I was setting up a Varicam and the small Panasonic 200 to match since we were going to use both the next day for a shoot. When I first turned on the cameras, I noticed the Varicam had very little detail while the 200 had the detail turned up almost all the way. It made the Varicam look soft while the 200 looked very sharp.

I decided to record each camera with the detail set as it was and ask the producer to compare the images.

Playing back the HD Varicam on a Sony hi-rez HD monitor and then playing back the 200 on the same monitor, both producers picked the 200 as the HD image and the Varicam as the SD image. All because of the enhancement. Or lack thereof.

As we all know, detail enhancement adds a contrasting edge to the picture. Used correctly, the detail enhancement makes the image look sharper. It does not add more resolution but instead increases the edge contrast which makes the image look like is has more resolution since we confuse sharpness with resolution.

If you have Photoshop on your computer, “Unsharp Mark” does a similar thing.

How much enhancement do you use? That’s a personal preference issue. I like a little more than a little but not so much as too much. What I mean is I like enough to make the image clear but not so much that you see the enhancement as unnatural lines around objects.

The amount also depends on the scene. If you are shooting a dreamy, soft focus candlelight scene, you don’t want it to look very sharp. If you are shooting a bright, detailed image, you want it to look sharp and clear.

One important caveat: don’t use to much. You can always add more but you can’t take it away. For transfer to film, some may even want to shoot with no enhancement and add detail during the color correcion stage.

When doing chroma keying or Ultimatte, it is more realistic to add detail to the composite rather to the individual images.

So how much resolution is enough?

Concludes tomorrow.