5.21.2016

Getting snagged and befuddled by the practice of using the same camera for stills and video. Too much stuff.


I tend to glom onto a camera that I really like and use the hell out of it in spurts. I know, you are so much smarter than me; you use one camera forever and ever and know it better than you know where the zipper is on your pants. Too bad I'm not as gifted. I forget stuff, get in a hurry and overlook stuff. And with modern "do everything" cameras it's a bit harder to change gears all the time. Especially when schedules get tight and clients get pushy.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads VSL that I've lately had an infatuation with the Sony RX10iii and have been using it as both a still camera and as a (wonderfully capable) video camera. But, truth be told, I've stumbled over my two left feet more than once this week by getting in a rush and not making sure I had everything set correctly as I went back and forth from video to stills.

I'll start with the least obvious thing. This camera allows you to set a wide range of styles, profiles and effects. When I shoot video I use a setting that I found while testing all the settings. It's a Rec709 look with a nice, flat gamma. It looks good and the colors fit into the gamut represented by ProRes video. Great, right? Well it's not the profile I'd want to use to shoot Jpegs and it's a pain to batch change profiles in raw as well. I started shooting some still photographs one morning without really paying attention to all the settings. Yep. I had the 709 Picture Profile set instead of the Neutral Color setting I like. I only started paying attention when I reviewed the first few images and everything looked flat to me. Not the great colors I'd come to expect from the neutral or standard settings. Damn it.

Another thing that just messes me up is going into the movie mode and not remembering to set the AF to manual. I usually shoot in S-AF and I expect to be able to hit the shutter button, lock focus and roll on. But the Sony cameras don't work that way. They don't do S-AF in video. They switch to AF-C without telling you. Working under pressure; and with the memory of past still practice, you'll probably think (as I did) that everything is great. And it might be but you'll probably have a nice, sharp background with a fuzzy person speaking in the foreground. I need to get into the habit of switching to manual, punching in on the magnification to fine focus and then keep my hands off the lens. But thirty years of habit is tough to break.

On Thursday we were shooting in the rain with an "A" and a "B" camera. I was setting up the shots along with my wonderful assistant and I couldn't understand why the RX10ii (B) camera was three stops underexposed compared to the A camera at the same overall settings. The client was pushing the schedule and I was starting to question my sanity. I did what most of us do and started going through a mental list of possibilities. Aha! The built-in neutral density filter. That was the culprit. A three stop difference solved by the pressure makes for stress and stress isn't good for working artists.

Focusing modes, profiles, timing settings, annoying zebras versus welcome zebras. It's a lot to change back and forth. Even resetting ISOs from one situation to the other requires diligence. And how many of us have some niggling doubt about the integrity of our files when we put our cameras on tripods and forget to turn off the image stabilization. My least favorite mistake to make, although not destructive, is to come home from a shoot and realize that I didn't format the card I used since its last shoot and it now has two shoots on it. When you go to import it becomes a time consuming mess.

So. What to do? Well, I'm setting up every Sony camera in the rolling tool case with the same settings on the custom buttons. The bottom right hand corner button (#3?) is always focus magnification. There is also a function menu that includes six shortcut settings. I've got a set figured out that I want for video and a set I like for stills. What a pain in the butt to go back and forth. I have two options to consider and I'm guessing you have your suspicions about the course I will ultimately take....

You can, of course, vote.

Option one (the logical course):  Make and laminate a check list for stills and video settings including recommended function menu items for each use. Keep the check list in every camera bag and case. Refer to it whenever changing modes. The advantages here are cost and satisfying the need to also run through a checklist before important shoots anyway. I've never had a formal camera check list but I think pilots do this every time they fire up a 747 and go out for a drive, and what we're doing is at least as important....

Option two (the gear head solution): It would be much more fun to figure out which camera is getting the most "crossover" use; the most switching between video and stills, and buy a second, identical camera. One camera would have all the settings permanently set for video use while the companion camera would have still imaging setting. The cameras could be identified with stickers or perhaps different colored camera straps to cue the busy shooter into making the correct choices.  I'd still like to do the check list just for all those times when a clients agrees that you need an hour to light and set up for a shot but then the CEO comes 55 minutes early and marketing client expects that you'll automatically flood your system with adrenaline and get set to go in five minutes or less. You know, pretty much every other shoot.

The downside of this option is the extra cost and the required space in the camera case but, consider this: You'll be getting s second battery!

Seriously though, I am fine-tuning the function menu items and putting them on two checklists. I am also referencing where to find each menu item in the menu so I can do this quickly. If you know a quicker way to change between two sets (which I have not yet discovered) please chime in and let me know. We've got one more mixed mode shoot coming up on Thurs. and it would be nice not to be caught flat-footed.




8 comments:

typingtalker said...

It's the cost of the additional equipment vs. the cost of a blown assignment and lost client. Buy another camera(s).

Mike Rosiak said...

Checklists save lives, sanity, etc. (There was a good book on the subject.) Dedicated cameras simplify life. Do both.

James Pilcher said...

You always need an identical backup camera. Buy another camera. Buy three: Two for assignments and one for weekends. :-)

Checklists are hugely useful. I keep my "checklist" (preferred camera settings) for both of my cameras (Olympus Pen E-P5 and Fuji X70) in my smart phone. The lists are detailed and include the menu path to each setting. I always have my phone with me, and an electronic checklist is quick to modify and rearrange. My lists are also backed up to the cloud, so they are not particularly vulnerable to loss.

I like your old school idea of a laminated checklist in the bag. A laminated list is tactile and seemingly simple. But, these modern cameras are so damned complicated and configurable, I foresee you spending far too much time laminating and re-laminating checklists as you refine and change your preferences; there is always one more setting you want to tweak. Go with an electronic checklist.

On top of all of this, I use the Olympus "My Sets" and Fuji "Custom Settings" options to keep various setting groups available a a moment's notice inside the camera. BUT, I also keep those in my electronic checklists for the inevitable times when I or a service rep must reset the camera.

Kirk Tuck said...

typingtalker, We do have lots of overlap on cameras. I current have four cameras that have the same, basic 4K codec and capabilities. But you may be right. If I end up mostly defaulting to the RX10iii I should probably have a second... Now I guess I'll be waiting for the Sony factory to get up and running...

Ray said...

I wonder if you can set the camera up for stills and record the settings to "Memory-1" and do it again for video and record those settings to "Memory-2'?

Ray said...

Glad you're back in the saddle, BTW.

Dan Montgomery said...

I'm so glad you've written about this, Kirk. It's not just me! I use an a6000 for everything (I'm a general-purpose writer-photographer-videographer for a small social-services agency), so I often shoot run-and-gun video and photos of the same action, back and forth, back and forth. Only rarely do people stop and wait for me! It takes a lot of my limited bandwidth to juggle settings, composition, communications and everything else. Invariably, I overlook a needed change of settings, or a setting change on the stills side shows up, unwanted, on the video side, or vice versa, until I get something like what happened Saturday: Our organization was featured at a minor-league baseball game, and a client -- a man with intellectual disabilities -- was throwing the ceremonial first pitch. As I ran to my position behind home plate, I switched the mode dial to Video and set focus to Flexible Spot, so focus would be on my guy, not on the catcher's rear end. But, oh yeah, Flexible Spot works with stills, not with video. But it was too late to go to manual focus, so my fuzzy pitcher winds up and throws to a pin-sharp catcher. Ugh. As an alternative to a laminated checklist, I have some notes on stickers hidden on the back side of the rear display. Ray: I use the Memory settings, but they don't lock in EVERYTHING. So, yes, I need dedicated Still and Video bodies, and I'm crazy for not having a backup camera, anyway. I can almost afford another a6000 body, but I can't help but think I should really get an a6300 or RX10, for all the reasons you've previously discussed....

Kirk Tuck said...

Dan, thanks for sharing that. I too had focus issues based on my user error this past week. Some that were dreadful. While RX10iii's are nice, if your budget is limited I think it's a better bet to pick up an identical, cheap, a6000 for all the reasons we have both talked about here. Put a sticker on one that says, "Photos" and sticker on the other that says, "Video" and I'm betting the error rate drops by 90%. Best of luck. Thanks for the feedback!!!!!!!