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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.
Robbie Carman: Okay, so Rich, we basically said that using the back of a camera not the greatest for getting critical focus. Richard Harrington: Nope. Robbie Carman: We might often want to pipe the signal out to say an electronic viewfinder or an external monitor, or maybe use an attached loop, but often times you know we might not have those available to us and we still need to check focus on the back of the camera using the camera LCD. And there is a tried-and-true method for sort of setting focus before we actually start shooting. Richard Harrington: Yeah, and what it's really called is take a picture.
You put your camera into auto-focus mode if you're working with a lens that supports that and then you can just hold down the plunger and let it sort of find the exposure, and as you see there, it locked. It went from red to green. Robbie Carman: Right, and on your camera that little box there represents the area that it's looking at to try to focus and we can move that around the screen. Richard Harrington: Yeah, if I go ahead and move that and let's say I set this on the bottle, I wanted the bottle in focus, and I just halfway hold down the plunger, it's going to wrack through the settings and then it locked in, and you'll notice in this case that the bottle is in focus while the bird is not as in focus.
Robbie Carman: Okay, that's great. That's you know if you're running sort of a run-and-gun situation and you don't really trust what you're seeing, that you don't trust your own eyes, you can do that. Richard Harrington: And that does have one other benefit which is by taking the still you're capturing a higher-resolution image, if you need it for print or web, and it's getting relevant metadata about the lens and the settings you use, because the video file doesn't have that. Robbie Carman: Now were you actually taking a still there or were you just using the auto-focus capabilities of your movie mode? Richard Harrington: If I let it auto-focus and then it finished, I can go ahead and push it and you know it would then take the still-- Robbie Carman: Got it.
Richard Harrington: --and fire that off. Robbie Carman: Cool. Richard Harrington: You know and it would store it as a still image, and in this case, you actually saw there the blinkies came on, it gives you an idea of if you're under or properly exposed using some of those photographic features. So there are certain benefits to firing off a photo first if you have got the time. Robbie Carman: Got it! Now a method that I like in terms of getting in focus is because you know I'm--I don't know how should I say, skeptical of auto-focusing and any sort of machine helping me do something. Richard Harrington: You like to be in control. Robbie Carman: I like to be in control. Yes, I have a little bit of OCD, I'll admit that.
One of the tried-and-true methods that I like, besides that one, is actually zooming into the image. Now I don't zooming in by physically zooming like on a lens zoom, I mean by using some of the focus features that I have on my camera to be able to enlarge the size of the shot in the Viewfinder. Richard Harrington: Well, you bring up a really good point there. The danger in adjusting the zoom lens if you had it attached is that the aperture could change. So that could completely change your focus and everything else and so then when you go back out, all of a sudden what you set focus on, isn't the same reality.
Robbie Carman: That's a good point. I'm talking more about getting the shot framed up, all my other technical settings right now, I'm adjusting focus. We can actually sort of crop in or sort of zoom in on the sensor level. Richard Harrington: Yeah, remember that we're not using the whole sensor when we're shooting video. Robbie Carman: Right. Richard Harrington: So I can use the magnification button and zoom that in a bit, and you know, depends on the camera, but sometimes you'll have a 50% zoom or a 100% or a one-to-one view where you're seeing each pixel, and it will give you that overlay. Then you can go ahead and move that bounding box around.
Now if your camera has a little thing that sometimes says L or Lock, if you have got that turned on-- Robbie Carman: You might not be able to move that. Richard Harrington: --you're like, why is it moving? You know, look for that lock, but this allows you to sort of move around the image and find what you want to focus and then if your camera is in manual mode, you can go ahead and adjust it. Some cameras will have a switch on the side of the body for focus, others will have a switch on the lens, but you know--or maybe both, you might have to engage both switches to manual. Robbie Carman: Yeah, and this is a great technique I find especially for things like interviews, right? Because when we're doing an interview, we want the person's eyes to be nice and sharp in focus. That's what most people connect to when we're looking at people, so oftentimes, I'll zoom into somebody's nose or their eyes or something like that to get this sort of part of there face nice and sharp and this is a great method to do that.
Richard Harrington: And then at this point, you could just hit the Record button and the camera will automatically go back to normal view or if you're not ready to roll yet, just tap the magnifying glass with a minus sign and it will pull back out and that lets you see the whole image, and so you just punched in there to check focus and then punched back out to set the shot. I didn't actually touch the lens, I didn't adjust its framing, its composition, any other settings, I just tweaked the focus manually and I think that really works great. Now if you are using an external monitor, some monitors and some viewfinders will actually have a feature called Focus Assist that will show you Edge Detection and you could turn that on at the monitor level, and as you adjust the focus, what's happening there is it will help you detect the edges and say this edge is in focus or it's not.
Robbie Carman: There you go. So that's using a couple different methods to get sharp focus, right? We can--even if we are using the back of our camera, the camera LCD, we can still get pretty sharp focus, and the first method that we took a look at was using some of the auto-focusing capabilities, simply pressing the shutter button down halfway, and inside of that box we can get what's in focus there. We can also take a photo which will sort of let us check focus, but has the added benefit of capturing additional metadata. We can also zoom in on the sensor level, as you said, 50% zoom or 1:1 zooms, zoom all the way and get focus and then come back out to record, and then depending on other monitoring equipment that we have, say like a Viewfinder or external monitor, we can use additional features on those monitors to help us ensure sharp focus.
Richard Harrington: And I think the thing to realize here is that focus is critical. People can forgive a shot that's a little too dark, you can always boost saturation to fix it if the colors washed out, you could make the audio a little louder, but there is no filter to fix focus, we'll be like oh just sharpen the shot. Robbie Carman: Not the same? Richard Harrington: No. It's like hey, there is lots of noise in that auto-focus image. So until those Lytro cameras kick in and it's actually going to be possible to get those in video cameras, I hear that's what's coming next, until we have a change in lens technology, you got to focus, you got to make sure you're in focus, and you got to check your focus anytime anything changes. You move the camera, check focus.
Robbie Carman: Absolutely. Richard Harrington: Lighting condition changes, check focus, before you roll any shot, not a bad idea to check focus.
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