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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 August 23rd, 2008, 09:58 AM   #1
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What to shoot SD or HD

I have a shoot coming up with a client. The shoot is for a college and will be documentary style...interviews, classroom shots, outdoor shots etc. Much of the footage will be handheld. Not only will I be using the A1 but I will also be flying my Sony HDR-HC1 on a Merlin Steadicam (the director likes a lot of dolly type movement). Whenever possible I will be using my Firestore FS-C and then delivering the video files to the client. The client will be editing with Final Cut.

The marketing house does a lot of graphics and only a small amount of video type products. My footage will eventually end up on the colleges website and also distributed in DVD form. I suspect the system used by the marketing company is an older slower type system and may have difficulty with HD.

I have shot some test footage in SD with the A1 but I must say that either I have been spoiled with HD or the SD from the A1 is pretty mediocre. My previous camera (I am now having some regrets to have sold it) was a Panasonic DVC 80. It's footage was very nice.

I am wondering whether to shoot all HD (this might be a problem for the editor) or shoot all SD? Is there a "best way" to shoot SD.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 11:17 AM   #2
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Guy, though I'm pretty much a novice with the A1 I agree about mediocre SD footage - I've played around with the custom presets and managed to improve things a bit but not enough to consider shooting SD if HD is an option. The general tenor of this forum from what I can gather is don't bother with SD unless you have too. I think the basic problem is that everything is optimised for HD not SD. I too would be interested though if any experienced users have better advice about getting the best out of the camera in SD mode,

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Old August 23rd, 2008, 11:58 AM   #3
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If you decide to shoot HDV, make sure the editor has an HDV deck and make sure it will play your tapes. There's only one fairly new Sony deck that will play Canon's 24/30F.

I shot quite a bit of SD (16:9, 24f) footage for a documentary that had earlier footage shot with an XL2. The producer thought my footage looked better than his XL2 stuff. It could be that those who are comparing the SD quality of this camera are not comparing it to other cameras but to their own HDV footage, in which case it doesn't look nearly as good. But it's always a good idea to shoot a test.

In addition to a deck, make sure the editor is using an NLE capable of handling HDV before you make the decision. Time could be a factor too, since there's always more HDV rendering time. On the other hand, if they do a lot of graphics, having the higher resolution might be desirable. First thing to do is check with the editor.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 04:23 PM   #4
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I've been wondering the same thing.. I've been running several tests with my XH A1, and originally it's SD seemed to be of lower quality than that shot with my GL2. I went backed and compared what I thought at the time were great SD shots side by side with the A1 SD and they were very similar. Though I'm just a novice, I think it the side by side comparison with HD may be screwing with our perception...
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 07:31 PM   #5
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It ultimately comes down to a decision by the editor as to what format to shoot in - so I'd be asking them for a detailed description of their workflow and what is going to suit them best.

I haven't shot any straight SD on my A1 but have done a bit with downconverted SD and I've found the quality to be superior to what I used to shoot with my XL2.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 07:48 PM   #6
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I shoot straight SD on my A1 for a regional TV station.

Compared to other SD footage they use in the segment, the quality from the A1 is streets ahead.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 11:56 PM   #7
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Guy,
I also shoot a local cable show that uses my 2 A1s and a Sony VX2100. I do not edit this, but I think in the final product the 2100 has an edge over the A1. It isn't large but may just be a personal "color space" type issue. The image is a tad cleaner and seems to be well balanced. The A1 doesn't look bad by any stretch, but you can tell a difference.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 02:47 AM   #8
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I would expect the VX2100 to be less noisy than the XH-A1. It is the king of low light shooting among affordable cams.

Richard
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Old August 24th, 2008, 07:58 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Grant View Post
I also shoot a local cable show that uses my 2 A1s and a Sony VX2100. I do not edit this, but I think in the final product the 2100 has an edge over the A1
Are we talking 4:3 or 16:9 footage here? I do have a vx2100 and a xh-a1, I film in HD (16:9) but also capture and edit HD and do the downconverting in my pc. In that way the vx2100 doesn't even come close to the xh-a1 after downconverting to DVD.
Also about lowlight capabilities, if you know how to use the canon with the right preset and settings it almost matches the vx2100 in low light conditions and produces a cleaner image, the vx2100 produces more noise then the xh-a1 in low light, not less.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 03:13 PM   #10
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Oh this is 4:3 SD and I just hand the tapes over so I have to shoot it in SD. The images are equally clean as far as noise goes, the 2100 just has a slight edge in detail. It is a noticeable difference but not a deal breaker... you know. I agree in HD or even SD 16:9 there is no comparison, and I agree about low light. I never liked the low light on the 2100 it was bright but all around crappy otherwise.
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Old August 25th, 2008, 02:16 AM   #11
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Oh this is 4:3 SD and I just hand the tapes over so I have to shoot it in SD. The images are equally clean as far as noise goes, the 2100 just has a slight edge in detail. It is a noticeable difference but not a deal breaker... you know. I agree in HD or even SD 16:9 there is no comparison, and I agree about low light. I never liked the low light on the 2100 it was bright but all around crappy otherwise.
Bill
In 4:3 the vx is indeed better, I think its normal why it's not a good 16:9 cam because you loose about 25% when switching to that mode, especially when the lens is wide the difference is most noticeable. One of the reasons why I switched to a better 16:9 cam was that this year was the first time I got 2 complaints from clients of a video done with the vx2100 that the image was not sharp, both had a big lcd. All those years before that I never had anyone complaining.
Most of my new clients have widescreen lcd's now and the extra resolution you get out of a 16:9 cam does make a difference then, especially on very big screens.
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Old August 25th, 2008, 08:53 AM   #12
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Yeah,
This is one of the things that is frustrating about shooting for local cable. They have no facility for HD or 16:9. But they were shooting this show with the 2100 an HV20 and an old ZR60 when I got involved so we're at least picking it up a bit right?
Bill
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Old August 26th, 2008, 08:39 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Noa Put View Post
Also about lowlight capabilities, if you know how to use the canon with the right preset and settings it almost matches the vx2100 in low light conditions and produces a cleaner image, the vx2100 produces more noise then the xh-a1 in low light, not less.
I couldn't agree with this based on my own experience with these cams. When you say "canon with the right preset" are you by any chance applying noise reduction?

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Old August 26th, 2008, 11:26 AM   #14
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I couldn't agree with this based on my own experience with these cams. When you say "canon with the right preset" are you by any chance applying noise reduction?

Richard
I used the +6db preset from Wolfgang with a 1/25th shutter speed in 50i mode. I did not apply any extra gain on the camera, the vx needed up to +12db to get the same image which caused the noise, I could open the gain completely on the vx making it brighter then the xh-a1 but then the noise became even more apparent.
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