As a follow-up to my previous writings on the HVR-A1U, here’s a series of video frames from “Boston Haunted” (a 48 Hour Film Project film I worked on this past weekend). The frames taken from the video demonstrate the good and bad of the low-light performance of the Sony HVR-A1U HDV camcorder we used to shoot the piece in Standard Definition DV/squeezed mode.
In general the image exhibits much more noise in the low-light situations we were working under than the HVR-Z1U would have. On the other hand, the tiny camera is much smaller, mobile, and relatively inexpensive. If you don’t mind a little video noise, the CMOS chip of the A1U does an adequate job.
Settings: Cinematone Type 1, CineFrame 30, Black Stretch On, DV (Standard Definition) recording, Squeeze mode, Manual exposure, Color Temperature: 3200K Preset.
Post Processing: No color or density correction was done to these images, the only post manipulation was to stretch the image in the horizontal dimension in order to restore the 16:9 aspect ratio (no scaling was done in the vertical dimension).
Calculating Exposure: Zebras were set to 100 in order to indicate absolute white hlghlights, a Sony PVM-8042Q video monitor (calibrated to the color bars from the camera) was used to determine overall scene exposure and shadow detail. The histogram was also used as an aid in detemining the proper exposure, not as nice as using the spot meter in the Panasonic DVX100 and HVX200 cameras, but having the histogram is much better than Zebras alone.
Lighting: Since were were working on a tight schedule with a microscopic budget, we used existing location lighting as a starting point, then added light as needed using a small light kit. The kit consisted of an Arri 1K Open Face, an Arri 650W Fresnel, and two Arri 300W Fresnels. In the bar scenes, the supplimental lighting was used for back/side lighting, sometimes clean, other times with 1/2 blue or theatrical blue gel. The bathroom scene was lit with a single Arri 300W Fresnel with Opal Frost. The living room was lit with a 300W Fresnel overhead and the Arri 1K Open to the side bouncing off two pieces of foam core. Less is more. Don’t be afraid of the dark, as long as you’ve got some nice highlights at the top of the range, it’s ok to have large portions of the frame dark, especially in a haunted bar.