I am looking for any tips in taking movies of Christmas Lights. These are not static lights, but rather are extremely active. Each year I take movies of my display and each year I am disappointed in that I don't have as much control as I'd like using the inexpensive digital camcorders I have used in the past. I am thinking I need to keep the camera from auto focusing since the lights are changing so often (and so fast), but as far as this goes, frequent changes to the aperture are probably not going to help either.
I have about 3 months before I will need to film the real thing, so I hopefully will have the challenge well at hand before the lights go on. Anything you all can offer me will be greatly appreciated.
For an example of the lights in question, you can go to the website at summerleafchristmas.com.
grnzbra Springfield, US Nikonian since 28th Sep 2011
Thu 06-Sep-12 04:53 PM
#2. "RE: Christmas lights w/ D5100 in Movie mode " In response to Reply # 0
Well, you do have three months and you aren't using film that has to be developed so this should be easy. Get a string of lights and start this weekend.
Seems to me that taking a picture of a light source requires a lot less exposure than trying to take a picture of something iluminated by that light source. So you should be able to stop down the lens which gives you greater deapth of field.
Assuming that you want to capture relatively large arrangements, from the whole display to sections of the display, you will be relatively far away from the subject. This also enhances deapth of field.
So. Take make a quick video of your lights (at night) from various distances with various f/stops at each distance. This will tell you your maximum f/stop (smallest apperture) for each distance.
Assuming that you will have to go across the street to get a shot of the entire display, set up some kind of focusing target one third of the way back from the frontmost part of the display (on the assumption that the deapth of field extends 1/3 forward of the actual focus point and 2/3 behind it - if the experts know different, please help out with the correct numbers). Focus on the target from across the street and mark the lens or make a note or something so that you can return it manually. Also note the location of the camera so you can return to it when you do it for real. (This focusing can be done with AF-S. When you do it for real, everything will be done in manual mode)
Repeat the above process from any other point from which you might want to shoot portions of the display.
You may also want to consider that the house will be illuminated by the display at some level. The adjustments that determine from the previous steps may not allow the house to be in focus, so you might also want to repeat the steps to determine focusing points which would bring the house into the deapth of field zone.
I have never done anything like this, have had my 5100 for about a year and have only been getting the hang of it within the last two months or so. However, this is how I would approach the problem.
grnzbra Springfield, US Nikonian since 28th Sep 2011
Fri 07-Sep-12 10:25 PM
#5. "RE: Christmas lights w/ D5100 in Movie mode " In response to Reply # 4 Sat 08-Sep-12 03:56 AM by grnzbra
Sorry, but my advice about depth (yeah, if finally looked up how to spell depth) of field seems to be wrong. See my post about apperture behavior in video mode. I've only done one video (On YouTube.com under WA2WMR)
Apparently stopping down the lens does nothing for video. In fact, an article I read today comparing video with a DSLR to video with a camcorder said that DSLRs have a shallower depth of field than a camcorder.
Hey, it's the weekend. Play with it and see what you get. Oh yes, shoot with the camera on a 5 ton granite slab or a tripod that's built like one.
Best of luck with ths - I'm looking forward to seeing the results.
WELL IT LOOKS LIKE I WAS WRONG OR RIGHT ABUT DEPTH OF FIELD. Someone just posted to my thread about apperture behavior in video mode that the lens does indeed stop down to where you set it. The reason the pic remains bright is the viewfinder brightness is increased to compensate.
#6. "RE: Christmas lights w/ D5100 in Movie mode " In response to Reply # 5
I did have some time to play with the settings over the weekend. From those efforts, I believe I need to set up the camera with the bulk of the lights on before trying to record video with all the lights changing (so I can determine optimal exposure). The test I ran was with some RGB lights that, while I can set them up so they are fully on, it's not the same as when all the lights on the entire display are cranked up. So, I took some notes and hopefully will be able to record soon after all the lights are setup in November.
#9. "RE: Christmas lights w/ D5100 in Movie mode " In response to Reply # 8
Thanks for asking. Filming of the show definately went better than efforts of the past. I set the camera for aperture priority and tried to adjust ISO and shutter speed to acheive double the fps rate as was described in the associated article. I however ended up closing the aperture significantly and didn't worry about the indicated exposure. The biggest problem I have with what I did is the focus. I trust the camera more than I'd like because my 55 year old eyes don't work as well as they used to!