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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 November 19th, 2014, 02:30 AM   #1
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Finally, Color and CP success with XF300

This has been a frustration for me ever since I first got the XF300 three or so years ago. Colors were always a bit off to me. I tried the CP file changes that were recommended in Doug Jensen's REALLY helpful video, and it still wasn't right to me. I played with some others and it just got worse. I was spending all kinds of time in post and the files just looked off. Anything shot indoors with people was always a problem. But FINALLY, Last week I had a breakthrough...

I went back through Doug Jensen's video again for the 5th or 6th time, but now with some additional experience with the camera, and this is what I did.
1) I used Doug Jensen's CP suggestions from his video exactly
2) I did a custom white balance, using Jensen's Warm Cards, 1/4 warming card (see on his Vortex Media site)
3) This is most important- I kept making the rookie mistake (because I AM a rookie, I guess) of running the camera on Auto Gain... Sometimes ok for run and gun stuff where things are changing rapidly, but for indoor static shots, there is really no excuse. Take it off Auto gain, and manually adjust the exposure, using the camera's gauge as a guide, maybe opening it up a little more, depending on the subject. I found that in my most common shooting scenario, a poorly lit church, the camera was routinely trying to add 18+ db of gain, and the colors were a mess.
4) Jensen's suggestion that the camera does ok with up to 12 db of gain is to be considered as gospel. Any more and the colors go bad and the footage is grainy.
5) if you can't get proper exposure, add some light... I have LitePanel Micropro and Croma on-camera lights... Just excellent, solid, dependable, accurate color, and really expensive.
6) Face auto focus works REALLY WELL if there is one dominant face... If there are multiple people in the shot, you're better off doing it yourself

So, sorry for the long post... Just finally happy with, even proud of, the footage I am getting.

To summarize:
- Use Jensen's CP file from his video (at Vortex Media, now also available for download). It seems to be fine for indoor and outdoor shots, and not much needs to be done in post.
- Next, get the exposure where you want it. Don't even think about using Auto gain, except when the situation is fluid and not controllable. USE LIGHTS!!! The camera's low light sensitivity isn't the greatest, but in it's comfort zone, it's awesome.
- Finally, do a custom white balance, warming a bit with a warm card... Auto white balance is not your friend, unless you're again needing to just let the camera do it because you are unable to change things quickly.

I'm in no way affiliated with Doug Jensen... I just finally was able to apply what he taught in his video (I DO wish he had either gone into more detail on some of the basics and use of the scopes, or at least, pointed us newbies to another resource, maybe even one of his own).

The truth is, some of us are not trained or well-experienced camera operators, but we are in situations where we need to get more professional results. I do work for my own church and some of my denomination's education efforts, as well as personal things and even the occasional wedding or funeral (try being the officiant AND camera operator AND editor!). I'm posting this because I wish I had read something like this 3 years ago when I first got the XF300...

Comments? Other suggestions?

Last edited by Larry Becker; November 19th, 2014 at 02:35 AM. Reason: Typos
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Old November 19th, 2014, 12:09 PM   #2
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Re: Finally, Color and CP success with XF300

I have the XF100, but concur almost totally with your post.

I actually enjoy adjusting exposure, saturation, sharpness, and even warmth in post (and have the time to do so) so I don't actually want a finished look in-camera. But I agree that each person needs to find the CP settings that work for their needs.

I always custom White Balance.
I always use Manual everything - Iris between 1.8 and 2.8 - I go to 4 only if needed. I use a screw-on ND filter in bright sun to keep the iris wide. I use 180 degree shutter. I use manual Gain, with the Gain button programmed to -6, 0, and 6 or some variation of that based on the shooting situation. I'm lucky in that I almost always shoot in situations that don't change that rapidly, so I adjust exposure with minor changes of the Gain button or minor Iris tweaks. You can probably get away with +12 Gain on the XF300, on the XF100 I won't go beyond +9 and stay at +6 if at all possible.

The Doug Jensen DVD is great even for the XF100, and now that the cameras have been out for almost 4 years the DVD is cheaper.

I still love my XF100, and although I'm now looking at relegating it to B status (I want a bit better sharpness, a bit better low light, a slightly longer zoom, and 1080p60), I still can't find anything under $3500 today that includes all the features it has. (why are cameras in this range dropping the waveform, which I use constantly, for the histogram instead?) I'm probably getting a Sony X70 since it meets all those specs plus has 10-bit color, a bit shallower DOF, and a future 4K upgrade, but still plan to use the XF a lot.

Enjoy that 300!
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Old November 19th, 2014, 01:34 PM   #3
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Re: Finally, Color and CP success with XF300

David-
What do you use to adjust in post? I use Premiere Pro CC 2014, and, out of desperation, got Red Giant Colorista II to help with the massive color issues I was getting. It was so frustrating!!! Even after messing with the footage for hours, I couldn't get it right. I still find using those tools difficult.

I've mostly been just trying to fix major issues with footage, and having so-so success. It's nice to have footage coming out of camera that I'm pretty happy with for a change.

I think of XF300 footage kind of like jpg images out of my Canon 5DIII - pretty much baked in, and if you try to change things too much, you really do damage to the footage. I know the XF codex are a bit more forgiving than that, but not as much as RAW images from the 5DIII.

I remember early days of digital photography shooting jpg files (because RAW processing was almost impossible and the files were so big (smaller hard drives back then!)and having the camera botch the auto wb - what a disaster. I always shoot raw+ jpg now, and it's effortless.
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Old November 19th, 2014, 01:54 PM   #4
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Re: Finally, Color and CP success with XF300

You'll notice I did not call what I do "color grading" :-)

I just use the scopes, etc. in FCPX and use either the built-in tools or a third party plugin to set shadows, highlights, and mid tones where I want them. I can do color correction, add saturation, and sharpness if needed. I can also use the color mask and shape mask tools in FCPX to do basic color tweaking of specific areas, but find this is rarely needed.

It's not rocket science, but I find it suits my working style well.

The 4:2:2 color in these cameras really allows a lot of freedom in post - if you want to shoot baked in, you can, but it definitely does not have to be. These screen captures are slightly softer than the original - had to convert to jpeg to get them to upload here. Shot at 720p, so view them larger to see better - left is out-of-camera, right is after post work.
Attached Thumbnails
Finally, Color and CP success with XF300-brflat.jpg   Finally, Color and CP success with XF300-brgraded.jpg  


Last edited by David Dixon; November 19th, 2014 at 02:12 PM. Reason: added screen shots
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Old November 19th, 2014, 05:14 PM   #5
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Re: Finally, Color and CP success with XF300

That's a pretty significant change - nicely done!
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Old November 20th, 2014, 09:32 AM   #6
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Re: Finally, Color and CP success with XF300

Larry and others. Having used the XF300 for a few years now, I think you have learned the hard way about it's pros and cons. The small sensors are really hard to have work well in low light. This camera seems the kind of thing best suited to outdoors with sunlight, and indoors with good light. I've had great success with it when shooting stage shows with lots of spots. Rich colors, long zoom.

Manual white balance is always critical, automatic should only be used in very limited situations. In the old days, pros never relied on manual anything. It was a sign of not knowing your trade. (I apprenticed with a guy who traveled with the White House press corps in the 50s). When you are paid for getting the shot, all the time, you never rely on auto. In today's world, it's more likely to actually work, but still....

Doug Jenson's warm cards are excellent, as they can help you quickly adjust the inherent blue cast of overcast or shadow areas. I have used them for about two years now. His video for the 305 was pretty good, but seemed to lack a bit of something for the 305. He is so pro Sony that I felt it came across a bit. His Sony videos do a much better job of getting into using the color profiles, for example.

Yes, Lite Panel's lights (and their imitators) are one of the best new pieces of gear in decades. I've used them literally interviewing on a river bank, with the lightstand anchored in the riverbed with weights. Their batteries last forever, the lights are small and carry well in cases. I never shoot without having them along. And the xf300 really appreciates the pop to the color.

You are correct in trying to keep gain down. never push your gain if you can help it. If you can add light, do that first! I have heard that there are some post tools that eliminate noise, you might want to look into that and see if it can help salvage those times in the church if the light wasn't right.
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Old November 20th, 2014, 12:35 PM   #7
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Re: Finally, Color and CP success with XF300

Hi, Al,

Yup - learned the hard way... Thanks for your very gracious reply to my rookie rantings... Some of us got in over our heads with this camera and ran into its shortcomings pretty hard. I came from shooting with little Sony Handicams and a little with my Canon 5DII (now 5DIII). This is a very different beast.
I spent so much time fiddling in the dark with different CP files, trying to get it to look right, and just making it worse.
Two other things I forgot to mention in my first post:
1) Jensen advocates adjusting the monitor, brightening and sharpening it - I think that really helps to judge what the footage looks like, and that's kind of critical.
2) As a photographer, I've been calibrating my computer monitors for over a decade - make sure you have a calibrated monitor to work with video as well... I use X-Rite's Colormunki currently and it's great. My old 1080p tv/monitor just died and I upgraded to a 40" Samsung 4k and an EVGA NVidia 970 video card. Colors were not good until I profiled it - now just awesome..

Last edited by Larry Becker; November 20th, 2014 at 08:00 PM. Reason: Clarification
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