My Tips for Best Results with the Sony TRV900...

Many buyers of cameras are vaguely aware of the advanced features hidden within these units, but seldom practice and get familiar with how these features can enhance the results attainable with the video camera.

TIP #1 Turning off automatic gain control. The TRV900 comes with the factory default setting of AGC set to enabled. The sound pickup has that unnatural, excessively-loud, gain-riding quality with this feature enabled. I see no reason to use it.
TIP #2 Avoid small apertures. The TRV900 uses an aperture correction circuit (sharpening), which plays an increasing effect on the picture as aperture approaches F11. I found that the camera can provide much more natural "true" sharpness when the aperture is kept at F4-4.8. There are several reasons, having to do with optics and the smallest size of a ray of light that can pass through the lense area. Camera designers compensate for the loss of sharpness at small apertures by electronically-sharpening the picture. This can result in a dark halo around brightly-lit edge details. By opening up the aperture, the lens resolution improves with respect to the light rays reaching the CCDs and lessens the need for this electronic sharpening. I find the images have more detail and less artifacts. This can be achieved by using the aperture priority "AE" mode and using the ND filter when in outdoor daylight situations. You will achieve faster shutter speeds, but you can add additional external ND filters if shutter speed is really important to you.
TIP #3 Avoid automatic mode for night shooting. The TRV900 automatic aperture and video gain controls work fine for day shooting, excepting the extreme quality needs of critical photographers as described in tip #2, but when shooting at night, the TRV900 will try to make night look like day. Some of my New York City night shots were TOO bright. Another reason to avoid this is avoidance of the "gain up" functions, which, at the +12, +15 and +18dB gain settings, introduce increasing amounts of noise or "graininess" to the picture. When shooting fireworks, use a fixed gain of 0dB. You might find that "open" iris is even a bit much. Very intense fireworks might look better if you move towards F4. Shooting a stage performance with colored lights involves much the same procedure, though more stopping down. I shot a number of stage performances with an aperture of F4-5.6, depending on lighting. One should avoid automatic modes with stage performances because the camera will weight the overall brightness of the scene, including the dark outer perimeter of the stage, and overexpose the subjects lit by spotlights. Zoom in a bit, manually set exposure for the brightest subject, then back out to take in the whole perfomance and make only minor aperture adjustments as lighting needs change.
TIP #4 Avoid flipping out over the flip out screen. The TRV900 TFT flip screen has less dynamic range than the CCD array itself. Often times, video will look overexposed on this screen, as the highlights get crushed by the limited dynamic range of the screen. Use the Zebra exposure pattern feature when you aren't sure of your limits. Eventually, with experience, you'll be able to judge it pretty accurately without the Zebra pattern function. Using only the screen, the new TRV900 user will tend to adjust manual exposure for underexposure because of the screen's limitations.
TIP #5 Shooting under colored lighting. Dealing with colored lighting presents a challenge to any camera operator. The TRV900 has automatic white balance, a daylight, fluorescent and a tungsten setting, as well as a manual custom setting. The last option will be helpful when you need to shift colors back to a more natural value. I carry a white card with me for these situations. Find the most neutral dominant light source and position the card so it's illuminated by that source. Aim the TRV900 at the card and zoom in until it's full field. Set the manual white balance now. The video image should correct for the odd lighting, making it look more natural. I find that in party/dance situations where there are a lot of colored lights, the general color tends toward reddish. Cameras exaggerate this, which is why a manual white balance is needed.

Using Tungsten white balance often gives strange results. Sometimes even the manual white balance is not quite right. If you have a mix of light available, with some clever positioning of your target card, you can catch just the right combination of lighting to achieve of more natural color cast by setting white balance to that. For instance, if you're images are looking too blueish, seek out of source of fluorescent light, possibly from an adjacent kitchen or catering area and position your card such that it gets some of this light in addition to the light from the environment where recording is being done. Often you can achieve great control by careful mixing of the light on the target you balance your whites on.

If you're shooting a stage performance with colored spotlights and white spotlights, here are some considerations: the white spotlights are daylight balanced, usually high-intensity arc lamps. You can use auto or daylight white balance settings if this kind of light is the only light used. When colored (gel-covered) spots are used, particularly the red and blue tones, there are instances where a tungsten setting will tone down the reds and restore some realism to the scene. I recorded a performance recently where orange and green lights were the dominant sources, and I found that the red was so dominant that it required manually switching to Tungsten mode to bring the colors back into perspective. Sometimes it's necessary to switch WB modes on the fly, as lighting changes.

TIP #6 Handling the TRVV900 for steady shooting Use the flip-out screen of the TRV900 and hold it with your left hand, while you hold the camera with your right in the traditional hold. Two hands steady the camera better than shooting with one hand. If walking, bend your knees and walk as if your legs were the shock absorbers of a smooth-riding luxury car. Very smooth motion video can be achieved using these methods, with practice.










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