Ooh... scary to start a new thread in such a still empty brand new forum... but I'll just try. :P

I am working on a project at the moment, finally almost finishing set and puppets, so it will soon be time to animate... But I know that I will have to improve my camera setup.

The issue is that I have a nice camera actually, but it is an HD (hdv actually) camcorder, the canon HV30. It gives me nice images, but the only way I can capture at the moment is via HDMI (I should be able to shoot in DV as well, but tried that in the past, with a firewire cable, but could not get things working for some reason... might be worth diving into this again). So I have been animating some things capturing directly in HD, and it was of course a nightmare... Everything slowed down so much that I often would have to wait for a minute for my hands to be out of screen, and the software often failed (I use Animator HD personal).

I think, and I believe I've read about it also, that it should be possible and a good idea probably to capture and view some lower quality image, but maybe still store the higher quality images? I am only not sure about a good way to do this.

Another thing I have been considering in is if it would be useful at some point to invest in another camera, going to some sort of DSLR, as I believe there are some models nowaday that should be quite affordable. I bought this camera some years ago because I also wanted to use it for live action filming.

Another thing is maybe not so much of a question, I'm just trying to think through how I can make my lighting set up most convenient to have more freedom in where to place the lights without them standing in the way everywhere, etc. Right now I have three lamps mainly, which all are standing on the ground. One I can change height/etc. and is more of a film light model (simple halogen lamp though, just the type of holder, etc.), the others are more fixed, can only bend the top a little.

Now for the film I'm working on now I have some specific plans for the light, as in different light sources for enhancing a lantern light, moonlight shadowy stuff, etc. I will need to have some lights coming from above the set, and my two simple standing lamps are not high enough for that, also they do not reall have a focused beam. So I bought some simple click on/clamp desk lights (not very smart buy maybe I found later, simple par cans wouldn't be much more expensive and probably of better use, well... and I still need to buy the bulbs even). Now I was thinking to build some structure where I can hand lights from, just thinking now that anything with some found wood that I can build high and stable enough around/above my set should work, I was just wondering what sort of rigs/etc. other people are using for this...?
I'm living in a rented place, so drilling in the walls is probably not a great idea (though I should ask first maybe, as this is a weird old building with already holes and such in the walls), I was thinking at first of an on it self standing structure, thought it should be quite easy, though I should make sure it would be safe of course...
Well, any help, thoughts, direction to old threads at the old message board that I have missed, advice, etc. in regard to lighting rigs and setups would be much appreciated. :)

Being quite lengthy again, sorry for that, hope most makes sense still. Thanks a lot already!

 
Edit: hmm... just seeing the pictures or Alter Eddie's set up with a structure attached to the main animating base, makes sense... Not sure how to apply it on my base right now as the board on top of it is larger then the base, and the base is stable enough but not very strong as it was my own not very well calculated mashing some bars of wood together home made base. It stands strong, but I can not really move it around without having to re-hammer things. Maybe I should just make a better base also. :P

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I've had the same problem shooting HD, I also use Animator DV, but with a Canon DSLR. My computer, or the program (not sure which) seems to be too slow to handle the giant HD frames.

My solution has been to point my webcam at the LCD screen on the back of my canon, and animate from the images captured from my webcam. Basically I push two buttons, one to capture the webcam image, and the second to take the actual frame of film.

The webcam images are smaller so Animator DV can handle them and I can view the play back easily. All the actual frames from my camera just dump into a file on my computer, they don’t go through animator DV at all. I don’t touch them till I load them into my film editing program.

I’m not sure if this is the best system, but it works pretty well for me.

I actually bought the Canon specifically so I could have the live view and animate with one camera, but it became such a pain in the neck with all the huge HD frames that I went back to the system I just described.

Hope this helps, and by the way I hang my lights from the ceiling.

Jeff

This is my set up below -

Thanks for the reply,

I was thinking about if a webcam would be a possibility, didn't think of pointing it to the lcd screen though, was just thinking how much difference you would get if you'd have it just next to the camera or so, but yeah especially for close-ups that wouldnt be a good idea I reckon. I would just imagine it should be possible to have some less quality preview within the program, I believe stop motion pro has that...? But animatorHD I couldn't find any of such option in. Maybe this is the only way to go then, I imagine that once you have it all set up it should work pretty easy. Do you still attach this wooden base to a tripod then?

hmm, yeah from the ceiling would be great, I'm just not so sure if that would be possible here... Well, I'd have to check, but maybe I shouldn't encourage this building falling further apart... 

I have something similar when I mount it to my tripod, its just a flat 1x4" with a hole drilled into it. This big block was made for a dolly shot I had rigged up.

I've also seen people mount a spycam to the view finder, if you want something more compact. Heres a pretty good video of a guy doing it that way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUHMnpxMu74&feature=plcp

Jeff

My set-up is:

A Canon 40d DSLR with Live View.

Nikon or Olympus lenses on an adapter.

A mains power adapter for the camera.

A USB Cable from the camera to the computer (my old Pentium 4 PC).

Stop Motion Pro Studio HD framegrabber.

I have no trouble viewing the live view video frames with SMP, and can play back in real time.  Resolution is reduced for playback, since the 10 year old computer couldn't cope otherwise.  When I look at the actual high res photos taken, it slows down, but I only need to check focus and exposure.  While animating, I only want to see the video, since it matches the live view of the frame I haven't taken yet.  On my computer the video feed is displayed at 800 pixels wide - I think the actual feed is slightly bigger but it's set to what the old P4 can handle.  The actual frames are saved in a different folder at whatever size the camera is set to, usually 3888 x 2592.

I use a different computer to do post production, a 3 year old Mac Pro.

I've also been animating at another studio, with this set-up:

A Canon 7d DSLR with Live View.

Various lenses, Pentax mainly, and an adapter.

A mains power adapter.

A USB cable to the computer - 

iMac with 27" screen, bought last year I think.

Dragon framegrabbing software.  V2 I think, before it became Dragonframe.

It also has no trouble with the video assist frames, though if it's a long shot, say 250 frames, it can get a bit peculiar towards the end.  I had to force quit and restart couple of times, but that worked ok.  I can look at the full size still frames any time I want to, though they are huge (16 megapixels) so it does cause a few delays.  Dragon will also display an audio wave form if there is lip synch to do, so there is no need to make dope sheets beforehand.

I used to have a spycam looking through the viewfinder of my Nikon D70, before Live View was built in to DSLR cameras.  It worked, but Live View is much better and looks more like the final frame.  Now, a lower cost DSLR like the Canon 600d or 650d would have live view, and HD video as well.

In my studio, I have some 48mm outside diameter PVC pipes near the ceiling to hang lights on, so they are out of the way.   But I also use 3 or 4 lightstands to put other lights where I need them.  Usually these are off to the side so they don't get in my way.

If you are unable to attach anything ot the walls or ceiling, you could either get some big lightstands with boom arms, or cobble together some kind of framework from 2 x 4s or something to hang lights from. I bought a couple of these: 

Cowboy Studio adjustable light stand with boom arm

That particular model is almost 7 feet tall (about 213 cm) and the boom arm is also 7 feet long (the same). They reach all the way up against the ceiling easily and I can walk under them without needing to bend over and won't bump them with my head (I'm pretty tall). With 2 of these you can have the arms reaching all the way across your set overhead and hang several lights from each arm, plus place lights on the upright sections too. There are also jointed arms you can attach to the lightstands to position lights anywhere you want:

Manfrotto articulated arms at Amazon

Of course this is an expensive investment, but if you can afford it you'll have some great studio equipment you can use for all your productions.

If you'd rather build something from wood, you could do that a lot cheaper of course. 

Either way, I do recommend PAR lights and some lighting C clamps to attach them to whatever supports you end up using. Here's some info on my site about what you need to get for PAR lamp use (what kind of clamps, color filters etc):

My lighting setup

 

Thanks a lot for all the replies.

To Jeff: thanks for clarifying that. I think with the camera I'm using now I should use your method of building some wooden base to attach on top of my tripod, and trying with my webcam it seems easiest actually to use the LCD screen of my camera then, as it is bigger and easier to get in focus and quite good quality.

As what I understand, stop motion pro seems indeed the only framegrabber software where you can view in lower quality while still saving the full quality images. Strange...

The force quitting sounds familiar, and indeed if that would be the only trouble it can work ok, but it seemed to build up every time untill i simply couldnt take a single frame without countless problems.

So if I want to keep using the setup I have now I should probably go for the webcam method. Investing in a dslr camera and possibly other software might be good to consider for the future...

Then onto the lighting setups. I have just sent out an e-mail to find out if it would really be impossible to attach anything to the walls/ceiling, so will first await for the reply on that. Those equipment pieces look good, I see that the most simple versions of for example that articulated arm is not yet that expensive. I can imagine also that some sort of structure in combination with those arms would be very useful.
Sometimes certain things just seem such an easy system that should be easy to build, but then again, there is of course a reason that good equipment costs money. So probably investing in some good setup would be useful. Also as I know that I will have to move out this place at some point, so it would probably be more useful to have something I can easily take apart again and use somewhere else, instead of spending long on building something I might need to build again in a new place...
Yes, I regret my buying of simple click on lamps instead of the PAR lights now... I can still buy some small PAR spots perhaps, but it's just silly. I might first want to try what I can do with these lamps.
Thanks for the link to the article on your site. I already read it :) Looks like a good and decent setup you've got there.

Ok, for me it's mainly a matter of choice and decision now I guess... Seems always the hardest part for me...

Hooray! I may drill into the walls. :)

Not into the ceiling, as it won't hold the weight. As long as I make no permanent damage and can fill up the holes when I leave with polyfilla. I imagine I won't need very big and heavy screws, as the bars and lights together won't be very big or heavy.

Hmm... the only issue I see now is the width of my room. It's quite wide, more then 3 meters. About 3.10/3.15 I would say. So to go from one to another wall I would need really long pipes. Or have something going down in the middle, or at two places closer to the walls... 

for now I also wanted to try first how much I could do without this structure, as I have one clothing rack where I took off the wheels which I use now to hang one light from the top. It kind of works though it's too close I think, and it is difficult to have a nice beam without over-lighting it. I should try it with a dimmer also, I have dimmers, but now I'm having problems with connection them, having a small European socket, and new UK lights, a converter that is big and round... gosh...
Well, but still it is all too noisy. I find it hard to figure out how to light it enough, but still be able to get harsh shadows. Maybe if I could get a structure above the set I could get some white reflector/filter to diffuse some overall light then use smaller spots for the specific highlights/lighting effects? I also notice in the test images I made today they don't have as much depth as I'd like. It's quite a narrow setting making usual three point lighting etc. a bit difficult, though I was thinking perhaps some moonlight light beam in the background could enhance the depth a bit more. For that I would need the structure above the set at least.


Sorry if all my long loud out thinking is annoying... It's still a lot of figuring out for me. :)

Attachments:

So, I've finished building my structure for lights! Really happy now, need to get some more pipes ideally, this so far is all build from found materials (well, except for some screws and metal corners and such), was lucky that there was still wood laying around here, and some other found between trash, like an old door I had to dismantle to use the poles. Well, a pretty cheap stop motion studio so far. :) Think the savings made it worth buying some good par spots perhaps though, or first trying more innovative methods to make these spots work. Hopefully get some lighting filters next week from a housemate who can get them from a theater. Set is about to be finished as well, yay!only downside is that I've just heared this building is probably going to be knocked down in 6 months by the new owner. Well, at least it means I shouldn't worry about holes in the wall and paint on the floor, and I should rock on now I still have it!

Looks like you came up with a good setup

Jeff

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