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EDUCATION Is it my eyes, but is it in focus? by Graham Reed I s it me or as I get older, and my eyes not as good as they were, are viewfinders getting smaller and less sharp? When I started as a cameraman the cameras were large (EMI 2001’s) as were the viewfi nders. They were large format cameras with a 30mm 4x3 sensors and the normal aperture was f 3.5, so a shallow depth of fi eld, and it was easy to see focus. They had 6 inch black and white viewfi nders with great contrast and good peaking controls, even though being what is now called standard defi nition, 625 lines, you could really see when the picture was sharp. Then along came ENG cameras (SD) with small black and white CRT viewfi nders but they did have a lens so you could see a nice sharp picture so you could put your eye in the eye cap when in bright light and have no problems when using them outdoors. One of the earliest handheld cameras was the Ikegami 75D with small pick-up tubes but they were great cameras! Then came HD cameras, remember DigiBeta at around £22k per camera? At fi rst they also had black and white viewfi nders, really sharp, but very soon the manufacturers brought out new models and put a colour monitor on the side of the camera which could either display the sound levels, time code etc., or be switched to camera output. But apparently users demanded colour viewfi nders whilst at the same time the cameras became smaller and cheaper. But why do we need colour v/f’s? Is it that the camera person of today can’t do white balance and needs to see the picture in colour? Apparently according to the manufacturers, yes. So we now have low resolution colour ones. Some cameras do not even have an eye piece so seeing the v/f outside in sun is impossible! The eye sees sharpness because of contrast and a black and white image will always appear sharper than a colour image. This is because in the retina there are two types of photoreceptors, rods and cones. The rods are more numerous, some 120 million, and are more sensitive than the cones, it is because of these we see the black and white image and because there are many more it is these that give us the sense of sharpness. 42 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 100 APRIL 2015 The cones which are far fewer give us a sense of colour, but because they are less sensitive it is why we do not see colour at night. There are camera operators who do not know how important it is to set up the v/f correctly so as to judge exposure properly, I was talking to one recently who just adjusted the brightness depending on how bright the prevailing conditions were! This is why the ITTP, Institute of Training in TV Production, is setting up the ‘Approved Skills’ initative so that those entering the industry can be evaluated on their skills and knowledge, like setting up a v/f! Modern camcorders, for example, have a v/f of 640 x 480 almost half of the resolution that we had 30 years ago, but because this is made out of ‘dots’ nothing ever looks sharp. Not only that but the picture area is tiny, checking focus in a wide shot when the subject is small is impossible. Some more advanced camcorders offer a v/f of 960 x 540. This is for an HD 1920 x 1080 picture so half the picture