slave to brand loyalty

Well not really, but I do find it amusing that my digital point-and-shoot camera and my video camera are both Panasonic.

Speaking of the video camera, I spent an hour or so shooting some tests in Astoria Park. I wanted to try out the "24p Advanced" mode, which creates (supposedly) the most filmic look possible and is also the easiest way to ensure compatibility with tape-to-film (or dv-to-24p-HD). The 24pA thing is a cute trick... a clever way to pull 24 discreet frames from 60i video. They mess with the 3:2 pulldown in such a way as to allow an aware application, such as Final Cut Pro, to do away with the blended frames and provide true 24fps. I also threw the Gamma mode onto the CineLike-V setting and set the Matrix up for the "Cine" mode. All those "Cine" faux-prefixes should add up to purty pitchers, right?

Well pretty much, yeah.

After shooting I captured the 15 minutes of test footage into Final Cut Pro (using the Advanced Pulldown easy setup), then exported 24fps Quicktime movies (unnecessary step, actually... coulda used the captured clips directly) so Compressor could squeeze them down to a highish-bitrate MPEG2 file for DVD. I used Toast 7 Titanium to author the DVD and viewed it on our set-top DVD player.

To cut to the chase: the Cine gamma settings make the shadow areas slightly luminous, as if you were looking at projected flim. Soft light is this camera's forte, and the contrast added to the scene by the video has the effect of improving what seem to the eye to be flat lighting. It's fairly easy to achieve one of my favorite looks, which is a very hot rim or back light with beautiful, soft modeling on the subject's face. On the flipside, it's extremely easy to blow out the highlights and it appears that controlling contrast on the bright end is much more critical than the shadow. The settings I was using have some automatic, default Knee setting (Knee is highlight compression) and I dunno if I can fiddle with it but I'll give it a shot.

Regarding the 24fpsishness, I could see some slight stuttering when playing back the DVD but my snap analysis is that the DVD player is not doing a great job of adding in the pulldown frames on the fly... I'll need to check it on different players.
Next up will probably be some low-light tests.

Oh Studio 60, you keep dangling quality in my face. They let Timothy Busfield direct this one, which I assume was justified by it being good for his character (oh, and also he's directed a whole bunch of television). He did a completely adequate job, though fell prey to the desire to show off the set and his choreography with a very long Steadicam shot that, in its defense, allowed Nate Corddry some screen time. But I am already tired of being reminded exactly what the tension is between Matthew Perry's character and the Christian. Seriously, people... we're four episodes in and the preview for the next episode (and by the way, whoever is in charge of the previews for dramas on NBC should be axed because they ALWAYS make the show, and this was true of the West Wing as well, look about thirty times more overwrought and hackneyed than it actually is) featured the promise of yet more unearned emotional commitment to the Relationship Story. The plagiarism thing was good, but resolved in a bit too cute a manner for my taste.

Here's hoping YouTube's userbase is worth $1.6b of stock to Google.

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