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Thread: Video grainy as heck

  1. #1

    Default Video grainy as heck

    Hey guys,

    Recently shot a video using a Canon vixia hf400 and the video came out super grainy. I've read that low light can cause grain, but I would classify the lighting as pretty good in this case. I shot the footage in the hallway of an office building almost directly under a fluorescent overhead light.

    My spidey sense it's telling me that there's a setting somewhere that's messing things up, but I'm new to video and don't know what settings I should be checking.

    Here are a few of the settings I used:
    Movie format: mp4
    Video quality: 35mbps
    Focus assistance: on
    Face detection & tracking: on (this was a mistake, and I've since turned it off)
    Auto backlight correction: on
    Auto show shutter: on
    Flicker reduction: off
    Image stabilizer: dynamic
    Shooting mode: Programmed AE (the camera controls shutter speed and aperture automatically. You can control brightness and other settings.)

    That's all the settings I could find that I think might have an impact on the noise/grain level. Any recommendations on what to try first?

    Thank you!

  2. #2


    do you have a sample of the footage ?
    'No longer are the pleasures of Home Movie Making limited to those with ample funds. Now the man and woman of moderate means can join the sport'..... Kodak catalogue 1933

  3. #3


    Problem 1 - you shot in an automatic mode (Programmed AE) so you have zero control over the shutter, aperture or gain. The camera will do what ever "it" thinks it needs to get a well lit shot, which usually means increasing gain, which means more digital noise, often (incorrectly) referred to a grain.

    Auto backlight makes things ever worse, because it's trying to lift the darker foreground shadows to match any backlit situations.

    The very first thing to do is to learn how to shoot your camera in manual mode where you control the shutter, aperture (iris) and gain. It's really not that hard, but unless someone gives you hints then most people don't know where to start.

    You need to keep gain as low as possible, though on many cameras you can raise gain by 'xx'db and still get acceptable results. The 'xx' does vary from camera to camera so you need to do your own testing.

    Set the shutter to be twice your frame rate (as a starting point), so if you're in Europe and recording at 25fps set it to 1/50, if 50fps (not recommended for low light) set it to 1/100. If you're in the US or other NTSC countries then 1/60 or 1/20 for normal TV playback. Some people choose to shoot at 24fps thinking it's more cinematic but honestly, they are misguided since there's a lot more to a cinematic look than just frame rate.

    If you're filming a scene with almost zero movement but you're struggling for light then you can halve that shutter to 1/25 or 1/30 and usually get away with it. If there's lots of movement then you're probably going get too much motion blur. How much is acceptable is up to you and you probably need to do some tests. You're only alternative is to add more lights.

    Tests can be fun and very enlightening, especially if you're learning from scratch. Not enough people test their cameras to find out what they're really capable of!

    Once you've learned how to control the camera in manual mode, take it back to similar (and different) locations and shoot at various different settings. Read out the settings (out loud) so the camera microphone is recording what they are. Now bring them back to your computer and play the footage watching and listening to the settings you read out, noting how far you can push the gain etc without it getting too noisy. Only by doing this sort of testing will you know how far you can push it in future. Once you learned to shoot in manual mode and have full control over your camera I guarantee you'll get better results, or at least understand why you're getting the results you are.

    As far as aperture/iris is concerned, on small cameras like this, depth of field (getting enough of it) is usually not a problem so feel free to try shooing wide open (smallest f number) but then try stopping that down so you can see for yourself what happens, at the same time speaking the settings so when you play back you know what you set.

    [Edit: fixed some horrible typos!]
    Last edited by David Partington; 06-21-2015 at 01:42 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008


    David's advice is bang on - you absolutely need to understand how to shoot in manual mode

    with respect to slowing down the shutter speed, you will be trading off light vs blur as you change your settings - a better solution than slowing down the shutter is to add more light to the set - you have a nice camera and you will get good results with proper lighting

  5. #5


    Wow, thanks so much for the advice, that's exactly what I was hoping for! Thank you for taking the time to write it all. I'll do some experimenting and more reading of the manual (I read through it once, but most of it was Greek to me). And let you know how it turns out

  6. #6


    Probably watch out for a lens that offers you a lower F-value if you can't reach satisfying results by changing the settings. If your camera has such a mode try to shoot in aperture priority and set the F-value as low as possible (DSLR terms here may differ a bit from the ones used for camcorders).

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by XXLRay View Post
    Probably watch out for a lens that offers you a lower F-value if you can't reach satisfying results by changing the settings. If your camera has such a mode try to shoot in aperture priority and set the F-value as low as possible (DSLR terms here may differ a bit from the ones used for camcorders).
    His camera has fixed lens so no swapping lenses to a lower f stop.

    One thing to be aware of though is as you zoom in the lens on that model probably stops down (lets in less light) so using the zoom in low light situations will just make things worse. When it's lower light, keep as wide as possible or turn more lights on!

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by enc View Post
    do you have a sample of the footage ?
    I need to post a sample for you guys, so you can see what I've got, although judging from the responses so far, I think you've got a pretty good idea already.

    Thank you so much for the ongoing discussion, it's obvious I still have so much to learn and honestly when someone's just starting out, it's hard to even know where to begin. You've given me a lot of terms and concepts I can actually start looking up and reading about; specific things that a Google search on "video for beginners" isn't going to bring up.

  9. #9


    Also, although I was wide open on this shoot, thank you for the tip on zooming in low light, cause that definitely wouldn't have occurred to me!

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