Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly can infrared x-ray filming see through?
Basically it can show you what lies underneath one layer of reasonably thin material such as T-shirts and polo-shirts, cycle shorts, summer dresses and swimwear. Sometimes two layers can be seen through but not nearly as clearly as one.
It will not allow you to see through denim, leather, thick woolly jumpers and PVC. It obviously will not show you what lies underneath jackets, fur coats and footwear.
Cotton tends to x-ray very poorly, particularly if it is white.
It is rare that the garment vanishes completely. Typically the normally opaque garment (such as a blue dress) appears to be replaced by a net curtain. Search around the internet and you will find examples. Bear in mind that capture cards lose much contrast and definition, making the examples inferior to the original film by a large margin.
Can you prove it to me?
No - there is plenty of proof on the web.
This site exists as information for those are setting up their own camera and already know it is true.
I have a filter and a Sony Handycam but it doesn't seem to work, why?
This filming technique requires practice and patience. Don't give up, many people have got it working very well indeed. Try manually adjusting the exposure down yourself instead of simply letting the camera automatically set it. Try using Sports mode at the same time as NightShot mode - some people have reported more success with this.
The natural thing to do is point the cam at targets whose clothing is slightly see-through to the naked eye, like a white cotton T-shirt. But in fact, dark coloured clothing which you cannot see through at all by eye is the best because it reflects far less visible light than white. Remember that infrared light has a longer wavelength than visible light and behaves differently.
Filming someone in very bright sunlight can also be less effective. Summer days that are hot, but cloudy are often ideal. Alternatively film someone who is standing in the shade - there will be less visible light but plenty of infrared.
Do some testing on clothing you have yourself to see which works best. Before you place an object (like white card with writing on it) underneath the fabric make sure the cam can actually see it clearly because some inks reflect all infrared light and the card will appear solid white.
Which Handycam model is best?
The range of Handycams is quite wide, varying in specification from country to country. I cannot recommend any specific models, but I have seen nothing to suggest that any model performs any better than any other.
The only exception to this is the models that permit low shutter speed in NightShot mode. These cameras can often film infrared x-ray in lower light situations than other models.
Obviously, if the particular model you are considering is not equipped with NightShot then it will be of no use.
Check out Sony's web site at www.sony.com for a list of current models and specifications.
One thing I would recommend is buying a model with SteadyShot. This makes filming from a distance so much easier. The type of filming you are going to be doing will doubtlessly involve many zoom shots at around the fullest extent of the cameras capability.
What do you use?
Personally I use the TRV640E and a variety of filters which I have acquired to perform comparisons.
As the model number shows, it is a European PAL model. I bought this model because it was practically the only one that I could find new which was the older 1998 unmodified model. It was in a sale to clear because the 1999 models were coming out.
It is a fairly standard model offering a reasonable range of features, but works well. Knowing what I know now, I would have gone for a higher model but at the time I was not absolutely sure that infrared "x-ray" was genuine and didn't want to spend thousands on a top of the range camera. Besides which, I already have a JVC camcorder which is excellent but cannot film infrared x-ray at all.
Can a Sony Handycam (or other camera) without NightShot film infrared x-ray?
Usually the answer is no. The basic principal of "x-ray" relies totally on infrared light. Any "normal" CCD based device such as any modern camcorder, digital camera or web-cam which takes pictures in colour will almost certainly have an infrared blocking filter inside. This is because infrared discolours the proper image which should consist of only visible light.
NightShot mode shifts the infrared blocking filter out of the way. The only way to film infrared with a normal camcorder or similar device is to physically open it up and remove this filter yourself - which will render it useless for normal filming because the colours will be wrong.
How can I make sure no-one can x-ray through my clothes in public?
This one caught me by surprise! Ok so it's not "frequently asked" but I thought I might as well include it for a laugh.
The only way to be sure is to wear thick clothes (or several layers) or acquire a Handycam and filter and check by filming yourself before you go out!
What size of filter do I buy?
Most Handycams use 37mm size filters, but some of the newer models use 30mm filters. Since these are new there are not many options for fitting filters as of yet. Expect to see 30-37mm adapters appearing followed by dedicated 30mm filters.
Panasonic NV series Movie Cameras equipped with Nightview all use 43mm filters.
Check your manual to see which size your camera takes. Alternatively check the lens itself as the surround usually shows the filter diameter.
My camcorder does not have Nightshot or Nightview but has a very low LUX rating. Can I use it to film x-rays?
Unfortunately not. The essential factor is sensitivity to infrared light, not overall light sensitivity. A conventional camcorder filters out infrared light - even if the LUX rating is very low indeed. Normally, the manufacturer is referring to sensitivity to visible light and not infrared light. You do need a camcorder with Nightshot (Sony) or Nightview (Panasonic).
More FAQ entries will appear soon...