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How to Shoot Footage of Bioluminescense

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Dianne Finch-Claydon
How to Shoot Footage of Bioluminescense
on Nov 10, 2010 at 2:52:30 am

This is my first post, and it may sound rather odd.

I'm relatively new to videography - and will be filming some bioluminescent "bugs" on Friday in a university lab.

Those bugs are normally in jars on shelves in very dark rooms. When the jar is shaken, they tend to light up.

We want to film them as they brighten up.

We have Sony Z5u camcorders - and can bring some lights if needed.

I have a sinking feeling that we'll end up with black footage - no bugs in sight.
If anyone has filmed underwater - maybe you have an idea? There are many bioluminscent creatures in the ocean....

Thanks very much...

Dianne


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Dixon Johnston
Re: How to Shoot Footage of Bioluminescense
on Nov 10, 2010 at 6:11:06 am

Thats a tough one without seeing the setting you will be in. Are you shooting the jars as part of the image? Then you will likely need to have some controlled light to capture the shape of the jars-probably the least you could get away with. If you have the ability to flag the light off the bugs themselves, but still have enough to reference the shapes of the jars it might work. The jars and uncontrolled light will likely give you some reflections issues to deal with. Id start by opening the iris up, keep it on manual, and then gradually lower the light until you get the best exposure on the bugs. Definitely keep the iris in manual no matter what you do, and adjust it as needed. If you keep it in auto, as the amount of light changes when the bugs start increasing light, your camera will want to adjust to keep it consistent, which will counter your goal of seeing them "light up". Does that make sense?

Get your camera as close to the shot as possible and in its widest end of the zoom, even try macro. The less zooming in you do, the more light will pass through the lens.

If there is a slow shutter speed option on your camera (under 60, like 24 or 12) you could try that-it would allow more light to be captured in low light.
If you increase gain to get the image it will become grainy. If I was really serious about the shoot, Id try to borrow a DSLR to shoot HD with a really fast lens. They have much better results in low light than small HDV camcorders. Id love to see your results.

Dixon Johnston
Creative services Director-WRIC

Dual 2.0 G5, 4G RAM
OSX 10.4.1, FCP 5.1, QT 7
AJA Io-Beta SX (SDI)
P2/Beta SX Aquisition, decks, card readers


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Dianne Finch-Claydon
Re: How to Shoot Footage of Bioluminescense
on Nov 10, 2010 at 3:20:03 pm

Dixon,

Thanks so much for the quick response! Everything you said makes sense. I will work with the iris and get up as close as the camera allows (I believe it is about 3 feet with the z5 lens...)

If I have anything worth showing you - I will! This is an experiment for us, but we hope to use it on a science website.

We are low budget so can't really get out hands on a DSLR for this...

Thanks again.


Dianne

Multimedia Manager
Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT


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Dianne Finch-Claydon
Re: How to Shoot Footage of Bioluminescense
on Dec 6, 2010 at 4:23:19 pm

Dixon,

Just wanted to let you know that we did get the bioluminescence footage I had inquired about. Thanks again for your help.

We did have to use gain - but it wasn't too bad and not too grainy.

When my colleague begins editing - I can post it if you'd like.

The bugs are very blue - and only light up for a few seconds.

Thanks again!

Dianne

Multimedia Manager
Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT


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Dixon Johnston
Re: How to Shoot Footage of Bioluminescense
on Dec 6, 2010 at 5:04:59 pm

Cool, Id be interested to see the results.

Dixon Johnston
Creative Services Director-WRIC


Aquisition: P2 500, Beta SX & SP
Edit: FCP-AJA IO-SD-HD 720P


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