After two months with the A1 at DVinfo.net

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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old October 17th, 2007, 07:28 AM   #1
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After two months with the A1

Amazing Camera. I can now understand what I've read on this cam and the HDV codec on many forums.

I'm shooting a film with it and the quality of the image blows me away...as long as there is plenty of light and no complex motion.

At one point in the story I have a woman running on a background of trees, it's windy and the leaves are very agitated. The shot is :woman running+ panning+moving leaves on tree.
No way to film this. The HDV codec fails miserably. There is absolutely no way to film this in a decent way.

The project was started a few months ago with a 2/3 CCD Sony Dx 50 with a DSR1 Back. Standard def. Since then we've decided to re-shoot everything with the A1.
The difference between what we used to do in low light with the Sony and what we have to compromise with the A1 is frustrating.

In one scene I have a conversation between a couple. The scene was filmed with the Sony with only simulated moonlight coming from the window. On a 1920x1200 monitor it looks beautiful. No grain, you really believe that moonlight is the light source. Only the couple is lit and the room around them is bath by a weak, subtle but sufficient light. Object can be guessed but everything is free of grain.

With the A1 we had to give up that scene. The couple is now lit by a light source that had to be brought in the the story. Good by subtle moonlight.

It's been a learning process, I'm grateful to what the HDV codec allows me to do in a package that costs less than 3500 bucks, and I've adapted to it and I had to re-write some of the scenes to work with the HDV codec. Honestly I do hope somebody is actively working to make the HDV codec history. I hope this codec is for now and won't stay with us too long.

Of course I could/should recreate moonlight in post, I know how to do that, but still.
Right now, for a story that will NOT have any transfer to film and goes to DVD only I would advise anybody to go with a DVX100 B instead of a A1. Night scenes will be better and easier to create and the only artifact to watch will be the one linked to the shooting at 24P.

I might be wrong, but this is what I think.
Larry.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 10:44 AM   #2
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unfortunately I have to agree concerning the HDV codec breakdown in complex motion scenes. I used the A1 on a 360 motor to capture surround landscapes with swaying phragmites, grasses, leaves. So constant panning with lots of micro and macro motions. Result is a pixel fest, from up close its blocks rather than individual discrete grains. I thought in a way that was to be expected, the compression of HDV must kick in somewhere, but still to call it high def is a stretch. After all its a motion camera, not a still camera.

Kurt
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Old October 17th, 2007, 11:22 AM   #3
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Interesting. I haven't had that kind of issue with the codec and I tend to shoot very detailed and, many times, fast detail without any issue.

Any chance you can post the shot that failed?
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Old October 17th, 2007, 12:33 PM   #4
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Larry...

Are you going to give us any details on what settings you used
on the A1?
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Old October 17th, 2007, 09:12 PM   #5
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not defective

My camera is absolutely NOT defective.
I think you misread me.
I am blown away by the quality of the picture produced by the A1.
I shoot our project in 24F at shutter 1/48 with a preset emulating a Kodak film I like. I have only great footage for our project.
What I said is:

1-The HDV codec, whether out of a JVC, Canon or V1 is NOT can't shoot all what DV can shoot. PERIOD and I will challenge anybody on that. I know because I started a project in DV, the cam became unavailable and I re-shot the same scene with the A1. The A1 looks FAR SUPERIOR to a 2/3 CCD sony cam for anything outside or inside as a matter of fact as long as you submerge the room with light. As for a composition rich in motion and particularly rich in complex motion the A1 is crap. I suspect it's not the A1 but the HDV codec.
What I used to be able to do with the DSR500 can't be done with the A1. Again, I did the following with both cam. I filmed an actress running perpendicular to the cam, about 50 yards away against a background of moving leaves agitated by wind. The HDV codec just breakdown.
As for the moonlight scene I mentioned before, forget about it. If I lit the subject correctly the surroundering is suddenly grainy, and that's with the gain set on low.

As long as you know what you're going to film and how to film you can use HDV, it's going to be beautiful. A Woody Allen film can take HDV. A Western with horse chases ? I don't think so.
That's all. Now I know that this increase of resolution in a sub $ 4000 package comes at a price. It's fine for now, but again, I hope the HDV CODEC is not here to stay.
Larry
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Old October 17th, 2007, 10:27 PM   #6
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Larry,
Is it possible that the problem with motion is related to the 24f and 1/48th shutter speed? Can you post an example? Maybe there's a solution out there that can help you.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 08:02 AM   #7
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no

No, I'm not talking about the strobing effect of the 24F 1/48 setting. I'm aware how to film in 24, I've used the DVX100B before and done three shorts in 16mm.
I'm talking about something else that appeared ONLY ONCE, when I try to pan filming a woman running in front of moving leaves. This is just too much for the HDV codec and I believe I'd have this problem with a V1, JVC etc... which makes me say that NOT everything can be filmed with the HDV codec. I never met anything I could NOT film with my Aaton film camera or my DVX100B.
I'll say it again, the increased resolution offered by the HDV codec at the expense of being able to film scenes with complex motion is worth it but I do hope that the HDV codec is a transitionary codec and that we'll have something better soon. THere are so many things to worry about when you shoot a film, having to worry whether of not the codec can handle a particular kind of motion is a pain. I guess it's just a matter of avoiding writing certain scenes. No big deal for now.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 09:29 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt Hentschlager View Post
unfortunately I have to agree concerning the HDV codec breakdown in complex motion scenes. I used the A1 on a 360 motor to capture surround landscapes with swaying phragmites, grasses, leaves. So constant panning with lots of micro and macro motions. Result is a pixel fest, from up close its blocks rather than individual discrete grains. I thought in a way that was to be expected, the compression of HDV must kick in somewhere, but still to call it high def is a stretch. After all its a motion camera, not a still camera.

Kurt

I agree with you Kurt, the HDV is kind of fake HD that the "defected motion" is so obvious that when you pan on short (even slowly pan) that you have large object moving (don't need to move fast too), or small object move fast will give you some kind of ghosting effect too.

kind of disappointing in buying a motion recording camera to shoot still photo..
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Old October 18th, 2007, 03:26 PM   #9
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Some of these comments really worry me. We are looking at making the jump to HD for filming high speed sporting events...I tried a little HD this summer when we filmed a jetboat race and the issues mentioned above were exactly my concern. Cameras we tested were the sony z1U and canon HV20. The sony did not perform as I expected and we ended up shooting in SD DV with decent results. When we are filming the subject often goes by our cameras at 80-120 mph and around 10-40ft away. The boat is moving the water is moving and than add a 180 degree pan in a second and we were losing quality when in HD mode.
I really want to get rid of my Xl1s and get a canon A1 and H1.....
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Old October 18th, 2007, 03:29 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Halushka View Post
I tried a little HD this summer when we filmed a jetboat race and the issues mentioned above were exactly my concern.
Funny because I just edited a speedboat video for a big manufacturer that was shot with Sony HDV Cams and it turned out great. It was all plane jane 60i hdv with some uv filters slapped on the front. looked great to me.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 03:31 PM   #11
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Vince, if you are on a budget and want to shoot high speed sports in HD then I would recommend you go with the HVX200....a non-HDV camera that should have no problem. It also sounds like a more suitable camera because you have the option to use variable frame rates.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 03:41 PM   #12
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I am just curious-- has anybody reporting the problem considered it might be play back issues involving decoding by your video card/monitor combinations ?

One way to check is to convert the HD footage into something like Cineform, that doesn't require a lot of processor work to display the image.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 04:18 PM   #13
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Larry:

You are so correct on the HDV format just falling apart in lots of motion situations. Im totally surprised some senior posters on here even question it. And obviously, the low light noise needs more work.

I think the sharpness of XH video also makes the motion artifacts/anaomalies more apparent than on some other HDV cameras.

Sadly, we are going to be stuck with HDV for awhile longer.

Also, I just sold my two XH-A1s. Yeah, it's one of the better prosumer HDVs currently available, but it still really needs improvement. Better to sell early before the 2nd generation XHs arrive. Now that Canon is producing it's own sensors, they should advance a little more quickly and the next AHs should have a little better sensors.

Back to the torture of ENG cameras for now.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 07:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Kellam View Post
You are so correct on the HDV format just falling apart in lots of motion situations. Im totally surprised some senior posters on here even question it. And obviously, the low light noise needs more work.
I see it too. Whenever there's too much action it blocks up. Some people just don't notice it. 3 MB/s is just too little bandwidth for some scenes.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 07:51 PM   #15
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Here's a thought...get an HV20 and an Intensity card...film those complex scenes solely with the Intensity card's HDMI input...totally bypassing the HDV codec and your problems are history. Still a heck of lot cheaper than an HVX with all of its accessories.

By the way...I never had those types of problem with my HV20..but maybe I need to start analyzing my pictures more closely.

Question: Why call HDV a fake HD? Is it bandwidth that makes HD HD...or the pixels in the picture or resolution? I mean...compression is one thing...but to say it's fake HD because of compression artifacts...I don't get it.

If I captured my "live" HDMI footage with Cineforms codec (at any of its rates) would you still say its not real HD?
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