Shooting How-To Videos on a Desk Surface, Advice Needed Please.
April 30, 2014 1:53 AM   Subscribe

Helping a friend shoot video for a niche how-to video site. Need some advice on improving our current setup.

I'm helping a friend who has recently lost his job build himself an internet-based business to replace his income and instill some much-needed self-esteem. I have experience in everything that will be needed except for shooting video. We are making how-to videos that require shooting a desktop surface area that is roughly 24" x 18" and while things are going well so far, I was hoping I might appeal to some fellow mefites to save us some trial and error.

Our current setup is in a smallish room (10'x14') that allowed us to construct a "scaffolding" along the ceiling using these tension rods, upon which we hung 3 softboxes and the camera. On the desktop itself we used a marble slab for the work surface and stood a small p&s camera on a mini tripod for close-up shots and second angles. He shoots a vid, then edits and records a voice-over in iMovie. I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible for now as he is learning a lot of new stuff all at once.

Here's our issues:

On the main camera which is about 5' off of the work surface the depth of field is only about two inches. Ideally we would like at least 6-12" of in-focus height to work with.

Backgrounds - We really liked the look of an all-white (or solid color), featureless work surface, but the camera seems to need some contrast to get the colors and exposure right. We tried to dial it in manually but just couldn't seem to make it work. What are we missing?

Are there any cameras that you would recommend for this application? Something that has a robust remote available and video-out that can output the video as it is being shot would be fantastic so I could set up a monitor near his workspace which he could easily use to make sure things were focused, lit, etc. Other appropriate tool recommendations are also welcome!

The cameras available are a Sanyo HD2000 Xacti, Canon s90 p&s, an old Casio Exilim p&s, several gopro's and contour's, and a Sony HXR-NX30U Camcorder.
posted by Th!nk to Technology (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's hard to give too much advice without seeing an example, but in general I would guess you need more light. That should help with the DoF issues and the contrast/exposure. If there is a way to let the camera auto adjust and then switch it to manual to hold those settings you might try that. I think the Sony HXR will give you your best image, but it won't have much in the way of remote capabilities. I have recently seen a two HD/camera remote control and monitor for watching infants in their nursery. For this application a couple of those might be very workable.
posted by DaddyNewt at 12:45 PM on April 30, 2014

Check out the folks at CommonCraft, I believe they did a behind-the-scenes episode. (FF to around 4:30)
posted by Wild_Eep at 2:16 PM on April 30, 2014

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