in praise of the spotlight mode

13 replies [Last post]
tom hardwick
Offline
Joined: Apr 8 1999

I just want to give a great big plug for Sony's 'spotlight' mode on the FX1 (a dedicated camera button) and on the Z1 (an assign button).. I'm editing a stage play I shot last week and one of the scenes was a 'Monster Mash' where the group of 7 actors were all dressed completely in black, they were entirely surrounded by black curtaining and they all had matt white face masks on. They were evenly lit on stage, but that didn't help any.

I tried to follow the action with the Z1 while the FX1 was locked off to encompass the entire stage, yet the two cameras intercut pretty well and there's detail in the white masks, amazingly. Of course 'spotlight' mode is auto exposure that is designed to stop highlights blowing out, and Sony's program has certainly saved me.

Why not film entirely in manual with the zebras turned on? you may ask. Well the 90 min production had the curtains drawing back for a vast variety of scenes and I had simply no idea what was coming next (costume and lighting and performance wise). So I decided on 'spotlight' and have been very glad I did.

tom.

Mike Pulcinella
Offline
Joined: Jan 30 2007

Thanks for the tip! I will be shooting some children's plays this summer and am always looking for ways to overcome some of the difficulties.

perproductions
perproductions's picture
Offline
Joined: Jan 2 2008

i have the fx1. i never really knew i had the 'spotlight' function.

how do you use it then?? whats it actually doing??

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

It looks for the brightest part of the picture and adjust exposure to get that right. Great for theatrical stuff, but a nightmare for normal shooting, where you're really m or eoften interested in lower tones than in the extreme highlights.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

tom hardwick
Offline
Joined: Apr 8 1999

What's the spotlight mode doing? Well firstly the camera has to be in auto-exposure mode, and normally in this mode a white face against a sea of black (a spot-lit face on a curtained stage, natch) will be grossly over-exposed (bleached out) as the camera tries to correctly expose all the dark background.

In Spotlight mode the camera searches for the brightest part of the scene, and exposes for that at the expense of the shadows. So the white face takes on detail and the shadows all lump together in blackness - which is the way you generally want things to be.

What's clever about the mode is that when the view is evenly lit there's no correction applied, and as the contrast of the scene increases, so too is more and more compensation added. Of course you'll hit the end stops at about -5 stops, but it's still a wondeful helping hand when your other two are busy with audio levels, zoom and focus.

tom.

branny
Offline
Joined: Nov 6 2001

I've used this feature at lots of stage events, though sometimes when the lighing guys go crazy there's no option but to expose manually. The bulk of the time though 'spotlight' holds its own.
A similar feature 'backlight' is used when the lighting behind the action is shutting down the exposure of the talent. Again, manual exposure can be a winner in certain situations.

Do not follow, I may not lead. Do not lead . . . I may not follow.

tom hardwick
Offline
Joined: Apr 8 1999

I've always considered spotlight mode to be intelligent whereas backlight mode is +1.5 stops, take it or leave it nonsense. Spotlight's often right, but backlight is like a stopped clock - only correct twice a day.

branny
Offline
Joined: Nov 6 2001

Agreed Tom, but backlighting is usually more consistent than spot and for those not used to manual controls it would certainly help out.

Do not follow, I may not lead. Do not lead . . . I may not follow.

Mark M
Offline
Joined: Nov 17 1999

Having read this thread I decided to record a stage show using the spotlight mode on my trio of PD170s. One fixed wide and two user operated. I have to say that I thought Spotlight mode overexposed the footage by about one stop. Faces still were a little too bright for my liking. Is there anyway to tweak the camera to be able to record spotlight mode plus one f stop, as it were?

Adobe Certified Professional Premiere Pro CS6, Premiere Pro CC

Adobe Community Professional

tom hardwick
Offline
Joined: Apr 8 1999

You sure you were in the spotlight mode and not in the baxklight mode Mark? I ask because a) it's easy to missintrepret the icons, and b) you talk of + 1stop when you mean minus one stop.

On an evenly lit surface the spotlight mode tends to under-expose slightly, so my guess is that in your case the program reached the end of it's -5 stop shift, and the spotlighting at your stage show was such as to need a further reduction.

If there's an AE shif mode in the PD170's menu (I can't remember) and if that can be dialled in at the same time as spotlight mode, then the answer is yes.

tom.

Mark M
Offline
Joined: Nov 17 1999

Thanks for the reply Tom. No, I was definitely in Spotlight mode! And yes, I've got the stopped down and stopped up reversed.

Anyhow, I think you've nailed it. The AE shift (bottom button on the rear of the PD170) does work in conjunction with the Spotlight mode, and I have an opportunity for a real world test tomorrow. And will report back.

Cheers

Mark

Adobe Certified Professional Premiere Pro CS6, Premiere Pro CC

Adobe Community Professional

tom hardwick
Offline
Joined: Apr 8 1999

Incidentally Mark, I did quite a few stage shows towards the end of my time with my VX2000, before I graduated to the FX1/Z1 combo. I used to shoot with the VX2k in its in-built 16:9 mode, thinking that the 4:3 mode only showed you more top curtain and heads of the audience. Are you still shooting 4:3 on your PD170s?

If yes, how are your clients viewing your 4:3 footage? I bet they're stretching, zooming, 'smart'ing, expanding and distorting your carefully shot footage. Time to switch.

tom.

Mark M
Offline
Joined: Nov 17 1999

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the suggestion but no, not time to switch! My work is almost exclusively theatrical. My specialism is Circus, which, because of its vertical dimension, works far better in 4:3 than 16:9. Jugglers, for example. would like 16:9... but sideways. As my work is commercial rather than for "home" users almost all of it is viewed on a computer monitor, most of which are still 4:3 rather then 16:9. Some gets seen from DVD but most output now is for the web. I give the web designers flash encoded in 4:3, so I get to control the dimension and aspect ration. 4:3 works better for the vertical nature of web pages. Many of my clients want a YouTube presence, and YouTube, of course, is still 4:3. So thanks, but I have absolutely no worries about my carefully shot footage being stretched, zoomed, etc etc.

Cheers!

Mark

Adobe Certified Professional Premiere Pro CS6, Premiere Pro CC

Adobe Community Professional

Dave R Smith
Offline
Joined: May 10 2005

I like that your 'bucking the trend' Mark, with solid reasoning.

I have switched to widescreen to be in line with consumer expectation, but still consider/offer 4:3 when i know the viewers medium (pc,videophone etc) will display subject better in 4:3.

Photographers can crop horizontally or vertically to best frame the subject - we have little or no choice - for TV / DVD audience but to go with what's imposed upon us.

I personally prefer 4:3 ratio for TV viewing - we are in a world of vertical people!
That's not to say I'm not in favour of bigger tellys with higher resolution.