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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 31st, 2014, 05:52 AM   #1
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First 'real' filming attempt...

Hi all.

I previously joined this site a couple of years ago when I had a canon XL2, but I've since got hold of an XHA1. I've only ever played about with the the XL2, but I'd like to get a bit better at filming (as a hobby) and I figured a good place to start would be the audio. I'm going along to film a few friends on a cycling trip for 4 days, and as it will be outdoors, far away from civilisation (until night time) I thought I should probably invest in a decent mic and headphones. I've ordered the sony mdr 7506 headphones, and wondered if I should go for the Rode NTG 2 or Sennheiser ME66, or if anyone else had another suggestion. My budget is 100-150 (second hand) and for that I need the mic + deadcat. As it's a hobby I can't justify spending any more just yet. I've made a pretty cool portable crane that fits on my rear rack, and a motorised camera slider, plus a simple tripod (I'll avoid pan & zooming). It will all be a big experiment, so I just wondered if anyone had any 'tips' for making the process easier/simpler for a beginner, and any recommendations regarding mics. There'll also be a go-pro 3 black and a small HD handicam.

Cheers all....
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Old July 31st, 2014, 06:55 AM   #2
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

XH-A1 strikes me as a bit bulky for a bicycle trip but if you have the rig setup and it works for you - enjoy.

Also consider the AT875 as nice short shotgun.
If you need stereo look at the AT725 (used since it was discontinued recently). I forget the replacement model.

I think that a wireless mic might be a better investment if you want dialog from other riders, especially if more than a few feet from the camcorder or while underway.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 07:07 AM   #3
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

I recommend the NTG-1 over the NTG-2. The A1 provides phantom power so the battery in the NTG-2 is unneeded and you will appreciate the shorter length of the NTG-1 to keep the deadcat out of frame and also not protrude backwards and interfere with access to the top handle etc. I bought the NTG-2 initially and then switched to an NTG-1 when I had an A1.

All that said, the rule is "Closest mic wins". A $250 shotgun 8 feet away on your camera won't be as good as a cheap mic on the interviewee's collar or a boom just out of frame (see attached). But it will be better than using the camera's onboard mics. If you lack a boom pole and operator capability and must go only camera mounted, get as close as you can.

You'll also need to compensate for the smaller diameter of the mic vs the Canon mic holder. Search here on DVINFO and you'll find various methods. I used #15 O-rings. YMMV
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Last edited by Les Wilson; July 31st, 2014 at 06:40 PM.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 07:20 AM   #4
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

Thanks for the response.

I would have liked to have mic'd each rider up, but that cost is prohibitive really, though it is something I'll look into in the future. I doubt they'll have anything good to say as we're heading up the hills anyway. I'll just have to get them at the top. I'm hoping to do a few 'interview' style takes throughout, so I'll use the one who isn't cycling to hold the telescopic boom pole as close to and angled correctly.

Yeah the XHA1 is bigger than ideal, but the smaller cameras for the same price didn't do it for me. Even with all the equipment (- mic) packed away there's still less on the bike this time than when I rode from from Berlin to Prague. Granted, I had too much that time, but significantly less now.

I think I'll go with the NTG1 over the NTG2, for the reasons stipulated.

Cheers
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Old July 31st, 2014, 07:22 AM   #5
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

I can't seem to find a second hand AT875 here in the UK.....
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Old July 31st, 2014, 11:57 AM   #6
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

The XH-A1 is a fine camera, and these days is probably a real bargain. The only real weakness is the tape drive - same as on any HDV camera. Heads can become misaligned or worn, and you will get occasional drop-outs, even with expensive tape. These are more noticeable in HDV than DV, since you can lose up to half a second (one group-of-pictures or GOP), rather than just a segment of one frame. Get a good head-cleaning tape and run it for about 5-10 seconds after recording 5 - 10 tapes. Once a tape is loaded, leave it there, with the compartment shut, until it's finished. Do all you can to keep dust and moisture at bay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
I recommend the NTG-1 over the NTG-2. The A1 provides phantom power so the battery in the NTG-2 is unneeded and you will appreciate the shorter length of the NTG-1 to keep the deadcat out of frame and also not protrude backwards and interfering with access to the top handle etc. I bought the NTG-2 initially and then switched to an NTG-1 when I had an A1.
Interesting. I was going to say that the NTG-2 is a better choice than the NTG-1 since it's more flexible for future use, because of the battery-power options. I have the NTG-1 and have several times wished it could be self-powered.

Instead of wireless mics on the riders, you could give them a cheap SD-card recorder each, or even a minidisc recorder (very cheap s/h on eBay but still very good for what you're doing), then dub the sound under the pictures later. Make sure the mics are well wind-shielded, whatever you do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Wilson View Post
You'll also need to compensate for the smaller diameter of the mic vs the Canon mic holder. Search here on DVINFO and you;ll find various methods. I used #15 O-rings. YMMV
I gave up trying to mount the mic on the built-in holder. On the original XH-A1, too much motor noise was transmitted, and on the later XH-A1s, the new insulating bush causes the holder to wobble rather too much with all but the lightest mics. Also, I find that the NTG1 needs wind-shielding all round, and that's hard to arrange when clamped in that holder. I use the hot-shoe on the handle instead.

Initially, I used a Rycote Softie and "spoiler" foam wind-shields, with a simple Rode shock-mount. Recently, I changed to a Rycote S-series basket, which has been very successful. Looks like the new Super-Shield, with a separate furry cover, might be even better. However, getting all that for 150 will be a "challenge"!

You may find that the picture from XH-A1 is a little "flat" in standard settings. You can fix that in post, using colour-correction etc, but the trade-off is that your picture quality may start to degrade a little. HDV MPEG2 is quite compressed, so the less you have to reprocess it, the better the quality will hold up.

The XH-A1 has lots of picture parameters you can play with, you can store pre-sets and there has been lots of stuff written about what might or might not work on this forum. However, a word of caution: some of the pre-sets posted here and elsewhere are quite extreme and could seriously spoil you footage if you're not careful - been there, done that, ruined several days shooting in the process!

My simple recipe these days is to use one of the built-in gamma profiles - called "cine gamma 1", IIRC. This gives slightly more saturated colours at the cost of perhaps half a stop exposure. I sometimes use "black-stretch" too, if I'm worried about loosing details in shadows. This slightly increases the exposure of the darkest parts of the picture. It can be handy in gloomy lighting. I have 3 pre-sets that I switch between: Cine Gamma 1; Black Stretch; Cine Gamma 1 and Black Stretch. I leave all other parameters at their factory default. I know I'm not squeezing every last pixel of performance from the camera, but it's simple and reliable, and I'm not likely to wreck a shot because of silly picture settings.

You may have read about the "gain" settings already. Most of the auto settings on this camera are quite trust-worthy (in most situations), but not auto-gain. Leave gain switched to manual, and program the gain-select switch to -3, 0 and either +3 or +6 dB. I find that any more gain than that produces too much moving speckle grain in the dark areas. I find that with these gain settings and the ND filters it's quite easy to keep the shutter speed at 1/50th and the aperture wider than f8 using the Auto or Tv exposure programmes. Stopping down to f8 or more is not a good idea. The chips are quite small (1/3") and you start to get diffraction effects.

The auto-focus is quite good on this camera, provided there's some contrast in the shot. If you do use manual focus, beware of zooming in close. At the full reach of the zoom, infinity is about a kilometre away! Neither the view-finder nor the LCD screen are quite good enough to judge fine focusing, so use the auto-focus button beside the A/M switch to help.

That's quite enough for now. Enjoy your trip!
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Old July 31st, 2014, 12:33 PM   #7
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

Cheers Mark, some really good info there. The SD recorder idea is pretty good, I'll look into that. I'm all for keeping the shot as simple as possible regarding parameters etc. I certainly don't want to cock up any footage by trying to be too adventurous. Is the cine gamma 1 & black stretch setting built in or does it require manual input?
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Old July 31st, 2014, 01:09 PM   #8
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

Cine 1 is one of 3 built-in gamma curves, Likewise, black -stretch is one of 3 built-in black-level settings. You'll need to update one of the 9 "custom presets" stored in the camera. Set all the parameters back to the factory default first, then change either or both of those parameters. It's bit of a fiddle, but once they are saved, you can just switch between CP1, CP2, etc. using the buttons on the side of the camera (if you've got them set up like that).

Have a look at "Using the Custom Preset" and "Changing the Custom Preset Settings" in the instruction manual. I've you didn't get one with the camera, you can down-load a PDF from Canon UK's web site.
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Old July 31st, 2014, 06:38 PM   #9
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

A small piece of gaff tape on the NTG roll off switch is all you need in addition to a deadcat. The O rings worked great in the A1 mic holder.

The so called flexibility of the NTG-2 comes with a penalty on length. It can't be "better", only better for you. Any real camera with an XLR block is going to give you phantom. Battery powered shotguns are an artifact of prosumer cameras like the XM and others that were cheaper without the "Pro" XLR audio. Even shooting with today's DSLRs that lack XLR audio and use a dual system have phantom in the Zoom or Tascam recorder. Having a battery is yet another point of failure. I know, I had one.
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Old August 4th, 2014, 05:52 PM   #10
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

Hi Daniel..............

Something that MAY work for you is using Personal Mobile Radios (pmr446), from memory they were as cheap as chips at Argos (UK retailer, if it hasn't gone bust) about a decade ago. No license required, range in the open up to 3 km.

They come with wired ear buds and a clip on mic on the same cable and the units can be set for manual or voice (VOX) transmit operation. The latter is cool, they talk, the unit automatically goes into transmit mode (you can set the trigger level) and you get it on your PMR. Sort of a built in mixer if there's multiple sets in use, as long as they don't all talk at once.

The advantage over a much more expensive pro wireless lav setup is that it is two way, so you can conduct interviews at quite long ranges. A bit of discipline is required so that 3 people don't try answering a question at the same time.

Sound quality isn't great but it does have that gritty "live radio" feel to it on a sound track.

You may need to experiment with the base unit (yours) to figure out the best sound feed for the camera. You'll probably need to make up some custom cables as the ear bud/ mic cable terminates in a two pin plug which makes using the ear bud feed straight into the camera a bit fiddly.

Make sure you have plenty of batteries, they get through them at a frightening rate and the rechargeables they come with were pretty slow to charge, maybe different now with NiMh units.


CS

PS: Hmm, you may have more problems sourcing these pmr446 units than I thought. I just checked Argos, can only find kids toy versions. Maplins web site search facility seems to be unhinged, so can't figure out whether they have any or not. Definitely still being made, found the latest Kenwood model here: http://www.kenwood-electronics.co.uk...adio/TK-3301E/ . Good luck.

Last edited by Chris Soucy; August 4th, 2014 at 06:54 PM. Reason: +
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Old August 5th, 2014, 07:40 AM   #11
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

As suggested above, o-rings work to adapt a thin mic tube to the mic mount..

I've also use a few turns of gafferes tape on the mic barrel.

"Dead cats" (in Rode speak) work surprisingly well to control wind noise. However, the foam mic wind shields are much less effective.

One contributor to excessive motor noise coupling is clamping the mic holder too tight. When compressed too much the rubber in the holder looses much of its ability to isolate vibration. Tighten it only the minimum amount needed to keep the mic from sliding out. A good shock mount is better, and off camera on a boom pole near the speaker is bertter yet (especially if youhave several people speaking in a group), as is a lav on the speaker.

You will find lots of advice and suggestions here from many folks. They typically relate what works for them and provide a vluable resource. Keep in mind that what counts is what works for you, so evaluate all suggestions (even mine) and discard those that do not fit your needs,circumstances (including your budget),or work flow requirements.

Content is king,so poorly shot video or sound is usuallly better than none at all.
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Old August 5th, 2014, 10:14 PM   #12
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

Aha, Maplin was lying to me. The best deal seems to be these: Cobra MT645 PMR Two-Way Radios Quad Pack | Maplin


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Old August 6th, 2014, 06:31 AM   #13
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

Thanks. I'll take a look now
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Old August 6th, 2014, 06:32 AM   #14
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

I have some strips of rubber supplied with a set of bike lights, they fit the mic perfectly. I did notice the NTG1 picking up camera noise, I'll slacken the clamp for sure!
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Old August 6th, 2014, 07:16 AM   #15
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Re: First 'real' filming attempt...

Okay, so I think the most suitable option will be voice activated dictaphones or other voice recorders. Something cheap and cheerful will do. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't have to be perfectly audible as I can add sub titles for whenever clips are used. I'm sure 90% of it will be wind noise and useless, but I might just get a few key recordings. I think the simple recording with noise will sound genuine. The other reason is it will be a pain in the backside if I have to have the camcorder running to pick up whatever is said at all times, it won't be practical. I quite like the idea of push to talk/record too, but I guess they'll forget to do that a lot, and won't bother at all if they're in a bad mood while puffing up Snowdonia!

I might buy one, clip it on, get the bike out and cycle up Carn Brea, see if it works....
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