Sunsets with HC1 vs. Z1u at
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Sony HVR-A1 and HDR-HC Series
Sony's latest single-CMOS additions to their HDV camcorder line.

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Old February 15th, 2006, 08:33 AM   #1
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Sunsets with HC1 vs. Z1u

How does the HC1 hold up specifically while filming sunsets? With that I mean the whole sunset process and the shift to darkness. What problems would I encounter compared to using the Z1? From what I've read the HC1 comes close to the image of the Z1 when shot in broad daylight. Any insight would be appreciated.
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Old February 15th, 2006, 12:18 PM   #2
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Pretty well i think.
It's got a Program AE mode 'Sunset&Moon' which i use on another Sony cam.

This mode is programmed to restrict gain to a maximum of +9db, however dark it gets. Not many people seem to realise that ! Consequently if you need to restrict gain for other reasons, this mode can be useful for that.

In sunset or moon-shooting mode, obviously there's going to be a lot of black or nearly-black areas in the frame and the camera would otherwise see all the blackness and ramp up gain to +18db thus worsening image-quality and overexposing your moon and/or sunset. So this mode resricts gain and i *think* also underexposes the shot, which would make sense. It may also tweak color saturation a little bit but i'm not sure about that.
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Old February 15th, 2006, 02:09 PM   #3
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bump the color a notch or two and use the exposure control lever to lock the exposure at 1.8 0db and you should get decent results. Dark areas will go completely black fairly quickly but overall it looks fairly natural.

One of the weaknesses of the HDV format is you can't really pull much detail back out of the shadows in post - it appears to apply substantially more compression in dark areas (probably because the detail is less visible there to our eyes). Shifting the gamma too much brings a lot of noise up in the shadows and makes for some visible banding which reminds me of 16bit video. Here's an example:

(h.264 720p ~50MB)

watch the shadows - I locked my exposure for the sunlit areas and the shadows went almost entirely black. I used FCP's 3-way color corrector to bring the shadow detail back up, but you can only gain a stop or two before the compression artifacts become apparent. Admittedly this example is pushing the compression because of the movement, so you might be able to go a little further on a static shot of something like a sunset.
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Old February 15th, 2006, 11:17 PM   #4
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I shot a sunset in the Carribean a couple of weeks ago. I used just the regular automatic settings and maybe I used the exposure toggle on the left side of the camera a little bit - I don't really remeber. Anyways, it came out beautifully, even caught the green flash! We observed the flash with our eyes as well, so it was REAL.
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Old February 16th, 2006, 08:49 AM   #5
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Have never used an HC1, but I can't imagine that the results would be as good as the Z1. I love shooting sunsets myself, and spent awhile doing it during the warm weather we've had here for the past month or so. I think you need full manual control to get the best results, and easy adjustments to white balance, iris and other image controls is really important. The great iris knob on the Z1 is a huge advantage for this, and I also like the black stretch feature.

I agree that color banding can be a real problem with sunsets and HDV. Clear nights with no clouds are very problematic as the sun sets. You will get noticeable banding in this situation instead of a smooth gradient changing from deep blue to an orange glow on the horizon. But if there are interesting cloud formations that provide a textured sky then you can get some very nice results. Here are some still frames (resized to 960x540) from my recent shooting FWIW:

I kinda like this one:
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