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Best look without lights?


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#1 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 10:19 PM

Hey Everyone,
I am working on a wildlife documentary that will be half interviews and half nature. I want to approach it as more of a cinematic experience opposed to a standard wildlife video. I will be shooting on the Sony V1u and will most likely be cropping down to 1:85:1 or even 2.39:1. I am wandering the best ways I can create a film like style without having any lights? I don't want to compromise being able to slow down the footage or lose quality by going to 24p but I might be wrong. Thanks for the help.
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#2 Paul Bruening

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 01:40 PM

Of course, your nature shots won't use any lighting. If you do your interviews outdoors on sunny days, then you can use white cards, or my favorite, single side foiled, one inch styro and bounce the sun onto your subjects for fill light. If you lock the cam down, then you can hold the card and not even have anyone for crew. Just you, the interviewer and the interviewee.
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#3 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 03:03 PM

Of course, your nature shots won't use any lighting. If you do your interviews outdoors on sunny days, then you can use white cards, or my favorite, single side foiled, one inch styro and bounce the sun onto your subjects for fill light. If you lock the cam down, then you can hold the card and not even have anyone for crew. Just you, the interviewer and the interviewee.


Thanks a ton... I will definitely do that. What about filters? I have never used any, will they help?
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#4 Mike Williamson

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 04:19 PM

The simplest way to get something nice looking is to stage your subject in backlight, that's the most important thing. Then you can come in with a bounce card of some kind for fill light and you'll be in decent shape. A lot of people bring in the bounce from underneath because it's easy to hold and it's a habit for some reason, but if you have light stands and a platypus, I'd suggest rigging the bounce card a little over the subject's eyeline and then aiming it up. The light can come from anywhere you want, so try to think about where you would put a light if this were indoors at a studio, then put the card there.
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#5 Mike Williamson

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 04:27 PM

As far as filters, polarizers are popular for landscapes, they can add saturation and contrast depending on the angle of the light. Graduated ND filters could be useful as well, they would be used to darken the top of the frame and keep more detail in the sky. They work better on static shots, however.

Also, if you want a "cinematic feel", I'd suggest shooting in 24p rather than 30p or 50/60i. I think that will get you further in that direction than cropping the image. I'm not sure why 24p would cause a loss in quality either, what makes you think it will look worse?
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#6 John Brawley

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 04:40 PM

Also, if you want a "cinematic feel", I'd suggest shooting in 24p rather than 30p or 50/60i. I think that will get you further in that direction than cropping the image. I'm not sure why 24p would cause a loss in quality either, what makes you think it will look worse?



Mike,

Perhaps Ben is worried about slowing down 24P footage. It's very common to overcrank natural history and wildlife footage. In this case, there's not much you can do because, as Ben has already suggested, it never looks very nice when you slow down video footage.

A friend of mine is a wildlife specialist in outback Australia. He has an F900, Aaton 35 and a high speed SR3. Most of his footage of the actual animals is shot on the SR3 at 100 or 150 FPS. The other formats are for all the other stuff.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 04:50 PM

I think Ben has to be more precise as to how he defines a film look or cinematic feeling beyond aspect ratio... they mean different things to different people. From a technical standpoint only, I think progressive-scan emulates something shot on film better than something shot in interlaced-scan, which is a look that a film camera cannot easily replicate (unless you shoot at 60 fps and convert to 60i...)
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#8 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 06:06 PM

I think Ben has to be more precise as to how he defines a film look or cinematic feeling beyond aspect ratio... they mean different things to different people. From a technical standpoint only, I think progressive-scan emulates something shot on film better than something shot in interlaced-scan, which is a look that a film camera cannot easily replicate (unless you shoot at 60 fps and convert to 60i...)


I want to approach the documentary from a more narrative aspect than a wildlife tv show. What I am alluding to is often on tv wildlife shows seem very plain. A camera just watching an plant or animal in 16x9 with not epic feel to it. When watching Planet Earth, I was able to see a bit of what I am looking to reproduce in my documentary, although i know much of what they did was shot from the air and with tons of equipment. I noticed that motion in the frames makes the shots seems more "cinematic" as well as high contrast shots. In regards to the frame rate, the 24p mode on my camera looks great when filming the majority of our projects, however when I slow it down it will look choppy. If i shoot at 60i it looses that smoothness but will it allow for better slow motion replay? I could shoot at 30p and gain alittle back but I am unsure. I will definitely check out the gradual filter for static shots as well as a bounce card for the interviews. What about for motion? I am on a tight budget but I am looking at the differences between the Glidecam 2000 vs the Steadicam Merlin. Any advice?
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#9 Mike Williamson

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 06:42 PM

I don't know if you already own the Sony camera you mention, but the HVX-200 does real slow motion up to I think 60 frames progressive. I was on a commercial that shot some slow motion day exterior stuff with the camera (leaves falling on the lens, etc.) and they looked fantastic, better than any post effect that you can create. So if slow mo is a big issue for you, maybe you could consider getting ahold of an HVX for the project.
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#10 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 07:25 PM

I don't know if you already own the Sony camera you mention, but the HVX-200 does real slow motion up to I think 60 frames progressive. I was on a commercial that shot some slow motion day exterior stuff with the camera (leaves falling on the lens, etc.) and they looked fantastic, better than any post effect that you can create. So if slow mo is a big issue for you, maybe you could consider getting ahold of an HVX for the project.


I own the Sony so cost wise it is better for me to keep it. I can test out the different looks of 60i vs 24p slowed down in post.
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#11 Bob Hayes

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 07:52 PM

Definitely back lighting your interviews will make them look more film like. I am also a big fan of using a light diffusion over the talent when they are in harsh sun. My current favorite is the Westscott Illuminator 1 stop diffusion. It is 3?x4? and works like a light silk. It folds up to the size and weight of a flex fill. It is small enough to hand hold and can easily cover one talent. Often when shooting nature docs you want to frame your shot for the best view not necessarily the best light. It also takes the curse off of people staring into the sun.

http://www.bhphotovi...4_One_Stop.html
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#12 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 08:15 PM

Definitely back lighting your interviews will make them look more film like. I am also a big fan of using a light diffusion over the talent when they are in harsh sun. My current favorite is the Westscott Illuminator 1 stop diffusion. It is 3?x4? and works like a light silk. It folds up to the size and weight of a flex fill. It is small enough to hand hold and can easily cover one talent. Often when shooting nature docs you want to frame your shot for the best view not necessarily the best light. It also takes the curse off of people staring into the sun.

http://www.bhphotovi...4_One_Stop.html



I don't have any reflectors or cards right now and this one has a number of them. Any use?
http://www.bhphotovi..._Reflector.html
As well what do you mean by the best view?
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#13 Thomas Worth

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 08:34 PM

I don't know if you already own the Sony camera you mention, but the HVX-200 does real slow motion up to I think 60 frames progressive. I was on a commercial that shot some slow motion day exterior stuff with the camera (leaves falling on the lens, etc.) and they looked fantastic, better than any post effect that you can create. So if slow mo is a big issue for you, maybe you could consider getting ahold of an HVX for the project.

I don't agree. You can shoot 1080i/60 on an F900 and recover a true 540 line 60p image in post. This is more than adequate for standard def, or you can take the resolution loss and up-convert it to 720p. Since the optics and sensor on the F900 are far superior to the HVX200, I'd be willing to bet you'd get comparable 60fps material from the F900 at 720p, even with the resolution loss.
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#14 Paul Bruening

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 08:50 PM

You can get single sided styro in 4' x 8' sheets from Home Despot for under $10.00. If you hold it sideways and use the white side, it automatically provides a large light source (soft fill). You can buff the shiny side with steel wool and get more light out of it than the white side but reduce some of the glare with the steel wool. It can catch a lot of wind, so, someone will probably have to hold it. It's a dynamite, cheap way to get that big light look. Since it's for interview material, you don't have to hassle with cutaway angles much, even, if at all.
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#15 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 09:25 PM

You can get single sided styro in 4' x 8' sheets from Home Despot for under $10.00. If you hold it sideways and use the white side, it automatically provides a large light source (soft fill). You can buff the shiny side with steel wool and get more light out of it than the white side but reduce some of the glare with the steel wool. It can catch a lot of wind, so, someone will probably have to hold it. It's a dynamite, cheap way to get that big light look. Since it's for interview material, you don't have to hassle with cutaway angles much, even, if at all.


The one I put a link to previously can compress down to only 10'' which is good because everything has to be backpacked in and out. I will def use that idea in the future though, great and affordable.
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#16 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 09:28 PM

I don't agree. You can shoot 1080i/60 on an F900 and recover a true 540 line 60p image in post. This is more than adequate for standard def, or you can take the resolution loss and up-convert it to 720p. Since the optics and sensor on the F900 are far superior to the HVX200, I'd be willing to bet you'd get comparable 60fps material from the F900 at 720p, even with the resolution loss.


I am unsure but I think you might be confused. I don't own a F900 (Cinealta), I have a Sony HVR-V1U. If there is a way I can go to 720 and maintain frame rate at 1080i/60 I will def try. How is that done exactly?
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#17 Thomas Worth

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 09:43 PM

I am unsure but I think you might be confused. I don't own a F900 (Cinealta), I have a Sony HVR-V1U. If there is a way I can go to 720 and maintain frame rate at 1080i/60 I will def try. How is that done exactly?

I doesn't matter whether it's an F900 or any other 1080i camera. The technique will work on any 60i footage:

http://rarevision.co...slow_motion.php
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#18 Bob Hayes

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 11:00 AM

I don't have any reflectors or cards right now and this one has a number of them. Any use?


I would add a flex fill, white on one side silver on the other. It is small light and compact. Will add the fill and or key you need. Also fits in a back back.
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#19 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 11:07 AM

I would add a flex fill, white on one side silver on the other. It is small light and compact. Will add the fill and or key you need. Also fits in a back back.


Do you suggest the 20'' or 38''?
http://www.bhphotovi...lver_White.html
http://www.bhphotovi...lver_White.html

20'' is pretty small but also folds to a really manageable size. The other one folds to about 12'' which is not bad. Will the 20'' give enough reflection?
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#20 Ben Hamilton

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 01:19 PM

I doesn't matter whether it's an F900 or any other 1080i camera. The technique will work on any 60i footage:

http://rarevision.co...slow_motion.php



Ok i tried out your method... still looks choppy after the render. If i dont have a third party plugin will it now work?
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Glidecam

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