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total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!

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julienne rathore
total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jun 27, 2009 at 11:12:51 am

Hi, have just decided to go to watch and film the total solar eclipse 22nd July, 2009 in India. We have a PMW EX3 and are pretty familiar with her, but we have never tried filming a solar eclipse before. As we only have one shot at it and REALLY don't want to mess it up, please could you suggest settings (ND filter, apperture..) MUCH APPRECIATED!

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David Jones
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jun 27, 2009 at 5:42:30 pm

Hi Julienne-

You need to put a piece of x-ray film (like what doctors use) or mylar in front of the lens. I've shot a solar eclipse with x-ray film and it works great.

DO NOT point the camera at the sun for very long (without the film covering the lens); as was put to me once, you can melt the imaging block!

I also recommend a good tripod, one you can lock down. Of course, the sun will move, and move fast, across you're screen. So, you'll also have to re-frame your shot often.

Dave J

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julienne rathore
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jun 28, 2009 at 5:35:06 am

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the quick reply.
When using x-ray film can i forget about ND filters?
The whole thing lasts for 2 hours (2nd to 3rd contact lasts 3 mins) - could we stay zoomed in for the whole 2 hours using the x-ray film and not damage the camera?

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Denis O'Keefe
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jun 28, 2009 at 5:38:13 pm

You should experiment with some heavy ND filters before you travel - set the camera to -3db and try to use enough ND to get to somewhere around f11 on the EX camera lens- that way as the sky darkens during the eclipse you can ride the iris open as and if needed.
Xray film probably will do the job but I'd be concerned about scratches, clarity, etc. An ND filter should be optically superior.
I would also suggest a big solid tripod, probably with a couple sandbags to keep everything from moving - you shouldn't reframe or move anything during the shot, if you need another angle or focal length you probably need another camera.
Running at 720p 24 or 30 cranked at 60fps will give you a slight slow motion which I think would be a good thing.
There are reasonably priced adapters to put Nikon lenses directly on the EX3, resulting in some long telephoto shots from relatively small lenses - say a 180 or 300mm which will effectively be 700 to 1500mm on the EX camera. That may well give you a spectacular shot (remember to load up on ND though).
I'd use the heavy ND in front of the lens, and not depend on the internal nd - if it is plastic with enough magnification I suppose there is a possibility you could melt through it.
Other, brighter minds will have more suggestions - it just occurred to me this might be a good use of a hot mirror to reflect some of the infrared away from the lens and camera.
good luck with the shoot!

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David Jones
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jun 29, 2009 at 4:45:29 am

Hi Julienne-

I'm not an expert on what ND can and cannot do. But, personally, I would not use ND gel for this. ND is meant to cut down on background brightness. You're pointing the camera at the SUN! Think of it like this: would you stare at the sun through ND with your eye, even if it had UV protection? X-Ray film (and mylar) is almost opaque.

As far as locking down the shot, whatever lens you use, if you're filling (or almost filling) the frame with the sun, you WILL have to reframe the shot every few minutes. So, make sure the shot is framed up during the most important part of the eclipse. The sun (really, the moves. The more telephoto you are, the faster it will appear. If you want to see what I mean, try it with the moon. Fill the frame with the moon as you would the sun. Watch how fast it appears to move. You'll get a sense of how it will go with the eclipse. I believe it will move from the lower left of your frame to the upper right.

Dave J

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David Gallessich
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:11:28 am

Julienne -

I hope you can do some more research first.
The sun can really damage the camera if you're not careful.

This specialty filter might to do the trick:
Hoya 77mm ND400 HMC Filter

I saw it advertised online for $158 usd
-- even better if you could borrow one, since it's for 2 hours only.

If you can't find a proper filter, I've heard that "welder's glass" is an old stand-by for this sort of thing. Know any welders?

Good luck - Hope you have fair weather on the 22nd !

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Joe Yaggi
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jul 5, 2009 at 12:43:37 am

Julienne and All,

My girlfriend, a professional photog, just came across the this site:

Good luck, wish I was going but gotta shoot!


Joe Yaggi
Creative Supervisor, Director, DP
Jungle Run Productions

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Dean Sensui
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jul 6, 2009 at 8:32:46 am

I photographed the eclipse in Hawaii from Mauna Kea back in 1991. I used a #14 welding filter to protect my eyes. I was shooting stills so I didn't have a filter over the lens, except that I kept it covered until I needed to take a shot, then covered the lens again. The combination of stopping down and a high shutter speed protected the relatively slow film (Kodak VPS III).

However, it's different with video.

You'll need to protect the imager with a very dense filter which can cut down IR, as well as the other wavelengths, to avoid doing any damage.

Here's a website with some useful info:

It mentions the Thousand Oaks site. It also mentions what NOT to use, which is equally important. Especially when it comes to protecting your eyes.

Good luck!

Dean Sensui -- Hawaii Goes Fishing

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Paul Marshall
Re: total solar eclipse with PMW EX3 - PLEASE ANSWER ASAP!!!
on Jul 10, 2009 at 4:04:43 am

Hi Julienne,

Hope I can offer a few tips for you.

I shot an eclipe here in the UK in 1999, travelled to a little island called Alderney to maximise weather, etc. As it turned out the day was quite cloudy...and so my fun began!

I should mention at this point that I was shooting on a pro broadcast cam with adapted 300mm 2.8 (35mm stills) lens - a combo that filled the frame(4:3 in those days) perfectly.

In my opinion forget welding glasses, etc. Get yourself a proper Mylar filter. It's an expense but, trust me, well worthwhile. Because of the rapidly changing conditions I knew I would experience, I gaffer taped the filter to the front of the 300's lens hood for speedy removal and replacement (of the whole hood). You could do the same.

Your next huge challenge is keeping the sun in frame and holding it steady. It moves it's own diameter in approx 2 mins, so it won't stay in a locked off shot for very long at all if you're tight. Get the best tripod you can, period. Keep it at it's minimum height for rigidity, and if it's windy get behind a wall. The tripod I used cost about $7000 and still could have been sturdier. Don't use the pan arm - forget it exists. Balance the cam/lens combo on the head with it at shooting angle, ie so that the cam stays pointing at the sun without you having to use pressure or force to keep it at that angle. When you've done that just use your cupped hands on the head itself - but be super gentle.

If you go down the route of a prime stills lens mounted on your EX remember you have no ability to zoom out to find the subject. Simply finding the sun in an empty sky on full telephoto is an art in itself! I can recommend MTF adapters though.

It was fairly cloudy when I filmed in 1999 so I had to deal with all manner of camera and lens settings to account for the changing conditions. I used all 4 camera ND filters, the entire range of the lens and the mylar filter on and off. Get very comfortable with changing your settings whilst not vibrating or moving the camera and not losing the subject, if it might be cloudy.

Assuming it's a lovely day you'll want to try to leave room on your iris to open up for totality. Overexposing badly here would be a real shame though as you might lose too much detail in the corona. Not sure, but you may well have to remove the mylar filter too.

Daylight preset white balance is probably a good idea.

To do the job properly is a bit of a nightmare to be honest. It's by far and away the biggest technical challenge I've faced in over twenty years of pointing cameras for a living. But if you do pull it off you'll be rewarded with some amazing footage. I actually wept once I'd got my shots, it really was a challenging and emotional experience. On the plus side we probably got the best shots in the UK, apart from an ITN crew that had a stabilsed camera in a plane!

The good news is that you can practice. Don't risk your sensors and eyes on the sun - start tracking the moon. Once you're happy with your technique move on to the filter and the sun to check exposures.

Also don't underestimate how dark it gets, day truly turns to night. Birds and animals go quiet. It really is remarkable.

Your toughest choice may actually be whether to put yourself through the trauma of filming the eclipse itself or whether to swing the camera round and film a nice wide shot as the landscape darkens to remind yourself of the experience in future years. It would be a shame for you to do what I HAD to do. Yeah, with weeks of research and planning we got some great shots, but my memories of the eclipse are mainly of changing iris and filters - I didn't get to see the eclipse, I just pointed the camera that did see it.

Hope some of this helps you Julienne, and have a fantastic trip however you play it.



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