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.
Why did you chose to shoot in DV mode? why not HDV 1080i Mode?
I own a HVR-A1u . I don’t have any professional experience. I am having real trouble judging the exposure on the LCD using histogram. I use auto exposure. I always get the skin little dark.
I know about exposure from still photography. What is the best way to verify
exposure while shooting and also what settings are best for this camera.
Also I preview back my shots on 24″ DELL HD capable LCD monitor. Is there any way to calibrate the viewing on computer monitors.My monitor is calibrated using colorsync spider for my [hotography purposes. Does that profile can be used in Adobe premier (pro-1.5)
I wanted to shoot HDV, but the director was not sure they had enough horsepower for HDV, and also, since it was for the 48 Hour Film Project and they want DV submission, shooting DV kept things simpler, however, the 16:9 CCDs make for very nice anamorphic DV shooting.
Unless the LCD monitor has SMPTE-C phosphor simulation (like the pro ones) you can’t really judge video on LCD displays designed for computer use.
Once you get use to using the combination of ZEBRAS for high water mark and HISTOGRAM for distribution… you’ll find you can expose very quickly.
Auto Exposure on the A1U sucks. I always use it in manual mode.
Hi David, I’m not sure if you get this or not. I, too have an HVR A1U. recently, I tried to downconvert the HDV tape to DV directly into FCP capture (Final cut, if you don’t use it), and I was NOT impressed with the quaility of the DV going into FCP. I use a CitiDisk to downconvert to .mov files (Quicktime) and just reload the footage. Better, but not great. I think that my camera settings had something to do with this…broad daylight used CINETONE. Anyway, I heard that the “fake” cineframe 30 was lousy. Did this setting give you the effect you want?
I was able to get perfectly good looking DV video out of the A1U via FireWire, letting the camera do the down-conversion. I’m sure that there are better ways to do the downconversion, but I thought it was not too bad. Simply captuting as DV via FireWire and Final Cut Pro should do the trick. I have no experience with CitiDisk. I usually shoot HDV, capture HDV, archive the HDV, and if I need SD, I do the downconversion right in Final Cut (edit using a DV timeline). That way I can easly make an HD and SD version of what I’m cutting.
I’ve not tried calibrating computer monitors for video viewing, except to simply calibrate them for good computer viewing. Video Monitors and Computer Monitors are two different beasts and the challenge when you produce one video for both is to color correct in such a way that it looks best on video and good on a computer monitor.
You will find lots of interesting discussion on this topic on several threads of the DVinfo.net community.
I recently bought a Sony A1U and a wide angle adaptor. When I use the adaptor, the the picture is fine as long as I stay wide but if I zoom in anywhere from 25%-100% I get a heavy ghost/glow coming off my highlights. The lens is perfectly clean.
Have you come across anything like this?
Anne, the lens you have is only made to shoot on wide. You are getting that ghoustly glow because it is going out of focus, slightly.
I had that problem and learned the hard way. hope this helps.
Balagopal: Don’t worry about the histogram! When shooting, expose for the subject and don’t worry about anything else. The Spot Meter feature is great for this. NEVER use any Auto settings! Always set your exposure and focus manually. Don’t forget, you can set the shutter speed too.
Anne : Don’t ‘economise’ on wide-angle lenses. Get the Sony VCL-HG0737 for your camera and don’t forget to adjust the Conversion Lens setting in the camera accordingly (although that is apparently for the SteadyShot).
I hope that helps!
what the best setting in low light for the a1u or the best setting for the camera
Eman, as far as settings go in low light, the camera automatically increases gain as you increase exposure. One way to get better low light performance is adjusting the shutter speed. If you don’t mind a little extra motion blur, opening up the shutter a little bit gets more light to the CMOS sensor. No matter how you slice it, the A1 and V1 are not as good as the Z1 in low light. CCD sensors still have the sensitivity advantage over CMOS.
I shoot video for a newspaper, and we have two of these cameras in our pool of equipment. Several different people have had the same problem, and I can’t find any information about it – maybe you know what’s going on.
When the focus mode is set to zoom, occasionally the camera will zoom in or out on its own. Just wondering if we’re accidentally hitting something while in the zoom mode, or if this is a quirk of the camera. Usually if we reset the camera to manual and then back to zoom, the problem goes away. Any ideas?
This may be a quirk of the camera, i notice that as my camera gets older the zoom control on the body has become very funky and erratic in performance, thus, this may be due to a funky contact in this switch. Oh, my, manual is often the solution to so many problems :-) It’s hard to tell without playing with the camera.
Great info Everyone, Thanks for all the tips.
I just bought a used A1U — the Status check says it has
20x10H of operation
8x10H of Drum Run
7x10H of Tape Run
18X10 of Threading
Can anyone tell me what this means concretely — very used, little used, or moderate used?
20x10H of operation = the camera has been turned on and doing something or another for a total 200 hours.
8x10H of Drum Run = the camera has had the video drum engaged in pause, play, or record for 80 hours (tape engaged, ready to record, or recording, or playback), this is the key figure, it means the camera has been used for the equivalent of 80 1-hour tapes.
18X10 of Threading = This one I’m not sure about, is it the number of times it’s threaded a tape? It’s not an hour figure.
This is what I could call medium to moderate use for a consumer camera.