I recently acquired Dragonframe 3.6. After watching a few tutorials, I did my first animation on it in late March, which can be viewed here on youtube. I haven't had time lately to make another till today. Upon setting my equipment up, I noticed that my live view always had noise. The focus was also pretty bad regardless of how much I adjusted the focus. However, when I took test shots, it was perfectly noise free and in focus. Is there a way for the live view to be clearer?

Another issue I ran into was having a very dark live view and test shot. The lights I used were the same ones used in the animation I did back in March. I played around with the shutter speed and aperture to see if I could get a brighter image, but I was unable to recreate the brightness of my video. The only way I was able to brighten it was making the ISO higher. I heard a high ISO creates noise though, so made sure I kept that low around 200.

I'm sure I'm making a silly mistake somewhere. Any help would be appreciated.

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The live view is a video feed, so it does not benefit from a longer exposure to get enough light, like a still photo can.  So it used Gain, which will make the image noisier.  It is also a lower resolution than the still images you are taking, so it will not look as sharp.  If it is enlarged to fill the space on a large screen, it will look softer.  These are normal issues with live view.

It will also be darker.  I animate with 1/2 sec or 1 sec exposure most of the time - that allows time for more light to reach the sensor.  But the live view, being video, has to work in real time, so it's operating on something more like 1/60th of a second exposure.  I have my lens stopped down to f-11 or f-16 a lot of the time, which gives me good depth of field, and with the long exposure time I get a good exposure for my still images, but the live view does look very dark at default settings.

Do not make the ISO higher - that affects the final still images, as well as the live view, and can make them grainy, as you said.  I stick to 100 or 200 ISO.  Instead, there is an Exposure Offset for the Live View in Dragonframe to make it look more like the brightness of the actual still images.  It is in the Cinematography window.

Here's a screen grab where I've combined several images so you can compare.  On the left, the dark area is how the live view  looks to start with, set at 0.  The rest is the high quality still image, looking much brighter.  I drew an arrow pointing to where the Exposure Offset button is - it opens up a dropdown list.

The second image shows a small rectangle of the live view set at 0, with a much bigger area of the live view set to +3.  (I often have to go all the way to +4.)  A small section of the actual still image, with yellow dotted lines around it, shows that the brightness is very close.

The live view is still a bit grainy.   That could be improved if you either had brighter lights or a bigger f-stop on the lens, which would mean a shorter exposure.  That way the live view would not need to use as much gain to match the real exposure.   I often use some fluorescent lighting for soft fill light, and fluoro has a rapid flicker, which means I need the longer exposure to smooth out those flickers.  And I often want more depth of field, so I don't want to open up the iris too much.  I could use bigger lights, that would fix it, but I don't want to spend money on buying them, or use more power, if I can help it.  F-11 is an ok compromise most of the time.  But I just have to live with a bit of grain.  This test was done in my office, and the light was bright enough so that it isn't all that grainy, it's good enough to see what I am doing.  If I had to go to +4 it would be a bit grainier.

I looked in Dragonframe, and I don't seem to have an Exposure Offset under Camera Settings. I checked Dragonframe's FAQ, and it seems the issue is that I am using a Nikon camera. Apparently it does not have exposure simulation like Canon. I did notice under Playback there are options for Exposure: Auto and Exposure: X1. Would either of these make a difference?

I took some screenshots to help show the lighting issue I'm having.

Here is what it looks like in live view:

And here is what my test shot looks like:

I tried the range of shutter speeds and aperture to see if any combination would lead to a brighter test shot, but I was unable to find success.

For reference, I took a photo using my Iphone to show how bright the lights actually are on set:

Sorry, didn't realise the Exposure Preview Offset was only there for Canon cameras.  

If you are taking manual exposures, you should be able to get your test shot looking as bright as you want it.  While the live view exposure you are showing is not ideal, it's enough to see your animation, provided the final shot is the correct exposure.

Apologies for going through some obvious stuff here - but first, is your camera dial set to M for Manual?  You should be able to set longer exposures, like 1 sec, 2 sec, 4 sec, and although the Live View won't get brighter,  the test shot should be able to go much brighter than you want it to if you give it long enough.  You could also try f-11 instead of f-16.

Hang on - just looked at your second screengrab, and I see something called EV +0.  It's in the same little box as the exposure offset in my screen grab, but at the top right of that box.  A little camera icon on the top left, then this setting on the right.  EV stands for Electronic Viewfinder.  That's the same as Live View.  See if you can change that setting to + 3 or + 4.

It may not be a thing you can change, just something that says what it's been set to... I see it on my screen grab as well.  I don't have a Nikon with Live View to test it.  

Nikon live view does not have exposure simulation... so it's not going to adjust to show you what the final shot will be like.

Nikon live view tries to give you something you can see, and this usually means achieving a middle gray overall value. So the live view will never be super bright nor super dark (unless there is not enough light.)

The Nikon live view adjusts the exposure level based on the brightness of the focus area. This is important. So if your focus rectangle (turn on the focus tool) is set in one of the bright parts of your background, the camera will want to make that area kind of middle-gray, and so it will end up darkening the entire image. On the other hand, if you put it on the eyeball, it will end of brightening everything else up. Of course, if your character starts moving, this exposure level will change pretty quickly.

For a set like this, you might try to trick the live view to give you what you want. Put something darker in the corner of your set, in a place that you will crop out later. For example, if you are aiming for 16:9, you should have an area at the top and bottom of your set that won't be in the final picture. Put some gray paper on the top of your set, and point the focus rectangle there. The live view will then brighten up.

On a separate note, you should consider renaming this thread to "Nikon live view issues." None of the issues you are experiencing are because of Dragonframe. 

StopmoNick - I was able to make the EV change values by adjusting the shutter speed and aperture. Upon taking a test shot, the EV value would reset back to showing up as +0.

I double checked and my camera and lens are set to manual. I also tried your recommended settings at 4s and f-11. I was unable to notice any improvement on my test shots.

Dyami Caliri - I took some test shots according to your advice.

This shot has the focus rectangle centered on the eyeball.

This shot has the focus rectangle centered on a black object I placed in the upper right corner.

It seems I was unable to trick the camera into producing a brighter image both for live view and test shots. However, while I was writing this post up, my camera went inactive in Dragonframe. I pressed 3 and the live view became brighter.

Here is the live view after returning from an inactive camera.

And here is the test shot resulting from the new live view.

I did not change the camera settings while the camera was inactive, so I am unsure how the brightness adjusted. It still is not as bright as I'd like it to be, but it is an improvement despite being unintentional.

Also, I have renamed my thread as you suggested. Thank you.

Looks like the white background is making the camera adjust the brightness down.

You must have fairly dim light to need 4 seconds at f-11 and 200 ISO.  You might be able to open the lens even more, to f-8 perhaps.  You need enough focal depth to cover your puppet from front to back, but since the background is a white void, you don't need the focus to extend that much further.   (Unless the puppet walks forward or back during the animation.) Only taking test shots will show you how well it is holding focus.

Wow, I can see the difference in the thumbnails with that last test shot being a lot brighter, despite the settings being the same. No idea why that only kicked in after the camera switched off and on.

Anyway, Dyami Caliri is the expert in Dragonframe, and the peculiarities of how different cameras work for frame grabbing.  

I prefer Nikons for general photography, but with what I've learned here I will stick with Canon bodies and Nikon lenses for stop motion.  I still sometimes use my old non-live-view Nikon D70 as a second camera to shoot the same animation from two angles, using the feed from the Canon to judge my movements.

I decided to make another attempt at test shots today. I ran off the idea of the camera adjusting by itself after a period of inactivity yesterday. What I did this time was force the camera into inactive mode by using Ctrl + J, I believe. Then I would resume activity after changing the camera settings. To my surprise, it ended up working out and the brightness increased. I repeated the steps until I had my desired brightness. I am not sure if this method will work again next time I animate. However, I took advantage of it to do a short animation I had in mind. The result may be viewed here if interested.

I would like to receive more insight as to why my camera setting adjustments only apply after inactivity. I appreciate all the help provided so far.

This thread just helped me out a lot. My live view was really dark until I maxed out the Exposure Preview Offset. Thanks!

I wonder if what the camera is doing is to see the image as needing the aperture to be adjusted for brightness, and when the camera is turned off the aperture reverts to fully open? So when the camera is turned on again still in manual mode the aperture does not stop down to average grey but remains open and much brighter.

Dragonframe had a lens cap thing designed to trick Canon cameras into leaving the aperture fully open, presumably addressing this very issue.

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