General HD question related to XHA1. 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 April 6th, 2009, 01:10 PM   #1
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General HD question related to XHA1.

Forgive me if I'm being a divvie, but I've only just got the A1, which is my first foray into HD videography. Point is, I'm a little bemused by the pictures I'm getting back.

First, I've set up the camera on the Panalook preset in HD, and shot manually, using the AF override button whenever necessary. Then I tried shooting using the Auto setting (not fully-auto, though) to see if the camera can achieve a more-critical focus. The gain is -3dB for both, full wide, exterior, with bright sunshine, then overcast, but still very bright.

What I've got back is underwhelming. Admittedly, I've only just dumped it into Vegas but, to my eyes, it appears no better than the old SD Panny GS320 handycam we were using. If I run the preview window at full size, at best quality, the footage is grainy, flat and soft.

This is what I think's wrong: my perceptions. It's twofold: first, my experience of HD is HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. I appreciate there are a million miles between my paltry efforts and the latest blockbuster, but I was kinda hoping the A1 rushes would sing a little more.

Next, I believe this disappointment is compounded by a resolution/size relationship: am I right in saying a HD picture is no better quality than SD, but simply larger, akin to megapixel count on an SLR camera? My belief is that the benefit of HD becomes obvious when viewed on a HD monitor/TV, next to a SD monitor of the same size. By previewing at fullsize, all I'm doing is getting a bigger picture, as I'm using the same montor at the same resolution.

However - and despite my poor interpretation - I'm still at a loss to explain the soft, grainy footage. I would have expected a 3K HD camera to kick the arse of a 400 SD handycam, even out the box.

Disappointingly, I will have to o/p to SD anyway, but could anyone here offer some advice on either adjusting my mental approach to shooting HD, or else offer guidance on how to best set the camera up/NLE, please? (I appreciate the former's an almost-impossible request, but all input is appreciated).

PS - apologies for the lengthy post.

Ta,

NR.
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Old April 6th, 2009, 02:30 PM   #2
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Your experience with your picture quality leads me to think that something is wrong...

1: are you sure your recording and capturing in HD
2: are you sure you're not downconverting to SD from the camera while capturing?

The video quality even on your monitor should be much better than SD.

What NLE are you using? Does it do HD?
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Old April 6th, 2009, 02:33 PM   #3
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First of all, it's not the camera and it's not HD. The camera looks great and HD looks great. No doubt you watched many of those clips that are in this group as well as elsewhere, so you should know what the camera does and what HD does. Your problem could be a combination of factors. You could be shooting on auto gain. First thing to do is go through the manual and turn off all the auto stuff--like the auto iris, auto gain, auto white balance, auto shutter. Check your recording mode and make sure you are indeed shooting HD, make sure your shutter speed is proper (1/50 for PAL, I think).

From the graininess you describe my first guess is that you're on auto gain, maybe shooting with an ND on, so it's going into auto gain all the time. Secondly, I don't know what capture settings you're using. Somebody who knows Vegas will have to check you out on that, but it could be another problem.

So don't be disheartened. It will look great once you get everything set up right.
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Old April 6th, 2009, 04:29 PM   #4
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Thanks

Ok, thanks guys - now I'm thinking my suspicions aren't so out-of-whack!

The camera has been set to HDV/Frame mode/Panalook Preset, since I got it out the box.

For the auto settings, obviously a lot of stuff is on, so I accept AGC and other crap is contributing to a crud picture. That said, it was overcast/ext, and very bright, so God knows why there was any need for gain compensation.

When I shot manual, I turned off the AGC, and used ful manual controls It was sunny/ext stuff with full manual control apart from focus, which I left to auto.

As for the NLE, it's Vegas Pro 8. I set up a new file as HD, but can't be certain exactly what dimensions, as it's at work. Perhaps it IS downconverting.

Problem is, I'm a one-man film crew who's got to teach at the same time, so I ain't exactly got the latitude to thoroughly test the camera. I assumed I could shoot, transfer and edit. Now I'm thinking I need to make time for proper tests...

Again, thanks - keep those ideas coming!

Ta

NR.
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Old April 6th, 2009, 05:09 PM   #5
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Here's a contrarian possibility: Put the camera back to factory-new. No presets and other things that might skew the results. Establish a base-line idea of what the camera does all by itself-- put it on A-mode, agc on, auto white balance on, auto focus on, and let it show you what it does before you change up settings that you might regret...just to see if maybe you changed something that's messing you up. Just plain good old 1080 60i, or in your case, probably, 50i.

And be sure your NLE project is set for HDV capture. I don't know Vegas, but in FCP and Premiere, if you set your timeline up for SD (and it sounds as if you have been working in SD up to now) the program will happily take your HDV and make SD out of it, even if it protests doing so. I"ve worked with the XHA1 for over three years now and there is a HUGE difference in the resolution and detail between what I see on a 24 inch monitor between HDV and SD modes. The camera is a good one, something else is wrong, I believe. My two centavos..... /Battle Vaughan /miamiherald.com video team

Let me hasten to add that I defer to Bill, who knows his stuff. I refer to my own experience in "customizing" a new piece of equipment before I really understood what I was about; thus my suggestion that you start out with plain-vanilla, just to see...
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Old April 6th, 2009, 05:26 PM   #6
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Ok, that's a worthy idea. I'll reset it and chuck it on full auto to see what it does. As an aside, I had put it straight on 25p (Frame Mode), so I'll try 50i as native HDV.

As for Vegas, I remember reading that its project settings are entirely independent of the capture process - apparently, it imports as the same format/resolution as the rushes. I'm getting .m2t files, the raw HDV stream (again, apparently).

Thanks for the advice, mate.

EDIT: Ack! I forgot to write I was shooting at a 250 shutter speed when it was sunny - needed a freeze-frame on a pratfall. Shouldn't affect sharpness, should it?

Also, I watched the Vimeo flick of a bunch of presets and noticed some were very soft - unusuably so, IMO.
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Old April 6th, 2009, 05:54 PM   #7
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Hi, try the "A" setting, not the dimbulb green-box full-auto setting, and good luck! I'm trying herewith to upload two frame grabs which might be illustrative --- the original hdv capture frame and the ntsc (720x480) result from Final Cut exporting sd from hdv....I have not had good fortune attaching largish files, even though they are smaller than the allowable size, so apologies in advance if it doesn't work....but I wanted to illustrate what I see when I shoot HDV....here goes... / bvaughan
Attached Thumbnails
General HD question related to XHA1.-hdv.jpg   General HD question related to XHA1.-ntsc.jpg  

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Old April 6th, 2009, 06:02 PM   #8
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Hi Neil. Why don't you post some piccies up for us to assess?
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Old April 6th, 2009, 06:05 PM   #9
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Wotcha - Yeah, I used the camera on that setting, so will give it another crack, although I feel I should be using full manual!

Also, your frame grabs are fine, naturally, the SD one is a quarter the size of the original, so it's hard to compare them. I undertand what you're getting at, though.

PS - my output MPEG2 plays as a much-larger size in WMP - in fact, it exceeds the size of the monitor.

Thanks again,

NR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Battle Vaughan View Post
Hi, try the "A" setting, not the dimbulb green-box full-auto setting, and good luck! I'm trying herewith to upload two frame grabs which might be illustrative --- the original hdv capture frame and the ntsc (720x480) result from Final Cut exporting sd from hdv....I have not had good fortune attaching largish files, even though they are smaller than the allowable size, so apologies in advance if it doesn't work....but I wanted to illustrate what I see when I shoot HDV....here goes... / bvaughan
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Old April 6th, 2009, 06:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Wong View Post
Hi Neil. Why don't you post some piccies up for us to assess?
Ok, I'll get some grabs tomorrow. You must promise not to point and laugh at my crappy cinemat- sorry, videography!

Right, it's tomorrow here in the UK. I'll get some screens up and perhaps we'll find out if it's user error or not.

Night.

NR.
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Old April 6th, 2009, 07:18 PM   #11
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If there was no high gain happening, then that seems to me to point to your capture settings, assuming you're not in a downconvert mode. Is everything coming in in a 16:9 timeline with no rendering required? There's got to be somebody on here who knows something about Vegas.
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Old April 6th, 2009, 08:15 PM   #12
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I'll be a little surprised if the capture settings are the problem because I couldn't capture a thing in Vegas until I got my settings right. But here goes:

In the capture tab, top left corner, there's a drop down box that includes the word "Prefs". From the drop down > Device > IEEE 1394/MPEG2-TS Device.

From my experience with it, that's the only way you can capture from the XH A1 if the footage was shot in HDV.
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Old April 7th, 2009, 04:59 AM   #13
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Screens

Here are some screens.

Image 0 is auto (the 'A', not the green box).

Images 1, 2 & 3 are manual with auto focus, HDV, 25P, 250 shutter, no AGC, -3dB, Panalook preset.

There is no postproduction.

Once you've clicked on an image, you can click again to see it full-size.

ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 07 10.37.jpg is the Vegas project settings.

Like I said, it could just be shoddy workmanship, so feel to let me have it!

Ta,

NR.

PS - forgive the chavvie costume. He's playing a chav.
Attached Thumbnails
General HD question related to XHA1.-image0.jpg   General HD question related to XHA1.-image1.jpg  

General HD question related to XHA1.-image2.jpg   General HD question related to XHA1.-image3.jpg  

General HD question related to XHA1.-screenhunter_01-apr.-07-10.37.jpg  
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Old April 7th, 2009, 05:53 AM   #14
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More grabs.

Here are some grabs of footage shot on HDV, 50i, Auto, no custom presets, raw from Vegas.
Attached Thumbnails
General HD question related to XHA1.-image5.jpg   General HD question related to XHA1.-image6.jpg  

General HD question related to XHA1.-image7.jpg  
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Old April 7th, 2009, 06:05 AM   #15
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They look fine to me, but I'll leave it up to the experts to comment.

Lines look a little jaggedy, but I think that's down to the compression of the stills. What I do see are chromatic abberations, particular around highlight areas. This does make the images appear "soft" as you describe. But I think this is down the limitations of sensors around the prosumer range. This is where skilled/controlled lighting become an important element in your production.
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