX160.

First to Dave - I did have face detection turned on at the play last night, but the cam only started recognizing faces when zoomed in quite a bit.

Next, I'm sorry if I am using the term "overexposure" incorrectly. At the the play last night, "washed out" would be the correct description. However, at the rehearsal tonight, "blown out" would be the better description for the footage with the CX160 (many of the performers were completely white from head to toe). The XR500 did pretty good but still had some "washed out" footage. The lights on the stage tonight were bright white overhead lights. No colors or anything for the rehearsal. The footage from the CX160 even showed the pitch-black background as being a bright gray color. So for rehearsal, I had bright white stage lights with a solid black background.

I found that if I turned down the exposure setting manually (on the CX160 it's just a slider bar on the screen with no numbers), I could get some really good images. Are the dB numbers on the screen during playback the exposure settings? If so, I was getting the best shots when it was either at 0 dB or 3 dB. On auto exposure, it was about 13 dB for the same scene. In this lighting situation, turning the exposure down made the background look black and made the performers really stand out nicely against it. If I could only keep this fixed lighting scenario for the recital on Sunday, I'd know exactly how to set these cams for the perfect picture.

Since the CX160 did really poor with the bright lights, I'm considering manually adjusting down the exposure as I think that would still provide the best overall footage even if the lights were a tad dimmer on some performances. I'm going to guess that most will be bright. I will be manning the XR500 myself and I am considering using auto focus (it did well tonight) and using the manual nob to control exposure if need be.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 10:50 PM   #94
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Sounds good to me. Advice is only that. You have to develop judgment for the conditions and you are doing that. Pretty soon, you'll be able to give advice to others.
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Old May 20th, 2011, 12:51 AM   #95
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Sounds about right - I'm not sure where the threshold is on face recognition, sometimes it seems able to pick faces out of a small portion of the frame, other times, not so much... it's definitely better with tighter framing on the talent!

I usually set AE shift -2 to -4, then use the knob for exposure if needed, as you plan - you also might take a look at spot focus/exposure, although it means potentially bumping the camera around with the touchscreen.

You probably are thinking along the right lines with the 160 - set the exposure manually and cross your fingers that the lighting range isn't too radical... As already mentioned, these cameras will ealuate the entire scene, and gain up as much as they "think" they need to get it all exposed "about right" - but in theater lighting with dark backgrounds and brightly lit performers, it's typically WAY too bright. The camera will, as you found, attempt to make the black "grey" to average the scene!

I leave AE shift "on" pretty much ALL the time, but you'll have to manually ride the exposure (manual AE shift if you will!) on that little CX160. Or set to what you hope will be a "happy medium" - another one of those reasons to be close to your cam for adjustments...
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Old May 20th, 2011, 07:08 AM   #96
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

I was using AE shift of -3 on the XR500 and still got the "washed out" effect in many circumstances. I'm not so sure I am comfortable using the MANUAL dial to actually control the exposure as I don't have much experience at all with that. Should I consider dialing down the AE shift a little further to like maybe -4 or -5? Or better yet, I think I can use the MANUAL dial to actually change the AE shift manually. I would feel more comfortable adjusting the shift than the full exposure for a specific scene.
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Old May 20th, 2011, 10:51 AM   #97
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

-4 is usually sufficient for the AE shift.

With family members watching the CX for you, maybe one of them could check the viewscreen at the start of each dance and dial exposure down for those dances where it seems to be needed? They can dial it back up to your baseline setting at the end of the dance. Also, if you can, get the theater to give you a 5 minute light check maybe hour before they start the show. You might find the stage lighting to be better balanced than the house and work lights. I've found most tech people are willing to do this for me.


Oh, and the answer to your previous question about the dB numbers on the viewscreen, those are the numerical measure used to represent the exposure setting. To put a fine point on it, dB is technically a measure of gain, but the CX The "exposure" control on the CX is actually a combination of iris, shutter speed and gain, The camera's processors are programmed to adjust these parameters in varying combinations to give what the engineers thought would be most likely in most cases to produce the best picture.
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Old May 20th, 2011, 11:08 AM   #98
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

My previous answer was based on my experience with older Sony cams such as the VX2000 and TRV900. I just checked this on my CX550v and I am not seeing any dB numbers, so my previous answer may be incorrect.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 09:48 PM   #99
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

OK ... we've watched this thread all the way through, so we've gotta know ... how did it go?
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 07:27 AM   #100
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

I would like to thank everyone for all of the advice, support, and encouragement provided here in this forum! Although I haven't yet watched any of the recital footage, I feel pretty confident that this has been a successful endeavor. If it weren't for you guys here, this could have been a disaster!

You were correct from the beginning that the CX160 camera was not suited for this job and I am so glad I took your advice and got the XR500. I did use the CX160 in a fixed wide position form the right side balcony, but I don't think much of its footage is going to be useable because it didn't handle the bright lights very well. The lights (which we were all concerned about) ended up being fixed for the entire show. They had overhead bright white lights with some colored lights pointing to the top of a backdrop.

I will post back again once I start to review what I've captured to give more details on how things came out. I'll probably post a couple samples (of my better shots) so you can have a look. I can't believe how long it takes to download so much data from the camera to the computer. As of this morning, the 40gb file from the XR500 had been transferring for about 8 hours with an estimated 2 hours left. Is this typical for transer time?

Thanks again for all your help. Stay tuned for a new thread by Brad Ridgeway titled "Amateur Recital Video Editing."
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 11:23 AM   #101
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Wow!!! thats not normal, you should have had it moved in less than 40 minutes...Transferring over 2 1/2 hours of footage from each of my canon and sony cams take no more than that....are you using the included software to move the files to your PC...
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 12:16 PM   #102
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Yes, something's definitely wrong there. Post your PC specs so we can start beating you up about that....
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 01:15 PM   #103
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

File transfer via PMB should be approx 1/3 real time, so something's not quite right. I'm going with USB 1.1 instead of 2? Even a "low spec" machine should transfer file relatively quick unless there's a "bottleneck".
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 02:47 PM   #104
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

I did use PMB to transfer. The data on the XR500 was approximately 4hr 45min of footage recorded in FH mode which resulted in a single file of approximately 40gb once transferred via PMB. I just realized that I was using the USB ports on the front panel of my desktop which could potentially be slower than the on-board connections at the rear. I still need to transfer 2 files from the CX160 cam tonight, so I'll try using the rear USB ports and see if there's a difference. It should be USB 2.0 on my ASUS M3N78 Pro motherboard.

I also bought a new CPU and plan to install it tonight. I felt that my current processor wouldn't handle the HD editing and rendering. The new CPU is an AMD Phenom II X4 920. It will be replacing an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+. What other PC specs should I be giving you guys to "beat me up" over? I'll post them on here tonight after I install the new CPU.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 03:06 PM   #105
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Re: Amateur Recital Video Production

Oooohhh.....

Generally speaking, it takes a lot of horsepower to edit HD. Multiple streams of it (i.e. multicam) require even more. A lot depends on what editing software (NLE) you plan to use. Each package has its own requirements. Fast CPUs (Core i7-920 or better), lots of RAM (at least 12GB), lots of fast HDDs (at least 2), are baselines. If you use Premiere, a good particular kind of video card (NVidia CUDA), really helps too. You can get by with less with some software or you can go crazy and spend a fortune -- it's up to you. Premiere happens to hate AMD chips and doesn't play nicely with them or ATI cards, but there are so many variables.

Lots of great subforums here devoted to PC/Mac HW and SW, so we'll probably see you there.

Desktops are better suited to this than laptops overall, but that's not to say that you can't do it on a laptop, only that it's harder and/or more expensive.
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