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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: One of the things I like to bring on set is a calibration target, which can also be used as a focusing target. Robbie Carman: Yeah. Rich: Now, this really serves two purposes here, right Rob? Robbie: It does. So the first way that we can use a target like this is for purposes of sort of white balancing and black balancing a shot. But you'll notice in the center of this target, there is a little sort of cross-hair, sort of bull's eye, and what this allows us to do is zoom into that point to critically check focus. Rich: Yeah, and that's going to be really helpful here, because notice this actually has a hook on it, so I can just put this on a lighting stand or a C-stand, hang it in place where my subject was going to be, and this is really nice.
Now the flip side of this is literally the flip side of this, and that is that it becomes a reflector when you're on set, so you can use this to bounce light, fill in the side of the face, just take it to the side there, fill in the shadows, works very nicely, and of course, like most flexi fills, very, very tiny, easy to store. They even make ones that are small enough to drop into your pocket, and this can come in handy. Now another thing you could of course do is actually use a calibration card or target, and we've got one here to see. So what's that here, Rob? Robbie: Well, this is sort of a focus shot, and you'll look at it and you'll think that maybe you are like inside of a fun house, you're like, wooh! Everything is spinning.
But what this is used for is to check your focus. You'll notice as you sort of focus in and out, what's going to happen is that the lines between concentric lines that are going into the center, become blurry or more sharp. And this pattern is very useful to check very critical focus. And you'll notice that the pattern actually gets smaller towards the center. Well, that's very, very, very critical focus, if you can get that center bit to be extremely sharp and in line with each other. Rich: So notice here as we rack through that, that's as focused as it's going to get.
Now, in some cases, the compression is going to make some of those sharpest details get lost, but it's still good to start, and you could see maybe a little bit of an optical illusion there, people at home, a little bit of motion sickness. But you could see that there is a very big difference, and if we say I'm pretty sure I'm in focus there, and we punch out, it looks in focus. But again, employing that digital zoom, getting all the way in and letting that find the focus point--there we go, almost--and it just resolves to a strong image.
Robbie: Yeah, now the thing about these focus cards is that you made a good really interesting point. I have found that on some camera sensors, especially DSLR camera sensors, due to the sensor technology themselves, due to the compression, that kind of stuff, sometimes you are going to get some weird aliasing there in the way that it resolves those details in the focus chart, but they can be used to hang up in somebody's face, in front of their face, in front of their nose, that kind of stuff. I'm of the mind-set that I don't like to use these as sort of the sole method of checking my focus. Yes, they seem very scientific and sort of, oh, well, it can't get better than this.
But actually, it can be kind of dangerous. If you go on the internet and go, oh, I'm just going to play out this focus chart, well, guess what. It's not on the right kind of paper, perhaps the pattern was a little skewed, something like that. So it can actually throw off your camera, rather than help you. Rich: Yeah, this is not printed out on an inkjet or consumer paper. This is actually a purchased one, and it's got a nice flat finish to cut down on reflection and it's very high resolution printing, like if you're printing on a typical inkjet printer, it's pretty hard to get critical focus. So either way, a target with the printed target on it, this--if you can't do this, some people will even just set up a book with printing in it and go in and focus on the letters.
You just want something small and tight that you could check focus on. Now, there is one more strategy and that is to actually let the camera do the thinking for you. And when we come back, we'll talk about when auto-focus is not actually cheating.
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