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Lessons Learned From a Live Shoot That Went Awry

It's never a good sign when the first thing you do after watching the footage you just shot is to buy another piece of audio/video gear.

The Attempted Fix

So, there I was after the shoot, needing a fix. The first filter I tried in Adobe Premiere Pro was Sharpen, seemed to add grain to the video but did little else. So I started exploring YouTube for tutorials.

The first video I found advised me to search for Sharpen in the Effects panel (Figure 4, below), and try all the effects that appear until you find the one that works best. I did so and found that the confusingly named Unsharp Mask filter delivered the best results.

Figure 4. Premiere Pro has multiple sharpening effects. Unsharp Mask worked best for me.

Technically, the Unsharp Mask effect increases the contrast between colors that define an edge. Once applied, you can adjust the three controls shown in Figure 5 (below). Briefly, amount controls how much contrast Premiere Pro adds to the video, or how much lighter it makes one side of the edge and how much darker the other. With my video, high values appeared to do what the Sharpen filter did and simply added grain. So, I kept this value pretty low. Radius defines how many pixels are affected by the adjustment. At low values, only pixels close to the edge are affected; at higher values, more pixels are affected. In my case, this was the primary configuration that I adjusted to add sharpness, so I had to go from the default of 1 to around 20.

Figure 5. The three controls for Unsharp Mask

Threshold controls how much of the image is adjusted. Use this if only certain regions in the frame are blurry and others are clear. Unfortunately, in my case, when I adjusted the value anywhere north of the default of 0, I lost the adjustment on the candidate, so I had to use the 0 value. For more subtle errors, you may be able to use this control to sharpen some portions of the frame while leaving others as is.

Figure 6 (below) shows where I ended up after brightening both images and sharpening the image on the left. As always. with filters applied to fix a shooting error, it never looks as good as if you had gotten it right during the shoot, and you always wonder if you’re making it better or worse. It does look a touch sharper, and that’s how I produced it.

Figure 6. Both images brightened; Unsharp Mask on the left

If you find yourself having to apply the Unsharp Mask, I would learn the fundamentals of the control from this Photoshop tutorial. This YouTube video provides good instruction within Premiere Pro, while this YouTube tutorial [] suggests that grading and sharpening are best applied as separate adjustment layers.

Ever seeking a panacea, I tested this approach with my video, setting up side-by-side videos on the same sequence and applying the effects directly to one video, and using the suggested adjustment layer structure with the other (Figure 7, below). Alas, I saw no difference, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.

Figure 7. I saw no benefit to applying Unsharp Mask and Lumetri color to separate adjustment layers.

By the next shoot, I had both the 7” LCD monitor and the fabulous Sennheiser Evolution Wireless G4 Portable Lavalier Mic Set that I’ll review right after I return from Streaming Media West. You can see the result in Figure 8 (below), or in this Facebook video. Definitely a less challenging shoot with a vastly better result.

Figure 8. The next shoot worked out much better.

Meanwhile, if you don’t already have separate LCD monitor for your camcorder or DLSR, I strongly suggest that you get one. I paid less than $200 for my rig, including for a mounting device I could attach to my tripod so I could use the camera’s cold shoe for the Sennheiser mic. After two shoots with the LCD, I wonder how I ever lived without it. Hopefully, you’ve also learned to recognize and avoid situations that can hose your auto focus, and how to minimize blurry video if you’re ever unlucky enough to shoot some.