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Canon XF Series HD Camcorders
Canon XF305, XF205 and XF105 (with SDI), Canon XF300, XF200 and XF100 (without SDI).


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Old February 19th, 2011, 09:58 AM   #1
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XF on big screen?

It turns out that a doc project I'm working on might be picked up by a funder/distributor who would want to take the project to theatrical.

We're shooting mainly on a far-away island, and have weight restrictions as far as equipment we can bring.

So, the strategy so far has been shooting key scenics and atmospherics on a 5D on a small crane, track, and stabilizer, and using the XF for some scenics and the bulk of the documentary shooting.

When taken to the big screen, is the difference between the 5D and the XF going to be just too radical?

Has anyone here shot a project that has gone to a theatrical showing?
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Old February 19th, 2011, 10:09 AM   #2
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Can't speak to the theater aspect but I do a regular show on a 5d, 7d and xf300. The biggest thing to do before you start is "dumb down" the 5D to a flat setting so it will be easier to deal with in post. Stock settings don't match up well at all. There's plenty of threads on what seems to work number-wise.
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Old February 19th, 2011, 10:20 AM   #3
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Hi Bill

Well, I've worked on video-based docs that have had unexpected theatrical deliverables (with us doing post) but they weren't shot on the 5D or XF, I'm afraid. However, I am very familiar with shooting and doing post on both with/from the 5D and XF, so I can be of some help, I think.

I'm sure you're 100% aware of the aesthetic differences between the 5D and XF and the reasons for them and I think if you are clever about it and exploit the strengths of each camera in terms of DoF, compression and highlight handling, the sensor size difference can be made to work in your favour. For example, intimate close-ups and elements that look best with shallow DoF would look great on the 5D and deep DoF wides will undoubtedly look far better on the XF. However, on a large screen, the biggest difference we have found is that 5D footage is totally out-classed by the XF in terms of actual resolution. It's well documented that the 1080p footage from the Canon DSLRs falls well short of actual 1080p but it is painfully obvious on the big screen, especially when it is intercut with anything from a camera that resolves true HD or better. Then there's the compression artefacts. It's not just about numbers. The XF may only record natively at 50Mbps max against the H264 40 or so from the 5D but - in many circumstances - the native DSLR footage shows dreadful compression artefacts. This could be described as excessive pixel-peeping if you're just watching on a TV or viewing on the web but on the big screen it can be very, very obvious. To be fair, if the 5D came close to an Alexa or Red in terms of ultimate IQ, high-end D-cinema cameras would have no place in the market at all - even with the 5D's ergonomic challenges!!

I'd shoot some tests and do a test screening - viewing at least on a decent video projector.

And please let me/us know how you get on. It sounds like an interesting project.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 09:14 AM   #4
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Re: XF on big screen?

Antony, thanks for that useful information about the DSLR video performance on a big screen. Perhaps very slightly off thread, but do you know if 720/50p is usually acceptable for theatrical release? In other words, can it be projected at most or all digital cinemas without a problem? For fast moving documentary work I feel safer shooting at 50fps rather than 25fps. I was interested in the new Canon XA10 but this does not offer 720/50p. The XF100 does, although it is more expensive to buy. You may have views on 720/50p based on your experience in relation to large theatrical screens which would be interesting to hear.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 02:09 PM   #5
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Re: XF on big screen?

HI Charles,
I do agree. Use your 5dmk2 sparingly, probably best for "impact " and stylish close ups. The quality of the xf305 is so much better than the 5dmk2, but I think it's great to intercut these two cameras mainly due to the polar opposites of the DoF of the two of them. Good luck
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Old February 25th, 2011, 05:24 PM   #6
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Re: XF on big screen?

I was wondering about applying 720p. (60p in my neck of the woods).

The 5d is "sharper" in ways, so much that I have to do a slight defocus in post, as on its own it can even become distracting.

720p is "softer", but yes, it's all relative. I've never known anyone to walk away from viewing because they had an issue with lines of resolution. It's been because the story has badly told, and because images themselves or the edit of the images, distracts them from that story. It's not the sharpness of the video, it's the sharpness of the storytelling.....

Thanks for the comments and perspective, and I look forward to continuing this discussion!
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Old February 27th, 2011, 04:28 AM   #7
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Re: XF on big screen?

'720p is "softer", but yes, it's all relative. I've never known anyone to walk away from viewing because they had an issue with lines of resolution. It's been because the story has badly told, and because images themselves or the edit of the images, distracts them from that story. It's not the sharpness of the video, it's the sharpness of the storytelling.....'

Yes, I agree 100%. And the potential problem with mixing these two cameras is precisely that it is 'relative'. There is a danger that the obvious difference in resolution will become distracting. If you shoot an entire film on the 5D (being careful to work around the aliasing and compression artefacting and rolling shutter pit-falls) and do a film-out, you're highly unlikely to have audiences leaving because the camera doesn't really resolve 1080 lines!!! Good 720p blows up nicely to the big screen in my experience. This whole resolution issue only interferes with a normal audience's enjoyment when they have context/immediate comparison and inter-cutting shots with a clear resolution disparity is potentially problematic. If you're inter-cutting SD archive on a doc with interviews shot in pristine 1080p (let's assume the SD has been de-interlaced well or is from a progressive source) it's not such a problem because the audience will understand that it's archive and not find the disparity troubling. If, however, you shoot some interviews SD and others 1080 then it starts to register and feel wrong. You could well have the same issue working the XF and a DSLR together, so you need to think carefully how to use the two tools together. It's not a huge issue if taken into consideration at the outset.

As to the question about 720p/60 above, if you are going to the big screen (specifically a film-out then you wouldn't want 50 or 60p!! You'd need 720p/24, ideally. Most modern cameras are native 1080 blocks, so there's no point in shooting 720p where you will inevitably introduce aliasing in the in-camera down-convert. However, if you have a camera with a native 720 block (e.g. the JVC cameras) it makes sense to shoot 720p/24 (or possibly 25 if you have a lot of PAL-area deliverables) and t
do the film-out from 720p. I've been involved in a significant production where this was precisely the case and the JVC 720p footage looked fine on the big screen - with no 35mm adaptor and a tiny (1/3") sensor.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 03:40 AM   #8
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Re: XF on big screen?

As to the question about 720p/60 above, if you are going to the big screen (specifically a film-out then you wouldn't want 50 or 60p!! You'd need 720p/24, ideally.

Thanks for that advice Antony.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 04:16 PM   #9
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Re: XF on big screen?

Bill,

The one thing that will make a big difference to the look of the 5D is converting the native codec to ProRes with this wonderful little app

5DtoRGB by Rarevision

I am assuming Mac, but forgive me of not. There is a windows version in dev too, but it will give the highest possible conversion quality and it is scriptable to batch convert files.

Secondly, a light pass of a de-noiser can reduce the blocky look of the files and help them to more closely match XF. This is recommended, but I'm sure others can do a similar job

Neat Video - best noise reduction for digital video

Hoping these help?

Last thought, IMHO the XF does not look so nice when shot 720p. I far prefer results from shooting 1080p and then down-converting in compressor or similar.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 05:50 PM   #10
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Re: XF on big screen?

Bill,

I hate to say this, but the honest truth is that none of us seems to really know what we are talking about in this thread. We are only making educated guesses.

The only movie I can recall on the big screen w/ 5D footage is "Black Swan." And those were only shots in the subway. They looked soft, mushy and noisy and did not match even to S16 film.

I know of no film that was shot on an XF, but it has a sharper image and a better codec so it should look nicer.

There is a movie coming out called "Act of Valor" that was shot by Shane Hurlbut, ASC entirely on the 5D.

Everyone here is meaning well and giving good perspectives, but if you are serious about producing something for a filmout or large screen projection, you should test your workflow to delivery or at least talk to people who have actually done what you're looking to do.

That would mean trying to contacting labs and DP's out there who use the 5D and similar cameras for the big screen. And even then, you are probably going to get somewhat conflicting info. b/c this is still a very new way to make a film.
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Last edited by Peter Moretti; February 28th, 2011 at 06:23 PM.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 06:26 PM   #11
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Re: XF on big screen?

Having enjoyed all of the Academy Award nominated short films, I feel the best answer to the question would be if we knew which cameras where used to film each short. That would tell us how they translate to the big screen since so many of us have seen them projected on big screens.
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Old March 1st, 2011, 01:37 AM   #12
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Re: XF on big screen?

I believe Degas used Windsor & Newton brushes, no wonder he was such a great artist.
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Old March 1st, 2011, 03:06 AM   #13
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Re: XF on big screen?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Moretti View Post
Bill,
I hate to say this, but the honest truth is that none of us seems to really know what we are talking about in this thread. We are only making educated guesses.
Peter,

IMHO that sounds to me like a rather sweeping statement and rather discredits the broad experience of others here?

'Big screen' work in most cases is simply projected with a 1080p or a 2K projector, and all that is necessary is a clean image without the blockiness that 5D Mark II will normally show.

A quality conversion from h.264 before edit is essential and careful cutting between the cameras and then grading are a given. The 'neat image trick' to remove DSLR blockiness has been used by several colleagues to project on some of the largest screens around and as Anthony said, projector tests are going to be important to check the clips and determine whether a very, very gentle sharpen might be required.

So saying, I have worked a great deal with a 1080p Canon Xeed projector and have been constantly surprised by how little needs to be done to 5D Mark II or XF footage for projection on big screen.

Vincent, wasn't he a Rowney man?
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Old March 1st, 2011, 04:35 AM   #14
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Re: XF on big screen?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vincent Oliver View Post
I believe Degas used Windsor & Newton brushes, no wonder he was such a great artist.
agreed. but Stevie Ray Vaughan would have sounded a lot different (though still brilliant!) playing a Gibson SG through a transistor amp...
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Old March 1st, 2011, 04:49 AM   #15
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Re: XF on big screen?

Nick, you mention 'big screen' work in most cases simply being projected with a 1080p or a 2K projector, and this is an area I'm trying to learn a bit more about. I assume (possibly incorrectly) that digital projection is increasingly becoming the norm, and celluloid film projection, while still common, will gradually be replaced. In short, is it true to say that, in time, 'film outs' will no longer become necessary, as the appropriate digital files for digital projection will be all that is required? This was why I asked the question about 720/50p being acceptable or not in a digital cinema theatre. Up until now, one automatically assumed it was necessary to deliver 25p/24p to ensure compatabilty with film projection requirements, but I would have thought this restriction is becoming obsolete. Do you know if digital projectors currently in use at those cinemas that have them are OK with 720/50p (or 60p)? If so, it liberates us from the necessity to shoot 25p/24p and we can choose 720/50p, for example, which admittedly doesn't quite have the 'film look' but makes things easier for a cameraman in a run & gun situation where 25p/24p presents challenges.
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