Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

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awainman
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Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

Post by awainman » Fri Jan 16, 2009 11:55 am

Hi

Wondered if anyone can offer some advice to very amateur film makers? Students filming at night with basic DV camcorders (using a variety of canon MV models) are often getting poor quality grainy images. I am unsure what to advise them on camcorder settings with regard to manual exposure and shutter speeds.
At times their results are very good but there appears to be no consistency to results and they claim they have tried adjusting settings.

Kind regards

Andrea

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billyfromConsett
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Re: Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

Post by billyfromConsett » Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:37 pm

Hi Andrea
Welcome to our forum - I hope you will find it useful, and pass this resource on to some of your students. :wink:

When people ask me what I look for when assessing how good a camcorder is, I often tell them that one of the key indicators that I look at straight away is how good do images look in low light.
The sixth of an inch CCD's many of those cheap miniDV cams have, haven't got much area for light from whatever they're filming to fall on. The result - images full of electronic enhancement - gain - and also poor colour reproduction. The clean looking shot is a shadow of itself so to speak.
All you can do with the settings, if they will allow, is slow the shutter speed right down and get the iris wide open. In action or fast moving stuff, a shutter speed of less than a 50th of a second will produce blur (few cams will let you do this anyhow I would guess).
It might also be worthwhile putting the focus into manual and focus it that way - some cams will not focus at all well near dark.
Some cams have a night vision mode - which is black and white. That could be tried.

Small lights fitting onto cams will make a difference to close things - things less than 8 feet I'd say. Or can people take a light of some kind with them? Is it outdoors? Can shots be lit in any way?

Even the mega expensive TV broadcast cams need light, so the budget cams really show their cheapness without much light.

awainman
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Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2009 11:46 am

Re: Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

Post by awainman » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:02 pm

Many thanks for such a speedy response.
Andrea

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stingman
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Re: Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

Post by stingman » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:41 pm

There are many ideas here are a few!

An example late at night in the woods. get lights and hide them behind trees or bushes. this way the scene is lit and gives it a nice earie feel.

Use a light or a torch and shine it at the person or reflect it onto the person to give just that bit more light.

I think the Pro`s use Bright Blue Colour lights. These make it bright but not like spotlights. This would give the appearance of being moonlit. If you undo the very blue picture in editing the scene should still be bright? This last bit I don`t know.....

But experiment!

Be good.......

Stingman
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tom hardwick
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Re: Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

Post by tom hardwick » Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:37 pm

Many modern camcorders are fitted with a ramping zoom (mine included). This means the lens can be a good 2 stops faster at wideangle than at telephoto, so when the light dims, stick to the wideangle end of the zoom and move about.

In the above case you might need two 100 watt bulbs to light the room and film at wideangle. To get the same expposure on tape at full telephoto you'd need eight 100 watt bulbs in the same room.

tom.

Roy

Re: Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

Post by Roy » Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:53 am

Don't people use Photo Flood bulbs anymore. I used to film in dark rooms and usually one 150 watt bulb was sufficient with a reflector.

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Dave Watterson
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Re: Avoiding grainy images when filming in poor light

Post by Dave Watterson » Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:07 am

For younger readers who may never have heard of photofloods ... they are normal-looking tungsten bulbs but designed to give a fixed colour temperature and to burn very brightly for a short time. Typical life is around 3 hours and these days a typical price around 10 pounds for a 275 watt one.

The plus was that they could be fitted into any normal lamp so long as they were not on for long enough to damage it - they burn very hot indeed. Nowadays it is very hard to find any that are not ES (Edison screw) fitting rather than the usual British BC (bayonet cap).

They were effective for still photography but too hot and too short-lived for much use with film and video. Strangely enough modern low-energy lamps often come in colour temperatures that work well on video, have a long life and run fairly cool. They are not so bright, however, and you may need several.

When necessary most videomakers use small lamps either clipped to the camera or on stands / tripods and using halogen lamps or similar technology.

Dave (call me Mr. History) W

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