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Geting the most from a digital camera??


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#1 Daniel Rheaume

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Posted 03 December 2005 - 07:59 PM

Hello,
First I want to say that this is an amazing board.
Alright, to the question.
I'm sure this has been asked before, but I've searched a bit and I just need some clear answers.

How can I get professional footage from a digital camera?

I'm aware of the 1 vs. 3 chip thing.

Basically, my question is: When I use my Sony DV handycam (consumer model) I obviously get sub-par picture. It gives me a look that is a little too...close up?? It's hard to explain. Pretty much it's just the opposite of footage like "The Lord of the Rings". I have been able to get hold of a 3 chip digital camera from a local television place. It is a pretty high end digital camera. Yet, although the color is improved...I'm still not getting that "big" feel that I want. I've been told this could be the type of lens? I've also been told it has to do with frame rate (24 vs 30). The other thing I've been told is lighting (but to me this seems that would have a bit more to do with clarity and sharpness...maybe I'm wrong?).

Some might argue that only film cameras will do it...but I have a hard time believing this due to the fact that a lot of MTV shows and home decorating shows are obviously shot with digital cameras.

Basically, I want to get footage that is on par with lets say MTV Cribs, Trading Spaces, Degrassi (these are just some examples). My goal is to make a movie like the Smashing Pumpkins music videos.
Hoepfully you get the idea. I just need to cross that line of semi-professional to professional.

I would be very grateful if anyone could spell out all the neccessary elements to achieving this level of quality. Also, I know investment is neccessary, so any camera suggestions are very welcome.

Thank you,
-Daniel Rheaume
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#2 Gordon Highland

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Posted 03 December 2005 - 10:09 PM

I won't get too technical here, but it is possible to get a good image with a low-end camera. You have to understand the limitations of the device and work within them. Video by its nature does not have a very wide latitude, so overexposure and underexposure happen very quickly, giving you that amateur look. Film (and higher-end video cameras) are more forgiving, and you can see more detail and brightness or contrast levels so to speak within the image before it starts falling apart. Folks who shoot reality-based video, like these shows you mention, if they're not using lighting, they're being very careful to avoid too much contrast in the shot (like skies versus people), and they may augment this with some subtle small on-camera or near-camera lights. When it comes to scripted drama, it would indeed be lighting that makes up the majority of the quality difference. It is that important. A talented DP and a grip truck could make magic even with your handycam.

Technically speaking, the lenses on these cameras make a HUGE difference, seeing as how you could buy about 50 handycams for the price of the glass alone in one average broadcast camera. It means sharpness, resolution, accuracy, etc. Plus a wide-angle lens gives them smoother camera motion for handheld work. There's also depth of field, or how much of a shot is in focus from front to back; video tends to have too much of it so it's harder to direct the viewer's attention to certain things in the frame. Next, the size of the chips (not the just the number) is a major factor in quality. These are generally 2/3" compared to 1/4" in consumer/prosumer cams, and it doesn't sound like much, but that's probably half the story right there. The electronics in the camera, the stuff that converts from analog to digital, the processing of the image, is done at far higher levels of quality. Then there's post-production, color correction and all that in the computer.

So, to summarize, it's mostly lighting and image/contrast control in front of the camera, high-quality cameras, post production, and experienced people that make all the difference. Let's not forget the power of editing (and sound design and music). I've seen some badly-shot shows that were well assembled and made me forget about the quality. Frame rate doesn't have much to do with quality technically speaking, but there's a psychological perception that 24-frame progressive material is drama, and that 30-frame interlace is reality. Like theatrical films versus TV news.
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#3 David Sweetman

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 12:36 AM

You need to take your subject and just spank that sucker with light. The sweet spot of your lens is an f5.6, even if the camera doesn't tell you the aperature. That's where you'll get the most resolution in your image. But if you don't have enough light, your image will be noisy to no end. Never use digital boost. Always correct the color, saturation, brightness, and contrast in post. Mess around with the image correcting tools and see what changes can minimize noise and increase apparent resolution.
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#4 Chris Fernando

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 12:02 PM

How can I get professional footage from a digital camera?



Stay inside and keep lights out of your framing!

Seriusly though, IMHO, its partly reliant on lighting and story; both of which are under a more powerful magnifying glass when you're shooting video. If memory serves me correctly the Pumpkins shot most of their videos on film (I could be wrong). There is one video from their last album that mixes video and film footage and is kind of interesting to watch. The song's name escapes me but it's from Corgan's 'Martix/I think I'll start wearing a dress' days. Best of luck
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#5 Erdwolf_TVL

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 04:57 PM

Hello,
First I want to say that this is an amazing board.
Alright, to the question.
I'm sure this has been asked before, but I've searched a bit and I just need some clear answers.

How can I get professional footage from a digital camera?

I'm aware of the 1 vs. 3 chip thing.

Basically, my question is: When I use my Sony DV handycam (consumer model) I obviously get sub-par picture. It gives me a look that is a little too...close up?? It's hard to explain. Pretty much it's just the opposite of footage like "The Lord of the Rings". I have been able to get hold of a 3 chip digital camera from a local television place. It is a pretty high end digital camera. Yet, although the color is improved...I'm still not getting that "big" feel that I want. I've been told this could be the type of lens? I've also been told it has to do with frame rate (24 vs 30). The other thing I've been told is lighting (but to me this seems that would have a bit more to do with clarity and sharpness...maybe I'm wrong?).

Some might argue that only film cameras will do it...but I have a hard time believing this due to the fact that a lot of MTV shows and home decorating shows are obviously shot with digital cameras.

Basically, I want to get footage that is on par with lets say MTV Cribs, Trading Spaces, Degrassi (these are just some examples). My goal is to make a movie like the Smashing Pumpkins music videos.
Hoepfully you get the idea. I just need to cross that line of semi-professional to professional.

I would be very grateful if anyone could spell out all the neccessary elements to achieving this level of quality. Also, I know investment is neccessary, so any camera suggestions are very welcome.

Thank you,
-Daniel Rheaume


My advice is to turn off as many "features" as possible.

- Manually set your white balance
- Manually set your focus
- Switch off image stabilization
- Manually set exposure (if practical)

AND

- Use a tripod, at the very least!

I think the best way to work around less-than-perfect-quality is to make up for it in the production.

A well-thought-of piece goes a long way to make up for quality lost. The opposite is not always true!
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#6 Joshua Rheaume

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Posted 05 December 2005 - 04:24 PM

Stay inside and keep lights out of your framing!

Seriusly though, IMHO, its partly reliant on lighting and story; both of which are under a more powerful magnifying glass when you're shooting video. If memory serves me correctly the Pumpkins shot most of their videos on film (I could be wrong). There is one video from their last album that mixes video and film footage and is kind of interesting to watch. The song's name escapes me but it's from Corgan's 'Martix/I think I'll start wearing a dress' days. Best of luck


You are absolutely right! They did use film on almost all of their music videos. I'll have to check out that one with both film and digital.
Thanks!
-Daniel
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#7 Daniel Rheaume

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Posted 05 December 2005 - 04:34 PM

(That last post was under my brothers name, who forgot to sign out last night.)

Thank you to everyone who replied to this question of mine. I feel confident that I have enough information now to understand what is required for a good, professional shot with a digital camera. That thing about the size of the color chips was incredible! I never would have imagined.
I feel that this is truely a board where I will be able to find any answer, (and hopefully in time) answer someone elses questions.

Thanks again,
-Daniel Rheaume
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#8 Gordon Highland

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Posted 05 December 2005 - 05:12 PM

As a correction to my earlier post, I didn't realize, most consumer cams are actually only a 1/6" chip. Whoah, that's bad!
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#9 Ron_mc_Don

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 02:56 PM

Everyone has said pretty much everything thing I was thinking, but I will add one basic thing. When you said that everything looked "a little too...close up" I think this is caused by the slight distortion that the lens gives when you are fully zoomed out (because it's getting into a wide angle lens). My advice would be to zoom in slightly. This will get rid of that "too close" feel.

Tony.
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#10 Jonathan Nolan

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 08:21 PM

Hi all,

I shoot stuff on a Canon XM2 and I agree with the do it all manually advice 100%. And definitely use a tripod. Also do NOT use zooming at all, unless you have to, other than to SLIGHTLY zoom in as was said before.

Jonathan
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#11 Ron_mc_Don

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 08:46 PM

Sorry, I'll have to clarify what I meant. As a very basic rule, do not zoom in (during a shot), it is better in most situations to track (if you have a dolly).

What I was talking about is BEFORE the shot (not during) zoom in a little bit to get rid of that distortion if you are finding it distracting.

How this cleared it up.

Tony.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 08:51 PM

I learned filmmaking by shooting in Super-8 and it was the same issues that drove me -- "why does a professional movie look the way it does?" Perhaps I'm STILL asking that question!

It helps to break down the issues in tiny segments that you can understand, whether it is how you cover a scene or how you frame a close-up, to lighting, to technical issues regarding using video but trying to make it more film-like. In that last regards, there are obviously technical limits to how far you can go with a cheap single-chip interlaced-scan camera.

But it helps to think about what specific visual qualities you are getting from your footage that you don't like and wish to minimize. As a student, I also found it a good exercise to try and recreate shots from movies I liked in terms of the design, lighting, composition, etc.

Edited by David Mullen, 19 December 2005 - 08:52 PM.

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#13 Daniel Rheaume

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 01:02 AM

Hi everyone,
I want to say that I found all the newest comments really insightful. That makes sense about the slight zoom in. I've noticed something happening before when I zoomed in and back out. Now I understand better what it is I saw.

I also really like the idea of trying to favorite shots from other movies.
I'm going to give that one a try soon.

Thanks all!
-Daniel
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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

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