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HD advice for an upcomming project


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#1 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 04:42 PM

Hey everyone. Thanks for taking a second to read this. I need some advice on which camera to use for an upcoming 1 shot music video. The camera will be on a jib arm and needs to be able to rotate 180 and 90 sideways.

The producer wants HDCAM SR, and I know we will have some kind of budget, but this is student production, and I need something that isn't going to cost tons, in production and in post.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a camera that can get me 4:4:4 10bit, or at lowest 4:2:2 to HDCAM SR?

I've researched this page : http://www.dv.com/fe...icleId=55301737 which was quite helpful, but I know all the HD camera's on there; the Viper and the D 20 are easily not meant for a student budget.

Any help or suggestions is greatly appreciated. I have much more information to give as well, so feel free to ask.

Thank you,
Jamie Metzger
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#2 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 07:18 PM

The best solution would be to use an F950 and record to either an SRW-1 or to a Mac with an HD capture card and RAID array. Ive done wxactly what you're speaking of into a Mac. We captured into Final Cut via a Blackmagic HD 444 card. Only problem was that we had to capture in 422 since the RAID array wasn't fast enough for 24fps/4:4:4.
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#3 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 09:19 PM

The best solution would be to use an F950 and record to either an SRW-1 or to a Mac with an HD capture card and RAID array. Ive done wxactly what you're speaking of into a Mac. We captured into Final Cut via a Blackmagic HD 444 card. Only problem was that we had to capture in 422 since the RAID array wasn't fast enough for 24fps/4:4:4.


Thank you for responding Mr. Steelberg. If the Black Magic HD 444 Card issn't fast enough for 24/fps then why would we use it?

It seems that it is slated for 4:4:4 capture.

If I went with the Mac choice (which I don't think my producer would go for, he wants tape), would we need an extra long HD SDI cable, or a firewire cable...etc?

Would you mind explaining the setup?

Thanks again
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#4 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 10:00 PM

The capture card wasn't the problem. It was the speed of the drives...they weren't fast enough to write that much data at such a high rate of speed. To do 4:4:4 uncompressed you need a fiber disk RAID.

If you want tape, HDCam SR is the only format that will do 4:4:4. If you are in a studio setting you can use one of the two Sony SR studio decks. Otherwise you'll be better off with an SRW-1 for it's light weight and portability. But at the quality you are using a dual link HD-SDI or a fiber optic cable.

The thing that worries me here is that your producer wants 4:4:4 to tape. Why? Any why is 4:2:2 ok as a second choice? Do you and he fully understand the difference between the two and whether or not you need either? Shooting 4:4:4 to SR tape is pretty much the most expensive way of shooting HD so I don't see it's place on a student project to be quite honest. And this isn't even considering that very few post places are even set up for SR right now. Post is a whole other issue..you'll need to downconvert for editing, then go back and online the SR. You might as well shoot 35...and you'd get better deals on cameras and post.

You must realize shooting 4:4:4 or even 4:2:2 isn't going to make OK footage look great. The biggest difference it will make is if you shot a LOT of blue/green screen...and then you'd have to be doing very high end compositing to make it's use worthwhile.

For years the F900 has been producing beautiful images and it's only 3:1:1 when you record to the onboard tape. I shot QUINCEANERA, winner of Sundance, on the F900 and I've had many well known ASC DPs come tell me after seeing the print that they didn't know it was HD. So you see, it's all about how you light it and work within the parameters of the equipment.

Your best bet is for you and your producer to speak with a rental house and post house about the options available to you, instead of saying "this is what we want/has to be."

Spend less money on the camera and more money on good crew and equipment that will allow you to produce beautiful imagery.
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#5 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 02:21 AM

The capture card wasn't the problem. It was the speed of the drives...they weren't fast enough to write that much data at such a high rate of speed. To do 4:4:4 uncompressed you need a fiber disk RAID.

If you want tape, HDCam SR is the only format that will do 4:4:4. If you are in a studio setting you can use one of the two Sony SR studio decks. Otherwise you'll be better off with an SRW-1 for it's light weight and portability. But at the quality you are using a dual link HD-SDI or a fiber optic cable.

The thing that worries me here is that your producer wants 4:4:4 to tape. Why? Any why is 4:2:2 ok as a second choice? Do you and he fully understand the difference between the two and whether or not you need either? Shooting 4:4:4 to SR tape is pretty much the most expensive way of shooting HD so I don't see it's place on a student project to be quite honest. And this isn't even considering that very few post places are even set up for SR right now. Post is a whole other issue..you'll need to downconvert for editing, then go back and online the SR. You might as well shoot 35...and you'd get better deals on cameras and post.

You must realize shooting 4:4:4 or even 4:2:2 isn't going to make OK footage look great. The biggest difference it will make is if you shot a LOT of blue/green screen...and then you'd have to be doing very high end compositing to make it's use worthwhile.

For years the F900 has been producing beautiful images and it's only 3:1:1 when you record to the onboard tape. I shot QUINCEANERA, winner of Sundance, on the F900 and I've had many well known ASC DPs come tell me after seeing the print that they didn't know it was HD. So you see, it's all about how you light it and work within the parameters of the equipment.

Your best bet is for you and your producer to speak with a rental house and post house about the options available to you, instead of saying "this is what we want/has to be."

Spend less money on the camera and more money on good crew and equipment that will allow you to produce beautiful imagery.



Thank you for the details mr. Steelberg. I will let you know how this works out, and I'm sure I'll be asking more questions.

Check your myspace as well!
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#6 Michael Most

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 09:43 AM

The thing that worries me here is that your producer wants 4:4:4 to tape. Why? Any why is 4:2:2 ok as a second choice?


Probably because the producer "read somewhere" that 4:4:4 is "better," and extrapolated that because of that, everything else is now obsolete. The problem of The Internet vs. Reality.

I agree with Eric wholeheartedly. Unless you're shooting blue or green screen there's not much point to using a 4:4:4 setup for a student project. The only other real advantage to it is in color correction - but, once again, one needs to separate The Internet from Reality. Just because 4:4:4 may be "better" for color correction, this doesn't necessarily have any meaning unless you're doing really extensive color correction, literally changing everything you shot into, well, something else. In any case, it seems to me to be a misappropriation of resources. As Eric said, you're much better off concentrating on what can make a real difference to the production - lighting, production design, crew - than spending an inordinate amount of money on something that in the end will be inconsequential.
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#7 Chien Huey

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 11:11 AM

I was the 1st AC on a D20 job with 4:2:2 going into an HDCAM SR deck. Couple of observations:

- Monitoring 4:4:4 can't be viewed unless you have a 4:4:4 capable monitor. The director wanted to shoot 4:4:4 but the cost-conscious camera package included a monitor that wasn't capable of taking in dual-link HD-SDI
- We were shooting on location. And this isn't so much a 4:4:4 issue as it is a camera w/o an onboard deck issue. If you need to move fast, using a tethered camera is going to slow you down. I had the SR deck on a Magliner that rolled around - which would have been great if we were on a stage but often times, my 2nd would be lugging the deck because we'd be shooting in waist-high grass.

Anyway, as others have pointed out, it's not so much the shooting format or the camera. It's what you're able to put in front of it. I'd also say it's important to match the shooting platform's technical requirements with your crew's capabilities.
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#8 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 12:06 PM

Great points guys. Thank you so much. This is wonderful info. I think I am going to push for the F900 like I had origionally asked for.

The thing is, is that there is a whole lot of greenscreen in this video. A lot of post work to be done. But I've worked with the F900, and was moderately happy with it's output.

Does anyone have any suggestions for incamera tweeking for the F900, as opposed to post color tweeking?
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 12:19 PM

Isn't color-correcting the finished edited piece inevitable? My feeling is that it's a two-pronged approach between how you shoot it and how you color-correct in post.

What do you want to do with the colors in particular? Desaturate them? Saturate them? Take out certain hues and shades? Tint the overall frame? Sort of depends on what you want to do. The camera allows primary and secondary color-correction in-camera using the Color Matrix but it can be time-consuming if you are going to do it shot by shot. There is a paintbox you can attach to the camera to play with effects, but my feeling is that you probably won't have the ideal monitoring set-up on the set compared to a 50" studio-grade HD CRT monitor in a DaVinci suite, so you might miss certain artifacts that are the result of playing too heavily with the signal.

As for shooting greenscreen, I've done that on a number of my F900 shows. It works OK, fine for stuff to be shown on TV and DVD -- you just don't get as clean an edge around fine detail, so it depends on the subject being keyed. Someone with blond whispy hair blowing in front of a greenscreen, while driking a glass of water, will be harder to key cleanly with no edge chatter or detail drop-outs, than a more solid object.

But in general, you want to turn OFF the Color Matrix and Rec 709 set-ups when doing greenscreen work. Color manipulation in-camera can cause edge problems, noise problems, etc. that will make compositing harder, so your best bet is turning most of the features of the camera off actually. You could consider using -3db to reduce noise, particularly for a bluescreen.

Here are some greenscreen composites shot on the F900 for a dream sequence. I had to do an on-set lighting cue that went from moonlight to sunrise, so the bright light in the second frame is actually a 10K on a small crane arm that I faded up and raised during the shot to simulate the sun rising. I did it on the set so that the actors would be lit by it, rather than just add the sun in post. The last frame shows how HDCAM was handling the blowing hair against the greenscreen:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

This stuff was shot with the Color Matrix turned off, and the greenscreen was lit by Kino Greenscreen tubes.
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 04:22 PM

I shot QUINCEANERA, winner of Sundance, on the F900 and I've had many well known ASC DPs come tell me after seeing the print that they didn't know it was HD.

Wow...

To think that a Dop who's in the ASC does not see the difference between HDCAM and 35mm on the big screen is quite shocking.
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#11 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 04:46 PM

Isn't color-correcting the finished edited piece inevitable? My feeling is that it's a two-pronged approach between how you shoot it and how you color-correct in post.

What do you want to do with the colors in particular? Desaturate them? Saturate them? Take out certain hues and shades? Tint the overall frame? Sort of depends on what you want to do. The camera allows primary and secondary color-correction in-camera using the Color Matrix but it can be time-consuming if you are going to do it shot by shot. There is a paintbox you can attach to the camera to play with effects, but my feeling is that you probably won't have the ideal monitoring set-up on the set compared to a 50" studio-grade HD CRT monitor in a DaVinci suite, so you might miss certain artifacts that are the result of playing too heavily with the signal.

As for shooting greenscreen, I've done that on a number of my F900 shows. It works OK, fine for stuff to be shown on TV and DVD -- you just don't get as clean an edge around fine detail, so it depends on the subject being keyed. Someone with blond whispy hair blowing in front of a greenscreen, while driking a glass of water, will be harder to key cleanly with no edge chatter or detail drop-outs, than a more solid object.

But in general, you want to turn OFF the Color Matrix and Rec 709 set-ups when doing greenscreen work. Color manipulation in-camera can cause edge problems, noise problems, etc. that will make compositing harder, so your best bet is turning most of the features of the camera off actually. You could consider using -3db to reduce noise, particularly for a bluescreen.

Here are some greenscreen composites shot on the F900 for a dream sequence. I had to do an on-set lighting cue that went from moonlight to sunrise, so the bright light in the second frame is actually a 10K on a small crane arm that I faded up and raised during the shot to simulate the sun rising. I did it on the set so that the actors would be lit by it, rather than just add the sun in post. The last frame shows how HDCAM was handling the blowing hair against the greenscreen:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

This stuff was shot with the Color Matrix turned off, and the greenscreen was lit by Kino Greenscreen tubes.



That green screen work looks fairly good. Is that what you were getting at?

That green screen work looks fairly good. Is that what you were getting at?



When I mentioned In camera correction, I was referring to the need arrising on set to see what the colors are going to infact be. I am not a fan of incamera color changing, or even contrast changes, but I worked with a director recently that bitched about the lack of colors in the final project, when he didn't understand that I pull saturation from the colors in post.

I don't want to get into that situation again. I don't think there is any need for incamera color correction day of shooting, but I want to make sure if I need a Digital technitian on site, either way? What do you reccommend?
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:21 PM

Well, not to knock the importance of DIT's because I'm sure I would have avoided the occasional mistake if they were on hand, but I've managed to shoot eight features in HD without one. But these weren't huge multi-camera shoot with a lot of efx, but some were two-camera shoots with small amounts of efx.

Whether you need one just depends on the complexity of the shoot and your crew's familiarity with the equipment.

As far as accurate monitoring, that shouldn't be too hard -- a well-tented 20" or 24" HD CRT monitor set-up using color bars will generally give you an accurate enough picture to go into post knowing what you shot on the set.

My only point in showing you the frame grabs is that you CAN do chromakey composites with HDCAM recordings, although not ideal.
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#13 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:42 PM

Well, not to knock the importance of DIT's because I'm sure I would have avoided the occasional mistake if they were on hand, but I've managed to shoot eight features in HD without one. But these weren't huge multi-camera shoot with a lot of efx, but some were two-camera shoots with small amounts of efx.

Whether you need one just depends on the complexity of the shoot and your crew's familiarity with the equipment.

As far as accurate monitoring, that shouldn't be too hard -- a well-tented 20" or 24" HD CRT monitor set-up using color bars will generally give you an accurate enough picture to go into post knowing what you shot on the set.

My only point in showing you the frame grabs is that you CAN do chromakey composites with HDCAM recordings, although not ideal.


The only green screen involved in this video isn't behind anyone. It's on the floor, with the band playing around it, this way we can rotate into the greenscreen, put whatever we want and then rotate back out without the audience knowing the camera rotated, so the next time we see a band member they will be 90 degrees or 180.

I am having trouble attaching a photo to this which will help. I can send you a .mov file, which is a 30 second render of what the camera move would look like.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:45 PM

The only green screen involved in this video isn't behind anyone. It's on the floor, with the band playing around it, this way we can rotate into the greenscreen, put whatever we want and then rotate back out without the audience knowing the camera rotated, so the next time we see a band member they will be 90 degrees or 180.

I am having trouble attaching a photo to this which will help. I can send you a .mov file, which is a 30 second render of what the camera move would look like.


Sounds like a pretty huge greenscreen, and worst of all, it sounds like it involves head-to-toe shots meaning a green floor, which always requires a lot of roto touch-up work to clean-up. Plus all those shiny instruments will have to be dull-sprayed, which may not sit well with the musicians...
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#15 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 09:14 PM

Sounds like a pretty huge greenscreen, and worst of all, it sounds like it involves head-to-toe shots meaning a green floor, which always requires a lot of roto touch-up work to clean-up. Plus all those shiny instruments will have to be dull-sprayed, which may not sit well with the musicians...


Take a look at this picture.

http://jamiemetzger....eshot/1shot.jpg

the concept has been changed a bit, and instead of duvytyne, there will be a mock forest which the band will walk through, along with other characters during the video. I am thinking about putting a fisher 10 with a 12-15 arm on there, this way the camera can get coverage and still rotate down into the greenscreen on the floor, allowing necessary changes to happen live, and then come back out physically different.

Tell me what you think?

Again, thanks for the help. Oh and this one is different than the other one shot video that I wanted to shoot on anamorphic 35.
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#16 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 09:28 PM

Wow...

To think that a Dop who's in the ASC does not see the difference between HDCAM and 35mm on the big screen is quite shocking.



Geez, sorry guys. Slightly mispoke myself. I meant to say "many DPs including an ASC DP..." not "many ASC DPs." I'm not THAT vain ;)
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 10:15 PM

If you're simply tilting down to a green floor with nothing in front of it to be keyed, then does it need to be green? Sounds more like a soft-edge wipe/matte or something...
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#18 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 10:19 PM

If you're simply tilting down to a green floor with nothing in front of it to be keyed, then does it need to be green? Sounds more like a soft-edge wipe/matte or something...



I used "green screen" just so people know what I'm talking about.

The way the final product is going to look, is not like a wipe, but like continual motion. Hopefully it confuses the audience.
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