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Is it just me or have others noticed that the sharpnest of the picture can vary on the same program? Example: there is a scene with 2 characters having a conversion. The camera focuses on the one actor ... the face is very sharp with lots of detail. The scene switches to the other actor ... the face does not seem as sharp, there appears to be less detail in the face. Is is due to the camera operator not focusing properly? different cameras? deliberate??? Or is my eyes?!!!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiDef Bob
Is it just me or have others noticed that the sharpnest of the picture can vary on the same program? Example: there is a scene with 2 characters having a conversion. The camera focuses on the one actor ... the face is very sharp with lots of detail. The scene switches to the other actor ... the face does not seem as sharp, there appears to be less detail in the face. Is is due to the camera operator not focusing properly? different cameras? deliberate??? Or is my eyes?!!!


Yes this is quite common. Many factors can produce this. Perhaps the actor/actress requested a softer focus...or the lighting is slightly different...or the operator got the focus wrong.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiDef Bob
Is it just me or have others noticed that the sharpnest of the picture can vary on the same program? (snip) Is is due to the camera operator not focusing properly? different cameras? deliberate??? Or is my eyes?!!!
As a former camera operator for TV newscasts, I can tell you that each newscaster has their own individual sharpness setting. The camera electronics is able to change the focus on just the face and leave everything else untouched. It's amazing how "unfocused" the face is for many newscasters, especially women who fear that they'll look old. Instead, they start looking like painted dolls, in my estimation.


Whether this is done for programming and movies, I don't know, but I suspect the same thing occurs.


Larry

SF
 

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Switching between actors in a scene, you'd think, might be a matter of focus if images vary significantly. With a two-camera setup, one camera--perhaps deliberately--might have extra filtering to soften facial wrinkles. Some video cameras have optional circuits that deliberately soften flesh-tone resolution; Philips won an award for theirs.


Elsewhere, motion and frame rate seem important, and no doubt display video processing plays a role. Capturing images at 60 fields per second--1080/60i (30i)--with HDCAMs results in crisp helicopter landscape flyovers, while 24 fps blurs motion within scenes unless overcranking is used briefly. When there's very little motion and good scene lighting, I often spot very crisp 24p images. It's an interesting exercise to compare fine details in productions captured with 1080/60i video tape with images such as INHD's IMAX 24p film telecines or Discovery's 24p taped "Sunrise Earth."


Some 1080i/p displays with inverse telecine can extract 24p frames delivered with 2-3 pulldown via 1080i, showing them at 48-, 60-, 72, etc. fps, minimizing motion judder except for 60-fps rates. And deinterlacing, mostly for fixed-pixel displays, plays a key role: Static images could appear very crisp when the two 1/60-sec TV fields per frame can be 'woven' together without concern for motion. But, if the video processing is subject to 'resolution pumping', a slight motion such as a shrug may activate 540p bobbing, halving vertical resolution and blurring detail beyond normal motion blurring. -- John
 

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Another factor: the use of film. When film cameras are used, a focus measurement is taken with a tape measure to determine the correct focus setting. If the actor doesn't hit their mark properly or stay on it, the focus will be off. Unlike a video camera, film cameras usually employ a separate "Focus Puller" who moves the focus ring (with cable controls) at the approprite times to the measurements that were taken before each take. If the focus has to change (as with a rack from foreground to background, etc), those measurements are usually marked on the focus ring so they can be hit accurately. However, if someone moves or the timing isn't right, focus will be incorrect. Since the focus puller doesn't look through the viewfinder and often doesn't have a video tap to view, he may have no way of knowing what is entering the camera. That's why actor marks are usually clearly indicated on the floor with colored tape.


In the case of video, while it's easier to correct focus on the fly, a lot of times the focus puller is also the same person moving and aiming the camera. While it means not relying on two people to do the job correctly, it means more for one person to concentrate on. This can lead to things going unnoticed until it's too late.


Finally, cameras have to hit marks when moving, too. If they drift past their mark (an easy thing to do with several hundred pound of rolling aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, plastic and glass) the focus measurement will be off. It's not as much of a problem when the camera move is perpendicular to where the actor is facing, but moving toward the actor on their eyeline requires a lot more prescision.


Of course, as mentioned above, filtering can change softeness, as well.
 

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There is also the artistic issue that sometimes focus is deliberately pulled on some shots to highlight the person talking (or reacting) and place the other out of focus intentionally!


(The bespoke "skin-detail" circuit on video cameras is also an issue - as the same camera can be set to be soft on some colour areas - like flesh tones - and sharp on others. Most modern cameras have at least two skin-detail settings - allowing cameras to be swung between anchors with different skin tones)
 

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Wow! You know, its forums like this one which makes me stand in awe at the level of details you get when a question is asked. You guys rock!
 

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CSI is the one that does this most. You can see in some close shots of Marg Helgenberger the focus is actually behind her face (the hair on her shoulders is in focus), yet every hair in William Petersen's beard is in focus when they cut to him. This intentional misfocusing technique goes way way back to silent film. There's one film, I think Heart of the Hills where Mary Pickford is walking around the forest and in every shot she's obviously out of focus but all the leaves and branches just in front of her are sharp.


Just another thing you rarely noticed before HDTV.
 

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I saw "Home Fries" this morning on HBO HD and they managed to always have a soft focus on the mother, even when she shared a frame with another character, whose face was not softened.
 

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watch Bikin Destinations on HDNet, some episodes are super soft while others are super sharp and are just about the best looking HD there is


-Gary
 

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Alias is a good example of a show where shot-to-shot the quality dramatically changes. Some shots are beautiful, crisp HD. Others (mostly close-ups on females) are very soft... almost soap-opera soft. Finally, randomly, and not always in low light levels, some shots are very grainy. I've particularly noticed this recently in shots when they are going over their mission plans in their APO meeting room. The shot is bright as anything (white walls, white furniture, bright lights), yet there is lots of grain.


It really makes me wonder if anyone is even paying attention.


At the same time, I recently played with the newish Sony HDR-HC1 consumer HD video camera. I found it excessively difficult to achieve a perfect focus, auto or manual. The high resolution of the HD signal makes even the slightest out-of-focus shot very noticable, especially when you can see the crispness of whatever happens to be in focus in the frame.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Murrell
watch Bikin Destinations on HDNet, some episodes are super soft while others are super sharp and are just about the best looking HD there is


-Gary
Gary, I sure as heck hope your measurements of resolution are correct, because I've been relying on them and I lack the software and knowlege to disagree with you.


If you're wrong, we're gonna tar and feather you. :)
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by scowl
You can see in some close shots of Marg Helgenberger the focus is actually behind her face (the hair on her shoulders is in focus), yet every hair in William Petersen's beard is in focus when they cut to him. This intentional misfocusing technique goes way way back to silent film.
Great info. Is this technique used for artistic purposes or to hide the age of the actors?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for all the great replies.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Murrell
watch Bikin Destinations on HDNet, some episodes are super soft while others are super sharp and are just about the best looking HD there is


-Gary
Quote:
Originally Posted by AkaStp
I would definitely aggree with that comment. Aside from sharpness/softness the camera movement over the "models" in some some episodes is not very smooth. It seems like its the earlier (pre-2004) episodes that are the best.


Sorry guys, but if your attention is on cinematic and technical issues when watching Bikini Destinations I'm afraid you're missing the point! :p
 

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Thanks for raising the sharpness question, HiDef Bob. Here’s something that puzzled me during the last few years that Dan Rather had his evening news show on CBS. His face always looked a bit soft or out of focus. Now I know why: It was by his choice, or that of someone at CBS. Rather has wrinkles, fairly deep ones at that. To me, they just gave him The Marlboro Man, rugged, outdoorsy look, and I liked it.


One time I saw Rather on a panel talk show. He looked soft-faced there also, until they switched momentarily to another camera, and then back. For a few brief moments, we got The Marlboro Man!


Thanks a lot to all who explained about the electronic doctoring up of facial characteristics.


Jim


P.S. I'm not a Rather fan, but would rather see Rather look like himself when I happen to see him. Rather rugged-looking, Dan is.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffAtlanta
Great info. Is this technique used for artistic purposes or to hide the age of the actors?
Dunno. Not every shot is like this so they're not fooling anyone.


That old movie that had Mary Pickford out of focus in several outdoor scenes was Franchon, the Cricket . Some of these scenes are on a slient era DVD collection I got a few years ago.
 
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