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CCDs

The CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) is the optical nerve of the camera, also called MOS chip (Metal Oxide Semiconductor). High quality MOS chips will usually contain more than 300,000 pixels per CCD. The amount of these pixels will determine (with the optics) the resolution of a camera. Don’t be fooled by sales pitches.

Three chips are better than one chip. Three chips will handle each color separately, one chip is dedicated to the red, blue and green color respectively. A good explanation of this is here. For better looking pictures with cheaper cameras convert to black and white. HOWEVER if you have limited funds, buy a camera with a good lens before buying 3 chips, Sony markets some good lenses (Zeiss) that are available on their lower-end cameras.

white balance
 
Light in video (and film for that matter) is measured in degrees of kelvin. We learned in science class this:



Roy G. Biv...Red, Orange, Yellow...etc. This is the spectrum, otherwise know as the rainbow. Unlike in painting color theory, Red is actually cooler than Violet in the Kelvin world. Remember to use SPF...your skin is damaged by UV (ultraviolet) rays, not infrared, otherwise we would fry the cat everytime we changed a channel with our remote control.

Cameras are designed to see 3200K as white. (This is due to the fact that studio lights are set at this level and there is a thought that all shooting will be done in a studio!?!) A sunny day is between 5,000 to 10,000 K. Indoor lamp light comes in around 1,500 to 2,200 K. If you white balance indoors and walk outdoors your camera will go blue. This is because outdoor lighting is “hotter.” If you white balance outdoors and shoot indoors, it will go yellowish-red. It is because indoor light is cooler. (The sun, big, hot, the meager lightbulb, small, not so hot compared to the sun). If you have manual white balance you point the camera at something white (a sheet of paper) in the lighting area you will be shooting. You press your White Balance button. It will electronically make the sheet white, adjusting the circuitry appropriately. The thing is, the auto balance buttons in most cameras now days work as good or better.

For fun, you can balance on a yellow paper or a blue paper to “tint” your shot. But, why do this when you could just tint in the editor. So, I like to shoot with white being white. The point is, set your white balance appropriately.
neutral density
This reduce light hitting CCD. This is like putting a “veil” in front of the lens, without affecting color. I USE THIS ALL OF THE TIME. Again, ALL OF THE TIME! This stops down the light entering the camera forcing you to open the lens up more. A more open lens (just trust me on this) gives you a more shallow depth of field (the amount of space your subject is in focus). Why would you want less focus?

Less focus blurs out backgrounds and helps to keep the visual focus on the subject. This aids the motivation of the shot...we want people to be looking at things we want them to look at, not the poster of Alf in the background.
audio tips

There are three basic types of mics:

Lavaliere (lavs)

 




Hand-held (stick)

 




Shotgun.

 

Each has a different use.
The lavs are great for interviews and are a standard in the industry.
The shotguns are usually used if you do not want a mic in the shot (though I hide my lavs behind an ear of the talent if their hair is long enough. The stick is usually associated with news reporting. I seldom use it unless I am at a karaoke bar.

Each mic has a particular pick-up pattern, the sweet spot of the mic. Lavs are usually omni directional, sticks are cardioid, and shotguns are super cardioid.

In audio you really get what you pay for. If you are doing a lot of interviews and don’t need to worry about hiding mics, get a good lav. If you want wireless, expect to pay around $500 for a basic model. A decent wired model can be had for under $200. The same goes with the shotgun.

Never run audio next to power extension cables, cross at 90 degree angles. Get mic as close as possible to subject, especially if it is on camera. Be aware of ambient noise. Always lay down “nat “(natural) sound. Watch background for sound reflection.

camera pointers

Your camera provides the front seat to the viewer. The control of the camera helps to controal the feel of the program from a documentary to a PSA to a dramatic work. It is not just making pretty pictures with good exposure (though that is important too). It is about using the camera to emphasize the script or meaning you are trying to convey. This is why video is so powerful as an artform.

1. Be subtle and direct, easy ramp in ramp out.

2. Motivate them. Why are you moving?

3. Use support (tripod, dolly, etc) whenever possible.

4. Slow, hold shots leave pad at beginning and end for the edit.

5. Use moves. Camera doesn't weigh 50 pounds!

6. Camera positions help to establish moods:
High Angle:
looking down, peering down diminishes the subject and/or elevates the viewer.
This is the scene: there is a confrontation between two people, one person gets angry and strikes the other. He is upset and sinks to the floor, we see the last part all from an high angle shot. This can cast a feeling of judgment.

Low Angle:
looking up, respect elevates the subject and or/ diminishes the viewer. This will cause characters or subject to tower, giving them interesting angles. Some feel that the low angle is the most dynamic shot for this reason alone.

Objective Shots
The way most TV is shot, dispassionate, removed, observant. Moods are created by the elements included in the scene.

Pathetic Fallacy (pathos):
This is shooting in a manner that highlights the elements of the environment and style to reflect the inner nature of the subject.

Subjective Shots:
The camera is the participant.
This is shooting from the point of view (POV) of the character, drunk scenes, flashbacks, dream sequences. Cheated POV in movies to draw attention to some element (for instance shooting from a point directly behind the character’s head.

Dutch (Canted angle)
This will indicate a world gone lopsided; a disquieting psychology. This can show the viewer something is odd. These shots call attention to themselves.

Hand held
This is used a lot for the news, and connotes immediacy, or verite (truth, like being there. Beware though, you can make people motion sick (see Blair Witch project or most bad YouTube videos.

Oh yes, THE EYE DOES NOT ZOOM!