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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Rich Harrington: We've covered on a previous episode that trying to look to the live view monitor really makes it difficult to do things like focus and exposure. It's not ergonomic, it's not in a good place. Robbie Carman: Yeah. Rich: Plus, a lot of times that when we're on set we actually need to collaborate with other people, share the video signal. Robbie: That's right, I mean we've have talked about this before where everything looks good on the back of a 3-inch monitor. So, oftentimes you want to pipe out of the camera. So, you know, something simple, maybe you'd like an EVF, like an electronic viewfinder like this, may be a larger monitor like this, or maybe you might go even bigger you know.
Sometimes on set you might have something like, you know, a plasma, or a big LCD, way back offset where clients can be comfortable of making it sit and watch what's going on. But to do that, Rich, we need to be able to most likely adapt the signal in some shape or fashion, right? Rich: Yeah, I think the first thing you are going to have to decide is what type of video signal can I get out my camera? Robbie: Right. Rich: Now most DSLRs are going to have either an HDMI or mini HDMI coming out of the camera body itself. Robbie: That's right. Rich: So we've seen these before, but there's different types of cables, and in this case, I have a mini HDMI to full-size HDMI, and I got a specialty cable here that's designed to bend, which is good.
Because if your cables don't bend, your gear tends to fall over or ports tend to break. Robbie: That's--that's very true. Rich: What happens if you break a port on the camera? Robbie: You got to send it back into the manufacturer. You'll be without a camera for a while and-- Rich: Out a couple of hundred bucks at least. Robbie: Out a couple hundred bucks, and you'll be very unhappy. So yeah, this little--this little swivel one is a nice one. But you made an interesting point is that most of the time on these cameras, generally speaking there're going to be many mini HDMI and mini HDMI is not something that you find very often outside of the production market. I am sure it may be some home theater receivers and stuff like that have it, but you need to go out and find specialty mini HDMI to HDMI cables.
Now, if you don't have a mini HDMI cable, this is a little guy that comes in very handy. Now when you are going out to buy one of these guys, this is a full-size HDMI on one side to mini HDMI on the other side, buy a bunch of these. These things are very small and they tend to go missing very quickly. So I usually buy them in gross, you know, buy a dozen or have a two dozen or so at a time. Rich: As you say, packs of five, but since I used to have five and that's the only one I get find on my bag, it's time to buy gross. Robbie: Right, so this is nice because, you know, if don't have the specialty cable, you can simply plug in the mini HDMI and then a full-size HDMI cable to your side, run it out to your monitoring and that kind of thing.
Rich: Yeah, and what's going to be helpful here is that you're going to need to adapt. So you mentioned earlier the electronic viewfinder. Robbie: Yep. Rich: I am a big fan of using the EVF. What I have here though is the ability to go in. So I could take a full-size HDMI in, and then loop it back out. So this is a better monitor for me. It's high resolution, I can mount it on the camera. I could put it on an arm, and then I could loop that signal coming out of there and for that I've gone ahead and actually have gotten an L bracket to convert it, so instead of the cable sticking out the side here.
Robbie: Where somebody can bump it... Rich: Yeah. Robbie: ...or get pulled over, right? Rich: I can just go ahead and put that into the output there, and now it runs straight backwards. So you see there it's coming straight out and now the cable can run away from the camera as opposed to hanging out the side, it makes it easier to drape on down. Now once I have that HDMI looping out, I've gone from my monitoring to sharing with others, what can I do with that full HDMI out? Robbie: Well, you could do a lot of things with that. I mean, you can go into a full-size monitor. You could go into a recorder, that kind of thing, but here is the one problem with HDMI, Rich, is that it doesn't run very long distances.
So it's great when you're sort of, you know, in the self-contained kind of setup right on set, but let's say you're monitoring this 40, 50 feet away or you're trying to do other long cable links, HDMI is not going to be the thing for you. Professional videographers and professional video post people have come to know and love SDI video over the years, Serial Digital Interface, and the beauty about SDI is that it carries an uncompressed signal like HDMI, but it can run for very, very long lengths. So the other type of adaptation that we often have to make in the field when working with HDMI equipped cameras is that we sometimes need to go HDMI to SDI or even maybe you go analog.
We would go SDI to say component analog and fortunately, there's a lot of different ways that we can adapt that, but one of the things that I am really big fan of Rich, is this guy right here. Now this one is made by AJA, but Black Magic and others make these. And what this allows you to do is plug in an HDMI signal on this end, and then on the other side, you actually have two SDI outputs. So if you need to do a really long cable run from HDMI from your camera to say a monitor that's further away or a recorder that's further away, these are a good investment to make.
Rich: Now before I get to that I do want to say even though HDMI cables shouldn't be run too far, this little guy is going to save you. What you see here is I can go from HDMI to HDMI and this is essentially a coupler that lets you plug two HDMI cables together. So maybe I am going out the camera. Well, I don't want to have to have this box dangling with my camera body. Robbie: Right, sure. Rich: So by using an adapter here, I can go from the camera cable to a full length HDMI cable and then run this on out and that's going to give me a little more reach. Robbie: Absolutely, but you know, you can also use multiple adapters if you need to.
Now I come from the sort of the attitude of less adapters, the fewer problems that you're probably going to have, but in this case, Rich, you said, you have this adapter here in place, I can simply plug this guy in right here, plug my BNC over here on this end, so I have an SDI signal and now I have a nice signal path going out through all the monitors. Rich: Look its cable soup, yeah. Robbie: Yeah. Rich: You have to always be careful with cables that you take the time to lay them down. Actually, this is a good time to mention though, because monitoring is critical what don't I want to do with these cables and say any power cables on set.
Robbie: Yeah, It's always a bad idea to sort of run your power cables and video or audio cables for that matter in parallel to each other. When you do that or you overlap them, oftentimes you can get interference. Now, good cables are often very well shielded. So it's not nearly as problematic as it has been in the past with the analog video and analog audio signals, but just, you know, be careful about. You never want to sort of have whole bird's nest of cables overlapping each other. Now Rich, there is one more adapter or two more adapters that I want to mention that really come in handy and I think are essential pieces to your kit.
Now this little guy. Rich: It's a T. Robbie: Well, it looks like a little T, right? Now you might think to yourself, well, what's the big deal with this? Well, oftentimes, you'll need to be able to feed signal to multiple places at the same time. So you might want to be able to feed a signal, say an SDI signal to one client monitor over here, and may be the production team over here has another one. This little guy allows you to do that. It has an input coming from say your HDMI to SDI converter, and then you can run two signals off of it. So you can split the signal, which is really nice. And then the other one I think that's an essential piece to kit to have are barrel adapters like this.
Now this one allows me to go BNC or an SDI signal to RCA. So you might have an adapter that goes, you know, HDMI out to component analog. Well, what if your monitor only has, you know, sort of consumer RCA inputs, you'd need something like this? Rich: Yeah, and so to sort of break this down for you, as you are trying to decide what to pull off, I want you to realize that this is really a spectrum. For example, most folks would get by just fine with a good HDMI monitor. If it's just you shooting, I can't recommend enough. Go for something like an Electronic Viewfinder so you have a higher resolution signal.
Then, if you need to collaborate with others, you could take that HDMI signal out into another HDMI type monitor. This could be a small portable one that runs off of batteries for field use or even a consumer grade television, just the larger screen will go a long way. Now the type of stuff we're talking abut with HDMI to HDSDI, this is really when you're going on professional video set, and if you're on that set, HDSDI is just the standard that everything is used for the monitors. So those adapters come into play.
Remember, you're all at different points in production. Some of you are just running and gunning one-man bands. On the other hand, just last week I was on a Pro video set and we were using two DSLRs, but we absolutely needed that critical monitoring and the one advantage of HDSDI is that you start to get to be able to take advantage of higher quality monitors with things like built-in scopes as well. Robbie: Absolutely, and I think, Rich, just like adapting audio, it's essential that you be prepared. You might not need to use all these adapters and different cables on every single production, but it's nice to have that in your kit.
So when the situation arises where you need to adapt the video, you're prepared, instead of saying, hey! PA run down to RadioShack or something, something of that nature, you know? So it's, it's always better to be prepared. Rich: My 7-eleven carries HDMI. Robbie: Oh! Of course, of course. Yeah, always better to be prepared and be ready for those situations when you need to adapt the video or audio signal. Rich: All right, so when we come back, we're going to tackle two last things, that is, options for connecting equipment as well as some alternatives for power.
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