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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: So earlier, Rich, we talked about the impact of compression, and specifically we talked about its effect on color. But compression also affects detail in a shot as well, doesn't it? Richard: Yeah absolutely. You got to realize that when you're shooting video, you got a lot of frames going on. In order to do that, you're not actually using the whole sensor. It's only using a small part of the sensor. So if you are recording this, you know, your chances are even at 1080p, it's going to be at a 2 megapixel image, versus-- Robbie: 19 or 18, 19, 20 megapixels, right? Richard: Yeah so that is going to come in both for things like zooming, but also, realizing that you just don't have as high a resolution source, and that resolution will have an impact on fine details, crispness of edges, little tiny things, plus you add the fact that we're going to have you know, shutter issues here.
We're playing with a very limited Shutter rate, and so that Shutter Speed is going to impact crispness of the individual image. Video is designed to look good with fluid motion, individual still frames often will look terrible when you pause the playhead during editing. Robbie: Sure! So those are more like mechanical things, right, but like compression does affect it as well, right, because, these cameras whether they are using PhotoJPEG or AVC-Intra or H.264, again, they're pretty aggressive compression schemes, right? One of the things about these Compression schemes is that they're 8-bit, right? Now taking photos you might be used to 10 bits, even 16-bit photos.
Richard: Most Raw files are 16 bit. Robbie: 16 bit, and on professional video cameras, we may also be shooting 10 bit, right? And of course, the most noticeable part about a lower Bit Depth is that we're not going to have quite a smooth gradation between the different parts of the tonal range. What this really means for us though Rich? Richard: Shadows get muddy. Robbie: Shadows get muddy, there's not a lot of information to be found in highlights, and things of that nature. Richard: That cloud is just a big white spot as opposed to subtle shades of gray mixing together. Robbie: Yeah, and I found this all the time. I was recently on a shoot where I was--it was an interview, a gentleman who had a very shiny forehead, right, and I really couldn't bring anything back in that shot, because it was just kind of blown out.
Because, the aggressive compression being 8 bit in these cameras, there just wasn't a whole lot of detail there, and you will see that also in shadows. Richard: Yeah. So these cameras when they compress looked to get the file smaller, and the biggest way that that's done is by looking for repeated color values and oftentimes detail values. So it goes oh! This is about white and so is this, so I'll just make this all white and use the same pixel over again. It's great, and that it gives us increase recording capacity on affordable cards, on affordable cameras, but you really need to be mindful and in some ways I think what we're saying here when it comes to compression is you have to learn to let things go.
Just a couple years ago we were shooting DV. I go back and I look at some of the DV productions, I'm like, oh my god, that looks terrible. But at that time-- Robbie: It looked great. Richard: It looked great, it's like, hey, we're shooting videos, and it didn't cost me $80,000 for a camera. Robbie: I think, that also brings up a great point about, because if you factoring that we're having color loss as I talked about earlier, detail loss whether it's mechanical through the sensor and shutter speed, and that kind of stuff, or detail loss through compression is that, we just have to think about these shots more, right? And one of the ways that I like to combat that is proper lighting, right? Proper lighting goes a long way, even if I'm shooting in 8-bit codec like these cameras often do, if I properly light something, so I don't have crushed blacks in the actual shot.
I have a lot more leeway when I get to postproduction. Same things with highlights, right? If I protect the highlights, and I don't have things blowing out, I can still do a lot. So even though you have slight limitations with these sort of aggressive compression and what is does to color and detail in these cameras, I think if you go out there and sort of, properly light things and properly work through the shot, you can still get fantastic results. Richard: And of course, with that comes proper monitoring which we'll explore much more in depth, but if you're not looking at it, if all you see is little LCD, everything is going to look good, and you're going to be pump that out to a bigger screen, so you can accurately judge how does this really look.
Robbie: Absolutely. Richard: All right! So there you have it. Compression is going to affect both the color and the detail in your shot. You are going to have to learn to sort of live with it, but as Rob pointed out, we can tweak this in post a little bit, but we need to be mindful of how we shoot it and even more importantly how we light it.
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