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Lighting on miniDV


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#1 Evan Cox

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 07:29 PM

Hey, a buddy and I are working on a film and have decided that I am to do the lighting. The film will be shot on miniDV, and I am not sure how powerful of lighting I will need to use. I am used to film, and it seems like digital would use less lighting. I have a 500 watt halogen and a 650 quartz-sort-of-a-thing. Please give me some tips on what lights I should use, and/or how I would use them for effective digital lighting.

Edited by E.C., 12 January 2006 - 07:30 PM.

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#2 Mike Williamson

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 10:09 PM

What kind of lights you need will depend mostly on the scenes you're shooting: what quality of light you want, how big of a space you have to light, etc.

I find that digital video requires about the same size lighting package as film, but that you have to light a little more than you would with a film shoot. This is because mini-DV in particular has less latitude, so I find myself using more fill light to balance out the exposure more than I would with film. I also find that video needs softer light than film and is overall less forgiving of hard lit faces especially.
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#3 Chris Cooke

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 03:16 AM

If at all possible, don't shoot wide open and never use gain (unless that's an effect your going for). f4.0 is a good looking stop on mini dv. Anything under that and your mid tones start getting quite noisy. Anything over that and everything will be in focus.
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#4 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 05:44 PM

Chris,

Could you explain what you mean by this? There are so many cameras and lenses that shoot minidv, it seems like a rather broad statement to say that shooting under f4 is going to cause problems. Are you talking about a specific camera or lens? Minidv is a tape format, so it is not itself predisposed to a certain look at a certain fstop. Particular cameras, ccds or lenses on the other hand, are.

AJB

If at all possible, don't shoot wide open and never use gain (unless that's an effect your going for). f4.0 is a good looking stop on mini dv. Anything under that and your mid tones start getting quite noisy.


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#5 Chris Cooke

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 06:43 PM

Chris,

Could you explain what you mean by this? There are so many cameras and lenses that shoot minidv, it seems like a rather broad statement to say that shooting under f4 is going to cause problems. Are you talking about a specific camera or lens? Minidv is a tape format, so it is not itself predisposed to a certain look at a certain fstop. Particular cameras, ccds or lenses on the other hand, are.

AJB


From experience on the DVX-100 and XL2, I've observed that my previous statement is true. Your right, I should have qualified my statement. I believe though that since mini DV is so compressed allready, we should strive for the optimal stop that will help us to not see that compression so obviously.
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#6 Paul Bruening

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 06:49 PM

Hello EC,

You don't need as much light for DV as for film. I know that sounds counter-technical but it is true in practice.

My XL1s is supposed to have an equivalent ASA rating of 160 to 200. In reality, it needs FAR less light than that ASA in film.

Your main concern with DV lighting is to achieve an intentional look. Ambient light rarely gives you that.

You can use hardware store, clamp lights (stamped aluminum reflectors in up to five shapes and sizes) with 100W bulbs to achieve an intentionally lighted subject. They clamp with a little duct tape to anything: ceiling fans, door tops, yada yada yada. For background, larger indoor scenes and night exteriors, you can use harware store utility heads. They run 500W halogen tubes. You can get them with shortish stands for $20 each. Pull the grating off the front and throw it away.

There's no easy and cheap way to get around the color mismatch of these cheaper heads and daylight. For exterior day scenes you can use 1" styro from construction supply houses. It is white styro on one side and silver foil on the other. They'r a pain on windy days. But, at $8 for a 4' X 8' sheet, you can cut them down, bust 'em up, yada yada yada.
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#7 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 08:00 PM

Sorry if I'm missing your point - I want to understand this because it sounds interesting:

How, as a rule, do compression artifacts manifest themselves when you are shooting wider than an f/4 on those cameras? what have you observed? That in any given situation, when you set the stop wider than f/4 you start getting artifacts in the mid-tones?

Regards,

AJB



From experience on the DVX-100 and XL2, I've observed that my previous statement is true. Your right, I should have qualified my statement. I believe though that since mini DV is so compressed allready, we should strive for the optimal stop that will help us to not see that compression so obviously.


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#8 Chris Cooke

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 11:55 PM

Sorry if I'm missing your point - I want to understand this because it sounds interesting:

How, as a rule, do compression artifacts manifest themselves when you are shooting wider than an f/4 on those cameras? what have you observed? That in any given situation, when you set the stop wider than f/4 you start getting artifacts in the mid-tones?

Regards,

AJB


A broadly known and accepted fact is that lenses typically perform at their sharpest in a certain f-stop range. This is usually a range from about two stops down from wide open and two stops up from fully-closed (often from f4 to f11). One major issue though on mini dv is that since it is a small sensor camera, defraction becomes obvious. When light is forced through too small of an aperture the image begins to appear out of focus. There have been tests done that say the DVX-100 is sharpest at f5.6 but I find at this stop, too much of the image is in focus, thus appearing more like video.
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#9 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 14 January 2006 - 03:30 AM

Chris,

Your original statement was "f4.0 is a good looking stop on mini dv. Anything under that and your mid tones start getting quite noisy".

I still don't see how going outside the sweet spot of a lens causes the mid tones to get "noisy". You are talking about an optical effect in your explanation below. Sure, using gain, bad exposure, harsh colors - these can cause noise - but setting the lens outside its sweet spot? Setting the lens outside the sweet spot can result in certain image characteristics that would be less than ideal - but I can't see how it can affect noisiness and compression artifacts. Isn't that like saying if I'm shooting on 35mm, and I set my prime outside the sweet range, the image will get grainy in the mid-tones?

And what about opening up from f4? Besides possibly abberations - which again is an optical thing, how does opening up from f4 cause noisiness if everything is exposed properly? Clearly it is not diffraction, is it? The problem you stated about lenses on the xl1 for example, going fuzzy at small apertures is an optical effect - not a digital one. And it would be affecting not just the mid-tones. I don't believe it is causing noise - its causing apparent reduction in resolution in the final image. This is more a result of the ccd size, no? - not compression as you suggested when you stated "since mini DV is so compressed allready, we should strive for the optimal stop that will help us to not see that compression so obviously."

I would also suggest that the higher the format's resolution, the more important hitting the sweet range on the lens is. I think that also works for formats that have low-compression.

Just one view on the matter.

Regards,

AJB

A broadly known and accepted fact is that lenses typically perform at their sharpest in a certain f-stop range. This is usually a range from about two stops down from wide open and two stops up from fully-closed (often from f4 to f11). One major issue though on mini dv is that since it is a small sensor camera, defraction becomes obvious. When light is forced through too small of an aperture the image begins to appear out of focus. There have been tests done that say the DVX-100 is sharpest at f5.6 but I find at this stop, too much of the image is in focus, thus appearing more like video.


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#10 Mike Williamson

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Posted 14 January 2006 - 06:01 AM

You don't need as much light for DV as for film. I know that sounds counter-technical but it is true in practice.


That runs counter to my experience. In a low light situation, I'd rather have 500 speed film and Superspeeds any day over a mini-DV camera. Personallly, I know that I can trust film to perform underexposed three stops where I can't rely on digital video in the same way.

On a different note, some people prefer shooting mini-DV wide open to stopped down, as it approximates the depth of field characteristics of film more closely. Remember that selective focus is a great tool that's most effective when you have a shallow depth of field. While it's true that lenses often perform best closed down two stops from wide open, there are certain looks that can't be recreated at deeper stops. As always, try to choose the look that helps to best tell your story.
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#11 Chris Cooke

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Posted 14 January 2006 - 12:24 PM

Chris,

Your original statement was "f4.0 is a good looking stop on mini dv. Anything under that and your mid tones start getting quite noisy".

I still don't see how going outside the sweet spot of a lens causes the mid tones to get "noisy". You are talking about an optical effect in your explanation below. Sure, using gain, bad exposure, harsh colors - these can cause noise - but setting the lens outside its sweet spot? Setting the lens outside the sweet spot can result in certain image characteristics that would be less than ideal - but I can't see how it can affect noisiness and compression artifacts. Isn't that like saying if I'm shooting on 35mm, and I set my prime outside the sweet range, the image will get grainy in the mid-tones?

And what about opening up from f4? Besides possibly abberations - which again is an optical thing, how does opening up from f4 cause noisiness if everything is exposed properly? Clearly it is not diffraction, is it? The problem you stated about lenses on the xl1 for example, going fuzzy at small apertures is an optical effect - not a digital one. And it would be affecting not just the mid-tones. I don't believe it is causing noise - its causing apparent reduction in resolution in the final image. This is more a result of the ccd size, no? - not compression as you suggested when you stated "since mini DV is so compressed allready, we should strive for the optimal stop that will help us to not see that compression so obviously."

I would also suggest that the higher the format's resolution, the more important hitting the sweet range on the lens is. I think that also works for formats that have low-compression.

Just one view on the matter.

Regards,

AJB


Since mini dv is a fairly compressed format (I'm used to shooting on DVC PRO 50 and HDCAM) I would stay away from stops such as 1.6. Shooting wide open magnifies compression artifacts. When shooting below F5.6 the lens will produce coma and astigmatism.
Astigmatism - The inability of the lens to bring to focus both vertical and horizontal lines on the same plane. Astigmatism is caused by axial rays (not parallel to the lens axis). It will appear that lines of equal density (darkness) are less dense horizontally or vertically. Astigmatism is improved by stopping down the lens (smaller lens opening, larger F number).

Coma - coma causes parallel oblique rays passing through a lens to be imaged (focused) not as a point, but as a comet shaped (oval) image. Coma can be improved by stopping down the lens.

I often notice coma when shooting in low light levels but at times we can't help but shooting wide open. All I'm saying is that we should avoid it if possible (unless of coarse the look fits the story).

By the way Jonathan, it's nice to see more Canadians on this site. I took a quick look at your website and your portfolio looks good.
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#12 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 14 January 2006 - 01:07 PM

Thanks Chris,

Since mini dv is a fairly compressed format (I'm used to shooting on DVC PRO 50 and HDCAM) I would stay away from stops such as 1.6. Shooting wide open magnifies compression artifacts.


I am familiar with all the technical terms you speak of, however, I can't help but think you might be mistaking lens artifacts for digital artifacts/compression artifacts. Lenses don't cause or magnify compression artifacts. Nor do lenses directly cause noise in the digital sense. This is why I still don't quite understand your point that putting a lens at a particular fstop will affect the manifestation of the shortcomings of a highly compressed format. Again, it would be like saying a bad lens causes more grain on 35mm. The issues and terms you bring up are related to the OPTICAL effect a lens causes and the ccd size. Not compression. Compression to the image occurs AFTER the light hits the ccd and is processed. Therefore the lens cannot affect or magnify compression artifacts or cause.

In any case, perhaps the horse is dead on this one...

AJB
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