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Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Taming the Toy

I mentioned in my previous post that the Canon HV20 has poor manual control. While this has been amply documented elsewhere, here's a brief summary of why, in the form of a description of the Sex Positive workflow.

We used Cinema Mode. Consult your HV20 user's manual for the customary misunderstanding about camera modes with the term "cine" in their name: "Give your recordings a cinematic look by using the CINE MODE." No, that's not what it does. What it does is remove the clippy, contrasty gamma that makes consumer video look good to Ma and Pa Birthday Cam, and replace it with a clean, low-contrast curve that extracts as much dynamic range as possible from the CCD. CINE MODE is important with this camera—don't leave home without it.

We always used a 1/48th shutter. As readers of The Guide know well, a 180 degree shutter is not just a good idea, it's the law. Violate it and you've got audiences who've never heard of "Viper" or "Genesis" walking out of Apocalypto saying "What was with the scenes shot on video?"

We didn't have a ton of light. We had two 650W lights and one smaller one, and we blacked out windows to make a night interior out of a day shoot. The main light on the talent was a 650W diffused by a muslin. This meant that the HV20 needed to be "wide open" at 1/48th. Here begins the wrestling:

  • In CINE MODE, shooting 24p, aim the camera at something plenty bright, like the mus.
  • Use the joystick to enable manual exposure
  • Give the PHOTO Button a half-press to check the f-stop and shutter speed. You need a MicroSD card [EDIT: Actually it's a MiniSD card, thanks Mike!] in the camera for this to work, even though you don't intend to actually snap a still.
  • Adjust the exposure up until you see the magical combo of F2.4, 1/48. Best to overshoot to F2.8, 1/40 and then toggle one notch back. The HV20 can open up wider than 2.4 (to 1.8), but not when it's zooomed in. So the amount of zoom necessary to frame up the adaptor's groundglass is a factor in reducing light sensitivity.
You have to re-do that dance every time you camera auto powers-down, or every time you return from checking playback. It's not fun. I'd been getting myself used to it leading up to the shoot, and then had the alarmingly refreshing experience of dusting off the old DVX100a for the first day's shoot. On the DVX, if you want to change the shutter, you change the shutter. If you want to change the aperture, you change the aperture. And you can run with any gain you like at any of these settings. The HV20 will always open up more shutter before allowing the gain to increase, which makes sense for consumers but not for filmmakers. A day with the HV20 after a day with the DVX was a stark reminder of the filmmaker-friendly features we were giving up in order to go 1080p for less than a G.

We monitored in HD. Using a noga arm, I mounted an Ikan V8000HD to various places on the camera depending on our configuration. Mounting this LCD upside-down allowed me to see the image right-side-up, and since the Ikan is HD, I could actually see if my subject was in focus, which is a constant fight at f1.4! The Ikan runs on Sony camcorder batteries, but we just powered it with AC, mostly to keep weight down.

We shot to tape. In a tight apartment with a critical mass of gear, we shot to tape. You can eek an "uncompressed" signal out of this camera's HDMI output, but the last thing I wanted to do was drag a computer around with this rig. I've been experimenting with using Re:Vision Effects's new DE:Noise plug-in to reduce compression and noise in my HDV footage, and the results are very promising.

We boomed to a box. Rather than pipe the input from the boom mic into the HV20, we recorded to an M-Audio MicroTrack Recorder (another good choice would have been the Zoom H4). This tool audio level management off my plate (unlike the DVX100a, the HV20 has no convenient audio input level knobs) and ensured a high quality, interference-free signal. We slated manually and have the camera mic audio to help us post sync our dailies.

As you can see, there are trade-offs with this setup. One of the great things about basing a DV Rebel shoot around a prosumer camera such as the DVX100b, HVX200, or Canon XH A1 is that your rig grows with your capabilities and never gets in your way. It actually prepares you for a future of shooting with a Varicam or a Viper. With the HV20 on the other hand, you're off the reservation. You've go no leg to stand on when your camera fails to support your cinematic needs, because you bought it in the toy aisle. And yet, if you hop on one foot and wave the rubber chicken just right, you can make amazing images with the little guy.

Reader Comments (37)

Hey stu,

I understand what you mean when you say ''You've go no leg to stand on when your camera fails to support your cinematic needs, because you bought it in the toy aisle.'' about the HV20. As I write this, my M2 and my Ikan V8000HD are in the mail, waiting to be hooked up to my HV20. I am building this rig because to me it seems like the best setup I can afford to deliver a respectable picture for my short films and/or the music videos I will make with it. Sure, I would love to own a HVX200.. but at this stage I don't think it's worth it. Even if I sacrifice a lot of manual control (I have worked with the hvx, so I know what i'm missing out on), I'm still going to get a very good looking picture for under 4000$. That said, for a similar setup with the HVX (cam+p2cards+m2+lens+ikan) it can easily go beyond $10,000. That's a bit too expensive for me BUT when the time comes and IF I can make some money with my HV20 rig THEN I'm gonna get myself a spankin' new HVX200 ... or a RED!

I am currently piggy backing the visual effects industry to try and break into the actual production world. So I think the realistic approach to show what I'm able to do without ruining myself is to shoot with a pimped out hv20. This is what I have learned from the hundred of pages I have red on your site, hdforindies, bruce allen's site, dvxuser etc...

You guys have showed my the way to become a better Rebel.

So in the end, when everything is all said and done, it doesn't matter what camera you use. What matters is THE movie that's gonna come out when you push that Render button. It could be the best thing to come out in years shot on a small consumer Sony DV. Or it could be the worst piece of trash shot in glorious prosumer HD.

It's late and I don't really see the point of my comment anymore. So I'm gonna leave you all on this.


-Dan Gaud

August 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Oh my God, for some reason when you started to go into the details about all the fiddly toggly things that you have to do with the the HV-20 I couldnt help but just about lose it ( I think it even made me pee a little)...

I am hoping to buy one very soon actually and will be refferring to your notes on its usage very soon. Thanks again for providing your insights Stu.


August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDannyM

I must say I disagree with the CINE MODE argument. And not because I think it looks too bland or anything because I do like the color and dynamic range of it.

But it's just way too soft to my liking. Using a lens adapter already softens things slightly and adding CINE MODE to it just softens it more to a point where the whole thing even looks slightly out of focus with our Letus35A adapter. And it's not that our adapter is crap because when we're using shutter priority mode instead of CINE, we get images that are almost exactly as sharp as without the adapter.

That, combined with the fact that you can easily control gain with shutter priority mode and that you can still recover quite a bit (but not all, I admit) in post to get almost the same results as CINE, makes CINE a no-go for me.

I'd like to hear your reaction to this, because I'm a fan of your blog and want to learn more about using the HV20 to its full potential. (we're shooting a feature movie with it)

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterreese

Reese, I'm not sure what you mean by "soft," but any inherent perceptual softness caused by a lack of contrast or detail enhancement in CINE MODE can and should be reintroduced in post, not baked into the footage at recording time. If you don't already have the DV Rebel's Guide, there's a ton of coverage on this in The Camera chapter, under "Crafting the Digital Negative."

I've seen a few side-by-side comparisons between Tv mode and CINE, and Tv is just throwing way too much highlight info away. And in-camera sharpening is a major no-no.

In fact, the camera setup steps that I forgot to mention above include creating a CUSTOM setting that has COL. DEPTH, SHARPNESS, CONTRAST and BRIGHTN. all set to their lowest positions.

This gives you the flatest, most flexible image possible, one that both requires and is very responsive to color correction in post. Just like a film neg or the image from a Viper or Red One.

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

how did the MicroTrack perform? I bought one of those a year ago to use for the very same thing, but I have yet to field test it. Just used it in my backyard and walking to work, recording sounds of the city.

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Smack Mackey

It's funny you made that comment about Apocalypto, because yesterday I was watching The Lookout and it looked very good until the climax shoot-out scene. Suddenly someone shot some lights and everything started looking like video! It must have been because they were breaking the 1/48th s. rule, they lowered the shutter speed and as a result motion blur was much more noticeable.
For me it really broke the, up to that moment, cool cinematic look the film had. Maybe you just spoiled me, Stu! :)
I later checked and voilà-
shot on a Genesis.

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

When I say CINE MODE is too soft for me, I actually mean that there seems to be a significant loss of detail (not the artificial enhancement of detail). If I watch CINE MODE footage all the way zoomed in to 100% I'd say it's slightly out of focus if I didn't know better, while if I shoot the same in shutter priority mode, it looks crispy clear and really gives you that "wow, this is high-def" feeling.

I must say that beyond that I do love CINE MODE and kinda still hope that I'm wrong and that I must be mistaking in-camera sharpening for extra detail but I have done several comparisons and it just looks too blurry to me. Quick attempts to sharpen it in AE also didn't look very good. I must say though, that the blurriness is still on the edge of being tolerable as a 'film look' to me but as we want to make a movie with a stunning high-def image quality on a super-low budget, it seems like I have to drop CINE MODE.

I will certainly do more tests with the HV20's CINE MODE to see if I can't get proper sharpness out of it in post, because it really does make a big difference and your insights give me a bit more hope. Thanks and do let me know if you have anything more to add.

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterreese

Hey Stu,

The HV20 uses a MiniSD card. They can use a MicroSD if it comes with a MiniSD adapter. Thought it may be good to have that clarified.

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Right, another thing I wanted to ask: the video-ish effect you can get from deviating from the 1/48 shutter is from going higher than 1/48 right? Because going lower only seems to add motion blur, which may not be desirable but it still doesn't look video to me at all.

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterreese

The video look comes from going slower than 1/48. Fast shutters are within the realm of what a film camera can do (see SAVING PRIVATE RYAN), but slower than 1/48 is purely a video capability—and it looks it.

Reese, buy my book dude! All this stuff is in there and more.

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

With the exposure locked the way you did in Cine mode, did you do all exposure control through lights and filters? Were there at least a couple of steps with the camera exposure control at 1/48th?

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

What happened to the upside down camera option with the Beta Rig? In the pictures, the guy is holding the camera and the rig, but the camera is right side up?!

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBionicBuddha

Thanks for posting this info! All the details help, given how good the images look. Please post re: post production workflow.
Thanks!- Anthony
PS: HV20 is the best you can do for so little money. Just buy a Rode mic, at the least. I'm used to PXL2000s...

August 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTeam Torres

Joe, while the exposure on the camera was locked, they still would have had full aperture control on the Nikon lenses they were using.

August 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJerry

"Reese, buy my book dude! All this stuff is in there and more."

Reese, you don't have to listen to Stu about buying his book. He is the author of it. Of course he wants you to buy it.

You should really listen to me... BUY STU'S BOOK.

I just finished it and wow!!! He is right, everything is in there. This man clearly knows his stuff and I have read MANY filmmaking books past.
I have gotten so much out of it that I have bought three more copies to pass along to my indie director friends.

Stu you are the man!!! Thanks for all your knowledge.

August 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTaj

I did some quick testing today with a very fine pattern (laser printed at 1200 DPI) and can confirm that Cine-mode does not drop any "real" resolution, just edge enhancement.

I did find that image stabilization *does* drop real resolution somewhat. Probably not enough to care about for normal shooting, but it was visible if you looked for it.

August 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

"In fact, the camera setup steps that I forgot to mention above include creating a CUSTOM setting that has COL. DEPTH, SHARPNESS, CONTRAST and BRIGHTN. all set to their lowest positions."

Where the hairy heck are these controls hidden? I dug around the menus and couldn't find them ... at least not in cine-mode.

August 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJoe


they are in the image effect menu, second icon down on the left hand side, then all the way to the "c" on the right.

Stu, great tips as always. I downloaded the de:noise plugin yesterday and have been very impressed!


August 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Jamie, many thanks! Never made it through that menu since it looked like a bunch of fake color effects. Good to see that you can flatten the curve even a bit more than cine alone.

August 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I just shot the first part of a new short with the HV20 + Redrock M2. I did get some vignetting I wasn't happy with, but otherwise it looks awesome. I'm curious why Stu's setup doesn't have the "rubber hood" that comes with the M2. What is that between the HD macro lens and the M2's box?

August 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCarpenter Jay

Jay, that is the RedRock hardmount. It basically lets you lock the M2 to the camera, so you can have easily repeatable settings and distances. RR sells it, or you can make your own from adapter rings. Highly recommended!

August 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

This webpage:

Clearly shows a huge loss of detail when using CINE mode, as I was already pretty sure of.

As you can see, this is not a matter of losing some edge enhancement. This is a loss of sharpness that could easily be mistaken for being slightly out-of-focus if you wouldn't know CINE MODE was causing it.

August 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterreese

Just discovered your blog today Stu, and wanted to thank you for all the great insights. I need to do some tests with the HV20 Cine and TV modes as well, but I can't wait to see more of your results.

Bought your book today- can't wait to get it!

August 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Perry

Due to the raging debate as to whether CINE MODE is destroying low contrast detail, I decided to do a controlled test of most of the different modes and image settings.

It's not a perfect test, but given what it is it should suffice to make objective comparisons between the modes.

I've drawn my own conclusions, but I'll let everyone compare the takes an make their own informed judgements.

August 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Dang Joe, nice work. I hope you reward yourself for all that effort by going out and, you know, making a film with your HV20!

Anyway, I'm sure we'd all love to hear your own conclusions.

I find the gaps in the histogram in AE mode interesting.

August 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

I don't know, I think a cool looking film coming out of the HV 20 is so doable, and such an exciting experience...

August 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMiljenko


Very curious about the use of DE:Noise to compensate for consumer compression. Please do report any findings or tests or relevant caveats with these experiments as well!

I really appreciate the reports; I'm prepping for a similar short shoot in the fall and trying to get my bag of tricks as fully updated as I can, so these hands-on reports are super valuable and much appreciated.

The use of DE:Noise as a tradeoff for the Rebel-flexibility an HDMI tether would likely prohibit is an interesting one. Would love to see a sample or two when you have one.

Thanks again for the blog.

August 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterrzanerutledge

Hi Stu, great blog!

stu> I've seen a few side-by-side comparisons
stu> between Tv mode and CINE, and Tv is
stu> just throwing way too much highlight
stu> info away.

I bought my first camcorder after I studied TV calibration and calibrated my HDTV myself. From this experience I know that gamma can be adjusted either with brightness/contrast (a.k.a. white level/black level) controls or with dedicated gamma selector. The latter is better of course, but this does not mean that adjusting gamma with white/black level controls is not doable.

What I am saying is whether it is possible to use Tv mode while achieving flatter gamma with white/black level controls? This would be beneficial because in Tv mode the shutter speed is locked, therefore EXP control only affects aperture and gain.

August 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J.

michael, yes but you can also "lock" your shutter at 1/48 in cine mode, it just takes more work. and possibly a cell phone.

August 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Perry

I have been trying to "set up" the HV20 as per the guide on Stu's page.
When I get to the step to "give the PHOTO button a half press", instad of seeing the f-stop indicator I get a red flashing error signal in the lower left of the screen.
The card is formatted, and takes stills fine, so I am at a loss as to why this is not working.
Anybody have a similar experience?
One thing I wonder is that the mini-sd card is actually a micro that slips inside a mini-sd adapter. The wonderful local radio shack said that this is the only way they get them now, so I did not have an option to buy just a mini-sd, but since it formatted and takes pictures OK, I feel like I can not say that the adapter is the problem.

Thanks for taking the time to read all this.


August 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSam

If your card is installed, you will need to turn on the still photo setting in the video functions. It is the next to last icon on the left hand side, just above the menus icon. Set it for 1920x1080. Should work!

August 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Jamie -

Thanks so much (for explaining what I was missing with the Mini SD card)!

I was having unpleasant visions of sending the HV20 back.


August 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSam

"One thing I wonder is that the mini-sd card is actually a micro that slips inside a mini-sd adapter. The wonderful local radio shack said that this is the only way they get them now"

This is why you should never ask people at RadioShack a question. You can still buy mini. I bought one 2 weeks ago.

August 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Perry

you mentioned the ikan v8000hd, i noticed that monitor is only 800x480 but marketed as HD. i assume you use the component output from the hv20. how did it look? does that monitor scale the image well? is it sharp enough for focusing? it doesnt have a flip switch/button (would be very useful for navigating menus)?

September 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenternoahyv

FR 2LE rocks for flash recorder, you can also use the limiter.

September 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Hey Stu,
I'm trying to figure out a good workflow to deal with the pulldown removal.

After I capture the video I want to use the ProcAmp technique you mention in your book to save the upper 10% of the white values.

I assume I need to do this before I do the pulldown removal in AE.
Since upon instpection with the RGB parade the file with the pulldown removed has nothing about 100%

What formate should I export to from Premiere after using the ProcAmp filter if i intend to do pull down removal in AE right afterwards



September 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhase

Hey Stu -- thanks for this excellent and informative post. After some messing around with my HV20 I was able to replicate the behavior you describe. Really very much appreciate your instructions.

Now, about the HV20 rig shown in the picture at the top of this post... you identify part of the gear in the post (such as the Ikan LCD and noga arm) but not the rest (the camera mount or whatever it's called, lenses, etc.)

Could you give a rundown of all the equipment shown in that photograph? Thanks very much!


May 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTeahouse of Danger
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