The Friday Roundup – Proxy Files, Polarizing Filters and Framing

To Filter or Not to Filter

One subject in the world of shooting your own videos that can be a bit polarizing is that of filters.

Haw haw! See what I did there? Polarizing?

Anyway there are two types of camera filters that are most often discussed when it comes to shooting video at a basic level.

The first is the neutral density filter.

Very often around the interwebs I have seen one particular piece of advice bandied about with gay abandon.

That advice is that you should always buy a cheap neutral density filter and attach it to your camera all the time in order to protect your camera’s lens.

This is based on the incorrect concept that a neutral density filter actually does nothing.

Of course if a neutral density filter really did nothing then there would be no reason for it to exist in the first place!

The real data on this is that those filters intentionally and uniformly reduce the amount of light coming in through the lens.

The reason for that is so that the camera can then be set up manually for things like aperture to control depth of field.

If you set your cam to auto and attach an ND filter all you are doing is restricting the range of settings available in those auto settings with which the camera can adjust.

The only reason you would use one is if you are manually controlling the cam settings for a particular look or purpose.

They are not just fancy lens protectors!

The other common filter that is oft mentioned is the polarizing filter and again there are a lot of “you must always use” and “you must never use” types of advice.

So here is what it actually does.

In our environment there is light seemingly coming from everywhere but it all actually breaks down into four categories.

There is direct light which as the name suggests is light coming directly from the source.

There is reflected light which is light that has bounced off something else before arriving.

There is refracted light which is light that has travelled through something and has been “bent.”

And finally there is diffused light which is light that has been interrupted and bounced off into a range of directions.

A polarizing filter is a one which only allows the direct light through and cuts out all the other “noise” from the image being captured.

The easiest example of this is when you have a beautiful (to your eyes) beach scene with a deep blue ocean and sky, you take a shot of it and end up with a pale washed out sky and an awful dirty greenish looking ocean.

That occurs because of the diffused, reflected and refracted light bouncing all over the place.

A polarizing filter cuts all that extra light out and results in images that are truer to what you are seeing.

However that doesn’t mean you need one or should use one ALL the time!


This is a short to the point video on various shots available to you in both shooting and editing to achieve a particular purpose.

Check it out first then as an exercise go through some of your old projects and spot what you have done regarding shots and whether or not you shot choice actually did that, or detracted from it (wrong choice).

The Wacky World of Proxy Files

One of the most common solutions to problems I have been receiving here on the site over the past two or so years is lack of computer resources.

Crashing, hanging, freezing, out of sync, failures to render, failures to burn and a host of other weird and wonderful things all share this common source.

The question is why is this happening and why isn’t it really getting much better given that the cause in known.

Well the answer to that lies directly in the way that we have arrived at the current batch of modern video codecs used to capture our raw materials.

The development of video codecs that can deliver very high quality video to the masses within unbelievably small files sizes is driven largely by the distributors and not the creators.

It is the distributors of video who are pushing for higher and higher quality with smaller and smaller file sizes in order for them to maximize profit from their distribution.

So when you see that you are editing video footage using an MP4 file or an AVCHD file or whatever high definition file your camera or camcorder uses there is one thing you need to understand.

The codec it is using was developed solely for the purpose of efficiently recording and playing back that video at high quality.

The missing step here is that throughout the development of that codec there was little or no consideration given to the action of editing that footage.

A while back I wrote a full explanation of how this process works which you can read HERE.

The bottom line on all of this is that modern compression does not compress!

What it actually does is throw a mountain of data away and then leaves a little note telling the editing software or playback software where a copy of that data can be found elsewhere in the file.

This results in the software constantly scanning backwards and forwards through the file in order to reconstitute the current frame it is trying to display.

The real “work” being done is done by the computer and especially the processor of that computer.

Even if you are still editing quite smoothly on your machine you have to bear in mind that you are not doing that effortlessly even though it may seem that way.

A better description would be that you are still getting away with it!

This situation does not look like it is going to improve in the near future mainly because the pattern has already been set.

We’ll just keep throwing more and more work onto the computer and everything (for us the distributors) will be fine!

If you are already hitting problems in editing that you can’t quite work out or start to in the future the answer to all of this is the use of proxy files.

Proxy files are copies of your video assets that have been created by the editing software at much lower bitrates and resolutions.

They can be far more easily handled by the computer and although they don’t always look as good while you are editing, they can certainly make the process far less stressful.

Once you have completed your editing the software then uses the full resolution and bitrate file to create the final product at full quality.

As we move forward it may be the reality that we are all going to end up using proxy files to complete our editing so in light of that here is a pretty good video explaining the process and the circumstances under which you may want to use them.

Slow Motion Tutorial – CyberLink PowerDirector 15

Last week I covered the subject of using slow motion in video and how both the frame rate at which you shoot the video as well as the frame rate of the project affected this.

The demo video was done in Pinnacle Studio and this week the exact same tutorial is covered in PowerDirector.

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