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Automatic settings- which to use, and when?

Home Forums Technique Miscellaneous Techniques Automatic settings- which to use, and when?

This topic contains 1 reply, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  JackWolcott 6 months ago.

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  • #37875


    Hi guys- we just received our new Canon XF100 here at work, and I took it home last night to pour through the manual, study what everything does, and try and get the camera set up the way I <i>think</i> I want it… but of course none of this decision-making is based on experience! I’m planning on getting the camera out to our department picnic in a couple of weeks, so I can play with it and really learn to use it under no pressure in a practical environment with bright outdoor light, and lots of different shot types.

    So, obviously learning how to do manual controls is of the essence for any serious videographer. I come from the still photo world, so I know how important this is. I would imagine even more so with video, because you can really tell when certain automatic camera functions are turned on when you watch a video. When shooting a live event like this, is it common to leave some of the automatic functions on, and others off? Are there any automatic settings that I should learn to master first?

    I understand the use of zebra stripes and peaking, waveform monitors are a mystery to me, and I haven’t really figured out the edge monitor.

    Also, (and I’ve googled this for hours…) is there a good place to see an example of what a 30p or 60p overcranked shot looks like with different shutter angles? I’m going to shoot the picnic in 60p, but I want to see the differences that shutter speed makes with frame blur. I know that a 180 degree shutter angle creates little or no blur which is good for really crisp slow motion, but makes for a bit of a jittery looking video when played back at real-time speed. Is this the case?


  • #167755


    Your question reminds me of the story of the 5 year old in Chicago who asks his Mom “Where did I come from.” She’s caught off guard, but proceeds to go into all the details, complete with diagrams. When she’s through she asks her son why he wanted to know. “Well,” he replied, “I just wanted to know because Tommy said he’s from Burbank and I didn’t know if that was near where I came from.”

    I wouldn’t over-analyze the camera at first. Put it in full auto, shoot some footage and see what looks good and what you’d like to change. Chances are with that camera the results will look pretty good. You may discover that you need to find the Neutral Density filters and how the iris control works, but I suspect the camera will do a pretty good job in auto mode.

    You’ll probably need to adjust audio levels, too. I’d certainly turn off auto gain and go to manual. (Be sure to wear a headset.)

    You don’t describe the environment of “here at work.” In many settings, full auto mode is all that’s ever necessary. In others, especially where there are continually changing lighting conditions, being able to flip to full manual mode is essential. To give you an example, I just finished a five month shoot in which most of the video was shot under artificial light in close quarters. I ran the camera, a Sony PD150, on full auto during almost all of the indoor shooting — no problems with exposure, no problems with focus. There was simply no need to go manual. However, as soon as we began shooting outside I went manual so I could control my iris and ND filters and focus.

    I agree that “learning how to do manual controls is of the essence for any serious videographer,” but I guess my working philosophy is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s doing fine in auto mode, stay with it. As far as the 30p 60p overcrank is concerned and the edge monitor, I can’t be of help; zebra stripes and waveform monitor I use all the time; these tools are especially useful in combination with a good external monitor.



  • #167756


    That’s a great analogy- I do have a habit of asking really pendantic questions, and jumping in with both feet. It’s kind of a fault!

    I will get around with automatic settings then. They do seem to work pretty well. I guess I just grew up learning how to operate a manual still camera, and I guess the world of video cameras was pretty daunting, with even more settings. Thanks for the advice- I’ll try not to worry so much!

  • #167757


    The one thing I would do manually is white balance. If you leave it to auto you may see some color shift in the middle of a shot.

  • #167758


    Right on, Cville! I guess I’m so accustomed to checking white balance I didn’t even think to include it in my comment. You’re dead right: forget WB and you’re apt to turn a brown horse red.



  • #167759


    Think of auto as another manual setting. Sometimes it is the most appropriate one to use, for example when conditions are changing rapidly in an unpredictable way. A parade would be an example. Don’t use as a substitute for thinking.

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