Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Love Dance of the Parodyciums

Our latest video on Youtube - Love Dance of the Parodyciums - is presented there as a wildlife mockumentary. It is really another test of the CVSEJ-A4402 low-budget hybrid camera. A common teaching need is the stop-motion exercise where students animate objects like modelling clay puppets by taking a series of still digital photos. We wanted to do that kind of test. On Dec 23 2009 I was at the beach and I saw 2 photogenic scraps of seaweed both about 2.5 cm long. No tripod available so I made a steady mount for the A4402 with a piece of wood I found placed on a ramp of sand that I made to get it to the right angle to point down at the hand-sized interesting collection of seaweed that made up my set. I then began the classic process of move the seaweed actors a few mm then take a photo repeated many times. My quick test turned into 405 photos taken over nearly 2 hours and I admit that I got sunburned which I am always careful to avoid and has not happened to me for many years. NZ is in the southern hemisphere so Dec is summer.

Distance from camera to work was about 20cm. Focus switched to "macro".
Colour balance manually set to Sunlight. Still image resolution set to the default native 5 Megapixels.

How does the A4402 perform in this situation? I do not get a clear answer from this movie because (con) I can see focus "hunting" variations but (pro) I also feel that this setup is a difficult one for a simple autofocus system to handle. It was only later that I realised that my "dressing the set" with interesting background seaweed was a bad idea because it gave a wide zone of objects to focus on in a closeup situation where the depth of field (zone) is small. The "star" seaweeds - er "Parodyciums" were on the near edge of this zone and they were mostly slightly out of focus. I hit them with the video editor "unsharp mask" filter to make them seem to look clearer. I also added contrast-lowering overlays to give the background areas less contrast and move viewer attention more on to the Parodyciums.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Re-ink re-visit good results

Good results this week with re-inking of the colour cartridges of my Canon iP5200 printer. I have been using this printer for black-and-white work and I let the colour run out months ago. I expected that the old ink would have blocked the heads forever so it was a pleasant surprise to get colour printing working again. After the refill I needed to run cleaning 5 times before getting a reasonable test result. It has since got better with repeated use until now it is doing a useful job of printing photos. The "JET TEC" kit I bought had good instructions and a syringe. I have since discovered bulk ink suppliers online and I am trying some of that ink. This printer has 3rd party imitation cartridges and I discovered they had refilling holes with plastic plugs so refilling was remarkably easy. Important to cover the exit hole with tape and work on newspaper and wear latex gloves because these CLI-8 cartridges do leak a little on removing the exit hole tape after filling and replacing the plug.

I have also tried refilling another printer, Brother DC-110 with LC47 cartridges. That worked and is my easiest refill so far because the cartridge has a valve that closes on removal so preventing leaks.

I am also successful with 1 trial with an HP 56 black cartridge.

My earlier unsuccessful adventures many years ago were very messy with most of the ink going everywhere except inside the cartridge. This was with a Canon BC-02 cartridge which was a lot more difficult than this week's experiments.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Green screen chroma key - the Askar details

Received this question in the Youtube comments for "Test Scenes for Askar"

i read that it wasn't possible to chroma key with HDV format. how you do this?

Difficult to give a long answer in the Youtube comments area - so here is the place.
The forums I was reading said it was possible but I borrowed cameras and did experiments because I do not take what I read as the final word. For this scene I borrowed a "real" greenscreen sheet that a local studio imports from China and sells for $100. Careful lighting of scene and sheet with film lights each side angling in so shadows do not hit the screen.

It helps to get the camera as far away from the green screen as possible then zoom in - you can then get the actors away from the screen. We did this in an ordinary classroom. Shot on Canon HV20. Editing was so easy - used the now unfortunately discontinued Ulead Mediastudio Pro 8 software. I selected the "bluescreen" preset then clicked on the green area with an eyedropper tool and hit 100% with the slider control. No masks, no separate tuning of various colour channels, really just one click on the default setting for dummies and instant gratification. I understand that most Video Editing software has this "bluescreen" setting but the screen does not need to be blue - green(this case) and red work just as well and there is an eyedropper control cursor to click on your screen colour to get the process started.

I think that to get "composite" shots to work, we need to get it together with hi-definition and pro greenscreen material and careful lighting.

We ran out of time for the main shoot and I needed to visit the "mystic" actor at her home and we did her closeups there. Same camera and greenscreen cloth but I could not borrow the film lights so I used halogen work lights as sold at $30 each by hardware stores - these go well as low-budget film lighting.