Query about video quality. (3 replies and 24 comments)
I am an aspiring cinematographer from India. I am currently pursuing my chemical engineering. I shot an advertisement on the red camera with xeen 50 mm lens. This is the first project. But the quality of the video is very poor. I do not understand where exactly I went wrong. Is it because of cheap LED lights or the placement of lights? Or maybe the cheap lens which I used? Can you help me where I went wrong?
PS: few shots are a little out of focus.
It looks fine, sells the product, is fun, etc.
The only technical issue I saw was that most of the footage was slightly out of focus, some clearly out of focus, other shots were barely out of focus (or barely in focus), but I rarely saw it perfectly in focus for very long. Probably you should have used a deeper depth of field and a more experienced focus-puller.
It's also a bit low in contrast outdoors, which makes things feel softer, but that's not a mistake necessarily, softer contrast can be attractive... but it does make things less crisp. What f-stop were you shooting at? What resolution were you shooting at? What resolution did you finish at? Were you using any filters on the lens? There are a number of factors that will lower sharpness through the recording and post and presentation stages too. Your camera is always floating around too, so motion blur is adding some softness.
But other than working on better focus, I wouldn't place too much emphasis on resolution per se.
There is a little color mismatch between the insert of the freezer interior, which is more neutral, and the warmth of the light in the wider shot.
I shot this at f/2.8. The resolution which I shot at was 5120 × 2700 with the Red Gemini model. The resolution at which it was rendered is 4096x2160. I was using Tiffen Black Satin 1/4. Does selecting a cheaper lens affect the sharpness of the footage?
Thank you so much sir for guiding me. I will consider all these points in the next project.
If you wanted more sharpness, then why did you use a 1/4 Black Satin diffusion filter?
At that time I had only that option available at the rental. So I should go with 1/8?
Quality looks fine. Maybe you could have shot that outdoor scene at a better location/background.
Yes. I will consider that in the next project. Thank you for suggesting me this.
May I ask you what lens you were using. It has been reported that some Indian
rental houses had changed their alloy lens mounts to stainless steel ones made in Belarus. Although, these are precision made, there were a batch which were faulty and made their way to some rental houses who were not aware of these faults or were aware but decided to use them anyway. The faulty ones could interfere with focusing especially if the camera is constantly moving, a zoom lens will suffer more than most. I did like your ice cream commercial but out of focusing issues would not be obvious to the general audience. I did notice the focusing but I was looking for it.
The diffusion filter and the focusing are the two primary things affecting sharpness here before I'd start blaming the lens, you'd have to test the lens with no diffusion filter and focused perfectly first to judge its sharpness.
Of course if the lens is mounted improperly that would affect the back focus.
Thank you for this advice. I would test the focus of the lens without the diffusion filter to check the sharpness. I used a 200w led light in the background. Should i go with arri hmi light to create a higher contrast?
Thank you Mike for your response. I used Xeen 50mm lens for this shoot. In the next shoot, I will test them properly before taking them on rent.
Nothing wrong with Xeen lenses - unless of course they have been abused! And a budget lens from a rental house is very likely to have been through the wars! But Xeens are much better than the low price would suggest.
As for the lack of quality, I do not like Reds, but that has more to do with the skin colours. But as Dave points out, you are in and out of focus, so a smaller aperture might help.
If you are looking for budget alternatives to a Red, you could try an older model Alexa or a Panasonic Eva-1 or just a decent DSLR. In fact, if you just want to practice making films and music videos, I would get a DSLR with a decent zoom lens or even just a better bridge camera like the Panasonic DMC-FZ1000.
In this commercial the camera seems to be zooming in on the actors so I wonder if a 50mm was actually used. Xeen lenses seem to be gaining a foothold in the market so it’s not just the price that has made them popular, they’ve got to put their prices up sooner or later. Maybe a good idea to buy a set while the prices are affordable.
Thank you for the suggestion Byre. I will try using older arri model to check for the difference next time. In DSLR I suppose there will be issues while color correction.
Thank you Mike for your reply. What is the major difference between a Xeen lenses and the most expensive ARRI Signature Prime lenses? Why does it cost almost 15 times?
A quick answer to your question is build quality. Zeiss and Cooke have been around for over 100 years although Cooke was originally called Taylor Hobson Cooke, both firms have a pedigree for producing high quality lenses. The British firm Ross who also had a similar pedigree made quality optics took over the Zeiss factory in London in 1939 for obvious reasons inherited Zeiss tooling and procedures making lens manufacture more economic. Ross were then contracted to make gun sight lenses for the military and found it harder to manufacture for the film business. Zeiss and Cooke continued to supply lenses to both the military and photographic business where they excelled. After the Korean War the US and UK invested heavily in South Korea to rebuild their factories and one of those industries was lens manufacture, Bausch and Lomb were one of those companies who took advantage of South Korea’s cheap labour force to compete with Japanese production efficiency. Many of the worlds top binoculars were made in South Korea and badged Japanese! So Korea has always had an optical lens business but nobody knew it.
Samjang Industries have been around for years making optics so making camera lenses is not knew. Their original lenses were made of resin but today the barrels are made of a light alloy to keep the weight down, that is a good thing until you drop one, it will be a write off, the whole barrel will be distorted. I do not own any of the Xeen range but they certainly deliver results. They are much cheaper because of the way they are put together, I am not sure if they use glass or optical plastic, could be a combination of both. Zeiss and Cooke cost more because of the high cost of
labour and they use the best quality materials throughout, their longevity is legend.
Performance wise, they are roughly all the same although Cooke and Zeiss do give superior images overall, they are built to last a lifetime! A much better investment.
You did ask for a quick answer, did you not? I could write a book about lenses if I had the time.
That was a superb explanation. Thank you so much for this answer.
Thanks, Mike for that brilliant run-down of lenses and their background!
I have a set of five Xeen primes (14, 24, 35, 50 & 85) and I have tested a couple of them against Cookes, Zeis, Cannon and Arri Signature Primes when I went to a friend in London who has those beasts. The Arris were the best - no two ways about it. We tested using a 35mm 6K Black Magic (EF mount with the Arris on an adapter). We also tried an Eva-1 and a Red something or other. I liked the Eva so I bought one.
This was a while back in early 2020 so I'm a bit hazy on the details. Only the Arris didn't breathe, the Bokehs were perfect and non of the lenses showed any distortions at the edges.
Of the rest, I hated the Cooke lenses because of the star flares that seem to be deliberate and sometimes annoying. I didn't like the bokeh on any of the lenses except the Arris, Xeens and Canons. Arri bokehs were the nicest and had less of an edge to them. Zeis and Cooke bokehs were just not circular - though I can't remember what shape they were!
The Canons performed very slightly better than the Xeens when opened up under a 2. Above that, they were very similar. For that, I preferred the more regular bokehs on the Xeens as they have an 11-blade aperture opening.
Only the Arri lenses didn't breathe. The wider 14 Xeen also didn't breathe and the 24 has some slight breathing. Above that they breathe. I can't remember what the others did.
Our studio is in a remote place and rental is just not an option for us, so we have to buy whatever we use, hence all the testing and the tendency towards watching the budget!
The Xeens were the cheapest and apart from the Arris, I preferred them to the rest. Funny-shaped bokehs or bokehs that are not round and stars when I don't want them were grounds for disqualification! One can always add that sort of gimmick in post if required.
If money were no object - Arri Signature Primes. They are far better than anything else I have seen or tried (which TBH is not that many!) Other than that, it was either Canons or Xeens. As the Canon lenses are at least double the cost, it was Xeen. Canon and Xeen were also the cheapest of the bunch.
In DSLR I suppose there will be issues while color correction.
For film work, yes if they do not put out a log image. Some do and some do not! Most just do a REC-709 or something like it, so OK'ish for TV work.
Thankyou for your detailed report when testing those lenses, most interesting.
I suppose it’s really down to your budget and long term investment strategy but even the cheapest lenses are useable for film making, its really about how you use a lens and adapting to its shortfalls. It’s too early to tell what Xeens will be worth second hand but I do know that quality lenses will always hold their price and will produce a good return when it’s time to let them go. Knowing that you will get your money back is always good to know.
Just look at the old 1930’s Kowa and Baltars still costing the earth but people are still scrambling to get hold of one.
I once asked legendary sound engineer Bruce Swedien a load of questions for a sound recording magazine and he gave me the skinny on how to record drums and a whole pile of other things besides and he also said "Good microphones are the sound engineer's secret weapon!"
I think we can transpose that to "Good lenses are the DoP's secret weapon!"
OK, he/she has other weapons, lights being the number one, a decent camera being number two.
But what you say Mike is really true about values. Our audio kit is dominated by a large 60-frame mixing desk that is worth about a quarter of what we paid for it, the better digital stuff is worth perhaps one-tenth - but the microphone collection (all bought new 20 years ago) is (nominally at least) worth more than it cost.
I remember working at Studio Hamburg (Germany) about 25 years ago and they had the most brilliant collection of grips and stands that all dated from the 60s. The last time I asked, they still were using them!
" I could write a book about lenses if I had the time." Time to make time! I'll buy a copy!
I am still trying to finish a book about UK film studio’s but can’t seem to finish it.
Time waits for no man! ♂️
Please tell us when your book is complete. Can wait to read it.
I certainly will. Spent 5 years researching and have enough information to finish it now but new studios are being built at a rapid pace and it’s hard to keep up. It’s a history of studios from 1900 to the present day so am waiting for everybody to stop building so I can get it published.
It will be so interesting. Does that book contain details of all the studios? From their architecture to the facilities. These days virtual production is at a firing pace. Please add some information about those studios which also have virtual production.
It’s a historical look at all UK studios from the beginning of the century to the present.
I plan to write another one about US and European ones but not yet scribed.
Covid has held me back somewhat as I photograph each studio which means travelling to many locations even though some studios have been pulled down to make way for housing.
Wow. I am more excited now. I really hope you finish the book soon. Can't wait to read it.