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


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Old June 22nd, 2015, 06:27 AM   #1
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Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

The biggest challenge of shooting with DSLRs is focus, even if you're not
shooting wide open it can still be challenging.

I was wondering how others are dealing with it, I know it takes practice to nail focus and with a live event, and the pressure is on since you may only get one shot of it. Being able to have focus peaking or something like that as you record would help.

There's the Zacuto-Z finder, but are there other options out there, what do you like?

Anyone use or would consider using a 5-8 inch external monitor like a Small HD and mounting it on top (not for the whole day but maybe ceremony, grand entrance, events where there's a lot of movement) ?
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 06:33 AM   #2
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

A m4/3 sensor dslr makes it much easier to get your focus right. Evertyhing moves too fast at wedding for me to even think of using a full frame dslr, especially when you are working solo.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 06:51 AM   #3
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Focus is always tricky; I'm shooting 4K and its even more a problem as auto focus is worse for 4K on the GH4 than HD. Peaking does help but can be unreliable. Theres a new HD501 monitor due soon, which is on my list of items to buy. For critical parts of the day, I feel a larger screen would certainly help me nail focus more easily and reliably. Mind you, I'm not doing too badly now all things considered.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 07:32 AM   #4
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Focus peeking is a great help, being able to punch in during recording is another and having a large native 1080p (not 1080p downscaled to what ever the monitor manufacturer gives you) is also a big help.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 08:04 AM   #5
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Riggs View Post
The biggest challenge of shooting with DSLRs is focus, even if you're not
shooting wide open it can still be challenging. I was wondering how others are dealing with it...
I've been shooting with DSLR for years and still often have focus issues. Wouldn't claim to be an amazing camera operator though.

I do use the Z-finder, and of course use the x5 and x10 focus check when I can, but there are times when you don't want to stop the recording to do so -- for instance, middle of speeches or vows, or when catching a candid moment. In these cases, the three main tricks I use are:

-- make a quick adjustment to drop shutter speed or increase ISO and close down aperture (to increase DOF).
-- zoom out a little bit (to increase DOF). Still lenses aren't par focal, but Canon L, at any rate, doesn't seem to lose focus for small zoom adjustments. I used to have a problem when I was using the anti-aliasing filter with the 5D2, and I seem to remember having more of a problem with Sigma/Tamron.
-- drift out of focus a little bit, then go back in. This last trick is actually used a fair bit by TV cameramen covering events like sports.

What I should be doing, of course, is using all of ML's focus aids, like the ability to zoom in while recording, or like peaking or red line focus markings. Just haven't yet got into the habit of doing so.

As for monitors, they're not for me. Not for events anyway. I prefer to shoot as stripped down as possible.

One more thought -- with a 50mm, usually I'm around f/2.0 (any lower, and I worry about focus; but at f/4 or higher, I feel like I'm beginning to lose the shallow DOF aesthetic).
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 09:40 AM   #6
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Easiest way for us has been using the Canon 70D anytime the light is decent (we try not to go above 1600 ISO). It takes care of the focus (and tracks focus) for us.

Before we upgrade, I'm really waiting for a 4K, better low light cam that focuses like the 70D. It really it that handy. The bride walking down the aisle is a breeze.

Our 3rd camera is the 5d Mark ii, with Magic Lantern, which lets me do a shutter half press and gives me a zoomed in window to check my focus... very handy. During a ceremony I pre-focus on the groom (its my aisle cam).
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 09:46 AM   #7
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Just shot an outdoor wedding Saturday and gave my D750 and 70-200 F2.8 a 6 hour workout.

I didn't have as many issues with focus on this one as I didn't use it for the ceremony processional. I used my XA20 on the glidecam and we had a couple locked down wide XF300s.

The other shooter used his Sony a7s w/ 24-70 f4 on a Ronin-M using continuous autofocus all day, and it seemed to have an 80/20 hit rate which is pretty good.

I also used a Nikon Coolpix A and that little guy did an amazing job for such a compact camera as my "Wide Shot" for first dances, while I used the big Nikon for close ups.

What we decided was, if we are going to go the DSLR route (which we are moving towards) we cannot afford to have any fewer than 3 video guys on site for the activities, because with all this extra equipment we are bringing now and dealing with battery changes, and potential focus issues etc (I can go all day with my NX5U and XA20 and a big battery etc, but not a DSLR using liveview)

I will note that, once the sun set, the XA20 became useless, so I put it in the car. But I was still able to shoot with my D750 around ISO 6400 and F2.8 and get beautiful relatively noise free video. And of course the a7s had no issues either. That is the big deal, plus I didn't have to bring out any extra lights. I did bring some out for the exit in the limo because it was in a pitch black area, but the bugs began swarming... so glad I didn't need that earlier in the evening.
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Last edited by Kyle Root; June 22nd, 2015 at 09:51 AM. Reason: more
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 10:58 AM   #8
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Kyle, it's fascinating to see how you work and all the cameras and lenses you use. We all work in different ways, but I think if I had to work the way that you do, I would have cut my throat years ago :-)

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Old June 22nd, 2015, 11:33 AM   #9
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

We use Canon C100's with Dual Pixel AF and the push autofocus is extremely fast and accurate with EF lenses. Right now you can get one for $3500 which is a very good deal considering it's excellent in low light, has XLR inputs, built in NDs, very flattering skin tones, and has an EF mount which has tons of lenses that can mount without an adaptor.

During the ceremony I will just press the push autofocus button, and within half a second the subject is in focus and then I'll reframe my shot as needed. During the processional and the dancing I will use the continuous autofocus which works very well when subjects are moving. I will only pull focus manually when doing a rack focus and occasionally when it's really dark during the reception dancing.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 11:58 AM   #10
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Depends on your choice of DSLR - I ditched the 5D3 as I found focusing to be a nightmare - lots of soft shots as it has no peaking plus you cannot zoom to check while filming. So I got the A7s and it's a dream - nice peaking and zoom assist - plus with an AF enabled lens the autofocus is pretty accurate and snappy.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 02:51 PM   #11
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

I'm on a Full Frame 5D, so I have to figure out something.

The Z-finder is intriguing, but since it doesn't have other features like peaking, it makes it less of a must buy for me. Obviously in the bright sunlight, it's nice. How does it compare with similar products from other brands?

I tried ML, but I think I have to get used to it and figure out which of the focusing aids would be best. I tried the small window (split screen) option, and you have to constantly press the focus square to be over the brides face as she's walking down the isle, while focusing at the same time. It didn't work out as well as I hoped.

The auto tracking focus on the 70D is intriguing, are there other cameras on Canons line that offer this option? I just don't see replacing my 5D unless something truly compelling comes out.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 05:13 PM   #12
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

My impression (but don't quote me) is that the Z-finder has been superseded by other brands -- like Kinotehnik.

I do find it an essential piece of kit for the one reason you mention: bright sunlight. At the very least, I think you need some sort of hood for this situation. Most of the day, though, I'm not using a Z-finder, though I have it hanging round my neck, and the reason for this is that I've found I get better reactions from my subjects if my face isn't buried in the camera. (Ie, the camera is less of an impersonal machine staring at them; and some of the time I can even turn my face away from the screen, and they think I'm not recording them.)

With tracking focus, like processional, that's when it's either autofocus or camera skills or possibly focus-assist-on-monitor time. ML doesn't really work. Z-finder does help. For me, ML is for those times when the camera is locked off, you can't stop recording, but you're not 100% sure you've nailed focus -- like vows or speeches. Or, for that matter, if you're doing some other sort of video -- like a short film, and it's the middle of a take, and no one's called cut.

I think 7D MkII has autofocus.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 07:43 PM   #13
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

I agree with you that focus is a challenge, but it is basically the reason we switched to DSLRs to begin with. So I can't complain :)
But I do agree with Noa...the GH3/4 has the perfect sensor size to help nail focus but still maintain that shallow DOF look that we want out of these cameras. I shoot nearly everything with manual focus and the peaking on the GH4 has been an ENORMOUS help.

I would go so far as to say that if you are shooting on a DSLR, you need a monitor with peaking. When I was shooting exclusively on the GH3 (with no peaking), I bought at used the Small HD monitor on a regular basis and it helped with rack focus shots and when I used fast primes during the receptions.

I will also mention that I recently found an amazing free app called "Lens Tutorial." You can input your camera, lens, distance from the subject, and aperture. It will then tell you (along with a visual representation) your DOF range. This helps me know what aperture to shoot to maintain a longer DOF for some critical shots like the bride coming down the aisle or the first dances. I have also used it a lot during promo video interviews. For example, with this interview, I was able to shoot with F1.2. I used the app to tell me how far back to sit from the subject so that I had a DOF range of about 6 inches. Enough wiggle room to allow the subject to move, but also maintain the very shallow DOF look I was going for:

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Old July 11th, 2015, 02:24 AM   #14
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

This is the real issue with DSLR.
In a tricky situations where lots of movement taking place
How about infinity focus (if you have the distance) and f5.6 to give DOF
Just to keep all in focus?

Any one tried the above?
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Old July 11th, 2015, 02:47 AM   #15
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Re: Biggest Challenge with DSLRs

Despite having one for still, I never use my DSLR for video because I wear varyfocal glasses and simply can't see the damn viewfinder. With my video kit, and the optical vf on the DSLR, I can adjust it so it's sharp and in focus, through my glasses. No way can I do anything other than compose on the screen from a short distance away, so useless for focussing. Everything I do needs a deep depth of field too, so seeing the image is critical.
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