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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 February 17th, 2008, 07:39 AM   #1
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Aurora Borealis Filming!

Hi guys! This is my first post here so hey everyone :)
Recently purchased the Canon XH A1 mostly to try and get some decent Aurora Borealis footage. Admittedly I have not yet read around the forums yet but hope there are some people here with previous experience with the lights

I'll be going over to Canada in March to try and see the lights. I'm a little worried that I'll go over to canada and mess something up coz i have the settings wrong.

If I could I'd like to brief on my current settings and if you could give your opinion I would appreciate it

Aperture - 1.6
Shutter Speed - 1/30 (1/15 seems too slow, footage seems stuttered, but 1/45 is too dark, but Im not the expert so opinions appreciated)
White Balance - I set this manually using a white sheet of paper
Gain - +12db (higher seems to get very noisy :S)

With these settings I can see some stars if I take the camera outside, but it doesnt seem to pick up much.

Do you know of any essential settings that I would need?

Your time is very much appreciated

Hope to receive a reply

Thanks!!!
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Old February 17th, 2008, 08:02 AM   #2
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Don't use +12db gain. Reason being is that with a pure black or blue background, the noise artefacts will be prevalent. Use +6db if need be and a shutter of 1/24 in NTSC land. This should offer smoother motion but enough light to pick up what is needed. Set the camera up to TV mode and go into your menu and adjust the AE to +2. I would recommend frame mode, but this is not essential. If you want to timelapse the Aurora, the progressive is recommended.
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Old February 17th, 2008, 08:03 AM   #3
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Forgot to mention, turn sky detail ON so as to alleviate any macroblocking in gradiated areas.
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Old February 17th, 2008, 01:23 PM   #4
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Personally, I rather decrease the shutter speed than add gain, though you might need to do both.

The last time I shot aurora was with my vx1000. I think it goes down to a 4 second exposure. I don't think it was gained all the way up but probably close. This was the 'common green' kind and was not very bright. Depending on where you are going, you may have colors and may be quite bright the farther north you go.

Most of the still photographs you see are long exposures. That's how you get that streaky effect. Having a long exposure on yer video camera kinda simulates that effect.

Hope this helps!
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Old February 21st, 2008, 03:29 PM   #5
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thanks alot guys :)

Will give those settings a go and report back with results :)
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Old March 7th, 2008, 10:33 AM   #6
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ok guys well here i am :) in Yellowknife NWT Canada :)

I didn't have much luck on my first night. Theaurora was fairly bright, nothing out of the ordinary but bright nonetheless

i used following settings

Aperture : 1.6
shutter speed 1/4
gain: varied between +6 and +18
frame mode : 60i

I wasonly able to get a faint glow on the footage. I havea few questions about a few of the settings that im not sure about.
The frame mode setting, its set to 60i but Im not sure if this is the best in terms of low light footage, any ideas? Theres 24f and 30f options

I tried TV mode but wasn't about to get as much light out of the footage as in Manual mode.

The aurora is supposedly active this weekend so id like to get the best settings I can for this :)
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Old March 7th, 2008, 11:11 AM   #7
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Hi Natalia and welcome to DVinfo. I'm quite jealous of your travel; would love to do what you're doing this week!

I've never tried to shoot the aurora so all I can give are best guesses; not sure if the camera has that much sensitivity or not. I think I'd agree with the others that you want to keep gain down as much as possible since the background will be the black night sky.

For a given shutter speed and aperture combination, the mode (60i, 30F, 24F) doesn't matter as the exposure is actually the same, HOWEVER going to 24F will allow you to go to 1/3 second exposure which is at least a little help. Of course, keep the aperture wide open at 1.6.

Another thing to try is the custom preset to Black Stretch. DON'T use the CINE settings for gamma and color matrix as they reduce exposure a little...appears to me they work by gaining down portions of the signal during processing (very useful for "film look" when there is adequate light, but a liability for what you're doing). Conversely, it might help to keep custom presets for color gain in the positive range to bring up any hint of color the CCDs are barely catching. Not sure if one of the Noise Reduction settings might be paired with gaining up the color. Again, I've never tried all that for extreme low light shooting like you're trying.

Please do post some frame grabs of your efforts (with settings!) this weekend as it would be a good learning experience for the rest of us.
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Old March 8th, 2008, 03:12 AM   #8
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Saturday night is supposed to be a good viewing night according to:
http://www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/

Unfortunately, it will be cloudy in Fairbanks this weekend. Get some good aurora.
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Old March 8th, 2008, 05:14 PM   #9
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Try these custom preset settings. It is a mod of Wolfgang Winne's "3 +12 dB". You may want to tweak some settings to taste, especially the color settings. You may be able to get a little more blue or red from the aurora if by increasing the RGN and/or BGN. The results will be smoother using 24F with 1/12 shutter speed instead of 60i with 1/8 shutter speed.

GAM-N
KNE-H
BLK-S
PED-4
SET-2
SHP-0
HDF-L
DHV-6
COR-9
NR1-M
NR2-H
CMX-N
CGN-34
CPH-2
RGN-5
GGN-0
BGN-9
RGM-42
RBM-0
GRM-0
GBM-10
BGM--1

24F mode
1/12 shutter
12dB Gain (or more)
Manual focus
Manual white balance (adjust to taste)

Good luck. I'm getting a little sunshine today in Fairbanks. Maybe I'll get to shoot aurora tonight, too.
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Old March 9th, 2008, 05:44 AM   #10
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Natalia-

How did it go Saturday night shooting aurora? It was a very active night. There was too much cloud cover in Fairbanks for clear aurora even though I could see a green glow from behind the clouds. It was clear for the few moments I went to pick up my daughter after she had finished ushering for a Turtle Island String Quartet performance, which was 10:15 AKST (12:15 MST or 1:15 MDT). Of course, the aurora was at its best.

Did you have a chance to use the preset? The added noise reduction should give a smoother image with higher gain. I wouldn't use this much noise reduction under normal conditions. The ghosting or light trails usually associated with excessive noise reduction doesn't seem to detract from the aurora. Still photographs are often exposed 10-40 seconds depending on the desired look.

Good luck!
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Old March 9th, 2008, 12:20 PM   #11
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Hi Doug,

Thanks very much for the informative reply:) Unfortunately I did not read it in time, I did however get to see Saturdays nights fantastic display!

I was at Grace Lake in Yellowknife. Activity died down at about midnight, started early though at 8pm.

I managed to getsome video footage, I have a feeling however it would have been alot better with your preset!! hehe

my footage is grainy :(

Oh well, today is supposedly better than last night interms of auroral activity so I will try your preset :)

Thanks very much Doug
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Old March 10th, 2008, 09:29 PM   #12
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I didn't mention to also follow the earlier suggestion of setting the sky detail to "soft". If the aurora isn't too intense, you will need to increase the gain and/or decrease the shutter speed.

In March, Yellowknife is a better location for aurora than Fairbanks. It has something to do with the tilting of the earth towards the sun, magnetic north and night.

Are you using a wide angle lens adapter?
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Old March 20th, 2008, 07:01 PM   #13
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Heeey Im back home :)

Managed to get some 'decent' aurora footage after all with some pretty nice activity.

I've got a little problem though :(

Im using Nero Vision to capture the video straight from the camera via mini firewire cable, with the other 2 tapes I have not had any problems (normal video footage in the daytime), however as soon as I try to capture aurora footage, for some reason the playback on thempg file has white square blocks.

Any idea what this could be? Im a little concerned, however these blocks do NOT appear when I play the footage directly on the camera.

Perhaps im using the wrong software to capture?

Any advice appreciated
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Old March 20th, 2008, 08:58 PM   #14
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Natalia,

I was going to say you've got dropouts, until you said when you play it back on the camera you don't see the same thing. So I think your footage is fine. I don't know much about Nero.

So what other software do you have?
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Old March 21st, 2008, 08:56 AM   #15
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I tried Adobe Premiere Pro but for some reason it wouldn't detect the camera and so I couldn't capture, perhaps im doing osmething stupid as I've never used Adobe Premire before but just couldnt get it to work :S

will be trying Ulead Video Studio later on today...hope that helps :(
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