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need help understanding the look I want...


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#1 Zack Zrull

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 03:24 PM

Hello, all...I'm in the market for a camera, most likely either the panasonic dvc30 or dvx100b..MAYBE the canon xl2 if my budget allows. But I need to understand what exactly I'm trying to achieve and how I can achieve it.

These cameras seem to have excellent features and manual control so that either one I end up buying will be more than adequate for my purposes--I'm not looking for a comparison of these cameras. That said, the one thing that will probably guide my decision is the way motion and movement look from these cameras or how post production can change how motion and movement look. Specifically, I HATE the "smooth" or almost blurry movements I see in some sitcom television shows, like some i've seen on nickelodeon and bbc, but I think i've seen the motion I'm talking about on some special features footage in "28 Days Later", the danny boyle feature shot on the canon xl1s. Now, in the case of the television shows, I'm guessing that they're shot on digital and not necessarily edited for a "film look" or anything like that..And I'm thinking maybe some of the stuff I'm talking about in "28 days later" hadn't been edited yet? that movie was of course shot almost entirely on digital too. What sort of cameras would studios be using for sitcoms on nickelodeon or bbc? and, speaking of bbc, if the cameras are PAL cameras, would that affect how motion looks on these programs in the US?

I'm wondering, is this blurry or smooth motion what everyone tries to escape when he tries to get the "film look"? What are some ways of getting rid of this sort of motion? I'm guessing the options are "frame" modes on some cameras (like the ag-dvc30 and xl1), 24p (xl2 and ag-dvx100b), and editing (cinelook, magicbullet, etc??), but these are just guesses. Am I correct?

Hopefully someone has seen footage like I'm talking about, and understands the look I'm going for...I thought what I was talking about is the "film look", but I need to make sure. Transferring to film is not a big deal to me; I don't plan on doing it. I just don't want to have blurry or overly smooth motion in my work, which will stay in digital format. If 24p is what I need, then I'll look into the dvx or xl2. But if good results can come from editing 30i/60i/30p footage with "film look" plugins, then I might consider other cameras. Thanks for any help
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 05:29 PM

Well, there are subtle differences in the type of motion artifacts you are describing. Most regular video is interlaced-scan, in the US, that would be 60i, often shot with no shutter -- so that's 60 images (as fields) taken per second with a 1/60th exposure time per field, which gives normal video that hyper-smooth "real time" or "live" look.

You get the smoothness of a high motion sampling rate (60X) and the blur of a 1/60th shutter time.

Film is typically 24 or 25 fps with a 180 degree shutter angle, so 1/48th or 1/50th shutter speeds. So you have the "strobier" look from only having 24 motion samples per second, plus the blur of a 1/48th shutter speed.

Those two scenarios -- 60i video and 24 frame film -- are very different in their motion attributes. Further complicating things is that 24 fps film transferred to NTSC 60i video gets a 3:2 pulldown added, which repeats certain fields to turn 48 (two fields per film frame) into 60 fields. That adds a certain odd judder to the motion as well.

So the closest digital camera scenario would be to shoot with a 24P camera with a 1/48th shutter, or a 25P camera with a 1/50th shutter.

Now some action movies increase motion strobing by reducing the shutter angle so that the per frame exposure time drops to such a short period that the lower frame rate of 24/25 looks too obvious to be smooth to the eye. You see this in "Saving Private Ryan" and "Gladiator", 24 fps shot with a 45 degree shutter angle, so that the exposure time per frame is 1/192 instead of 1/48.

You can emulate that strobey look in any digital camera with short shutter speeds like 1/200th, let's say.

I think "28 Days Later" was shot with a PAL Canon XL1 in 25 fps "frame mode", simulating 25P, although I could be wrong and it was shot in normal PAL at 50i. But for the action scenes, the shutter speed was quite short to create a lot of image strobe.

So you have to decide if what you want is the standard film look of normal 24P photography with a 1/48th shutter (with the option of shooting your action scenes with an even shorter shutter speed for that super-strobey look) or the look of standard interlaced-scan video with a short shutter speed for a jerky action look.
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#3 Zack Zrull

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 06:53 PM

I think "28 Days Later" was shot with a PAL Canon XL1 in 25 fps "frame mode", simulating 25P, although I could be wrong and it was shot in normal PAL at 50i. But for the action scenes, the shutter speed was quite short to create a lot of image strobe.

So you have to decide if what you want is the standard film look of normal 24P photography with a 1/48th shutter (with the option of shooting your action scenes with an even shorter shutter speed for that super-strobey look) or the look of standard interlaced-scan video with a short shutter speed for a jerky action look.


Hey David, thanks for the reply! very helpful information, exactly what I was looking for. I think you're right about "28 days later", at least from what I've read at other sites that have spoken about the movie. Honestly, I love the look of 28 days later, both in the normal action scenes and the "infected" shots where they used the higher frame rate. I think, from what you've said, I'd prefer the look of 24p with 1/48 shutter, and the ability to change shutter speeds (of which the xl2 and dvx100b are both capable).

I know I could answer this myself by just seeing the footage of two different cameras, but how close do cameras' "frame modes" simulate 24p? probably tough to answer...but that's a significant difference between the xl2/dvx100 and the less expensive cameras.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 07:25 PM

Well, Canon's frame mode simulates progressive-scan motion quite well. The NTSC Canon's (not taking about the XL2) can't simulate 24P though, only 30P taken from 60i. The PAL Canon's simulate 25P from 50i. Basically frame mode tosses away one of the two fields and doubles the remaining one so that the motion sampling rate is half of the normal interlaced-scan capture rate. You don't lose exactly 50% of the vertical resolution though because pixel shifting and other tricks compensate partially. More like a third.

So the problem with "frame mode" is that loss of vertical resolution from creating a progressive-scan look from interlaced-scan capture. But the motion is very similar to true progressive-scan.

The XL2 does true progressive-scan capture, though it is recorded to interlaced scan. Same with the DVX100B.

The Canon XLH1 HDV camera changes the interlaced-scan rate to 48 Hz to allow frame mode to create a decent 24P effect, but there is still some loss of vertical resolution. However, there isn't a lot of competition for consumer 24P/1080 HDV cameras so it's not like there are much better alternatives yet.
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