Canon XL2 Commercial shoot
Hello to all;
I have a canon xl2 and I am getting ready to embark on a new chapter of my commercial production life. I have always done video with a normal 60i camera. I want to start to make my productions look like what you would see in more of a national commercial. I have been shooting with the XL2 and I am very pleased with it thus far. But I look at my shots then look at what I see on TV from lets say a chevy commercial. I've used 24p, 30p, I've changed the fame rate from 60 to 30 to 90. But I am just not pleased with the outcome of the shots. Are there any guidance someone could share to where I could achieve this goal or at least come close? I am using after affects and I am pleased on how far I have come in AE (thanks Andrew Kramer!) I get better everyday with that. I have worked on my shots as well and those have become much better as well. It just comes down to handling the camera with the frame rates and is 24p better than 30p or does that make no difference?
Thanks for any and all help!
Without seeing your reel or any of your work, it's a bit difficult to say exactly what you need to do or what areas you need to improve in order to give your work a "national" look... but I will take some stabs....
Firstly, is your composition, direction, blocking, lighting, and camera moves up to the level that you'd like? If not, those are all things you can work on... there are a zillion books and other resources on lighting and direction and all that.... and there's a great education to be had in just plopping down and watching movies, television, and commercial spots all with a "How exactly did they do that?" eye and trying to figure it out. Watch a few movies or a bunch of commercials with the sound off, just looking at the visuals and watching for composition, moves, lighting, and editing.
Secondly... keep in mind that most narrative national commercials (those Chevy spots included) are not exactly shot on an XL2... they are shot on film. And while the little Canon is a great camera and a great bang for the buck, it's still not a million-dollar Panavision, and that grade of digital video doesn't have nearly the lattitude that film does. But you can squeeze the Canon to get out all of the goods that you can. Again, watch national spots and pay close attention to things like color timing, contrast, and saturation. Your camera is probably not giving you that look natively. Learn to emulate the looks that you want either in camera (by adjusting settings) or in post (filters and such), or a combination of both. Most likely both.
Thirdly... the vast majority of those national spots (the ones I mentioned that were shot on film) were photographed at 24fps. You'll come closest to getting that look by shooting 24p. And, a film camera shooting at 24fps with a 180-degree shutter is going to have an exposure of 1/48th of a second. In the video world, if you want to achieve that same look your best best is a 1/48th shutter (or if that is not an available option, the nearest thing to it, such as 1/60th). Go slower than that and you will get smeared images... go faster than that and you will get a choppy stacatto look, similar to the way film looks when shot with a narrow shutter for effect (i.e., "Private Ryan," "Gladiator," etc.).
Fourthly... the XL2 (and any other video camera in that size range) is going to have an almost infinite depth of field. The 35mm film that you see in national commercials has a depth of field that is much shallower... the subject is sharp, but the focus on the foreground and background falls off either fairly gradually or fairly dramatically depending on the lens' iris (f-stop) during the shot... but with your video camera not only will the subject be razor sharp, but the foreground and background are going to be pretty darn sharp, too. This makes it difficult to "pop" a subject out of the frame. Unfortunately, due to the principals of physics and optics, this is just the way it is... a camera with tiny 1/3" sensors is always going to have a very deep depth of field, even with the iris wide open. If you want to use the camera as-is, the best you can do is use long lenses (zoom in) when the direction will allow it... that will tend to "flatten" the image but it will also give the shot a perceived shallower depth of field and might help cut the subject out of the background. To get a TRUE shallow depth of field, there are a few choices: 1) you can shoot real film (35mm for a really shallow DoF, or 16mm for a DoF roughly equivelant to what you get with a bigger 2/3" video camera), or you can shoot with a video camera with a 35mm sized sensor (RED, or rent a Panavision Genesis), or you can 3) use a depth-of-field converter with cinema lenses attached to the front of your XL2 (this is what we do, for projects where we can't shoot real 35mm film we shoot with cine primes and a P+S Technik converter with our Canon XLH1). There have been lots of posts and lots of threads on this subject... do a COW search for "depth of field" and you'll get tons of results.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thanks so much. That all was truly helpful. I really want to be the company that takes production in this area to the next level. What you wrote is going to help me in the long run! And I will look more up on depth of field. Thanks again!