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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 how when we go into Video mode on most DSLRs, we can lose the ability to actually view the image through the optical viewfinder. Richard: Yeah. Robbie: Instead, we are viewing the image on the camera's LCD on the back of the camera. Richard: Yeah, like you are seeing here, the LCD panels lit up on this camera. When we went into Live View mode, it's giving you a preview image, and this really grew out of consumer cameras where they didn't have that. If you look at a lot of point-and-shoots, they don't have optical viewfinders. They just have an LCD panel. Robbie: Yeah, they don't have mirrors either, so they don't have the problem. Richard: Correct. Robbie: Right.
So I find you know when we are viewing in Live View on the back of these cameras, there is one big problem. Even as these LCDs on the back of the cameras get high-resolution, the fact is is that they are still pretty tiny and pretty small and most of the time, we are viewing them from a little bit of a distance. So my problem with that is that everything tends to look, well good on the back of these LCDs, and it's very difficult to judge things like focus, exposure and so forth when you're using just the camera LCD. Richard: Yeah, you, and I were out shooting in Amsterdam once, and I came back, and you know I've been shooting all day and a good third of my footage was softer than I'd like.
Robbie: But you didn't realize that at the time though. Richard: No, because I was looking at it, and it wasn't because of Amsterdam, it was because of that was--you know just this little monitor makes everything looks sharp and clean because it's so small. The more you shrink the image down, the more it looks in focus. You might've noticed this before when you're looking at thumbnails of photos at the finder level or you know zoom down in Bridge or Lightroom or Aperture, well that looks pretty good, and then you blow it in a full screen like oh, that's kind of soft. That's exact same phenomena. Robbie: Yeah. So the first sort of wanted offense that we have to when we are in Live View, instead of just using the camera's LCD because you know all the problems that we have just discussed, the first thing that we can do is we can actually use a loop or an attached viewfinder like this one.
This one is made by a company called Zacuto but there is plenty of other ones on the market and what this basically does is it simply attaches to a frame on the back of a camera, and this actually magnifies the view that I get on the camera LCD. So now instead of just viewing the LCD on its normal resolution or its normal magnification, I can look through this, and I can see at a magnified value what's really going on with my image. Richard: And it's also nice as it provides you a bit of stability. Robbie: Yeah, for the contact. Richard: So, for example, it goes right up, yeah to the eye sort of taking the place and giving you another eye cup like the traditional viewfinder and these loops will typically magnify the image two and a half to three times, making it easier to see focus and also judge exposure because you're not getting light position because if you have the LCD panel, you are getting on such an environmental light.
Robbie: It can be very difficult to see what's going on. Richard: Absolutely. Robbie: So then you know the next thing after we have sort of this attached viewfinder and something that's been sort of a recent development in the world of DSLRs are these guys, EVFs. Richard: Yeah, and what we have here is an Electronic Viewfinder, and it just attaches via the HDMI connection and runs out, and if you look at these by default, it seems like the screen is about the same size, and you are like, well, what's the benefits, it's the same size screen? Well, this screen costs four times more than this screen. Robbie: It's much higher resolution. Richard: It's kind of like the difference between the early iPhones and the later ones where they bumped up the pixel count. They tighten that up so it's just-- Robbie: It's a retina display if you will.
Richard: Yeah, marketing term, but it really does matter. Not all screens are created the same. You look at the screen on like you know a cheap consumer electronic device versus a high-res camera, and there's a huge difference in quality. So this is this, you know, much tighter screen, better resolution, and as you are saying these can attach too. Robbie: Yeah, and that's what I love about some of these Electronic Viewfinders is that you can attach a traditional loop or viewfinder to it so now it's actually going to operate much more in a similar fashion to how a traditional viewfinder on a video camera will work, right? You can look through this, and when you look at it physically, it looks like a viewfinder on a regular video camera.
Richard: Yeah, and then you could flip this up, if you just want to see the screen or flip it back down. Robbie: Or a client wants to come around and take a look at it, yeah, absolutely. Richard: Yeah, see your client germs, don't get on your eye cup, you just will oh, have a look. Yeah so that works great, and this gives you certain benefits, and as you are noticing with the overlay here, you can see things like you actually have the ability to see audio meters and to see the camera information being displayed. So you are always looking at those key settings. You will also find in the menu that they sometimes add other benefits and so, for example, here if I flip this up, and you can't see it because it doesn't send it out, but I have a whole menu setting.
What you get is the ability to actually go in and see overlays. So as you step through some of those options there, you can get Focus Assist. Robbie: Different frame lines, all that kind of stuff. Richard: Yeah, or Exposure Assist where I can actually see little highlights showing me with the Zebra stripes oh, this is overexposed, we are getting near overexposed. So these add certain benefits. Robbie: Well, and then the last way, and you have already pointed to it a couple of times is to actually use an external field monitor like this little one, and there is a lot of a companies again that are making this, SmallHD, Marshall, as this Panasonic one we have here, and this has a couple benefits, right? First, we are viewing the image on a larger screen.
Nothing saying that we have to view it on let's say you know, 5-6-7-inch screen, we can view this on a 50-inch screen if we want to, so they are great for being able to view the image in large groups so client might be present onset or something like that and typically because they are bigger, it's going to be easier to judge things like Exposure and Focus. And the thing I really like about them is that most of field monitors out there are adaptable to different types of video signal. What I mean by that is that we can go HDMI into them, we could use, say HDMI to SDI converter, SDI of course is a professional level video signal path, and we can attach different--our cameras in different signal paths to these monitors to be able to view it.
Richard: And many times these professional monitors will also have built-in measuring tools, waveform, spectroscope, so you could judge things like color and exposure. So it's a whole spectrum. I would say if I was out in the field running about, the first thing I would choose would be something like one of these loops. Zacuto, Hoodman, lots of others make these. It's a simple addition. I like to call it the lens for the back of your camera. Before you buy another lens, buy the lens for the back of the camera, so you can get that sharper image and judge do you have proper exposure and focus. Robbie: And if you are in a more compact situation, but you want a little higher resolution, the EVFs represent a great solution, and then if you're in a more stable or not running gun situation, and you have a couple more hands on deck in your production, an external field monitor either separately mounted like this or even mounted to a rig, works well also.
Richard: If you are going to those external field monitors, you may find it useful to get an HDMI to SDI adapter useful for the pro-monitors and many of the monitors specifically designed for DSLR workflow, will be high-res monitors with HDMI inputs, so you can connect directly. Robbie: So that's a little bit more about Live View. Of course Live View is enabled when we go into Video mode on these DSLRs cameras and our Optical Viewfinder no longer really works. And of course we have also discussed different ways of adapting Live View. We can use a loop or a viewfinder or we can use EVF, we can also pipe the single out to an external field monitor, all of which makes it much easier to judge things like focus and exposure.
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