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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 April 9th, 2008, 10:47 AM   #1
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Shooting Road Race - Advice Please

I will be shooting an car race held on a professional race track with my XH-A1 this weekend. I've not done this before and I'm looking for suggestions about how to setup the camera to best capture this action. Specifically, I'm looking for tips to "fine tune" the XH-A1 settings using the wide array of adjustments available in the camera. I've looked at all the references in the preset section, but I'm not sure which would be the most appropriate for the racetrack. I am looking for a "natural" look, not a "TV interview" look, more like film, less like video.

Shooting at 24f to get the "film look" would seem to invite too much blur given the speed of the cars. I am leaning toward 30f, but using 60i may be a better choice, but I'd like to hear from someone with experience.

I will also be limited to how close I can get to the action so the zoom will likely be used quite a bit. Typically that invites camera shake, especially as the cars come by at speed (ever been to a NASCAR race - the impact of cars passing will challenge any tripod). I will have no team with me, just shooting solo. I can't use a boom mike, or any other tools since space is limited and I have to move rapidly to avoid being in the way.

Suggestions about tripods are welcome - I have been stuggling with this issue and like the Libec 38M reviews, but after speaking with the Libec company rep he suggested that my camera is too light for that tripod.

I would also like to use a Merlin Steadicam, but after speaking with them they thought the camera was too heavy to balance properly. Others seem to make it work, using the stock battery and no on board attachments. My problem is how to mic it properly and still stay at the needed weight limits when working solo - if I mount a mic the weight will take me over the Merlin limit.

The day may be overcast, so any suggestions with settings should include both overcast and partly sunny conditions.

Thanks for the help.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 06:11 PM   #2
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I have a Libec 38 and the camera is perfectly suited for that tripod. I got a Libec 22 at first, but it was too light for the camera. The Libec 38 claims something like 18 pound capacity, but the 5+ pounds of the XH A1, plus whatever my TA-100 quick release plate weighs, probably a couple of pounds, is perfect. I wouldn't want to add too much more weight to that head. When they rate a head at a certain number of pounds, that means it'll hold that weight without breaking...doesn't mean the tripod functions well at that weight. The 38 is also the only cheap head I've seen that doesn't give you that pesky bounceback. I like it.

I would either shoot at 24f if you want that look or 60i. Why don't you go out and practice on some traffic, or a neighborhood dog running around or something first, using different frame rates. If you shoot 24f, make sure your shutter is at 1/48--it defaults to 1/24 first time you switch to that mode. Also, make sure your OIS is turned off when using the tripod.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 08:03 PM   #3
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Len... A couple of thoughts. You could go with the Libec 22 if you get a 5# bag of rice and hang it below the center of the tripod. That should increase the stability some. Without it could be dodgy. I had a gust of wind put my A1 up on two legs once. Luckily I was standing right there to catch it.

I'd shoot the action in 60i. It'll give you more options in post. Things like slomo, 30p conversion and the like can be done in post. I agree that things will get very blurry at 24f. My personal preference is to be able to read "Goodyear" on the side of the tires. In my limited experience with racing, I've shot as fast as 1/1000 in SD. I shot the Busch East race in Loudon last summer mostly from my seat for fun (I was on vacation) and put together what I got here: http://vimeo.com/718567 I used it for practice using CS3, which I had just purchased. I shot fast until the light started to wane, then I slowed down.

Settings are pretty subjective. If you have one you like, use it. I'd probably use the VIVIDRGB settings to make the colors on the cars and driver suits pop, but there might be better ones.

Sound's gonna be a consideration too. Bring cans that cover the ears and watch levels for the on-track action. If you do interviews while cars are on the track you'll really want a hand-held mic that's reasonably directional.

Hope that helps. I plan on shooting some races this year too so maybe I'll see you out there.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 08:36 PM   #4
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Thanks for the posts - lots of good info. I have been leaning to the Libec 38 and I'm glad that someone has that combination and finds it ideal. By the way, to you have the mid level spreaders, or the ground level? For my needs I'd prefer the flexibility of the mid level to allow me to setup on uneven locations, but I am concerned about losing the ability to setup and shoot at low camera angles, which I find adds a lot of interest to standard shots.

The footage at the racetrack was well done - nice job. If I understand it correctly, that was shot with a SD camera. I'm concerned about using the HDV format for similar shots. Will the panning cause the camcorder to overload and create a lot of artifact problems? Panning around the track will make it hard to hold focus, a critical problem with HDV. Any suggestions about shooting in "auto focus" mode? I prefer to control focus myself, but on a rapidly moving scene, and with a pretty limited on board LCD I'm very concerned that manual focus will provide a blurry final result.

Any additional comments are welcome, and thanks again for the advice.

Len
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Old April 9th, 2008, 09:30 PM   #5
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Hi Len,

I'll toss in my 2 cents about the Merlin and XH-A1 combo. I've now owned both pieces for just over 3 weeks, and absolutely love it. Yes, the Merlin is very challenging to balance correctly and keep steady, especially in windy conditions or just moving around in general. But, even though it's only been 3 weeks, I've become much better at keeping the shots steadier and framed properly, and I'm also using the BP970 battery and a wide angle lens. So the weight is definitely over 5 pounds, and a bit more finicky to balance correctly, but I've still been able to make it work.

I wouldn't suggest using the Merlin for a big event until you've had lots of practice with it. But when the shot you're trying to get with it does turn out, it sure gives you a great sense of accomplishment. The only thing I'd like to figure out is what to use for rain protection for the camera while using the Merlin, as I can't seem to balance it properly or consistently using a Kata rain cover, even with just the stock battery and no wide angle lens on. I guess I've got to find a good umbrella system that could attach to my body and protect the camera at the same time.

Anyway, I hope everything works out for you at the race, and let us know how it goes.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 10:37 PM   #6
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Len... Thanks for the nice words. I was just playing around and it was a Panny 3 chip SD handycam.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Len Capristo View Post
I have been leaning to the Libec 38 and I'm glad that someone has that combination and finds it ideal.
I actually have the 22 and it has mid level spreaders. I wanted those for the same reason you stated. I also do some nature stuff so lightness is good for schlepping.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Len Capristo View Post
I'm concerned about using the HDV format for similar shots. Will the panning cause the camcorder to overload and create a lot of artifact problems?
That could be an issue and may be a reason to shoot slower. Don't know. That's just a guess as it would take the detail out of the background and might make it easier to compress. Haven't shot any car racing with the new cam. BUT... I did shoot some horse racing right after I got it and didn't seem to have any problems. Look here: http://vimeo.com/681956 and go to 7:09. There's some moves like you'd do at a race track and I only found a few artifacts that were barely noticeable. I don't know if there were any at all in the footage I used. What you'll see will show some artifacts from the recompression and some loss in the reverse pulldown to 24p in the posting to Vimeo.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Len Capristo View Post
Panning around the track will make it hard to hold focus, a critical problem with HDV. Any suggestions about shooting in "auto focus" mode?
The horse racing footage I shot was shot fast, with the ND filters off. Focus was manual and I preset it to the middle of where I thought my shooting range would be. I knew I'd be zooming and since the A1 can't zoom and focus at the same time I basically locked focus for what I was going to shoot. The fact that it was in bright sunlight made it easy. A race under the lights might create a whole 'nother set of challenges. Regardless, I'd stay away from AF. You might want to get real familiar with the location of the instant AF button on the side of the cam so if you have to go to a shot where you didn't expect to you could kick the button quickly.

A final thought. If you're going to shoot track action I think sticks might be better than the Merlin as it will give you more stability. I have no experience with the Merlin so that's just a guess.

Oh, and make sure that you have some kind of filter on. The last thing you'll want is for some driver to kick up what Mr. Hobbs likes to call "clag" and have it take out your lens.
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