The Electronic Viewfinder


Making sure the viewfinder is correctly adjusted is one of the most important steps of your pre-operation preparation. If you don't have your viewfinder correctly adjusted, all your footage may be out of focus or improperly exposed.

Black and white

Usually the viewfinder uses a black and white CRT, not a colour LCD you find on most consumer camcorders. Professional cameramen are usually looking at beautiful black and white, because a CRT can provide a sharper high resolution image. Also focusing can be done more precise when looking at black and white.

The viewfinder is used to check if the image is correctly exposed, and that's much easier with a black and white image. If you're wondering how a cameraman knows when the colour is right, you don't need the viewfinder for that. Once you've correctly set up your white balance, you don't have to worry about colour anymore.

Correctly setting up the viewfinder

First, you want to make sure the focus of the viewfinder is correctly set up. You should always check focus using the computer generated characters on the display, instead of the picture behind it.

Turn on the characters, or the OSD(On Screen Display), so you can a timecode and some other information. Relax your eye, keep looking through the viewfinder normally. Use the viewfinder's focusing ring to adjust it while keeping your eye relaxed until you see the OSD completely in focus. Don't use the camera's picture to focus the viewfinder, as you can never be sure if that picture is in focus in the first place!

Contrast and brightness

Now you can correctly adjust the contrast and the brightness. Switch the camera on colour bars and turn the contrast and brightness dials all the way to zero. Carefully look at the black image in your viewfinder, allow your eye to adjust to the dark picture.

Turn the contrast up slowly until you can see all bars appearing. You should see a greyscale from peak white to black. The blue bar on the right should be separated from the black background. Then carefully turn up the brightness, while making sure the black background remains completely black, and the white bar on the right is not oversteering.

Peaking

Besides contrast and brightness, you've probably also noticed the peaking knob on the viewfinder. Peaking is a circuit that emphasises sharp edges on the picture to check if your subject is correctly focused. When you turn up peaking, edges on the image get a bright outline when they come into crisp focus.

No peaking
Peaking turned off.
Peaking turned all the way up
Peaking turned all the way up. (Image by Pieterjan Vandaele.)

To correctly set peaking, first turn it all the way down, and then slowly adjust it until it looks good, without affecting the overall brightness of your image. Never set it too high as this will affect your exposure judgement. The footage will then look brighter than it actually is in the viewfinder. Of coarse, peaking is just a tool to help you focusing, it doesn't affect the footage you're recording.

Okay, now everything is set up correctly and you're ready to go!

About the author
Joseph de Meij

I am Joseph de Meij, 25 years old and I am a freelance cameraman who loves to travel. I'm currently trying to find different ways to overcome my toxic career syndrome and find out what my goals are in life.

This article was first published at www.askthecameraman.net.

Your Comments


Add Your Comment:

Your name:

Website:

Comment:



More Technique

Why Are We Still Filming In Framerates Designed In The 1920's?

March 13 2011

The frame and field rates that have been used for television since the 1920s cause problems for motion portrayal, which are increasingly evident on the large, high-resolution television displays that are now common.

Setting Up The Back-Focus

February 9 2011

A good lens is designed to keep your subject focused throughout the whole of its zoom range. However, to make sure this is the case, the back focus has to be correctly adjusted.

Explaining All The Parts Of A Zoom Lens

February 9 2011

The lenses that are used on most video camcorders are zoom lenses. In this article we discuss the various elements of a zoom lens, such as the back-focus, focusing ring, zoom ring and the aperture ring.


Popular

The 7 Steps To Becoming A Professional Cameraman

February 10 2011

Television has continued to hold it's ground and collaborated with the World Wide Web in order to take a huge leap into the virtual world too. This has opened up even more doors for cameramen who wish to enter into the broadcast television industry.

Why Are We Still Filming In Framerates Designed In The 1920's?

March 13 2011

The frame and field rates that have been used for television since the 1920s cause problems for motion portrayal, which are increasingly evident on the large, high-resolution television displays that are now common.

Deciding On Which Camera To Use For Your First Documentary

March 1 2011

Choosing the right camera to film your documentary can be quite a difficult task. But it's also a very important one, so i've made this list of things to consider when buying the camera for your documentary.

How To Use Shot Pacing To Tell A Story More Effectively

February 27 2011

The job of an editor is to cut an item to a fraction of the original running time of the footage. The editor will have to match two rhythms: the rate of shot changes, and the continuity of the action that is captured.

How To Avoid Audio Jump Cuts

February 26 2011

Just as important to make sure the pictures you film are cuttable, you also need to make sure the sound is continuous.

Random stuff