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class="style10">Monochrome Viewfinders

>Published : 11th Sept. 2006

>Jeff Kreines writes :

class="style11">>>It took electronic cameras to give us a real monochrome viewfinder... >>Of course, if you are a dog, you don't need one.

>The monochrome viewfinder found on professional broadcast TV cameras is a very highly refined focussing and exposure [as in zebra's] instrument. It picks off the signal directly from the camera pickup device [chip & pre-amp] and specially processes the picture for optimal focus-on a separate path from the picture that is delivered to the viewer.

>Sony tried High Rez colour viewfinders some years ago on professional TV cameras. It was a bomb. Professional TV cameramen HATED them. The cameramen could not focus because colour resolution is much lower than B&W. Sony withdrew the product.

>Those of you who harp to the B&W/Colour viewfinder issue are demonstrating your ignorance about TV camera design and use, probably from your familiarity with consumer cam-corders that have colour viewfinders. Not professional broadcast TV cameras which universally all have B&W.

>Lew Comenetz -
Video Engineer, USA


class="style11">>>Those of you who harp to the B&W/Colour viewfinder issue are >>demonstrating your ignorance about TV camera design and use, >>probably from your familiarity with consumer cam-corders that have >>colour viewfinders.

>I wouldn’t use the term ignorance, but have to agree colour viewfinders suck. I’ve tried the commercial ones that came and went and even some private showings of some prototypes that were supposed to sweep the industry and still today there is nothing better than a B/W viewfinder as I see it.

>Disclaimer : My opinions, thoughts, and beliefs are my own and may not reflect yours. The use of the pronouns "you, "some", and "many" to name a few are generalizations and without a proper name attached to them are not references to anyone reading my posts.

>Walter Graff
Director
BlueSky Media, Inc.
888.435.5428 ext 31
Cell 917.217.9766
www.bluesky-web.com


>Those of you who harp to the B&W/Colour viewfinder issue are >demonstrating your ignorance about TV camera design and use

No Lew, I'm very familiar with that world

>The problem is summed up by a comment of mine to a director in 1978.

>The convention then was director in your left ear, engineering in your right ear and programme sound in the middle.

>So there I was trying to push a ped around and getting a continuous blast in my right ear of "stay in the blue stay in the blue!" whilst in my right I was getting "you're shooting off the set"

>After about the 100th "stay in the blue stay in the blue!" I clicked talkback open and said "exactly what 'king shade of grey is blue?"

>Cheers

>Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


>Yeah, those monochrome viewfinders are great...

>... when you're shooting B&W.

>If I'm a news guy doing everything - exposure, focus, operating, audio monitoring, etc. all by myself then certainly a B&W finder is the right tool. But if I am in a more controlled situation then I'd much prefer to have a colour monitor even if it wasn't particularly accurate in colour or sharpness. There are other tools to judge these.

>A monochrome finder is a well-designed instrument but only for a certain type of shooting. When it doesn't have to "do it all" I would prefer that it could do other things instead. But hey, that's why I always stick a colour LCD screen on an Israel Arm and operate off that.

>Mitch Gross
NYC DP


class="style12">>Sony tried High Rez colour viewfinders some years ago on >professional TV cameras. It was a bomb.

>Gee, I've seen the colour viewfinder for the F900 and think it's pretty damn good. No BS.

>Joseph T McDonnell III
Camera Operator
Local 600 IATSE
New Orleans, La
Los Angeles, Ca


>In summary, we got along without colour viewfinders in the past, because the technology wasn't there.

>Therefore it's a bad idea now and in the future and we don't need it.

>Therefore, we should also be happy with just black and white film?

>Colour computer CRTs suck in 1983, therefore we should not have asked for better colour monitors back then.

>Why not? The first thirty years of attempts at colour film sucked. If your argument makes sense today, it made sense in 1932.

>Am I the only one who remembers how bad colour television was in it's first twenty years, at least in America?

>This argument, put forward by technically hyper proficient people, baffles me.

>Steven Bradford
Operating through black and white viewfinders since 1972,
And sick of them,

>Collins College
Tempe Arizona


>In my experience, the decision is between critical focus and proper white balance. In studio shooting, B&W viewfinder is fine for focus as the external monitor(s) will show everyone if there are any colour issues going on.

But for run and gun, AWB (and esp. presets) are not always going to get it right, and I'm comfortable getting focus on colour LCD’s (for SD). For these types of shoots, I think that sacrificing colour for focus is in some cases a mistake. Colour correction, and I say it all the time to shooters that I get tapes from, is not a reliable solution. Bad focus - you're screwed. Bad colour - you may be screwed. Proper white balancing is underrated IMO. The solution is NOT always to simply balance to the card, or choose a preset, or use AWB. Sometimes the "proper" balance looks like shit, the auto looks better, and the preset looks best. Or the reverse. But without that information, you're counting on post to get it to look good. And sometimes that's not possible.

Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman


class="style11">>This argument, put forward by technically hyper proficient people, >baffles me.

>And your rebuttle baffles me Steve. First off you are comparing apples to oranges. We are not talking about watching black and white film or a RCA colour TV. We are talking about a 1.5 inch CRT placed 2 inches from the eye, not even both, just one. Secondly, I would welcome a colour viewfinder if we had one that worked as well as black and white. I have tried everything ever made so far and it is nowhere near what I need for accurate contrast judgment.

>Problems is colour in the eye isn't about contrast, so making a monitor colour means you have to loose some of the goodness that a dedicated black and white monitor brings. Perhaps in 2155 they will make the same argument for 3-D screens and someone will say "Colour CRT video camera monitors sucked in 2005, therefore we should not have asked for better colour monitors back then."

>Problem is no one has figured out how to mix colour and black and white properly, nor gotten around the eyes poor design that uses contrast for sense of depth and motion, a necessary evil in order to focus.

>When someone invents one us "proficient" folks will welcome it.

>Walter Graff
Director
BlueSky Media, Inc.


class="style11">>Problem is no one has figured out how to mix colour and black and >white properly, nor gotten around the eyes poor design that uses >contrast for sense of depth and motion, a necessary evil in order to >focus.

>The colour viewfinders on mirror reflex motion picture cameras have been providing very accurate focus for decades. Properly adjusted they can be more accurate than the tape focus, especially with compressed focus scales on some lenses.

>The ARRI SR uses a 100 fiber-per-milimeter focusing screen. You can accurately focus to a resolution of 50 lp/mm at the film plane, which is quite good. I think some of the newer screens might have even finer pitches. The one in the Aaton A-Minima is excellent.

>Regular ground glass is not as sensitive (it limits resolution), but it seems to work fine for 35mm cameras if the grind is fine enough.

> Jorge Diaz-Amador
Designer / Technician
CinemaTechnic, Inc.
Miami, FL USA
http://www.cinematechnic.com


class="style11">>The colour viewfinders on mirror reflex motion picture cameras have >been providing very accurate focus for decades. Properly adjusted they >can be more accurate than the tape focus, especially with compressed >focus scales on some lenses.

>Jorge,

>I'm talking about a video monitor, not a film camera. Big difference.

>Perhaps this is the wrong board to post it, just realized.

>Walter Graff
Director
BlueSky Media, Inc.


class="style11">>I have tried everything ever made so far and it is nowhere near what I >need for accurate contrast judgment.

>In my early years I shot a lot of karaoke videos using old BVW-400 cameras. I don't think anyone was watching a colour monitor while I was on the dolly, and I remember playing back some footage after a day's shoot only to find that I'd shot a lot of one end of the dolly track, where a bright orange sandbag was placed to prevent me rolling off. In black and white it looked just like another part of a stone wall. In colour it looked like a big ole' mistake.

>So maybe it's not about accurately judging colour and contrast yet. Maybe it's just about seeing stuff that shouldn't be in the shot easier than before.

>>Problem is no one has figured out how to mix colour and black >and white properly, nor gotten around the eyes poor design >that uses contrast for sense of depth and motion, a necessary >evil in order to focus.

>Ikegami has a wicked on-board 7" LCD monitor that's colour, although not colour accurate, and has the end-all of peaking circuits. It's colour, and you can focus by it, although it's not engineering - critical at all.

>Art Adams
Director of Photography
Film | HiDef | Video
www.artadams.net

> "Cognoscens Me,
Cognoscens Te-
Aha!" -Alan Partridge


class="style13">>>This argument, put forward by technically hyper proficient people, >baffles me.

>Its very simple. The argument that the very specialized black and white viewfinders preferred in professional TV cameras to the Mickey Mouse colour viewfinders found in amateur consumer TV camcorders is not put forward by "technically hyper proficient people". Rather:

>It is put forward by my cameramen compatriots, who tell me that they cannot focus worth a damn on colour viewfinders. Not even "High Rez" colour viewfinders. It is a universal observation made by the experienced video cameramen that I serve. I'm just the messenger.

>Lew Comenetz -
Video Engineer/Video Controller.


class="style13">>>GB (rather, the director) "stay in the blue stay in the blue!"

>Sounds like a good reason to change the director, not the viewfinder.

>Steve Gruen
Steadicam/Lighting Cameraman
Paris, France


> Jorge,

class="style13">>I'm talking about a video monitor, not a film camera. Big difference.
>Perhaps this is the wrong board to post it, just realized.

>I think you are on topic and it does belong here. The subject is viewfinders on electronic cameras, which includes the latest HD cameras.

>I'm just amazed that even for HD cameras that are so technologically advanced, there is still not an equivalent performing substitute for the optical viewfinder.

>This must be the reason why the ARRI D-20 and Dalsa use optical VF. I haven't seen the PV Genesis.

Jorge Diaz-Amador
Designer / Technician
CinemaTechnic, Inc.
Miami, FL USA
http://www.cinematechnic.com


class="style11"> > I haven't seen the PV Genesis.

>Join the queue! actually seeing it at a show is OK, getting one to test is another thing entirely

>It's got a video V/F

>Cheers

>Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based


>I shot some VFX tests with a PV Genesis this autumn at Panavision, and the body I used had an AccuScene HD res video VF on it, but the bodies that were prepping to ship down to the 1st Unit shoot had something else on them (or had AccuScene units re-packaged in another housing) so I can't speak to what is going on shows, only about the "Engineering Mule" unit I was using to shoot tests.

>The Accuscene is a 1280x848 and qw80x720 in 16x9 (reading off their website.)

>I could adjust Peaking which helped get focus to pop, and there is a "magnify" function which allows you to push in for critical focus.

>I have to admit that it was a little bit odd looking at a high res colour image in an eyepiece - not in a bad way, but I've spent my life with the expectation that if there was a video body next to my right ear, my eye would be seeing black and white.

>The eyepiece can be set up to show zebras.

>One odd aspect of the Accuscene is that it makes a colour image by successively illuminating the same high res wafer with R,G, and B.

>Your persistence of vision puts the colour image together. It totally works, but brings us all the way back to the earliest colour TV systems that used a rotating filter wheel.

>I was not bothered by any refresh artefacts when looking right through it, but as I pulled my eye away from it, I vaguely remember being conscious of refresh flicker in my peripheral vision - not an issue when using one of these, but I wonder if it would tire me out by the end of a day of continuous use. I doubt if this was a function of the colour switching but more likely the whole raster refresh...but I honestly don't know.

>I have no idea what colour curves they had loaded the VF with, but one can load different curves into it. For what I was doing, the scope and big CRT monitor were what I needed to use for reference anyway, and the Genesis "Panalog" output must be interpreted through their LUT box to get a preview of what it might look like once converted to regular HD or filmout - the native image viewed directly is a bit washed out and low-con - much different and less noticeable, but not totally unlike viewing a cineon log file directly, without putting a log to lin conversion on it.

>Has anyone out there used the Accuscene viewfinders in "battle conditions" (meaning production, not Fairburn)

>I think I would be comfortable enough to use one on a normal HD job, but I would want the stock viewfinder in the case, just in case.

>Mark Weingartner
LA based VFX
once and future vidiot


class="style13">>I was not bothered by any refresh artefacts when looking right through it, >but as I pulled my eye away from it, I vaguely remember being >conscious of refresh flicker in my peripheral vision

>What about when you were panning? The 'strobed' rgb monitors I've seen in the past had significant lag on pans...

>Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC


>Joseph T McDonnell III wrote:

class="style13">>Gee, I've seen the colour viewfinder for the F900 and think it's pretty >damn good. No BS.

>I'd agree, the F900 colour VF is very nice. good colour rendition and very sharp. unfortunately, it's also VERY sensitive to sunlight getting in the VF, as I found out to my cost on a shoot this year. Evening sun behind me, stepped away from the camera for a minute to adjust a reflector, forgot to turn it downwards, and when I got back - masses of fried pixels

>Stuart Brereton
DP, UK


class="style13">>What about when you were panning? The 'strobed' rgb monitors I've >seen in the past had significant lag on pans...

>I was shooting lock-offs - can't speak to pan lag...but if the alternative is the downconvert lag to SD viewfinders, you know where I would stand.

>(hate downconverter lag...it is like driving a Chevy Suburban with totally shot tie rod ends and ball joints down Topanga Canyon at 60 mph at night with one headlight flickering.)

>Mark Weingartner
LA


>Lew Comenetz writes :

class="style13">>>It is put forward by my cameramen compatriots, who tell me that they >cannot focus worth a damn on colour viewfinders. Not even "High Rez" >colour viewfinders.

>Yes, and this supposes that the function of focus is being chiefly done by the operator and he/she is using the viewfinder to make the determination.

>While I would agree that in the vast majority of professional applications this is true, it is not an absolute. I am not a news cameraman, nor an operator working multi-camera feed to a studio or truck. For most of the professional video production I do the viewfinder is usually not employed at all. I hate the damn things and choose to use a combination of onboard LCD, proper field monitor and waveform/vectorscope.

>And I'm not talking about little prosumer handycams; I've captured a few features in HD this way.

>Mitch Gross
NYC DP


>"For most of the professional video production I do the viewfinder is usually not employed at all. I hate the damn things and choose to use a combination of onboard LCD, proper field monitor and waveform/vectorscope. And I'm not talking about little prosumer handycams; I've captured a few features in HD this way."

>I hope you don't wind up like cameramen/colleague friends of mine who get fired from shows because they can't properly focus with a colour monitor. I've seen it more than once.

>The B&W monitor on a professional TV camera is a highly evolved tool. It derives its picture directly from the pickup device and pre-amp, + (bold) + specially processes it and sweetens it on a special path directly to the eyepiece.

>Its a valuable tool. + (bold) + You should consider learning to use it, and learn to interpret its display. It may save your job someday.

>Lew Comenetz -
Video Controller/Engineer


>Accuscene sounds like what I was thinking of, a DLP chip with a colour wheel.

>Sounds like the right idea.

>As for the F900 colour VF getting fried by sun, they should resurrect the old ARRI 35IIC Auto-Closure Eyepiece. Just a two bladed cup shaped shutter that is opened by pressure from your eye. Take your eye off the eyecup and it springs shut very quickly.

>Lots of fun for annoying greenhorn directors. When they are looking through the camera, but not pressing their eye to the eyecup, and they say "I can't see anything" while the camera crew snickers several feet away.

>I like when they pretend to see something when the AC knows the viewfinder is totally black. "Looks good!"

>I think ARRI came up with that Auto-Close in the mid 1960's. I'm sure the patent has expired. You could copy the entire 35IIC if you want. I heard about some that were made in China many years ago.

Jorge Diaz-Amador
Designer / Technician
CinemaTechnic, Inc.
Miami, FL USA
http://www.cinematechnic.com


>Mark H. Weingartner wrote :

class="style13">> The Accuscene is a 1280x848 and qw80x720 in 16x9 (reading off their >website.)

>We've been assured by people who know that such resolutions are impossible.

>My question is, isn't the Accuscene a single monochrome CRT at heart?

>It seems to me that they wouldn't scrimp and use monochrome CRT of the same quality in the much cheaper devices.

>Does the addition of a colour filter really lower the resolution of a monochrome crt that much?

>Bob Kertesz wrote:

class="style13">>What about when you were panning? The 'strobed' rgb monitors I've >seen in the past had significant lag on pans...

>What do you mean by strobe and lag, Bob? I thought these things would run at least at 72 to 180hz, which shouldn't strobe at all. Since it's the display that's field sequential, and not the camera, the individual rgb frames would identical for motion wouldn't they?

>Or are you talking about a different phenomenon then I'm thinking of.
(Which can be see in the archive colour video feeds for the Apollo and early shuttle missions.)

>Steven Bradford
Collins College
Tempe Arizona


>Steven Bradford wrote:

class="style13">>My question is, isn't the Accuscene a single monochrome CRT at >heart?

>No.

>It's an F-LCOS device, similar to an LCOS/D-ILA/SXRD display chip -- a reflective device (unlike an LCD, which is transmissive). The Accuscene uses successive LED flashing for color -- giving it a decent colour gamut, but some people don't like the look.

>Me, I don't like the size and power consumption... it's very big.

>I prefer the OLED technology (which is active -- generates its own light) we use, which consumes very little power, and is tiny. Not quite the resolution of the Accuscene, but enough for most uses.

>Jeff "I am assured that Altasens is working hard" Kreines


class="style13">>We've been assured by people who know that such resolutions are >impossible.

>Hmmm...I have to wonder whether they would be making the claim if it were impossible...but I have not put the chip under a microscope.

class="style13">>My question is, isn't the Accuscene a single monochrome CRT at >heart?

>No, it's not a CRT at all, it is a type of LCD technology, but reflective.

>It sort of "multiplexes the three colours and our primitive persistence of vision integrates it into a colour picture.

>Mark Weingartner
LA based


>Hi,

class="style13">>We've been assured by people who know that such resolutions are >impossible.

>Given that full HD video projectors such as the JVC DLA-HD2K exist and have display elements measured in single-digit inches, it's clearly possible to make LCOS chips of this resolution in portable sizes. Obviously, this doesn't make it clear that the AccuScene does so, but it is technically feasible.

>I object to strobed RGB displays. I find the rain bowing of a single-chip DLP projector very objectionable, since it becomes visible whenever your eye seccates across the display, either to focus on a different area of the image or when following a fast moving object. I watched the opening of the most recent Star Wars film on both three chip and single chip DLP last week in a side by side comparison, and the single chip had this problem whenever something - such as a spaceship - flashed through frame.

>Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London


>Lew Comenetz writes :

class="style13">>Its a valuable tool. You should consider learning to use it, and learn to >interpret its display. It may save your job someday.

>Lew,

>I certainly do know how to use it and fully appreciate the technology within its design. To say that I have a preference for working in other methods when applicable does not negate this. When I need to use the viewfinder I use it.

When I don't I prefer to work in other ways. I have never had any issues with soft focus, nor any problems regarding the other information the viewfinder delivers. Indeed, I often have to get a special cable or rig to get viewfinder-only information out to a display elsewhere.

>I do understand that the B&W viewfinder is a valuable tool. I don't consider it to be a perfect tool.

>Mitch Gross
NYC DP


>You would think so, but the one I saw at NAB looked a bit like old plumbicons with low light used to - the three colours panned at slightly different rates, causing the effect I described. Maybe it has since been fixed, which is why I was asking.

>Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC


>MitchGross write:

class="style13">>I do understand that the B&W viewfinder is a valuable tool. I don't >consider it to be a perfect tool.

>It's a breath mint; no, it's a candy mint.

>I believe Mitch and Lew are describing two distinct types of video shooting each with different monitoring needs.

>The one is multi-camera, live action that requires rapid and accurate focus, but with an engineer and director downstream to take care of iris, shading, etc.

>The other being more of a director/cameraman type without an engineer and therefore requiring a good colour monitor but with sufficient time to accurately focus.

>Sometimes you need both. When they're saying over the radio that the hero car is right behind the second blue car, trying to find it on the Brooklyn Bridge with a BW monitor can be tricky, and trying to focus on a rapidly moving car from a rapidly moving helicopter with a colour monitor that lags -- and they all seem to -- is more than tricky, it's a job for a masochist.

>If you try to use both at the same time, keep that SickSac handy.

>Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>Jorge Diaz-Amador writes:

class="style13">>>I'm just amazed that even for HD cameras that are so technologically >advanced, there is still not an equivalent performing substitute for the >optical viewfinder.

>Has nobody designed a viewing hood with a magnifying eyepiece for a small (7"?) HD monitor that you could attach in place of a standard finder?

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA