Living a dream as a photographer & filmmaker

How to reduce noise in DSLR Filming - Beginner Overview

Image noise in DSLR filming

Noise is number one enemy of low-light filming. Learn to minimize it with these techniques

This is a guest post by NY Film Academy.

Technology marches ever forward. So much so, you have to be almost going out of your way if you want to induce any appreciable amount of noise with a mid-range DSLR camera in good lighting. But we’re not quite out of the woods yet, and given the frequency at which the problem comes up on photography and filmmaking forums, video noise when shooting with a DSLR camera is still something that vexes videographers.

Here we take a look at some of the common causes – and solutions – to your noise-based woes.

Looking back at 2012

Another year went by, disappearing into eternity. This time it was 2012. It was a good year. Professionally, it was a year of blog redesign, new cameras, new gear, and short film ideas.

Blog redesign

Many years ago, around 2005-2006, I started blogging. Back then my main topic was photography, as I was not involved in filmmaking then. My blog was titled Digital Photographer Blog. It needed a lot of work and I guess one could say that it got the work it needed and now it is what you see today cineSerge. Click HERE to see what this blog looked like in 2006... Oh my...

In the never-ending search for the right blog design [I don't think I'm there yet, but on the right track], I have changed the design of this here blog several times in 2012.  I hope my readers aren't too angry with me.

You see, I'm looking for the design that represents me accurately.  Some of the designs I tried in 2012 I thought were OK, but later realized were not representative of who I am.  Speaking of who I am, who am I?  I'm a photographer, indie filmmaker, blogger. I'd like to think of myself as somewhat  creative and thoughtful. So, my blog, naturally, should convey those qualities.  In the current design I have finally found the right combination of qualities that represent me, I hope.

There are some things that still need to be worked out and polished, but I'm happy with this design by Clairvo Yance.

DSLR Revolution

In 2012 I have sold my still camera Nikon D200 and my pro broadcast video camera Panasonic HPX300 and purchased Nikon D4 to serve both as stills and as cinema camera.

Ever hear about filmmakers talk about the elusive film look?  Well, the film look is obtained in part by having a large camera sensor.  D4 has a full frame 24X36 sensor, thus providing a shallow depth of field when needed.  It looks filmic! Score!  D200 was not a great camera for me as it didn't have the full frame sensor that I needed, and no video capability of course.  HPX300 had a great ENG form factor and was a great video camera, but it had a 1/3" sensor - why so small, Panasonic? Why?  It would have been an awesome camera if it had a larger sensor.  It is a great HD camera for doing documentary and TV work, but unsuitable for making movies.

So that brings us to Nikon D4: large sensor, 1080 24P, great glass [lenses that I've accumulated since I had the F5 back in the day of 35mm film].  It's capable of outputting a clean signal via HDMI, meaning that I could use an external recorder like the Ninja 2 to record via ProRes codec.  And let's not forget D4 is a fantastic stills camera!

So, after waiting and waiting, and waiting and waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, I got the camera!  And it is a pleasure to use!  I have used it in the field as a stills camera and it worked great!  I have not yet had a chance to test it as a cinema camera, but soon I will.  D4 will be used for my upcoming short drama "Square One" scheduled for production in Spring of 2013.

Throughout 2012 and into 2013, I'm working on creating a cinema rig that will be suitable for shooting indie film productions: short films, music videos, and features.  I have written a bit on the topic of DSLR cinema rigs HERE. The rig is coming along, so couple of months into the 2013 I will have it done.

'Square One' is born

In 2012 I have decided to make my own film, instead of working on other people's projects.  While I'm continuing to work on 'Products of Influence' written by Evan Taff, I wanted to do my own project.  

I'm not going to go into much detail about this project, I can tell you that I'm very excited about it!  Although it is a short film, I've put in a lot of time into development and preproduction of it.

So, what the film is about?
Its a story about a guy, his wife, and the uncertainty of our existence.
What does that mean? - you might ask. I guess you'll have to wait and see ;)  For now, here's the Production Blog for 'Square One'.

Looking forward to 2013

So, it is 2013 and I am very excited about everything that I have planned for it, professionally and personally.  I hope you guys have a great year!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog!

'Dexter' using Nikon D800, Cameron remakes 'Titanic' in 3D, + 'Zero Dark Thirty' Oscar nomination...

Here are couple of stories that caught my eye this month (January 2013).

1. Studio Daily posted an article about the award winning TV series Dexter using Nikon D800 as their B Camera along with A cam Alexa. Pretty impressive! Nikon’s D800 Gets Down and Dirty for Dexter.
For its type, size and price, the D800's exceptional color depth, dynamic range and very low noise at high ISOs (all of which I witnessed firsthand during a recent test run of the camera) are well suited to an edgy show like Dexter that shifts relentlessly from the full-sun, high-contrast Miami streets to dimly lit, cave-like interiors. A series of tests at Panavision last spring showed the Dexter creators just how well the camera could keep pace with the Alexa, convincing them to make the D800 the show's primary second-unit camera.

2. James Cameron says that in this this 3D version of Titanic, the ship still sinks ;)  The article by NY Times explains the process of making a 3D film from a 2D material: Inside the 3-D Conversion of ‘Titanic’.
While the version returning to theaters on Wednesday is the same cut that was released 15 years ago, the film’s 4K digital remastering and its meticulous 3-D conversion make for a fresh visual experience. The process spanned over 60 weeks and cost about $18 million to achieve a look that seems as if it had been originally shot with 3-D cameras.

3. San Jose Mercury News posted an interesting piece about Zero Dark Thirty: Oscars 2013 analysis: What happened to "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Les Miserables"?
A funny thing happened to "Zero Dark Thirty," "Argo" and "Les Miserables" on their way to being major Oscar contenders: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters forgot to follow the script.

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Production Blog: development continues on Square One - a short drama to be filmed in the summer of 2013

This is a Jan/2013 update. Sign up to receive future updates via email.

This month I'm continuing to work on development and pre-production for the short film "Square One". Production is now scheduled for the summer of 2013.

Here's the short and longer log lines for the movie:

"Square One" is a short drama about a man, his wife, and the uncertainty of our existence.
After losing his wife in a tragic accident, Mike wants to take his own life, overwhelmed with guilt. But an unexpected turn of events makes him change his mind...

Operation DSLR Cinema Rig continues...

While I continue to massage the script slowly, I'm also working on finishing up putting together my cinema rig. DSLRs have terrible ergonomics for filmmaking.  I miss the form factor of my ENG-style Panasonic HPX-300.  If only they'd put a bigger sensor in it... Oh well... 

In order to make the DSLR ergonomics suitable for filmmaking, I have purchased a basic shoulder/tripod rig, that I have modified to fit my needs better.  In January I have purchased and installed a follow focus, and another articulating arm. I also installed a cage bracket, so that I can attach the microphone, and a fill LED light, whenever I get it. Here are some photos.

cineSerge Flat Cinema picture profile for the D4

I also started experimenting with the picture profiles for the Nikon D4.  Thing with DSLRs is that they produce an 8 bit image, which makes it a bit difficult to color grade in post production.  In order to obtain the best latitude and preserve detail in shadows as well as highlights, several settings have to be turned down a bit [contrast, saturation, and sharpening].  
On the other hand, if you turn these settings all the way down, then you'd run in the problem of skin looking plasticky and unrealistic.  So, there has to be a balance. 
I have created my own custom picture profile for the D4 based in D4's Neutral profile. I'll still need to test it extensively. I call it cineSerge Cinema Fat [Cinema NL FLAT version 1-03].  Here's a pic of the profile setting.  In the future I'm planning on writing a separate post about setting up the D4 for cinema production.

Color grading reference tests

[ In case you don't know what color grading means, look it up HERE ]. 
This month I've also tested some "looks" for the film, aka color-grading.  First three images here are from one of the actual locations that will be used in the movie. The fourth picture is a reference image from some magazine, which I like a lot, so I might have a similar color-grading in Square One. [I also like this grade].

More equipment to get my hands on

As far as equipment goes, I'm still looking into purchasing Atomos Ninja 2 external recorder/monitor, some audio gear, and a tripod.  I was browsing Videomaker magazine the other day and saw some gear that I might have to purchase: Libec LX7 tripod, indiSystem Airjib, Roland Systems Group R26 sound recorder, Que Audio Q Sniper Mic.  Need to do research on these items...

Status update summary

So far, I'm making progress with the script, getting the gear together, doing camera tests, and researching locations.  Next step after that would be casting... Stay tuned!
Related Posts
1. More posts about Square One 
2. Read all posts about filmmaking
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