Advice on grainy footage from a shoot and share camera

Created by sickVisionz on March 15, 2012, 6:57 p.m.
  • I currently have a Casio Exilim ZS10 still camera that shoots "HD" video: 
      
     
    That's footage recorded from the camera and the inside shots are an example of where I'd be shooting and the lighting conditions that I'll have.  Everything that I shoot in the video recording mode is super grainy.  When I go on YouTube, I see people recording in dorm rooms, at their desk, etc but their picture quality isn't grainy like mine is.  I want to upgrade to something that's sub-$200 and will at least give me non-grainy video in lighting conditions similar to the ones in the YouTube video.   
     
    I'll pretty much never be filming outside and 9 times out of ten I'll be doing things within 4 feet of the camera or even closer.  Does anyone have any equipment suggestions or tips on how to get the image less noisy?  I've been looking at the Creative Vado, some Kodak camcorders and the Flip but the bulk of the test footage I see is someone outside on a super bright day.
  • @sickVisionz:  To me, it could look a lot worse. I think it isn't that bad for a compact camera. However, most small cameras struggle to make decent HD video.
     
    How about you try this: get a high-powered work light from a hardware store (probably about $15), and see if more light allows the camera to capture more detail (less grain). If increasing your available light still doesn't result in the camera performing to your expectations, then you might want to look at another camera. However, I'll warn you that without spending several hundred dollars, you'll have a hard time improving on what you've got. I think your best option is to add some light; your current camera seems pretty decent for what it is.
  • sonofabitch i just wrote an extremely detailed reply and im pretty sure it lost it! 7658&!)&&!9!8("

    sigh, ill reply tomorrow when i get home and am not on the mobile site. sorry!
  • @WolfOfOne: I know what that's like.  
     
    @CROM:
     Ok, I will try this and see what it looks like. 
     
    Update...  I purchased a 600watt light with two 300 watt bulbs and that helped a lot.  It's still a little grainy, but now it looks more like film grain than speckly noise so I'm happy, but I think I will look into the shoot and share cameras in a year or two to see if they offer less grain.  Completely unrelated, I saw something about attaching a magnifying glass to the lense of a camera to aid with close-ups so I tried it.  I'm very impressed with the results with that.  The bulk of what I'll be using the video for is me talking into the camera from a short distance and holding up dvds to the camera so the extra clarity up close is a huge bonus. 
     
    Thanks for the help. 
    @CROM:  This is what it looks like now:  
      
  • Okay, I'll try this again :P  Unfortunately it's going to be a much shorter reply (I do my best writing the first time through lol) 
      
    There is an old adage of Garbage In=Garbage Out.  Not that your camera is not good per se, rather this means that there is only so much you can do to the video in post production, especially with consumer grade hardware and software.  You want to start off editing with the best possible shots in order to get the best possible result.  That said, there is a lot that you can do to ensure your getting the best quality possible from your camera for cheap and even free.  (EDIT: Some of which you've already done by adding more lights :) ) 
     
    Light:  This is not just a good thing to have, but a requirement for low cost consumer grade hardware to produce good results.  The small sensors in P&S cameras just are not able to capture footage well in low light without adding noise (the grainy look as you said).  Therefore, you need to get as much light as absolutely possible, whether that means purposefully only shooting during the day and using natural light from large windows or "borrowing" your doorm-mates desk lamps (lmao) if you have to shoot at night, having the right amount of light is going to make or break a clean shot.  EDIT: That's a good start with the 600 watt light, that has defintely helped clean up the picture.  There is a lot that you can do once you have multiple lights to eliminate sharp shadows, but it's not absolutely necessary, it's really all up to what you want from the production and the budget.  You can spend from nothing to thousands of dollars and everywhere in between on this.
     
    Get to know your camera: This is one of the most important things you can do to improve picture quality, and best of all is that it won't cost you money.  Break open the camera manual and read it through.  Then play around with the various settings and modes of the camera.  Familiarize yourself with the focusing modes, ISO, color, and white balance settings (depending, your camera may or may not make all of these accessible or adjustable).  You spend nothing :) 
     
    Sound:  You're video could be in crystal clear 4K resolution; however, if your audience can't hear you clearly, they are unlikely to watch.  Users are much more willing to put up with crappy video than they are to put up with poor audio.  Ensure that you are recording in as quiet an environment as possible.  5 to 10 minutes before you start recording, record the empty room for background noise.  You can then use this audio track to reduce/eliminate background noise in your final video which will improve the sound quality and make you easier to hear.  You are most likely using the on-camera microphone for this, and as it is a P&S you are stuck with it unless your camera happens to have a mic input (unlikely but possible) or you use a separate mic and recorder.  The latter option will produce the best sound but require more editing.  You can spend from nothing to thousands of dollars and everywhere in between. 
     
    One of the best resources I've found for amateur videographers is Videomaker.  They have a great magazine and forums, but best of all they have a lot of free content right on their website that can help you to get started. 
     
    As far as video editing goes, it's difficult for me to reccomend anything free (for windows at least) as they are all either difficult to use or not powerful enough.  A decent cheap editor that I personally use is the AVS4You Video Editor.  I believe it was ~$60 for a lifetime license (and you also get access to any other AVS software.)  It's rather simple but it's a lot more powerful than Windows Movie Maker. 
     
    Another program I really like is the video editor from Magix software.  It's a lot more than I need for simple gameplay videos (which is what I use AVS video editor for, mainly), but when I need a beefy editor with everything and the kitchen sink features, it's quite handy.  It will take you a while to learn how to use all it's features but it's nice that they are there.  Pinnacle makes an okay editor aswell.  I would rank them as follows:  Pinnacle (consumer stuff) > AVS > Magix in terms of feature set.  AVS is definitely the easiest to use.  Magix and iirc the other two have trial periods and I encourage you to download them and try them each out to find the one you are most comfortable with and that also give you all the features you can think of that you might need (only if you would use them of course).  Lastly, if you're a student, you can sometimes find really great deals on editing software from Avid :) 
     
    Hope it helps :)
  • @sickVisionz:  Hey, that's great. Those lights are really useful, and surprisingly inexpensive (especially compared to "professional" photography lights).
     
    Here's another tip: to eliminate visible shadows, try getting the light to reflect off of your ceiling, instead of pointing it directly at your subject. It may also provide more consistent lighting of the scene, depending on the situation.
  • @CROM yep, it will also help you to not melt your face off from having 600w lamps pointed at you. ok, i exaggerate but those things get hot!!
  • Viemo had their film school spiel running a while back. One of the lessons I watched taught you about lighting sources. If you ever want to have a fancier shot, head over there and learn about the 3 different spots of lighitng (all which can be obtained through those industrial work lights), as well as cookies and the rest. Lighting can be a massive aspect, which can really change the feel of a shot. 
     
    Even if you're not interested in that, you still might want to visit the Vimeo Film School -- they have tons of new resouces that can help you get set up looking (and sounding) professional for just a fraction of the cost. 
     
    Best of luck! 
    -James
  • Thanks for the tips.  I've been checking out some of the Vimeo videos.  They are really good!
  • I ended up getting a Kodak Zi8 for like $70 and am very satisfied with that.  Even in low light situations I get less noisy video than my old camera could give me in a well lit room that was then augmented by the 600 watt work light.
  • @sickVisionz: I believe the Kodak also has an external mic port, right?  If so that could greatly help with sound.
  • @sickVisionz:  That's better than I expected. I knew the Zi8 was one of the better compact camcorders, but I didn't expect the video to be much clearer than a compact digital camera. Whatever works, right?

    @WolfOfOne: That's true, it does have an external mic port, which really gives it an advantage over the Flip products (none of which had an external mic port when I last checked).

  • My only issues are that
    1. there is a dead zone between the two focusing modes of about 2 ft to 8ft away from the camera
    2. it does some things automatically that I wish I could disable... really just exposure or brightness.  I recorded outside on a kinda gray day and everything was clear, but it cranked up what I think is exposure to the point that my face went pure white a couple of times and it made it look like I was recording on a beaming bright and sunny day.