Harking back to the past to educate the future

Categories: Miscellaneous 3 Comments

Everyone thinks that shallow depth of field is part and parcel of the film world but not everyone was happy with SDoF.  When one of Hollywood’s biggest directors Orson Welles filmed Citizen Kane a film made in 1941 which was not only directed by Orson Welles but stared the very man himself, director Welles insisted on having a large depth of field for many of his shots.

This gave the crew a nightmare as they had to bring in far more lighting when Orson decided his next shot was to be filmed at T11 or f11 to you and me. T11 in those days ment blasting the set with light in order to allow the iris to stop down to f11, if nothing else things must have got very hot indeed.

If on the occasion enough light was not the answer they would use a split lens to give them two seperate depths of focus now this was tricky as you had to make sure your foreground actors and background actors never crossed the “invisible” line.

As an example you would use the edge of the door as an invisible line then pop on the split lens giving you two separate focusing fields.

As you can see the actors could not move from that position or the effect would be ruined. So you see it’s a savvy director who decides not to follow the rest of the field and give the viewer a visual experiance that in those days was new and different to the norm.

Think out of the box like Orson Welles did seventy years ago, the internet is a great tool but many of you are trying to emulate and be influanced by what you see on YouTube, Vimeo etc. The best films or videos today are fresh, free of influances from what others do and say, it does not have to be the “Film Look” for everything you do, video and its larger depth of field still has a place, it’s the power of your story that matters the tool to do the job is secondary to that.

My thanks to Norrie for the background info.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

24p or 25p video myth buster

Categories: Miscellaneous 12 Comments

If you are filming with a video camera or a DSLR why are we constantly being told to film in 24p to make it closer to film when it’s a lot of tosh. No one can tell the difference between 24 and 25p as long as they are edited in 24 and 25p respectively so why are so called gurus always banging on about 24p.

24 and 25 frames per second is a term that comes from the film world, if you are producing a 16mm film for the cinema then choose 24 fps and if you were producing a 16mm film for TV then choose 25 fps.

16mm cine projectors run at 24 /25 fps and other frames in between but your TV set does not process your video footage the same way as a cine projector so where does this myth come from.

“Film like” is the answer, video manufacturers have been giving us film like features for years…cine gamma, 24p filming and now shallow depth of field large sensor cameras. Video artists have been craving that cine look for years and have been taken along on that CINE LOOK bandwagon till they and we have been brainwashed into thinking that by setting your video camera to 24p, cine gamma that you will indeed get a picture closer to cine…NO.

Film has a unique look depending what emulsion you use 125ASA for a smother look or 400ASA for a grainer look etc, etc. Film stock between manufactures also add to that look, film has a far greater latitude than video which means it can handle a wider range of exposure before it whites out.

A 35mm film produced 25 years ago will transfer onto a Blu ray HD DVD without any problem but the “look” is indeed film. Video tries to emulate film in many ways but sadly for the artist if you want the true film look then USE FILM !

Video will always look electronic no matter how good it is and this myth about using 24p over 25p to get that true film look is nothing more than fantasy, if its produced on video you can not see any difference between 24 and 25p.

While we are on this topic can news producers stop sending idiots out on news shoots with their cameras switched to 25p as it looks crap, I am forever watching locally produced news where one news insert has been filmed at 25p…you can’t miss it in your viewfinder the moving people behind your talking head are staccato, its a sad sign of the times when we get badly trained operators who do not know their cameras and how to set them up properly.

I have used 720 50p for a few years now with great success, it transfers to DVD like a charm and now shoot 1080 50p, the “p” or progressive look is a closer match for todays plasma and LCD TVs and does not give you those jaggy edges seen in interlaced footage.

I started filming when I was 12 years of age using various super 8 film cameras not because I wanted a film look but video as we know it today in small camcorders had not been invented. You had 50 foot reels of film which lasted 3 minutes and 30 seconds and that was filmed at 18 fps to “save” precious seconds of expensive emulsion, remembering the projector was also set to 18 fps. In fact if you want a true 70s Super 8 look then you should set your video camera to 18p.

I filmed on Ektachrome 400 which gave me a better results in lower lighting conditions but it was all a toss of the dice whether anything turned out in low light, what a disappointment if your two week wait was in vain. It took two weeks for your Kodak film to go to Hemel Hempstead, get processed and come back.

My uncle Ted used a 16mm Bolex at 24 fps and his footage looked fantastic, much richer and less wishy washy than my super 8mm footage. Film gives you a sense for not waisting shots or precious time on filming rubbish unlike video.

Video like digital photography has changed the mind-set of many people to the detriment of the medium being used, it’s like a lot of things today, if it does not cost then who cares, we are riddled with boring footage and hundreds of needless photographs all to end up in the same prison, the HARD DRIVE.

Only when you have saved your pocket money for film stock and used your 3.5 minutes of film wisely can you have any sence and appreciation for that true film look…I am not nicknamed the “Archiver” for nothing.

The only time it makes sense is if you are filming on video and your footage was to end up on film for the cinema then 24p would be preferable but in general 24p has become the flavour of the “film look tool box” along with cine gamma and shallow depth of field…given to us to emulate a look by the camera manufacturer.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

SONY’s NEW VG-20…Now with 50p recording

Categories: Miscellaneous 1 Comment

The Sony NEX-VG20, a consumer HD interchangeable lens camcorder that follows the world’s first consumer-oriented HD camcorder with an interchangeable lens system, the NEX-VG10.

The NEX-VG20 features the same E-mount system that offers users the choice of seven different E-mount lenses. Sony claims the VG20 offers a number of improvements over the previous model, including comprehensive manual controls, improved imaging quality, upgraded sound and ergonomic refinements such as enhanced grips and a second record button.

SONY “The Handycam® NEX-VG20 offers creative videographers and moviemakers professional performance, whatever their subject. With an improved 16.1 megapixel resolution, you can shoot Full HD video in 25p mode to give your images that timeless cinematic look. Or switch to 50p recording to capture fast and furious sporting action”

The VG-10 suffered rather bad moire patterning and only filmed in 25p mode, I do hope Sony have addressed the moire patterning with the VG-20.

I don’t like the fact that Sony have kept the same look as the VG-10, all they seem to have done is internal tweaking but you now have a choice of 25p and 50p which is good and even if you are using Final Cut Express you can buy a great wee programme called CLIP WRAP that will allow your 50p footage to be used in FCP-7 or Express.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

IBC only 7 days away

Categories: Miscellaneous 2 Comments


This year I will be taking my Sony FS100 and NX70 to IBC along with my latest purchase the RODE NT4 an X/Y stereo mic. Not for any stereo reasons I may add, it was during my trip to Haydock last year that I happened upon the Audio Technica stereo mic the AT8022.

I used the AT8022 to interview the Audio Technica rep and was taken by the clarity of both our voices, it came down to the simple fact that we both had a mic pointing at us so neither of us were off mic.

Interviews can be a pain if one of you are slightly off mic so a great solution is the stereo mic. The AT8022 has not been made since the problems in Japan so no one had the mic in stock anywhere in the UK.

Fortunately the Australians were not in the same boat as the Japanese and I sourced the RODE NT4 from Jigsaw in London, at £365 this is no cheap option but it’s a cracking mic and comes in a plastic case with all the accessories.

The best bit for me is the ability to plug in two XLRs into my FS100, effectively the right and the left mic capsule, the NT4 has a 5 pin connector which feeds out to two XLRs, this will allow me to choose which mic to “open” during the interviews when I edit it on the timeline.

I think I have made a better choice even although the RODE is a good £100 dearer, I have been very impressed with RODE so far having my trusty NTG-1 plus softy.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

The new Panasonic HDC-Z10000 3D semi Pro camcorder

Categories: Miscellaneous 2 Comments


Just when you thought Japan was having a rest and rebuilding after their recent troubles they surprise us with a very advanced semi Pro 3D camcorder.

  • Two 32-320mm, f/1.5-f/2.7 10x optical zoom lenses (29.8-368.8mm, f/1.5-f/2.8 12x zoom when shooting 2D)
  • Nano Surface Coating on lenses for reduced light reflection and ghosting
  • AVCHD 3D (1080/60i, 1080/24p, and 1080/30p), AVCHD Progressive (1080/60p), and AVCHD (1080/
    24p, 1080/30p and 1080/60i PH/HA/HE) modes
  • 3D video macro setting (17.8 inches)
  • Optical image stabilization systems for both 2D and 3D shooting
  • Separate adjustment rings for zoom, focus, and iris control
  • Built-in microphones (Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround sound/2-channel stereo)
  • Two XLR audio inputs (with 48-V phantom power supply for external microphone)
  • Dual SD memory card slots
  • 2.1-megapixel 2D and 3D still image recording (while recording video)

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Adobe Encore encoding problem “SQSYSTEM ERROR = -37”

Categories: Miscellaneous 3 Comments

As usual I have spent over 2 hours trying to work out what SQSYSTEM ERROR = -37 stands for. I eventually Googled Mac error codes to find this chart…

Bad file name, that then led onto a forum where a chap had experienced the same problem and he was told to look out for / ” : in the file name. I looked at my video file name and I had ended it with (Aug/Sept 11)….NAILED…I had added a forward slash in the file name and this had caused Encore to quit transcoding my important job.

I took out (Aug/Sept11) altogether to be on the safe side and it worked a charm.

Here is the URL for the Mac error codes : http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1618 


For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

8bit v 10bit what does it all mean ?

Categories: Miscellaneous 2 Comments

8 or 10 bit it’s all hocus pocus to many of us so what do the figures mean in real life terms, I have trawled the internet to try and put this into plain man’s english.

In a nutshell…To start, 8-bit means that for red(R), green(G), and blue(B), the values 0 to 255 can be represented. For 10-bit, the RGB values can be from 0 to 1023. This means that per component, 10-bit is 4 times as detailed as 8-bit. Therefore, if you had a raw image with 10-bit depth, it would have a color palette 64 times as large (4x4x4=64) to represent the image on your screen. In the case of high definition video, with the exception of footage from EXTREMELY high end cameras (starting with the RedOne cinema camera and upward), you will never come across media of this scale. The reason is, it would require a signal of 3.125 gigabits per second to properly transmit this signal.

As you can see from the image above the 10 bit image is far more detailed the colours blend from one to another while the 8 bit image is blocky, you can see this effect on most 8 bit video cameras and is one of the less endearing features of the new large sensor camcorders.

While I had my Panasonic AF101 the main problem you were fighting was getting the balance between a less noisy picture and increasing the tendency for banding which is the drawback of any 8bit video setup.

So why was this not a problem in the days of DV…simple your picture information was a lot less, standard definition TV is 720 x 576. We are now we are seeing HD footage that is 1920 x 1080 which is like a magnifier to that same 255 bits of colour hence you get banding.

The new Panasonic AG-HPX250 camcorder is one of the new breed of camcorders with 10bit 4:2:2 giving you silky smooth pictures and no banding. 10bit is the future for all video camcorders, lets hope Sony and Panasonic update their present range of large sensor camcorders to take full advantage of that fantastic 10 bit processing.

As you can see having a 10 bit recording gives you 4x more colour information this is great for green/blue screen work and editing that needs colour grading. It’s all about striving for the best you can afford, the better your master footage is the more that can be done with it before degradation kicks in.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

CVP presents Camera Day at BBC Scotland

Categories: Miscellaneous 1 Comment

[xr_video id=”0f349e4f723046c5823de7b6d4322ba8″ size=”md”]

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China’s alternative to RED or Alexa…$8000 or less

Categories: Miscellaneous 4 Comments

This according to Dan Chung is China’s alternative to the RED camera, personally I don’t think Jim and the boys at RED are going to loose any sleep over this “alternative”.

BreadCam might be a better name for it as it looks like my grannies old bread bin with a lens stuck on the front, cameras need to aesthetically pleasing not something that looks cobbled together in grampas workshop.

It actually looks more like an old 60s cine camera made specifically for Desperate Dan, I do realise this is a prototype but I also think companies like this one in China should keep their early designs under wrap till they are happy with the “look”.


I think this is an attempt at ARRI rather than RED but who cares unless we see a radical re-design I think this may never see the light of day again.

If you would like to read more exiting details on this camera then click here :


For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Back to Basics…Using ZEBRAS

Categories: Miscellaneous 1 Comment

It seems that some of us including myself are missing that all important basic information when it comes to HD video production so I have decided to run a series of  blogs called “Back to basics”.

Once a week I hope to explain some basic information about HD video production from audio basics like choosing PCM or Dolby Digital, why 10 bit is better than 8 bit but to start the ball rolling I am going or should I say Tom is going to explain how to use and set up zebras.

Most semi pro and pro camcorders have zebra as a choice in the camera setup menu as well as a choice of settings.

Rather than me prattling on I would like to introduce you to a complete stranger, Tom Tanquary, I have no idea who Tom is but his posting about zebras is very simple to follow and works like a charm…

Tom “I’ve been shooting video since 1977 and the introduction of the zebra pattern for exposure has been a total blessing. But, from the discussion above it seems not many people know how to use them. Zebras indicate a specific exposure level for a reflective surface at that iris opening. Overall exposure of any scene is determined by many other factors. Like a spot meter to a still photographer, the zebras can be very helpful if you use them on a known reference surface to determin proper exposure. And proper exposure simply means the “look” you want to get. 

Virtually all professional video cameras come with the zebras set at 70 which means 70% of a full signal. Even the pre-set on my PD-150 has only 100 and 70 as its zebra choices. There’s a reason for that. While each camera system will have a different dynamic range between 7.5 (black) and 100 (pure white), certain constants will always be true. The number 70 was picked for 2 basic reasons: it’s the proper exposure for a white sheet of paper while still seeing detail on it (such as writing, or it’s texture) and it’s the level of typical skin exposure where detail begins to be lost.

Skin tones usually fall between 55 and 65% for a very natural, well detailed, chroma-rich look. At 70% skin will start to “shine.” At 75% you are loosing detail, and at 80% most all the detail is gone. That maybe fine if you’re trying to make an old actress look 20 years younger, but in general it means that the person’s face is bland, pale and washed out. If the 70% zebras just barely appear on the most reflective portions of a face, like a cheek or upper forehead, then the rest of face falls into that 55 to 65 range. It’s a very simple way to maintain a consistant good look. 

But many times the scene is wider than a single face and other exposure factors may take over. Wide shots of people directly lit by the sun may have their faces at more than 70% to acchieve an overall good exposure. A washed out face in this case is hardly noticeable and that screen area is too small for much detail anyway. It’s at this point that the dynamic range of the camera comes into play. Which is more important: the shadows or the highlights?

Setting zebras at 100 has never made sense to me. 100 is pure white, no detail. So what? There are so many things in a scene that will be over-exposed long before you get to 100. The white paper is a good example. At 90% that paper is blooming big time, at 100 it’s gone. Most all of your exposure decisions are made well under the 100% video level. Which is why professional videographers have always used 70 as a benchmark. Most all surfaces in the upper third of reflective quality (reflect the most light) will start to loose detail above 70%. Whether it’s human skin, a white piece of paper, or a sun lit concrete wall, those zebras let you know how much detail you’ll get at that iris.

Trusting a tiny viewfinder, that may be out of adjustment, who’s picture quality is determined by the angle of your eye to it, under less than ideal viewing conditions is a dangerous way to make decisions on exposure.

And there’s this little switch on the back of the camera that can easily turn off the zebras once your exposure is set.”  

Tom Tanquary (From DVInfo.net)

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