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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
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Old March 31st, 2008, 02:22 PM   #1
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anyone LOVE their A1->macbook pro->final cut images + workflow?

i have read SO MANY tales of woe concerning the A1 not being recognized by the Macbook Pro and Final Cut edit software.

Some seem to blame Canon. Others blame Apple. Some talk about the firewire connections. Still others scream about HDV.

I am in the market for a camera. My clients still want SD DVDs. I'm thinking about the A1 because of the native 16x9 chips and 20x lens. (Though I am NOT impressed by the camera's LCD)

If I were to consider the A1, I would need to hear from a community of A1/mac users who LOVE their images and their workflow.

Anyone care to shout out?

As always, thanks in advance for your insights

Be well

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Old March 31st, 2008, 02:38 PM   #2
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How much you love it will depend on what you come from I think. I came from an XL1s which I was not unhappy with for SD but I love the HD and DV images of the A1 way more. The workflow for the A1 was the same for me in both HDV and DV. Log clips-> capture -> edit.

Regretfully, I was thrown off by negatives I read about the A1 and I delayed getting it. I shoot in HDV but use the camera's built-in DownConvert through Firewire feature. I fit right into my DV workflow and I use it the same as my SD cameras. I wish I'd gotten one sooner. At least I'd have captured at hi-res for the future when I do more HD work.

Also, I did some simple tests and can see no difference between the DownConvert and resampling HDV in Final Cut (I am on version 5).

All that said, I'm on a G5 and cannot speak to your connectivity questions with the MBP.
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Old March 31st, 2008, 04:30 PM   #3
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thanks for sharing your experiences

where am i coming from? i come from being an indie writer/producer for the past 15+ years in a very tough market-metro nyc!

and now, with the digital revolution in full swing, i find myself having to acquire new skills: the ability to edit in final cut pro and the ability to shoot much-not all-of my own footage. i have shot w/the pd150/170, the xl2, the hvx200 and more than several super-8 and 16mm cameras. previously, i shot plenty of the "b" roll in my corporate and doc work. now i am moving towards needing to shoot my own talking head interviews.

i'm looking at the A1 because with a 20x lens the ability to have a narrow depth-of-field offers a decent out-of-focus bokah which looks great for interviews. of course, u need to be pretty far from the subject to achieve that look but in production there is always a wrinkle.

i also am looking at the A1 because of its native 16x9 chips. though i deliver sd dvds to my clients, many of them like the film look of 16x9 widescreen. the capacity for the a1 to deliver a decent 16x9 image is also why i'm questioning picking up a dvx100b.

low light is also an issue. i've read various threads on several websites that suggest the dvx100b and the A1 perform equally in low light. i don't need the pd170 low light capacity but i have found that the hvx200 needs much more light than the dvx100.

once questions of acquisition are addressed, there then is the issue of edit workflow. the sd dvx100 workflow from tape to final cut pro edit to sd dvd release is tried and true. and yet, i've read more than a few threads about the A1 not being recognized by the mac/final cut combo. it is hard enough doing productions (enjoyable but hard). i do not need the added headache of technical issues that add gremlins to the show.

and here i sit, which way to go: dvx100 vs A1 vs sony v1 - notice all are taped based. at this moment in the digital revolution, i'd rather trade the sweat equity of digitizing tapes than the insecurities of tech gremlins within the wonders of a tapeless workflow.

any and all thoughts are appreciated

be well

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Old March 31st, 2008, 04:50 PM   #4
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I shoot with A1 and use a Macbook pro and Imac, love it love it love it! I used to shoot with a Sony A1 before and had no problems except for the fact that the camera is awful in low light.
My clients generally require SD DVD's at the moment which FCP workflow does exceptionally well
My workflow is:
Shoot HDV, capture HDV, edit HDV, export quicktime movie (save this for the client for future HD use), drop into compressor and export as SDDVD best quality 90 mins, chuck into DVDstudiopro to create menus etc...give to client.

Never had a dropped frame (touch wood), never had a problem of camera recognition for capture, never had a problem exporting back to tape for archive of project.

Just waiting on compressor to output Blu Ray then we will be cooking!!!!

You will not be disappointed by the camera, I shoot with a couple of guys who have Z1's and a V1 and the footage looks better from the A1 and the lowlight is better than the V1 and pretty close if not better than the Z1.

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Old March 31st, 2008, 05:28 PM   #5
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Hi Rob,

I'm using the G1 connected to a MBP and have had no problems at all. We capture both via firewire; and live via HDSDI (thru an AJA Io) and it works great. Editing in FCS2.
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Old March 31st, 2008, 05:43 PM   #6
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perhaps there is something in the waters of sydney which makes your A1/mac/fcp workflow so successful!

i must say, your experiences make me so tempted.

i need more voices. where are all the folks screeching about connectivity between the A1 and their mac/fcp combos?

be well

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Old March 31st, 2008, 07:41 PM   #7
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Hey Rob, got your email and here I am...

Yes, love the A1! Have always loved my Mac Pro (Intel 2.66) and FCP Studio2. Together, I haven't had one hitch or dropped frame either. However, I adopted the A1 after FCP included the Canon friendly HDV codecs to their list of codecs... there was a lot of grumblings and workarounds prior to this, I have read - but not no more!

I shoot primarily 30p, capture/edit 1080 30p, and output to H.264 for QT movies - which are stunning for web distribution or as QT files. Just now starting to play with Compressor 3 and DVDSP combo for SD DVDs, and whether to export from FCP, export QT movie, export QT Conversion, etc., so I will get back to you soon on all the trial and errors with my experimenting and quest for the bestestest ever SD DVD using Studio2 and an A1 combo! and then again when Compressor supports BluRay as stated above...

which looks like I may be doing similar tests with the EX1 soon as well...

Hope this helps,
Lonnie Bell
mamas boy productions
Las Vegas, NV
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Old March 31st, 2008, 08:11 PM   #8
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I mainly shoot weddings, but have done a few other jobs. I would say 90% of my work is weddings though. I also come from editing SD, using a Mac G2 dual-core 2GHz with 7GB of RAM. Having recently switched to HDV using the A1 with virtually no upgrade to the hardware, here's what I've noticed.

Pros: Final Cut Pro... I absolutely love it. I've use Premiere back in the version 6.5 days, and the more recent Pro 1.5 both on a PC, and after switching to the Final Cut package on Mac I don't think I would go back, but I can't speak for the new versions of Premiere though, because I've never used them. I'm currently running FCP 5.1.2, and its the studio package that comes with Soundtrack, Motion, DVD Studio, and of course Final Cut on a dual-core 2GHz G5 with OS 10.4.

The A1 is a wonderful camera, especially from outdoor well lit footage around f/4.0 or so with the built in ND filters. Add a polarizer and you're in HDV bliss! I was blown away by the quality from this camera since day one, even converted down to SD. I used to own a Sony VX2100 and a Canon XL1s both of which are great SD cameras, but the quality of the A1's HDV downconverted to SD is spectacular.

Having recently being able to see my HDV footage on a 52" LCD HDTV, I was speechless. I don't own an HD TV myself currently, but my partner just bought a 52" Sony; a very nice TV indeed! We watched various footage I shot over the past year or two with the A1 using factory settings and I was simply amazed. It looked just as good as anything else I've seen HD. Add some custom presets and I can't even describe how great everything looks!

Referring to the depth of field, this works pretty well zoomed in about 50-60% and the lowest f-stop you can get, around 2.0 or 2.4 at that zoom I think... it makes pretty decent bokeh but I don't regularly shoot talking heads and haven't used this much.

Cons: Low light is most definitely an issue with this camera. Being used to the VX2100 which is a stunning low light SD cam, the A1 took a little while to get used to. I have to increase the gain much more than I did on the VX2100 for similar lighting. This takes some getting used to, and I now have a line in my contract that basically states more light = better video, which usually convinces brides that turning on a camera light during their candle-lit outdoor reception will be worth it when they get their DVD!

I've just recently (in the past few days) begun to experiment with the 24F mode so I can use the 1/24 shutter speed to get an extra low-light edge, but I don't have enough experience or info yet to tell you much about it except the fact that it works better in low light using 1/24! I normally shoot 60i at 1/60 shutter. Also, I haven't noticed the macro blocking or weird artifacts that most others seem to complain about... maybe I'm just not seeing it.

The only thing I don't like about this camera are the servo zoom and focus rings, but you can't get a real lens on a camera in this price range, so its not too bad. I also wish the OIS was mappable to a custom key (as many others have said!) Oh yea, the stupid stand by switch, I can't possibly tell you how many times I've hit this damn switch WHILE RECORDING! It really makes you angry... I'm thinking about taping it down or breaking it off! When I first got my A1 and accidentally switched it into lock mode, I though the cam was broken! It's just in a bad spot and has no safety feature like the Sonys do. It would also be nice if you could disable functionality of this switch if the camera is recoding.

Yeah, the LCD is a little small, but my eyes are still young and I have no trouble seeing it :) I recommend a shotgun mic, shock mount, circular polarizer for outdoor footage, and the wonderful Sony eyepiece that fits over the Canon one (I think its a Z1U eyecup, I have the part number... if you get an A1 email me and I'll send it, or just search this forum... its on here somewhere)

As far as Final Cut goes, it handles the HDV material very well indeed, even on my older G5 hardware. I've heard the new Intel Macs are much faster though. Anyway, I've had no connection issues with this camera or the HV20 which is what I actually use as a "deck" for importing/exporting to tape, but I have used my A1 before. You will need the version 5.1 or better to use the 24F, so if you have version 5.0 you need the no longer available crossgrade, or version 6.0 to use 24F.

I've also heard rumors about the audio getting out of sync with the A1, but I've never experienced this.

HDV is slower to render.... much slower on my G5! I had to get used to that... probably the biggest hurdle, aside from not being able to preview HDV over firewire anymore. I used to preview all of my edited material over firewire to a broadcast monitor, but lost that capability with HDV. I know I can get an output card, but I just haven't gotten around to it... I just use the digital cinema desktop preview and preview the video fullscreen on my 24" 1920x1080 screen, which works well, but doesn't beat a real external CRT.

Render times are the slowest when you use film effects or converting 60i to 24p, it just takes F...O...R....E....V...E....R...... but I usually just export before I go to bed and let the box churn while I sleep.

Overall I'm extremely satisfied with my A1 and Final Cut Pro. For the price of this camera, the quality and features are amazing. The 20x lens is a dream... it has a very wide fov with no distortion that I've noticed, and a decent telephoto, plus the OIS works very well at 20x! I would recommend this setup to just about anyone.

I don't like the idea of tapeless media, except if you use a firestore, but also record to tape. I like the idea of archiving my tapes and always having them to fall back on, or dig up if I want some footage. I guess I could go with digital archiving, but that gets expensive!

I shoot and edit everything in HDV, right up until it goes to compressor for the SD DVD, then I use the built in preset of 16:9 90min best quality, which encodes around 6mbps. This looks excellent on the 24" sony tube TV I have... never really seen the SD stuff on anything larger. My workflow stayed the same from SD.
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Old March 31st, 2008, 10:28 PM   #9
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Hey, I'm an independent student filmmaker about to graduate college and use the A1 with FCS2. I am actually on a Macbook (not even a pro) and shoot and edit everything in HD (typically 24f at 1/48). I then export to SD DVD the same as mentioned above: Compressor DVD Best Quality 90 min, and then burn in DVD Studio Pro.

For Vimeo I export in H.264 compression at 1280x720 HD.

These are my workflows that have worked flawlessly and have given much better results than shooting in DV mode, which I did with the A1 before stepping up to HD.

I have had no difficulty capturing any footage in SD or HD. The only times I run into funny issues is with batch capturing HD. Everything is always captured, but sometimes it has problems finding the exact time codes and therefore makes weird files every once in a while with only 2 seconds of footage. I have read that these issues are most likely due to the fact that the A1 is a camera and not a dedicated deck, and therefore is less successful with the strenuous and exact demands of batch capturing. It might also be an issue with my lower end computer. Whatever the reason, like I said, never have I lost any footage or frames, and I have discovered that "Capture Now" fixes these strange timecode hiccups and even separates all takes automatically.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the ease and speed at which I am able to edit with the Macbook, Final Cut Pro, and the Canon XHA1 in HD. I am also loving the quality I am getting out of this setup.
Here is my latest work for reference in HD:

Hope this helps.
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Old April 1st, 2008, 01:23 AM   #10
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Rob... the waters of Sydney are stunning at the moment. It's a great city!
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Old April 1st, 2008, 09:24 AM   #11
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I'm shooting 24 fps with the XH A1, editing now on a new MacBook Pro with 2.6 gig processor, 4 gigs of RAM. I capture using the Easy Setup HDV1080P24 setting, edit in the corresponding 23.98 timeline, and everything is cool. No problems at all (other than one I mentioned in that firewire recognition thread, caused by installation of some other software that screwed with the preferences--trashed the preferences and all is well now).

With the purchase of the XH A1 in December, 2006, I began to move away from 2/3" chip cameras and SD into small cameras and HDV. Better quality, less heavy stuff to schlep around, and less expensive. Not to mention running for hours and hours on a single tiny battery versus carrying around a big Portabrace bag full of $2500 worth of heavy batteries and charger. And a lightweight inexpensive Libec 38 tripod instead of the old O'Connor 50 which weighs a ton. Smaller and lighter is good.

The only downside to a smaller camera is depth of field control. I like to blur the background a bit when shooting interviews. It takes more effort to do that now, but I can do it, though not as much as with bigger chips. Not a big issue at all.

For me the only negative thing about the camera is that it is typically Canon in terms of balance--ie., nose heavy and it tilts to the right if you just hold it with your finger under the handle, as I do for "doggiecam" walking shots. Can't do that with this camera because of the lousy balance. The Sony Z1 is better in that regard. However, the plusses of the camera far outweigh the small negatives. I like the lens because it's wide enough and it has a real aperture ring instead of that dumb knob on the side. The distance readout is accurate for repeat focus when manual follow focus is needed--and that feature, or the absence of it on earlier cameras, is what kept me in bigger cameras for a long time. That was the last thing that separated professional cameras from "prosumer" in my opinion, and now both Sony and Canon give us distance readouts, not on the lens but in the viewfinder and LCD, but it works the same and is equally accurate.

Before getting the MacBook Pro I was editing on an older G5 with the dual 1 gig processors and 2 gigs of RAM. HDV rendering ("conforming," Apple calls it) was pretty slow. With the new computer it's significantly faster. My editing system consists of the laptop, sitting on one of those USB-powered fan coolers, a 23" Cinema Display HD monitor, a remote thin keyboard, trackball, and two M-Audio BX5a speakers. I use Western Digital 500 gig firewire drives for media.

I would be just a little happier if there was a deck that could play Canon's 24F footage. Using the camera as a deck is slow and awkward and would not be acceptable in a full-blown edit suite with clients looking over your shoulder all day and switching between 30 or 40 tapes all the time. But I don't do that kind of editing anymore, so it works for me. If they had a deck, I think you'd start seeing Canons making headway into bigger production houses. Of course you can edit Canon's 60i HDV footage on a Sony deck, but these days most everybody wants to shoot 24p.
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Old April 1st, 2008, 04:47 PM   #12
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I have only use Macs and Final Cut Pro with my XH A1 and have done so with complete success on an iMac then a MacBook Pro and now a Mac Pro. My workflow has encountered very minimal problems and when they do arise it is typically due to some sort of user error that was overlooked by myself with an easy fix due to online research.

I feel like the majority of people you have read about with all of these "major problems" with a Canon XH A1 and Mac set up are either:

A) first time users of an HDV camera and don't really understand how HDV works and how it differs from regular DV both in recording and post production

B) Inexperienced in editing in general, especially FCP and are not familiar enough with Final Cut Pro, Compressor, DVD Studio Pro and HDV (reverting back to A)

It just seems like like a lot of complaints that I've read about the XH A1 and FCP are coming from people who are used to using a simple Sony Mini DV Handy Cam and iMovie and then they want to step it up so they buy an XH A1 and FCP because it's more easily affordable and they expect everything to be that easy for them.

If you are knowledgeable and experienced in HDV acquisition and Final Cut Pro then you should have very little problems with this workflow. There IS a learning curve with the XH A1 and HDV in general. Period. This is a pretty advanced camera with a LOT of custom settings and things that simply need to be understood before jumping right in. There is simply more of a work around in terms of ingestion/compression/output with HDV compared to DV.

I was a previous owner of both an XL2 and a DVX100 and I had to learn a LOT about HDV when getting my A1. I still to this day learn new things about HDV on almost a daily basis. It's just the nature of the format.

Hopefully this helps :)
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Old April 1st, 2008, 10:12 PM   #13
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I totally agree with you Kellen, most of the problems that people have just been because lack of knowledge and not the interface between Canon and mac or the individual items.
As you say the learning curve from Sony DV and Imovie to HDV and FCS is reasonable.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 11:49 AM   #14
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Also agree with Kellen, being an amateur in both the editing world as well as in the camera world I never experienced any problems using the A1 with FCP 5.1.4.

Regards, Robert
XH A1 / FCS2
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 02:00 PM   #15
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A1 with Macbook Pro

Hello all,

I personally am quite impressed with my MBP & A1 combo. Granted I am quite new to the A1 (yesterday), I have already shot and captured a few hours of footage using FCP. A little background, I am using FCP 5.1.4, connected via firewire to the internal firewire port. I have not had any problems thus far. Under Final Cut Pro -> Audi Video Settings box I have HDV 1080i60 set for the sequence preset, HDV as the capture preset, and Sony HDV firewire as the device control preset.

A single problem I ran into was that I had to restart my computer with firewire plugged in before FCP would recognize the camera in order to capture. With previous cameras I would connect the camera while powered off, turn the camera on to VTR mode, then start FCP. With the A1 this seems sporadic, the remedy being to restart the computer.

As far as workflow, I find that my MBP's 2.4 core 2 duo and 2GB ram is plenty. Sure, a quad core would be a luxury, but not a necessity to edit HD. I find I can run Motion, Livetype, and FCP quite well all at once. Of course I try and keep as much ram and CPU free as possible while editing, but the computer still runs quite quickly with all of those apps open.

A few tricks I have picked up along the way to speed things up is to 1. use the spaces feature in OSX (virtual desktops) to separate my apps, so i'm not swimming through a pile of windows. 2. When making transitions I use the blade tool to cut the clip into a small 5 second chunk or so. Then i make the transition and only the 5 second piece needs to be rendered, from there I can either leave the clip split or piece it back together when I'm finished editing and leave the computer to render. 3. Editing in multiple timelines. I edit small pieces of longer projects on separate timelines. This keeps my workspace less cluttered and makes FCP more stable for me.

I hope these tips are helpful.

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