Science Documentary in NorCal

Hi all. I'm making a science documentary – strictly not for profit – and I'd really like to connect with people who have more experience than me. I'm using two Sony ZV-E10's and my iPhone. I also have the DJI wireless lav mic, but need to get some other mics. I'm mostly shooting indoors. And of course I have a basic key light and some LED lights and tripods. But I'm very much a noob and I'm really hoping to find some kind people to help me get this project done right.

I want to shoot in 4k and I'm concerned I'll screw up with bad lighting or not having enough storage or not shooting in the right format for color grading. Would be nice to connect with people who can give me some direction. I'm preparing some test shoots but I'm concerned my test won't be good enough because some of the shots I want involve the camera recording all-day as me and another person work in the lab.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
slog3 is the best picture profile for color grading.
You can use the SPOT METER on your camera to judge the exposure level of your subjects skin, usually people aim for 1.3-1.7 on the multimeter for proper skin exposure in slog3




This video below does a pretty decent job of showing an intervew setup for lighting


What will really help you out here is doing a practice run before you film your final footage.
That other dude that you work with - can he be a test subject? Try interviewing him for a 2 minute clip, edit that and post it here.

use both cameras! like its the real thing.

When people see your end result you'll get much more useful feedback instead of strangers grasping at straws, not knowing what your strengths or weaknesses are
 
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I'm concerned my test won't be good enough because some of the shots I want involve the camera recording all-day as me and another person work in the lab.
You haven't given much detail as to the nature of this "science documentary" but this sentence suggests that you've got more to worry about than lighting and file storage space.

Specifically: why will you have a camera recording all day?

Without additional info, this sounds like either a "fly-on-the-wall" documentary, or a vague hope that you'll capture something of interest. In both situations, this means you'll end with tens or hundreds of hours of undirected, poorly framed, badly lit footage, all of which you'll have to watch and (probably) most of which you'll have to throw out.

If you're thinking now about lighting and post-production problems, you should already have a script and a list of shots to set up. If you have particular shots in mind, then you won't need to have a camera recording "all day" for the 30 seconds of footage that'll end up in the final cut. Sure, you might need devote a day to getting those 30 seconds, but that's time that should be spent setting up the scene for the best possible footage.

Don't forget that your audience will either be too dumb to know what two guys in lab coats are doing with a bunch of test tubes, or too interested in the topic to want to watch a shot of two guys in lab coats wandering around the lab when they'd rather see what's in the test tubes.
 
You haven't given much detail as to the nature of this "science documentary" but this sentence suggests that you've got more to worry about than lighting and file storage space.

Specifically: why will you have a camera recording all day?

Without additional info, this sounds like either a "fly-on-the-wall" documentary, or a vague hope that you'll capture something of interest.
No, I was just describing one particular shot. I'd like for people to be able to get a sense of what actually happens in the lab for these particular type of experiments, so my thinking is to record a time lapse, but I don't know what the frame interval should be, so I figured I would record at a higher interval and drop frames as needed.

There would be specific shots which are not time lapse, which would show in a bit more detail, how some of the materials are prepared for the experiments.

Definitely of high priority is to not bore the viewer with a lot of poorly thought-out video and no editing. That is definitely *not* what I will be doing.

The documentary will feature a lot of different shots, and also a lot of animations. For interviews that were recorded over the phone, I've produced some interesting audio visualizer digital stages with animated backgrounds and a still photo of the speaker.

For segments with involved scientific concepts, there will be 3D animations. 3D animation was actually my career path before I decided software was a better industry.
 
I'd like for people to be able to get a sense of what actually happens in the lab for these particular type of experiments, so my thinking is to record a time lapse, but I don't know what the frame interval should be, so I figured I would record at a higher interval and drop frames as needed.

Hmm. Is there a big, obviously changing, progressive process involved? Something being built, or destroyed? Timelapse is only genuinely effective as a storytelling device when there's a story to be seen, whether that be a (huge) pile of materials being gradually used up, or a worker moving back-and-forth between two instruments a hundred times over.

Calculating the frame interval is easy enough: decide how long the clip should be in seconds, multiply by 24! For a vague "this is a sense of what happens" shot, I'd say 5 seconds of timelapse max. so 120 shots. Assuming you work a 10 hour day, that's one shot every five minutes. What will have changed in the lab between the last shot and the next one?
 
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Hmm. Is there a big, obviously changing, progressive process involved? Something being built, or destroyed? Timelapse is only genuinely effective as a storytelling device when there's a story to be seen, whether that be a (huge) pile of materials being gradually used up, or a worker moving back-and-forth between two instruments a hundred times over.

Calculating the frame interval is easy enough: decide how long the clip should be in seconds, multiply by 24! For a vague "this is a sense of what happens" shot, I'd say 5 seconds of timelapse max. so 120 shots. Assuming you work a 10 hour day, that's one shot every five minutes. What will have changed in the lab between the last shot and the next one?
There's a device to assemble. When done, it's about the size of a 1 liter water bottle. But the materials that go into it have to be laid out on a workbench for assembly. And then after that, there's connecting it up to the power supply and sensors. I'm guessing the space of the shot would be one or two workbenches, but this much hasn't been planned yet. So maybe I would use two cameras for this segment to give more flexibility in editing.
 
When done, it's about the size of a 1 liter water bottle. But the materials that go into it have to be laid out on a workbench for assembly. And then after that, there's connecting it up to the power supply and sensors. I'm guessing the space of the shot would be one or two workbenches, but this much hasn't been planned yet. So maybe I would use two cameras for this segment to give more flexibility in editing.

Ah, okay, there's a place for a timelapse there - the assembly process, which is a very dynamic "big picture" and lends itself well to timelapse. But the connecting up doesn't. I'd plan these as two entirely different shots.

In the spirit of your earlier comment people who can give me some direction I would make the following suggestions.

(1) For the timelapse, you'll have several creative decisions to make, but I'd go for the highest possible viewpoint, even directly overhead if you can get it. This'd work best if the component parts were laid out left and right of the image and came together in the centre, or some similarly dramatic movement across the screen.

Alternatively, shoot from two angles, the one focused tightly on the unit being assembled; the other looking from a low perspective across the range of materials laid out (and progressively disappearing). You could intercut these two sequences later - especially if, say, all the content of Bench 1 went into making the base and case of the unit, and the content of Bench 2 morphed into the functional pipes and wires and whatnot.

If you want this clip to look really good, pay attention to what component parts are placed where. That is something that you will never, ever, ever be able to fix in post.

(2) Think about whether you want to concentrate the audience's attention on the experiment or the scientists. Logically, the only reason for using a timelaspe in this situation would be to show the device being built, and as we know that it's being built by people not robots, we don't really need their flickering presence distracting from the star of the piece.

To achieve that, you could either get everyone to step out of the shot at the time of each frame, or you could make them disappear using old-school technology : an appropriate ND filter and a long exposure time.

(3) Bear in mind that a timelapse is not video; it's a series of conventional still images for which you should be evaluating your exposure parameters shot by shot. That's unlikely to be practical, so unless you have total control over the lighting (i.e. no daylight coming through windows, no randommers switching on/off lights in adjacent areas, no weird fluorescent tinges), you should plan to process each one individually using photo manipulation software before you import them into a video editor.

(4) For the "powering up" sequence, I'd revert to real video/cinematography, and take the time to shoot the connection of each plug/jack/pin/whatever from the best possible angle, paying attention to little details like the LED that lights up when this cable is plugged in or the plume of dust disturbed by a fan starting up (so watch out for heads/hands/elbows getting in the way at the critical moment) Again, these are elements that you will not be able to create in post, no matter how many hours of footage from however many cameras you sit through.
 
Thanks for the guidance, these all sound like great ideas.

I agree on what you're saying, and also the overhead angle is one I had in mind too. We will have total control over lighting. But one of our component materials is sheet metal and I'm a little concerned with how reflective it is.

Another detail, which I forgot to mention, is that we have 3 devices to build (and no more than 3). But of course, I aim to test my lighting and filming in advance so I can effectively capture the assembly of all 3. My collaborator is the legit scientist, and it will be his decision if we actually use all 3. At a minimum, we'll use 2 for sure.

(4) For the "powering up" sequence, I'd revert to real video/cinematography, and take the time to shoot the connection of each plug/jack/pin/whatever from the best possible angle, paying attention to little details like the LED that lights up when this cable is plugged in or the plume of dust disturbed by a fan starting up (so watch out for heads/hands/elbows getting in the way at the critical moment) Again, these are elements that you will not be able to create in post, no matter how many hours of footage from however many cameras you sit through.
Makes sense! Good points. We also have to do some glass cutting (using a diamond tipped saw blade). For that part, maybe a bit of both would work? We have to cut these glass rods down to shorter lengths, there will be 12 when we're done, but probably some will fracture and get discarded in the process, so more than 12 cuts are likely needed, and that would be the back-and-forth type of shot, where you see a person taking each piece to the saw, then returning the shorter section to the pile of finished rods, and in the process, some getting thrown in the trash. But we'll want some real-time video too, for showing when pieces broke. At least, that's my thinking anyway.

So, about the 4k issue, any advice on how to ensure I have enough storage for it? My camera has a bit rate setting for 4k which I know effects size, and I haven't been able to find tutorials on how to pick the right settings for this. I think 4k is a strong requirement for this project, we want to provide absolutely as much detail as possible, but it's only really on one particular shot: The running of the experiment. It's a close up shot and we want to be able to see every possible detail. For all other shots, I suppose we could upscale the video, but I've never done that process and I don't know if it would be acceptable or just look like ass. BTW, I bought Topaz AI, so I could run my video through that to enhance it after upscaling.

Thanks for all the help, it's greatly appreciated.
 
slog3 is the best picture profile for color grading.
You can use the SPOT METER on your camera to judge the exposure level of your subjects skin, usually people aim for 1.3-1.7 on the multimeter for proper skin exposure in slog3
He has a Sony ZV-E10 that shoots 8bit. Because of the skin....Perhaps its better to shoot Slog2 or cine4.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
He has a Sony ZV-E10 that shoots 8bit. Because of the skin....Perhaps its better to shoot Slog2 or cine4.
Holy crap Sony is putting out new cameras that are 8-bit still?
Ouch, that's rough - not ideal for color grading. Sorry OP.

You can still capture nice looking images, you just won't be changing as much stuff around in post.
I should have looked that up. Thanks Feutus for noticing it.
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Well damn. I guess I could spring for another camera, just for this one shot.
Is there a specific color grading use-case you have in mind?
A lot of the color bit information is great for like.. doing a key, changing the color of a pillow from blue to green, stuff like that.
 
Is there a specific color grading use-case you have in mind?
A lot of the color bit information is great for like.. doing a key, changing the color of a pillow from blue to green, stuff like that.
No, there's not. My impression is that I'm supposed to color grade to avoid banding and because the auto-settings on the camera don't give me control over the end result, while raw and log formats do.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
No, there's not. My impression is that I'm supposed to color grade to avoid banding and because the auto-settings on the camera don't give me control over the end result, while raw and log formats do.
I wouldn't stress about it, you already have two cameras and thats great for a documentary
you're not making a highly stylized drama film, its a doc, all you have to worry about is getting good lighting as you film.

Light it nicely and it will look nice when its finished
Here are a couple examples of color grading - you only need to watch the first 10 seconds of each video

the images start off so washed out bc they're in slog3, they're designed to be graded, but a cine format will look good immediately

the big thing here with color grading is he is pulling the red OUT of the blue, so that the blues are more blue.. stuff like that
removing the contamination/mix of the two colors and separating them to shine more distinctly


and here is one where he is altering the background to be green


you aren't doing this sort of visually colorful stuff, you're making a documentary, just focus having good light
 
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Holy crap Sony is putting out new cameras that are 8-bit still?
Ouch, that's rough - not ideal for color grading. Sorry OP.

You can still capture nice looking images, you just won't be changing as much stuff around in post.
I should have looked that up. Thanks Feutus for noticing it.
The ZV-E10 is a a6600 with a difrent body for vloger use. So a old sensor tech..... with the Sony fx30 we will see a shift in there APS c camera's
 
So, about the 4k issue, any advice on how to ensure I have enough storage for it? My camera has a bit rate setting for 4k which I know effects size, and I haven't been able to find tutorials on how to pick the right settings for this. I think 4k is a strong requirement for this project, we want to provide absolutely as much detail as possible, but it's only really on one particular shot: The running of the experiment.

I'm not sure what your concern is with regard to storage. SD cards, lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of them. A quick bit of googling indicates that the ZV-e10 would record 4k at 100Mbps and supports UHS-I (but no higher), so a 128GB SD card would theoretically handle 168 minutes of footage. But in a controlled situation, you would be crazy to record nearly three hours of continuous footage - one glitch, one corrupt electron and you risk losing everything, so you should be swapping out your cards as often as possible and constantly transferring the footage to your back-up disks (plural).

In any case, the specs state only 80 minutes recording time with a fully charged battery, so you'll run out of battery before you run out of storage space. Might as well change both battery and card at the same time.

If your worry is related to the storage of the timelapse images, then remember, again, that a timelapse is not video, so you need to think in terms of the yield of final footage not hours spent recording (and, as before, you'll run out of battery long before you've filled the card).

Assuming you shoot at the maximum 24MP resolution (equivalent to 6k video) and in RAW, you'll still have space on a 128GB card for about 4000 shots. Each shot being one frame, that's about two-and-a-half minutes of video footage - or the length of five average TV commercials. If you really feel the need to make a longer timelaspe, then use a 256GB card (if the camera supports it) or ... change cards every few hours. Note, though, that this will give you 6k video. Given that a timelapse sequence of a long process almost inevitably yields "bad" imagery (in my opinon ;)) and that your recorded video footage will be 4k max, there's no reason to shoot 24MP images - so reduce the image size and increase the number you can store.

I haven't dug any deeper into the specs of the camera, but maybe there's an option to hook it up to a computer and record straight to computer hard drive. You can do this with any Canon DSLR (and control all the necessary timelapse parameters) so it's not a niche concept.

Slight tangent: while googling, I did come across a review with this comment:
When capturing 4K footage with any sort of movement (like walking with the camera), there's quite a lot of rolling shutter, resulting in a distracting jello effect. Full HD footage can be captured up to 120p ( also 24/30/60p), but unfortunately, the quality of the camera's 1080p detail capture is, across the board, among the worst in its class.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with a camera that's really close to being a vlogger's dream, both in terms of price and feature set. Sadly, for folks wishing to shoot anything but a static shot, there's no video mode on this camera that'll produce problem-free footage: jiggly 4K or subpar 1080p, pick your poison.
You might want to bear these limitations in mind when planning your shots.
 
When I started this project, it wasn't intended to be a full-fledged documentary. It was going to be more of a basic talking-head YouTube video, but as the project progressed, I realized that wouldn't be enough. The cameras I bought were chosen with the original idea in mind.

The review videos on the ZV-E10 haven't complained of rolling shutter, so I'm not sure what to make of this. I have tested the 4k a bit, but clearly need to do more.

Not needing to worry about color grading and LUT's is a relief. Thanks.
 
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