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Classical location videography: faster lenses vs. additional lighting?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Head
 
Wavefront's Avatar
 
Classical location videography: faster lenses vs. additional lighting?

Like many of us I'm sure, videography is increasingly part of my expected service portfolio for on-location recording work. I have been mostly satisfied using good-quality still photography lenses, all of which are f/2.8, in conjunction with Blackmagic cameras. However, in some situations where the space is very dimly lit, I find myself wanting to avoid too much exposure manipulation (and noise) in post and would prefer to capture a brighter image from the outset.

With this in mind, I am trying to weigh the pros and cons of:

1. Purchasing some faster primes (f/1.2 or f/1.4) with low-light situations in mind.

vs.

2. Purchasing some (fanless!) reasonably powerful LED lights, e.g. Godox UL150.


Specifically, I am concerned that, although an extra stop or two from a faster prime will help considerably in dim spaces, the depth of field is really starting to get shallow and will be problematic to cover larger ensembles. In my experience, f/2.8 is already in sort of a sweet spot as it is, between an aesthetically pleasing depth of field look, while still capturing at least the majority of ensemble members in good focus, even with larger choruses etc. This would be in the context of on-location recordings/shoots (not concerts) where there may be some leeway to bring additional lighting equipment, provided musicians are OK with it etc.

I realize this may be more of a "both" and not an "either/or" situation, but nevertheless, any informed opinions would be welcome!

Last edited by Wavefront; 2 weeks ago at 11:13 PM.. Reason: omission
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
As much as it seems like the potential to go either way is equal...

I would never, ever feel like I could waltz in (or two-step or samba or tap) with some extra lights I want to fit into the venue's presentation scheme? Unless it was something like a spontaneous rave in an abandoned warehouse?

Whoever's putting on the show has thought extensively about how and what and where and why they light it as they do... it's not my job, even though I might mutter something indecipherable under my breath, to override that.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
Gear Head
 
Wavefront's Avatar
 
Oops, sorry -- big omission on my part:

I meant this in the context of location recording sessions (not concerts) in venues like churches/chapels which are often rather dim and cavernous. I'll update the original post now to avoid confusion.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
In my experience, the f1.4 glass isn't all that sharp at f1.4 and you lose depth of field relative to f2.8 lenses. Let's say you have 8-10 musicians you want to keep in focus in different focal planes. That might not be so easy at f1.4, and if someone moves very much, they may step right out of focus.

Although lighting seems to be the cure for this, if the group gets to be very large or spread out, that means having several lights and light stands and power sources. This gets to be especially challenging in most church environments where they don't have much lighting.

I suggest that you either get your hands on a light meter or at least download one of the light meter apps for your phone. Go to some place where you'd typically record and measure the lighting to determine what lens/iso/shutter speed you'd need for correct exposure and/or lighting.

My prediction of the outcome of this is you'll find that you need more lighting than you anticipate.

If video is important to the groups you are recording, try to steer them to venues that have adequate house lighting.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 
It also depends on your camera(s); the big issue with low light and many video/cinema cameras is noise, although some of the "dual-native ISO" cameras such as the Blackmagic Pocket 4K and Pocket 6K can handle low light pretty well. The Ursas do not, except for the new Ursa Broadcast G2 which uses the same sensor as the Pocket 6K. The original Pocket and Micro Cinema Camera are terrible in low light, even though their native ISO is 800. I saw a film recently shot on the original Pocket using f0.95 Voigtlander lenses and the low-light scenes looked no better than if they'd been shot on a smartphone.

If it were me I'd invest in lights rather than faster lenses. Adequate lighting will take your video to the next level, getting you better skin tones and colors, although providing adequate lighting gets more and more challenging and expensive as the size of your group increases.

You'll get more power and save money by buying dedicated daylight or tungsten lights rather than bicolor; bicolor lights allow you to match other lights without the need for gels but they have lower output and are more expensive.

If you have the budget, it's worth pricing out the cost of hiring a lighting designer and having them take care of everything; lighting takes a long time to learn and lots of experience to do right.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Sounds to me like you are working in conditions where ISO will be the determining factor, so I would be looking at large sensor cameras that can give you low noise results at higher ISOs. I agree with the above comments regarding faster glass, and don’t think this will be your best solution. Likewise, hauling heavy lighting systems is a huge PITA, and generally not a realistic solution for larger ensembles.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
I'm a bit puzzled by the question, actually.

I've recorded in countless different churches and cathedrals, here and abroad, and I never encountered one so dark that modern equipment wouldn't be able to produce an acceptably quiet image without additional lighting.

Get the best large-ish sensor cam you can afford, with a decent fast lens; unless you have many years experience with lighting, doing your own is very likely to lend your vid an amateurish appearance (and likely many complaints from musicians for 'having light in their eyes') - much more than a slightly noisy image would.

Doing lighting even half-way well would take up an enormous amount of time, effort and equip. I speak from 20 years experience as a cinematographer/videographer.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
Lives for gear
I'm asking myself. . .what specifically are my objectives? For example, where is this going to fall between me more-or-less just documenting the activities vs. creating some cinematic 'thing' of it?

An oversimplified response would be. . .

Documenting
  • Minimal concern with additional lighting.
  • Maybe considering recording ProRes RAW, or similar if available.

Cinematic 'thing'
  • Strong concern with additional lighting, light modifiers [neg, flags, butterflies and reflectors, etc.], having a solid plan, and preparing the set/environment.
  • Likely considering recording ProRes RAW, or similar if available.

Both Documenting and Cinematic 'thing'
  • Minimal concern with fast lenses; but I would expect top quality lenses that are't otherwise going to be an issue.
  • More concern with sensitivity and quality of the sensor. Sony still leads the mirrorless sector, I expect; but I would personally use my Nikon Z6 or upgrade to a Nikon Z9.
  • Most concern would be on capturing compelling content.


Hope this helps,

Ray H.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Extra lights would be prohibited in most of our concerts, so have to work with the low light. But one can underexpose quite a lot before it becomes intolerable, even on M43.

This is a GH5S with an Olympus Pro 40-150 f2.8 at the back of the hall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etq2E0D56vA
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
No substitute for good light. Even if your lens is fast as can be, if the light isn’t in the right place it’ s gonna look like crap. Take Barry Lyndon; the fast lenses work because the lights, however dim, are well placed.

If you have the time to add extra lighting, your recordings will benefit, but it is unfortunate that “recording” is quickly become a catchall, with recording engineers becoming videographers and vice versa out of necessity for acquiring live work, and to an extent studio work too, as video supplants album recording as the preferred promotional medium. Not so much yet for classical or other art musics but, I don’t know that it’s far off, especially with Covid gutting the live performance scene once or twice a year.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Get a spark in with some decent Sky Panels...
Good light makes everything sound better
Conversely bad sound makes everything soft imho
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
I once did a concert recording with a light level of 1 Lux for a part of the concert. The conductor was upset that there was so much noise in the videos. She invited me over to her house and proceeded to show me some videos of her children playing outside on a very sunny day. She turns to me and says "I am an amateur and I can get videos like this you are a professional and all you got was a lot of noise". I did not know what to say so I said well if your concert was done in your back yard I am sure I could do a decent job but since we did the concert in a totally blacked out concert hall with only the exit lights for illumination I guess I had some problems. I stopped doing her concerts about a month later...NOT FUN!
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt ➡️
Extra lights would be prohibited in most of our concerts, so have to work with the low light. But one can underexpose quite a lot before it becomes intolerable, even on M43.

This is a GH5S with an Olympus Pro 40-150 f2.8 at the back of the hall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etq2E0D56vA
The GH5S has very good lowlight capabilities due to its relatively large pixels and dual native ISO.

I am curious about the sound. You choose 4 LDC's relatively close. Did you add reverb?
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I run two GH5s with a lumix 12-35 2.8 & 35-100 2.8. The only light problem I have encountered over the past 5 years is dealing with freakin hot spots caused by bright sunlight from tall windows: particularly stained glass in some churches.
Hugh
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse ➡️
[. . .] dealing with freakin hot spots caused by bright sunlight from tall windows: particularly stained glass in some churches. [. . .]
While that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do - but roll around heaven all day!
- music by Beasley Smith and words by Haven Gillespie
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #16
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucas_G ➡️
I am curious about the sound. You choose 4 LDC's relatively close. Did you add reverb?
I wasn't responsible for the audio, mics or positioning on the night, just video. It was miked for PA. They used three Rode NTR on alto, tenor and bass, and Katie (soprano) got a Neumann with a blueish body (perhaps TLM67).

But I did have to "master" the audio for the video. It was very close and dry, so yes, I had to add a lot of Lexicon Native Random hall.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #17
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt ➡️
Extra lights would be prohibited in most of our concerts, so have to work with the low light. But one can underexpose quite a lot before it becomes intolerable, even on M43. This is a GH5S with an Olympus Pro 40-150 f2.8 at the back of the hall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etq2E0D56vA
That looks very good David - I always think filming, even taking stills, in a theatre is one of the most challenging situations possible.

Were you able to meet with the lighting designer at the venue beforehand or did you have to wing it and pray they gave you enough light to work with?
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann ➡️
Were you able to meet with the lighting designer at the venue beforehand or did you have to wing it and pray they gave you enough light to work with?
No I was just told that it would be "low light", but was nervous about it. The GH5S is pretty capable with a fast lens.
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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Yannick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Some observations. With our bmpcc4k at 3200 iso (the second native iso, quite noise free), a lens at f2.8 or T2.9 already gives more light than the naked eye. Ie the image looks overexposed. If you want really dark scenes, that look like very exposed, you will need additional lighting ...

We have lenses f1.8, f1.4, and even f1.1, but wide open is of no use for even smaller ensembles. Sometimes the conductor gets f2.8 or even f2.0, but movement can get the entire conductor out of focus.

I would go for additional lighting, you will get more subject/background separation, even at higher f stops.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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Sharp11's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Fast lenses bring razor thin depth of field - I shot this at 1.8, only a thin slice near her eyes is in focus.
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Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 ➡️
Fast lenses bring razor thin depth of field - I shot this at 1.8, only a thin slice near her eyes is in focus.
Very pretty cat!

For a useful set of calculators for DoF on various cameras based on F numbers and other useful calculators I can recommend the Photo Pills app.

https://www.photopills.com/

Also useful to determine if the sun is going to be streaming in through the windows at filming time assuming clear skys
Old 1 week ago
  #22
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Would also suggest to the OP that the OP needs to evaluate the auto focus performance of any lens upgrade under consideration with the specific camera body that the OP intends to use. Some lenses work better with particular cameras than others, and then some lenses that are good for photography are not so great for video because the focus motors are noisy. Good lenses are expensive enough that one has to look into these things to be sure that the whole system plays well together. This includes looking at the ISO performance of the camera sensor because some of them don't do well in low light when we are already limited by lens aperture and depth of field issues, practically speaking.

There comes a point with some camera and lens combinations where the practical choice is to add more light some way somehow or start down an expensive rabbit hole such as going from m4/3 to full frame which poses another set of issues including cost/benefit.

I tend to think a lot of money gets blown on cameras and lenses trying to overcome poor lighting decisions made by venues who don't have a clue how things should be lit in the first place.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #23
Gear Head
 
Wavefront's Avatar
 
Thank you for this helpful reply, Yannick. Your recommendation is indeed the direction I am leaning, the more I consider this question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick ➡️
Some observations. With our bmpcc4k at 3200 iso (the second native iso, quite noise free), a lens at f2.8 or T2.9 already gives more light than the naked eye. Ie the image looks overexposed. If you want really dark scenes, that look like very exposed, you will need additional lighting ...

We have lenses f1.8, f1.4, and even f1.1, but wide open is of no use for even smaller ensembles. Sometimes the conductor gets f2.8 or even f2.0, but movement can get the entire conductor out of focus.

I would go for additional lighting, you will get more subject/background separation, even at higher f stops.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #24
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Yannick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Indeed. Going from m43 to FF makes no sense for concert recording, as the extra light you get, gets offset by the reduced depth of field, so you need to close the aperture.

IMO autofocus for concert recording is not needed. All static cams are fixed focus, so manual is actually preferred. Manned camera’s are better off with manual follow focus as well.

Last edited by Yannick; 1 week ago at 05:49 PM.. Reason: This was reply to post #22 …
Old 1 week ago
  #25
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Fast lenses require focus pulling that is accurate
This is the job of a focus puller with his remote focus device.
Its a considerable skill.
TV is full of very soft shots with a narrow plane of in focus, hunting the subject.
It cannot be done on the cheap imho.
Better to light the subject and print the scene down for effect
Speilberg.
Old 1 week ago
  #26
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
The current generation of mirrorless cameras with their newest auto focus systems can easily track the subject and keep the focus point on wherever you want it in almost total darkness, musicians and singers can move about as much as they desire. Focus puller is no longer a viable job title, I am afraid to say.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #27
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dseetoo ➡️
The current generation of mirrorless cameras with their newest auto focus systems can easily track the subject and keep the focus point on wherever you want it in almost total darkness, musicians and singers can move about as much as they desire. Focus puller is no longer a viable job title, I am afraid to say.
Idk, I feel like all I ever hear from videographers who do live music event recording with long lenses is horror stories of how their AF screwed up. I personally never use AF whether manning a camera or leaving it static. Easy enough to do it by hand on a manned camera, and static shots shouldn’t need refocusing if well-set.

Last edited by king2070lplaya; 1 week ago at 07:55 PM..
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #28
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Yannick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Focus pulling on fast lenses is quite easy, unless they are really wide (but then you are not focus pulling when shooting concerts…).

Focus hunting even with the most modern camera’s is so off-putting.
Most of our clients would not tolerate such a shot, however brief the moment.

Why would you rely on auto focus, when all you have to do is make really small adjustments, which can even be rehearsed or marked ?
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #29
Gear Maniac
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya ➡️
Idk, I feel like all I ever hear from videographers who do live music event recording with long lenses is horrow stories of how their AF screwed up. I personally never use AF whether manning a camera or leaving it static. Easy enough to do it by hand on a manned camera, and static shots shouldn’t need refocusing if well-set.
While autofocus does get used in ENG and run and gun I can count on the fingers of one thumb the number of autofocus PL cinema lenses or B4 broadcast lenses.

Focus pulling is very much alive as a job however as with many things it is retreating up the scale in terms on what jobs and with what equipment you would have a separate focus puller with.
Old 1 week ago
  #30
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
It is true that if you shoot live concert even from a distance with a relatively long lens you don’t need to pull focus constantly because the relative distance movement by the musicians are small enough to be ignored, unless you use a super long lens, like 400-600mm range and fill the shot with only the face or the hand. I have seen some dancing video shot with latest crop of cameras using auto focus and it looks great. The focus point simply sticks, no hunting. I think it was done with Canon R5 cameras if I remembered it correctly.

Superfast lens F1.4, or faster don’t really work well in the live concert shoot with the exception of solo instrument, or a single performer. The price you pay for a superfast lens not just with your wallet but whole host of optical performance compromises. The analogy in audio is equivalent of using a parabolic microphone for music recording. For some special effect, maybe. But otherwise, no.
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