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I'm shooting a ballet recital; need help with settings


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#1 D.C. Joseph

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 10:43 PM

Hello, Comrades!

a couple days ago, I shot a ballet recital. I wasn't too pleased with the results. But luckily I've another day to shoot it. I experimented with Spotlight mode and to be honest, it looked terrible. Prior to shooting, I white balanced, stretched the blacks, opened up the iris, set the shudder speed to 24, and set the gain at 0. Anytime the lights were to brighten, I'd either up my shudder speed, or lower my iris. I shot in 24 FPS and in 6:19. I'd rather new to using the XL2, and I'm still learning how to tap into its full potential. Also, I was using the 3x wide lens, and I found it very difficult to put everyone in focus on stage. So I switched over to the 20x optical zoom lens, and had a much easier time keep everyone in focus. Can anyone please explain why this?

Thank you so much.
D.C. Joseph
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#2 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 02:18 AM

a couple days ago, I shot a ballet recital. I wasn't too pleased with the results. But luckily I've another day to shoot it. I experimented with Spotlight mode and to be honest, it looked terrible. Prior to shooting, I white balanced, stretched the blacks, opened up the iris, set the shudder speed to 24, and set the gain at 0. Anytime the lights were to brighten, I'd either up my shudder speed, or lower my iris. I shot in 24 FPS and in 6:19. I'd rather new to using the XL2, and I'm still learning how to tap into its full potential. Also, I was using the 3x wide lens, and I found it very difficult to put everyone in focus on stage. So I switched over to the 20x optical zoom lens, and had a much easier time keep everyone in focus. Can anyone please explain why this?

Hi. First, if you have the user manual for your camera, you may wish to read it again. There's some useful info in there.

Spotlight mode is a gimmick/feature which causes the cam to open its iris or increase the gain more than its auto-exposure circuit normally would. Since it's auto-magic, it'll produce an undesireable result at least some of the time. You'll get more predictable results if you turn spotlight mode off and use your cam's manual exposure features instead.

You'd normally set the cam's shutter value to twice the frame rate value, so for 24p you'd typically set it at 1/48-sec., not 1/24-sec. The latter will add some light sensitivity but cause the video to smear (blur) a bit. Generally you'd want to pick one shutter speed and stay with it, and adjust the iris or ND as needed. If you use the cam in interlaced mode (60i NTSC, or 50i PAL) you'd normally turn the cam's shutter off (1/60-sec. NTSC, or 1/50-sec. PAL).

A wide angle lens is useful if the cam must be very close to the subject -- or the subject is relatively large -- and you're attempting to get the entire subject (in this case the dancers) into the frame. However, if you can move the cam back away from the dancers, the zoom lens may be "wide enough" at its wide end to include everything you want, and the long end of the zoom may be useful for closeups.

I'm not familiar with the lenses you're using, so I can't respond to your focus question, regrets. A wide angle lens normally tends to make focussing easy compared to a longer focal length lens. It's possible you need to adjust your cam's "back focus"; this is necessary whenever you change lenses.

Using the XL2's native 16:9 mode is a good way to make the most of its capabilities. You lose resolution (and possibly also angle of view) when you use it in 4:3 mode with your lenses.

Turn off the cam's auto-exposure mode, turn off the cam's auto-gain feature, and try to adjust exposure manually using the cam's iris. Make sure the cam's ND filters are not in use (they darken the image, probably not wanted for this situation). These settings will usually enable the cam to produce images with a minimum of electronic noise.

24p requires more light to get a good exposure compared to using a cam's interlaced mode (60i NTSC, or 50i PAL). If you find that opening the iris manually while in 24p mode with a 1/48-sec. shutter isn't able to provide adequate exposure, you may have to switch to interlaced mode. If so, remember to turn off the shutter. You might try using a +3 gain setting instead of switching to interlace mode to increase exposure. This will boost the exposure without introducing much noise -- you may even find that +6 isn't too bad, noise-wise. But avoid using too much gain, because you might not notice objectionable noise in the picture until later (such as on a good monitor) when it's too late -- the noise is "baked" into the recording and it's usually impossible to get rid of noise once it's recorded.

Doing a manual white balance is a good idea if the performance has a "normal", relatively white light you can use when making this adjustment. Otherwise, try using the cam's 3200K (tungsten/halogen) preset white balance feature.

The suggestions above only indicate starting points for your own testing. Feel free to experiment, but it's a good idea to get comfortable with the basics first.

Shooting a live performance is very challenging. It takes a lot of practice to get good at it, so don't expect to be an expert all at once. Also, if the stage lighting is extremely uneven, an expert shooter wouldn't be able to make the video look great, either. There's only so much you can compensate for using camera techniques alone.

All the best,

- Peter DeCrescenzo

Edited by Peter DeCrescenzo, 30 November 2005 - 02:44 AM.

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#3 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:19 AM

for a one camera shoot of a live performance I recommend

being able to watch a rehearsal and take notes of key things like major changes in lighting, major and solo scenes
Put a camera on a tripod in the auditorium on the best seat and keep it wide and clean
Avoid putting any unnecessary glass or effects on the camera - keep it at the minimum gain setting possible and frame for the middle legs on stage (the black things that hang down)
For extended solo scenes zoom in smoothly and back out in advance of group work

Remember the audience for these things tend to be parents wanting a momento and not a fantastic exploration of narration through movement

my 2 cents

Rolfe
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#4 D.C. Joseph

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 10:23 AM

Thanks so much guys, Peter and Rolfe. You both provided very good insights.
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