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David Mullen ASC

music video shoot

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I just got back from London shooting this one-day music video in Stansted airport. Haven't started the post yet -- there are some challenges there.

 

For a unique look, I suggested using the Varicam (in order to shoot everything at 50 fps) with the Pro-35 adaptor and JDC anamorphic lenses. I shot the lenses wide-open for a very shallow-focus look, and used a homemade black net filter on the front. We we recorded 16x9 720P full-frame with a 2X squeeze to the image.

 

In post, I'll need to convert everything to slow-motion (i.e. play 50P at 25 or 24 fps) plus do some image reshaping. I might take some of the 2X squeeze out, add some letterboxing, etc. (the director sort of liked the look of the 2X squeeze though...)

 

The shallow-focus look was real pretty, with all of those stretched anamorphic out-of-focus areas, the lens flares plus the flare from the net.

 

We were shooting mainly in an area lit by giant glass windows, so there was a lot of natural light. We had a three-foot tall robot puppet moving in the scenes, so I often gave it a backlight from a 1200 watt HMI PAR plugged into the wall; otherwise it was all natural light. The backlight gave me a nice kick off of the shiny robot.

 

I set the camera to a 3200K balance, so the daylight was blueish except that I also crushed the blacks, raised the Gamma, and used the Matrix to lower the chroma to near b&w for a skip-bleach feeling. Normally for a feature, I'd save all of this for post but it seemed like an opportunity to play around in-camera. I put those settings in the +3 and +6 db gain settings, leaving 0db with a normal look in case I needed it. Plus I wanted some grit, so boosting the gain seemed OK, plus the Pro-35 loses more than a stop of light. But it turned out that I had to shoot everything at the +3db setting with a 2-stop ND switched on inside the camera; I could have just done everything at 0 db. And this was shooting 50 fps with the shutter at 1/100th. The Varicam seems more sensitive than the F900.

 

For some reason, it seemed harder to judge focus with the Varicam b&w viewfinder than the Sony F900 b&w viewfinder.

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cannot wait to see the results. A couple of questions - what was security and access like at the airport (was it a nightmare?) and if you used an English crew - did you enjoy it, what would you do different next time and how did you rate the crew?

 

thanks

 

Rolfe

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Hi,

 

> Stansted

 

That's not London, that's fifteen minutes up the road from where I live.

 

Did it rain!?

 

Phil

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That's sounds fun. I have been shooting with the varicam this week. More as an assistant but I have had the opportunity to experiment with the different frame rates. I shot some waterfalls at 4fps with 360 shutter. It is pretty awesome to be able to do that and see the effect through the viewfinder.

 

I'm glad to read that you created most of your look in camera. That's one of the advantages of shooting HD, and a lot of camera men are afraid to go there. The more I shoot with the varicam, the more I like it. However I don't see it as a film replacement. I think its more like another film stock.

 

I look forward to reading about how you handle the anamorphic format in post.

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It was hot and sunny on Monday with lots of pasty people sitting on lawns with their shirts off getting sunburned. By Tuesday, it was mildly overcast off and on, but we were inside where it was hot and stuffy. I get the feeling that air conditioning is not too efficient in many U.K. buildings...

 

It started sprinkling rain in the late afternoon when we were already done and I was heading to my hotel near Heathrow.

 

Security was a nightmare and very time-consuming. Everytime I stepped back through it, I was patted down, x-rayed, etc.

 

The other problem is that we all had to be watched by handlers and if an extra or crew member had to leave, they had to be followed, so we had to wait for someone. Plus we were allowed a maximum number of people like 35, which meant we hardly had enough extras for the story we were trying to create.

 

The small crew was great. I get the feeling though that Dolly Grips don't do other grip work there but work for the camera department.

 

I had more lights than I ended up using because I simply had no time to light much with so many real passengers flooding in and out, so I only took out the 1200w HMI PAR and the 8-bank Image-80 Kino.

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I get the feeling though that Dolly Grips don't do other grip work there but work for the camera department.

 

That's right, David. In the UK, grips work in the Camera Dept. The Lighting duties that US grips perform (setting flags etc) are handled by the electricians.

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In film rec mode, it has a very nice wide-latitude HD image (although I was trying to give it a skip-bleach look) but since I only looked at it on a 14" HD monitor, I can't say much about it overall. Was similar to an F900 picture.

 

Since I think 1080P is barely adequate for theatrical features, I'll probably avoid 720P unless I have a special need for a multiple frame rate camera. But for TV work, I can see using the Varicam more often if I need its particular features. Plus it's slightly smaller and lighter overall than an F900 (I guess the extra pixels weigh a lot...)

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In film rec mode, it has a very nice wide-latitude HD image (although I was trying to give it a skip-bleach look) but since I only looked at it on a 14" HD monitor, I can't say much about it overall. Was similar to an F900 picture.

 

Since I think 1080P is barely adequate for theatrical features, I'll probably avoid 720P unless I have a special need for a multiple frame rate camera.  But for TV work, I can see using the Varicam more often if I need its particular features.  Plus it's slightly smaller and lighter overall than an F900 (I guess the extra pixels weigh a lot...)

 

Hi David,

 

I am going to shoot a feature using 720P for theatre release, could you give me some advice?

 

Thanks

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Hi David,

 

I am going to shoot a feature using 720P for theatre release, could you give me some advice?

 

Thanks

 

Well, I've only shot features using the F900 (1080P) so I'm not sure what advice you want to hear.

 

I'd say get the best HD lenses you can basically...

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David,

 

did you notice any visible difference in noise using +3 respectively +6dB between the Varicam and the HDW 900? Does any of the cameras respond with building up less visible noise than the other?

 

Thanks

 

Markus

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Tristan,

 

Cine Gamma feature should be set to 500% on the Varicam. Use a Panasonic monitor with the cine gamma corrector function on. This will allow you to propperly expose for a film out.

 

While pixels are important, Varicam's 4:2:2 color space should print out nicely.

 

Chris Bell

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Hi,

 

> While pixels are important, Varicam's 4:2:2 color space should print out nicely.

 

Why? It has exactly the same amount of colour samples across the frame as HDCAM.

 

Phil

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Hi,

 

> While pixels are important, Varicam's 4:2:2 color space should print out nicely.

 

Why? It has exactly the same amount of colour samples across the frame as HDCAM.

 

Phil

 

 

Hi, Phil: I'd like to better understand your comment. Are you saying the above because the Varicam has less pixel resolution than HDCAM cameras? ... and I may be mis-remembering, but does HDCAM have "lesser" colorspace values but higher res than the Varicam?

 

Again, I'd appreciate a bit more info/explanation. Thanks!

 

All the best,

 

- Peter DeCrescenzo

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My impression was that the Varicam is noisier than the F900, so I'd avoid +6db unless necessary -- and it's less necessary anyway since the camera seems to be more sensitive at 0 db than the F900.

 

I don't think the difference between 3:1:1 and 4:2:2 is all that extreme -- really HDCAM is 4:2:2 except that the horizontal luminence resolution has been lopped from 1920 to 1440, which is why it works out to be 3:1:1 (I think that's how it works...)

 

As for the difference in resolution between the Varicam and the F900, you're talking about HALF the pixels for 720P versus 1080P, which is not insignificant, a 1MP frame versus a 2MP frame. I'm not saying that you won't get a nice-looking film transfer though, but for example, with half my F900 movies, I've composed them for cropping and outputting to 35mm 2.39 anamorphic, which I would feel less confident in doing with a 720P image.

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Hi,

 

One third of 1920 HDCAM pixels is 640.

 

One half of 1280 DVCPRO-HD pixels is 640.

 

On a per frame basis, both formats record the same colour resolution.

 

Although actually I'm not sure if the subsampling for HDCAM is done before or after it's dropped to 1440 horizontal pixels for the tape deck; I'd suggest afterward, in which case it's only recording 480 colour samples per line and DVCPRO-HD would slightly outperform it on paper.

 

However, I would suggest that these differences are slight enough that the appropriateness of either system would be highly dependent on the specifics of the situation, and overall, Varicam footage is obviously softer.

 

Phil

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Hi,

 

One third of 1920 HDCAM pixels is 640.

 

One half of 1280 DVCPRO-HD pixels is 640.

 

On a per frame basis, both formats record the same colour resolution.

 

Although actually I'm not sure if the subsampling for HDCAM is done before or after it's dropped to 1440 horizontal pixels for the tape deck; I'd suggest afterward, in which case it's only recording 480 colour samples per line and DVCPRO-HD would slightly outperform it on paper.

 

However, I would suggest that these differences are slight enough that the appropriateness of either system would be highly dependent on the specifics of the situation, and overall, Varicam footage is obviously softer.

 

Phil

 

Varicam

1280 x720 at 60p, sub-sample the Y signal to 960 x 720, the R-Y/B-Y is sub sampled to 480 x 720,

 

HDCAM

1440 x 1080 for y and 1440 x 440 for R-Y B-Y,

 

So HDCAM has *more* colour res in pixels than Varicam.

 

 

Remember that Varicam, like the HDW750 has a 10bit head, f900 12bit head.

 

Varicam compresses 6:1 to tape HDCAM 4.3:1

 

Finally both the HDCAM 1440x1080 recording and Varicam 960x720 recording (usually) have to be upconverted to 1920 x 1080.

In the case of HDcam at least it is only the horizontal element that gets upresed, whereas with Varicam it is H and V that gets upresed.

 

The numbers don't tell all the story of course.

 

Mike Brennan

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Varicam

1280 x720 at 60p,  sub-sample the Y signal to 960 x 720, the R-Y/B-Y is sub sampled to 480 x 720,

 

HDCAM

1440 x 1080 for y and 1440 x 440 for R-Y B-Y,

 

So  HDCAM has *more* colour res in pixels than Varicam.

Remember that Varicam, like the HDW750 has a 10bit head, f900 12bit head.

......

The numbers don't tell all the story of course.

 

Mike Brennan

 

To put some perspective into this subject,

 

PAL digibeta 4:2:2 10 bit compressed 2:1 to tape

720x576

360x576

360x576

So the new 1 million pixel digibeta progressive scan camera isn't far off the Varicam!

 

Watch a good upconvesion to 1920 x 1080 from a digi 720 x 576 shot with HD lens, compare with quality of upconversion to 1920 x 1080 from Varicams 960 x 720.

 

If you are going to compromise on HD res for broadcast on PAL TV work then the new digi progessive scan camera should be considered, it benifits from 12bit head, 10bit recording and multitude of digidecks will leave more £££ in the budget for steadycam and lenses...

 

 

Mike Brennan

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Hi,

 

> Are you saying the above because the Varicam has less pixel resolution than HDCAM cameras?

 

Yes.

 

Effectively the colour resolution may or may not be slightly better per frame on the Varicam, but not as much better as the subsampling ratios suggest. In the end if you're projecting it onto a screen 30 feet wide, the screen is 30 feet wide no matter what you originated on, so what you're interested in is the number of colour samples you're getting across thirty feet, not however many you're getting per pixel.

 

Phil

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Thank you, gentlemen, for all the info comparing DVCPRO-HD & HDCAM resolution and color characteristics.

 

All the best,

 

- Peter DeCrescenzo

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Hi David,

 

how do you expose for Low key situation? would you trust the HD monitor?

 

Thanks.

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Hi David,

 

how do you expose for Low key situation? would you trust the HD monitor?

 

Thanks.

 

Sure, if the monitor was set-up properly using color bars and properly tented / shaded in a dark viewing environment. If I'm planning on color-correcting and I have a really dark scene, I may pull back a little from extreme underexposure to avoid a noisy image and darken it the last amount in post. I wouldn't expose it fully either though.

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Hello David,

How was the combination of anamorphics with the Pro-35 adaptor, did the squeeze on the image affect your compositon/framing at all on your monitor/viewfinder. Do you think it would be acceptable for a longer project like a feature to use the Pro-35 and anamorphics, and how do you think a project shot with the pro-35 and anamorphic lenses on an f900 with gain +6db would look projected on a DLP projector.

Cheers,

Tomas.

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Hello David,

How was the combination of anamorphics with the Pro-35 adaptor, did the squeeze on the image affect your compositon/framing at all on your monitor/viewfinder. Do you think it would be acceptable for a longer project like a feature to use the Pro-35 and anamorphics, and how do you think a project shot with the pro-35 and anamorphic lenses on an f900 with gain +6db would look projected on a DLP projector.

Cheers,

Tomas.

 

I looked at a 16x9 HD monitor with a full-frame image that had a 2X squeeze. It was weird how quickly your eye got used to it.

 

I'm not sure the Pro-35 would be a good idea for anything to be projected large. I didn't do any comparison tests since I only rented the anamorphic lenses, plus I haven't used the Varicam before, but it seemed soft to my eyes, which was fine -- in fact, I used a net over the lens and shot everything wide-open, so obviously I wanted a lot of softness.

 

For a feature, I'd have to frame to trim the sides to 2.39 after it was unsqueezed (otherwise I'd have a 3.56 : 1 image.) This project was a little more vague in terms of how much we were going to crop it so I just put a little dead space on the sides.

 

I will say that the super-shallow-focus look and the anamorphic lens artifacts certainly pushed the HD image even farther towards a film look, albeit a soft one.

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David, I was curious what your prference was, do you use 'scopes on an HD set to set your exposure or use a zebra/monitor combo?

 

When you tweak the camera look before a shoot, do you set up to a scope or just go by eye?

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