Archive for the ‘Camcorders’ Category

DEAR GOD, MAN! Auto-Exposure From Hell !!

Friday, May 1st, 2009

So I’m eagerly awaiting the delivery of these “ultra important” HDV tapes that are supposed to becoming for transfer. And right on time, the FedEx guy shows up with a box. I open the tapes, pop one in the deck and… it’s an interview with a high profile celebrity. The sound is perfect. The color is rich… but wait… what the…. OH NO! They shot the celebrity with the auto-exposure turned on. Say it ain’t so!

The tape looks wonderful, but every time the guy leans toward the camera or leans back (which seems to be about every five seconds because the guy is pretty animated) the exposure changes. He’s wearing a light shirt and the background is pretty dark. So when he leans forward, the entire image darkens by about 1/4 stop. Now, that may not seem like much, but 1/4 stop in HDV is like someone fired up an extra 2K softlight in the room. Then the guy leans back and everything goes back to “normal.”

The thing is, there is no way they are ever going to re-shoot this footage, so the only thing to do is fix it. Enter Kirk. A lot of you may have all kinds of ideas about how to solve this problem, but here’s the way I did it:

First I marked each transition where the picture density changed. It turned out to be 83 times across 4 tapes. (Most of the footage was of the brighter variety.) Then I measured the length of each transition. They ranged from about 2-14 frames.

Then I duplicated the sequence.

In sequence number one, I dissolved to black (actually it was emptiness) at each “bright” transition, then dissolved back up at the next transition. So I was left with a whole sequence of nothing but the “normal” footage in the timeline that kept dipping to nothingness (alpha channel).

In sequence two, I did the exact opposite, ending up with all the bright footage, dipping down to nothing at the transitions

Then, I took the “normal only” sequence and played with the density until it matched the look of the bright one.

Next, in After Effects, I composited the two sequences on top of each other, making it look like one long sequence of “bright” footage. I flattened it by nesting it in a new composition. Then I played with the density and contrast until the “bright” footage looked as normal as I could get it.

Then I laid it all back to HDV tapes to have a clean archive master of the adjusted dailies.

How did it look? By my eye, I could see the changes at each transistion. But that could have been because I was looking for and anticipating each change. The client was more than pleased with the adjusted footage. And in the end, when it was all cut together in an EPK, it was downconverted to digibeta and looked amazing. Nobody would ever be able to tell. The biggest shock about the adjusted footage was the producer’s face when I handed him the bill. But it was certainly cheaper than the alternative of not having the footage.

Today’s lesson: NEVER EVER shoot with auto-exposure on unless you are doing run and gun paparazzi work … or home videos.

Home video Mini DVD camcorders – 10 reasons why they’re a very bad choice!

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Clever gadgets are fun to play with but not to record your important family events. In fact, just don’t use them. Seriously.

These are the type of cameras we’re talking about here:

Sony DCM-M1, Sony Handycam DCR-DVD108 DVD, Samsung SC-DC164, Canon DC-100, Canon DC-20, etc.

The problem with mini DVD camcorders:

1) The DVDs are very incompatible with many computer DVD trays.
2) A simple scratch when handling the disc and your memories are hosed forever. Look out, it’s a toddler with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!!
3) They usually only hold a miniscule 10 minutes of recording time at best quality! Ten minutes!!
4) Once finalized, the discs are done for. You can’t re-record over them like you can standard videotape.
5) The discs are expensive.
6) Special “ripping” software is usually required to edit the material on the discs.
7) There is substantial compression used on the image. If you try to project it for an audience on a big screen or do any kind of video compositing, the footage is going to have tons of really unpleasing artifacts.
8) They are really hard to clone for friends and relatives due to the compatibility issues.
9) People try to stick them in sideloading CD slots on computers it jams in there, resulting in repair fees and/or downtime.
10) Watch out for that toddler with the peanut butter sandwich… Oh my God!! he’s grabbing the disc off the table.

Yeah, this format wasn’t the greatest idea of gadgets. Please copy your material ASAP to a different format and dump that camcorder as fast as you can.

By the way, a good way to copy the disc to a better format is to use the factory-provided wire and connect it to a MiniDV camcorder or a standard DVD recorder.