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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 July 30th, 2009, 01:31 PM   #1
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Location: Berlin, Germany
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Getting started with HD

Hi there,

finally even German TV is going to take the step towards HD (in 2010). As a freelance VJ, I have to get prepared, and actually I'm a little bit worried. I am quite familiar with my XH A 1 in SD, but regarding HD a couple of questions remain:

-How do you handle exposure / contrast range when filming HD? I was told, that it is a bit more tricky compared with SD.

-The LCD of the XH A 1 was often blamed for being too small. Do you find it sufficient for focussing in HD?

-Which setting(s) would you recommend for documentary-style work?

-The distribution format will most likely be 720p. The XH A1 is 'only' doing 1080. Will I have any significant loss in quality when converting the material, compared with the output of a 'native 720p camcorder' (in other words: Will I have to get a new cam?)

-Finally: Does anyone know a good online tutorial ("Basics of camerawork in HD" or so)?
Couldn't find one on the web.

Thanks a lot, any advice is appreciated.
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Old July 30th, 2009, 06:46 PM   #2
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1) It is true that exposure/contrast is more tricky when filming HD, but only because there's less light per pixel than in SD - you should be fine looking over your zebra markers and adjusting accordingly.

2) Focus in HD is slightly more tricky than focus in SD, but generally, if it's in focus on the viewscreen, it'll be in focus in the final project.

3) Don't know about settings for documentary style work.

4) Germany is a PAL country, so the distribution format will likely be 720p50. The XHA1 can do, as far as I know, 1080i50 or 1080p25. Best to film in 1080p25 and down-rez to 720p25. You shouldn't have any loss of quality going from 1080p25 to 720p25, though your footage will look more "film like" than "real life." If you were to take 1080i50 footage and try to create a 1080p50 frame out of it, you'd only have the effective resolution of 540p50 (less than PAL SD) so I wouldn't do that.

Camerawork in HD is essentially similar to camerawork in SD. I wouldn't sweat it so much.

I don't think you'd need a new camera, but I'd shoot an interview with the XHA1, render out to 720p25, and ask your producers if the quality is acceptable.
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Old July 31st, 2009, 06:13 AM   #3
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Thanks a lot Brian! I'll be doing the test... and hoping, that it is not 'the end of the road' for my good old workhorse ;-)
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 04:58 AM   #4
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To be honest, shooting in HD is exactly like shooting in SD, except in some cases SD can be more forgivable for mistakes. It comes down to practice. For exposure, I trust my eyes. If the image looks too bright, stop down a little bit. Even though the XH-A1 monitor is a little small, it accurately represents the image that is being recorded so if something looks good to you on the monitor, it'll likely look good when you import the footage. I use zebras when I shoot weddings because sometimes it way too bright outside, the sun is shining on my monitor, or I'm wearing sunglasses, and I set the zebras to 85 and use them to tell me what is overexposed. I find that 85 is a good zebra spot for shooting outdoors on clear, blue sky days.

The XH-A1 monitor is small, but it is perfectly sufficient for focusing in HD. Unless you are getting old and your eyesight is deteriorating. My 23 year old eyes are totally fine with it. The autofocus isn't half bad either, given that you have enough light. Low light makes the auto-focus go a little wonky at times.

Documentary style work is all about content and not aesthetics (in most cases) so I'd suggest a preset that isn't overly invasive. The DVXmatch, Panavision, and Panalook presets are great presets that allow for a cinematic feel of film, but they are also meant to be used in conjunction with a little bit of color correction in post production. I'd stay away from VividRGB for documentary. It super saturates colors, really makes them pop, and in a lot of cases its unnatural.
Sean Finnegan, cinematographer //
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Old August 5th, 2009, 12:26 AM   #5
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Thank you Sean, also very helpful. I'll give these settings a try.
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