I recently encountered the following problem whilst shooting
on location with the P+S mini35 with the Canon XL1-s. The
spot was then transferred to film and then played in a local
The main problem then being because it was going to be digitally
transferred to film, we weren’t really able to do too
much correction in post. The director edited the spot and
then sent it uncompressed in Tiff format to the Transfer house.
The first print was terrible, nothing even close to what I
had seen from the directors edit. The discussion started 'Are
you sure you have (or had, when shooting ) a correctly adjusted
My assistant had performed a complete check the day before,
including having the monitor (Sony 9041) professionally calibrated
(with a vectrascope ...I think). As always, during the course
of the day, the client (or agency) adjusted the Contrast,
Brightness and Colour of the monitor. The knobs had been taped,
but I guess someone didn’t realise the importance or
the reason why they were taped. I didn’t have the luxury
of having a monitor with a preset button to reset to the original
At some point on the first day it became apparent that the
monitor had indeed been 'Played with'. I realise there is
a given procedure how someone should configure the monitor.
I am very familiar with this process, but it still remains
a very subjective interpretation of what is right and wrong.
After the shoot was over, the next day I then went to a professional
Video business who calibrate the majority of the monitors
in the area where I live. Before going I had filmed an 18%
grey card (using the same camera). To check exposure I used
a waveform monitor. I recorded 60 seconds of the grey card
At the Video place I viewed the recorded grey card on a Class
1 monitor that was 100% correctly adjusted and took spot meter
readings off the monitor, because the monitor continuously
rescans it is quite difficult to get an accurate reading.
My thinking was if the monitor was calibrated correctly (one
would normally assume so) then all I would have to do is set
my location monitor to the same spot metered level, (having
placed the same tape with the grey card in the camera at let
in play for the 60 seconds) I should then be fairly close
if not exact to obtaining a correctly adjusted monitor whilst
The problem is that obviously a class 1 Ultrablack monitor
has a much different exposure and contrast range to a commercial
available Sony 9042 9" inch monitor.
So, the question is....How can I, make sure that the monitor
that I have somehow is calibrated to show the same colours,
brightness and contrast as what the editor will see and to
what the transfer house will receive as uncompressed data.
What about the monitors used to edit the material on? It seems
like the wrong color/brightness/contrast would have been picked
up on in that point of the process. I see how it could slip
through the cracks, but I don’t see why it should have
I think you have to give us a better description of what the
problem was with the footage ...too dark ...weird color ..black
I can't seem to sense where in the production the problem
is occurring. If client played with the monitor shouldn't
the DP see that immediately? Why did the camera operator not
realize something was miss set?
Here's one possibility that I witnessed the results of when
a crew came back with BetaCam Sp footage that was way, way
under exposed. And as soon as I saw it I knew what the mistake
was....someone setting the camera by looking at a monitor
and not a waveform, and the perfect way to screw up the monitor,
especially the Sony PVM 8045 and their like, is to plug the
BNC cable into the wrong input. Lot's of times its done by
reaching over the top of the monitor (especially when it's
in a Porta-Brace case) and feeling for the input plug....trouble
is, the top of the case flap covers the top input plug and
by feel and by eye sometimes the cables goes into the looping
output of the monitor. The result is the auto termination
does not sense or terminate the signal, resulting a high contrast
So of course the crew fed SMPTE bars and adjusted the picture.
Contrast way down, Blacks set ,blue gun on and, bingo, looks
nice. Except when they got home whites were recorded around
Don't laugh, when you're moving fast, this is a great way
to screw up. I haven't done it yet, but I'm waiting in line
to take my turn.
I don't think the grey card idea will work. The monitor contrast
levels are set to the ambient light in which the monitor is
observed and the spot meter is going to be fooled. Nothing
beats an 11 step gray scale chart and a waveform monitor for
knowing exactly what is going on with the signal being recorded.
Set it up for the camera and set your light meter to what
you rate the camera for and you'll be in range all the time.
It's also a great idea to shoot the chip chart right after
recording color bars in both 3200k light and show light so
the editor or colorist has a good calibrated reference of
what is recorded.
My son has an XL1S and trying to get a good exposure thru
the lcd color viewfinder is a real challenge. Just moving
your eye up or down a little in the eyepiece really changes
the contrast/brightness levels a huge amount. It's real easy
to get fooled.
Setting up the monitor properly with SMPTE Bars and blue gun
is the first thing that should be done in both production
and post...as for the waveform ...never leave home without
I'm sure lots of us here would like the hear about the P+S
adapter you used on the shoot. I'm still trying to talk producers
into using one and I'd love to hear reports from the field
from those who have shot with it.
>And the perfect way to screw
up the monitor, especially the Sony PVM >8045 and their like,
is to plug the BNC cable into the wrong input.
I've seen this, but I've learned that if the monitor sets
up a bit strangely (for example, I've got the "blue only"
on and I have to twist the knobs dramatically in order to
get the bars to line up correctly) I need to check where the
BNC is plugged in.
>So, the question is....How can
I, make sure that the monitor that I have >somehow is calibrated
to show the same colours, brightness and >contrast…
This may not solve your problem. Unless your TIFF files had
the photometric parameters specified, which is very unlikely,
the problem is probably in putting the TIFF files on film.
There is no standard way of converting computer image data
to film. Try to find out from the folks who did the film recording
which film densities correspond to the
computer code values and get examples of files from them and
the corresponding film frames. I have had problems in the
past with the film recorder house refusing to do this claiming
they spent a lot of time figuring out how to get the film
to look like a monitor.
I was then forced to reverse engineer their mapping in order
to get my film the way I wanted it.
Charles P. Lamb
When shooting Mini-DV, probably the best way to keep yourself
out of any danger zones is to always check the LCD and the
zebras as a rough reference. There's just no way for the LCD
to fall as radically out of calibration as an unterminated
monitor can, and the zebras, as far as I know, are 100% reliable.
(I recently did three weeks of highly mobile doc shooting
with, unavoidably, *nothing but* the LCD and zebras on a VX2000
and a PD150, and -- to my own surprise -- have no complaints
about the results, other than two instances of soft focus
in 20 hrs of tape. But oh boy, would I love to have a REALLY
decent built-in LCD that's detachable/remoteable)
Marin County, CA
That's what this sounded like to me too. Overall I think it's
good practice to always use a terminator plug, instead of
the auto termination. This helps prevent accidentally plugging
the in into the out. But be careful, I recently got burned,
somehow a 50 ohm terminator (used in computer networks) got
into my kit, and really confused me for awhile because the
difference wasn't nearly as extreme as no termination or double
>Overall I think it's good practice
to always use a terminator plug, instead >of the auto termination.
Using the 8044 - 8045 series monitors, one thing you should
especially watch out for is intermittent problems with the
auto-termination. A lot of these monitors develop this problem
sooner or later, and of course the worst thing is that (at
least in my experience) it's always intermittent!
may set up the monitor fine, but with an intermittent problem,
it's easy to be fooled later in the day...