The DVX100 offers a wide range of options and settings. Here are my suggestions based on my experience shooting with the camera in my own work and working with my students in production classes, followed by notes and pointers to DVX100 information resources. (Update: This post is relevant to all Panasonic DVX models: DVX100, DVX100A, DVX100B, however, this post was originally about the DVX100A).
Suggested DVX-100 Settings
- Vertical Detail Frequency: Thin [See Note 1]
- Vertical Detail: 0
- Detail: -3 [See Note 2]
- Detail Coring: 0 [See Note 3]
- Skin Detail: Off
- Chroma: 0
- Phase: +3
- Gamma: Cine Gamma
- Matrix: Cine Look
- Master Pedestal: -3 to -6
- Format: 4:3 or 16:9 LETTERBOX [See Note 4]
- Time Code: Record Run
- First Record: Preset (set Tape #)
- Shutter Speed: 1/48 [See Note 5]
- Exposure: Use spot meter (“Marker”) in camera, highlights with some textural detail at 90%, “middle grey” ay 45-55%, dark areas with textural detail at 10-15%
- Mode/Frame Rate: 24P or 24P Advanced [See Note 6]
Start by resetting all camera settings to their default values, then set your scene settings and then name and save them into one of the camera scene files. Double check settings each time you insert a new tape or power-up the camera. These settings are a starting point, you should do your own testing and establish the look appropriate for your project. Refer to your DVX-100 User Manual and Barry Green’s most excellent DVX Book and DVD (links below) for more details.
1: Vertical Detail Frequency. If you are intending to do a video to film transfer, up-convert to HD, or plan to project at festivals and other venues that are using 720P projectors, use the Thin setting. This provides the full 480 lines of vertical resolution the DVX is capable of and yields a better image when the SD video is up-converted (start with the sharpest and best image you can). The problem is that most television monitors are interlaced and thus can’t handle the high resolution, so you see what’s called line twitter (as a result of interlacing), but if you’re using a progressive display, projector, going out to film, or able to do post-processing in post production, it’s the way to go. The Mid setting brings the vertical detail down to about 400 lines reducing the twitter artifacts on an interlaced display. The Thick setting offers about 360 lines without any artifacts and ideal for material intended for SD broadcast. You will notice the twitter effects of the Thin setting when looking at a scene with lots of fine detail on an interlaced display. Another alternative is to shoot with the Thin setting and process the video in post to lower the resolution if you need material for both up-conversion to HD an SD.
2: Detail. Detail enhances edges, too much and the image starts to look electronic and artificial, like oh too many bad wedding videos. Leave off unless you have a specific need for it. A slightly softer image is part of the film look. Exaggerated edge detail is part of the video look.
3: Detail Coring. When you enhance detail, you add noise, especially in the shadows. Detail Coring reduces the added noise.
4: Aspect Ratio. Shooting 4:3 of 16:9 letterboxed within the 4:3 frame assures it plays on every TV, if you choose squeeze, you limit your screening to televisions and projectors capable of 16:9, which is not yet universal, also, some experts suggest even if you want squeeze, the scalers you can use in post will do a better job than the scaler built into the camera for creating a squeezed 16:9 version. Shoot 4:3 with vertical detail set to thin and you will get the best up-convert to 16:9 HD or film out possible. And while it’s more work to do the squeeze in post, the creative advantage is you can correct framing slightly up or down in post, so you might even consider shooting 4:3 even if your final destination is a 16:9 video.
5: Strobing. When shooting 24P, because you are “exposing” 24 frames per second (rather than 60 fields per second as with video) you will notice “strobing” when you do a fast pan. This can be reduced by panning slowly. The rule of thumb is it should take seven seconds for an object to cross the screen as you pan. Another approach is to move with the subject and distract the viewer’s attention from the strobing background. Another way to deal with strobing is to use a lower shutter speed, the default for the DVX is 1/48 when shooting 24P, you can lower it to 1/24, for example. This will increase motion blur (not always a bad thing, it’s kind of cool and another element of the film look). At the 1/24 shutter speed there is less strobing that at 1/48, however, more motion blur. Shooting at 30p exhibits less strobing, however, this format does not convert gracefully to other formats like film (24fps) or PAL (25fps).
6: Frame Rate and Scan Mode: For the standard video look, shoot 60i. For the film look, shoot 24P Standard or 24P Advanced. Unless you understand clearly why you want to shoot 24P Advanced, Shoot 24P Standard and capture your project at 60i in Final Cut Pro (or 30i in Avid Xpress Pro). 24P standard will provide you with the film look and the ease of editing a standard video project at 29.97fps. If you chose to shoot 24P Advanced, make sure you capture the project as 23.97. 24P advanced has advantages if you want a 24fps master, which is what I personally prefer. It’s easy to derive 60i from 24P. Getting 24P from 60i involved reverse telecine and some loss of quality. For web video 24p is a good choice. For 24P DVD 24P is a good choice. True 24P (shooting Advanced w/ the camera) is a universal standard easily converted to other standards. 24P advanced uses a 2:3:3:2 candence to encode 24p onto 60i video and then the editing system reconstitutes the 24fps video from the 60i. Your editing system needs to know how to handle this. Some argue that it’s easier to simply shoot 24P standard which uses the standard video to film cadence of 2:3 and edit standard 29.97 (60i) video in your editing system. If you are OK staying in 60i, then it’s OK to shoot 24p standard. I prefer a true 24p master and I think the extra trouble in capture is worth it. Test before you leap.
Recommended DVX100 Information Resources
- DVX100 Pages on DVinfo.net
- DVXuser Forums
- Adam Wilt’s DV FAQ
- Adam Wilt’s DVX Page
- DVX100 Color Rendition by John Beale
- Cinematography Mailing List index of Video/DV notes
- “AG-DVX100 Setup Menus” by Harry W. Foulds
- The DVX-100A Owner’s Manual
- The DVX-100B Owner’s Manual
- The DVX Book by Barry Green (includes DVD with examples)
Note: some minor editorial changes were made to this post on November 16, 2008 including the addition of some updated links and fixing some minor typos.