The answer to better low light = custom settings! 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 November 8th, 2006, 12:41 AM   #1
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The answer to better low light = custom settings!

I dont have the new G1 or A1, I have not even touched one. I am, however, one of the most experienced XL series shooters in the world and I can tell you that on the XL2 and XLH, you can get very good low light performance but you MUST adjust the custom settings. If you add gain to a flat image, you will desaturate color, unnaturally stretch the blacks, create washed out contrasts and introduce grain in the form of noise. Canon has multiple settings to combat each and every one of these side effects of low light shooting and they all work very very well.

All these "tests" I am seeing are ignoring these adjustments. This is not a car seat safety test and comparisons or findings should be done under optimum, not worst case, conditions. Honestly, it is like saying that camera "X" always looks blown out when shooting outside. Ok... so... did you bother to engage an ND filter or close the iris a little?

If anyone needs help with custom settings for specific situations, I would be happy to help. Once you understand how they all work together in different situations, it is pretty easy to tweak for any situation.



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Old November 8th, 2006, 01:52 AM   #2
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I disagree

I'd have to disagree with you here, Ash. Most lowlight situations are run and gun. Yes, image control can be tweaked for optimum performance but you either have sensitive CCDs or you don't. The PD170 is a fine example...lowlight looks great with default settings. If you've ever seen nightclub footage from these cameras...it's a sight to behold!

I've shot with a JVC DV500 and DV5000. A big difference between the two models is lowlight. The DV500...by default...has poor lowlight. The DV5000 can OVEREXPOSE without turning on gain in low light situations (say...dim hallway fluorescent lights). That's why it has a 1/64 ND filter built-in. The DV500 only has a 1/16 ND filter if I recall correctly. I think that alone tells the story.

Have the tests so far been fair? I'm not sure. Until a reliable source gets a hold of one...I don't think so. This camera is highly configurable and I'm sure there's some way to get...as you say..."optimum images" out of it. I for one hope so...because I'm planning on buying one as my workhorse camera in the very near future!
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Old November 8th, 2006, 05:16 AM   #3
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Then again, the Sony may be optimized for low light in its settings or exposure program, while the Canon is optimized for a different shooting domain.

To say that bulk of your of low light shooting is run-and-gun may be a true statement, but that may not apply to others.

Comparison to the PD170 is fair if the reason for buying the A1/G1 is to shoot as one would with a PD170, but then why buy a HDV camcorder?

Each prospective user/buyer must evaluate it in light of their needs, not someone elses.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 05:35 AM   #4
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ccd sensitivity and default settings are two different things altogether, and there may or may not be a correlation. personally, i have no idea what's happening on the ccd level with any of these cams in their default states, because there is so much happening in-camera by the time the image is put to tape.

regarding tweaking settings vs. zero-time-to-prep run-and-gun, here's a workaround: with the 9 in-camera presets and the virtually limitless amount of presets you can store on the sd card, you can literally store a preset for any given situation, including low light scenarios, you can possibly think of. to access a preset, it's a simple matter of pressing the custom preset button "x" amount of times. it will cycle through the 9 in-camera first, then cycle through the sd card.

ash, thanks for the offer. your xl2 advice has always been a boon to me and the camera's users here. i've posted my low-light clips and settings. how would you reduce noise in the night sky in the skyline +12dB gain clip? i think it looks ok considering 12dB on this cam is a pretty significant boost. i already have some coring and noise reduction going on, and the blacks were stretched.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 06:45 AM   #5
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I'm with Ash on this one... the issue isn't as cut and dried as "the CCDs either have the sensitivity or they don't." That's not all there is to it, as Don points out above. As for "run and gun" situations, loading a pre-established Custom Preset, one that you've previously tweaked for low light optimization, it takes all of one button press to trigger the preset. It doesn't get much easier than that.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 06:55 AM   #6
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Ash,

By chance would you have time to write or direct someone in the direction of a tutorial explaining how the different settings counterbalance and effect each other? An overview of sorts?

Thanks,
Jay
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Old November 8th, 2006, 07:09 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Stebbins
Ash,

By chance would you have time to write or direct someone in the direction of a tutorial explaining how the different settings counterbalance and effect each other? An overview of sorts?

Thanks,
Jay
Not to jump in here for Ash, but I created a nice low light preset for my XL2 cameras to counter 6db gain (which was fairly clean by itself). I set it up for 30P, added a notch of Noise Reduction, increased the Coring a bit, and stretched the Blacks. Some folks like to crush the blacks in camera but I prefer to get the most lattitude possible in low light while combatting noise.

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Old November 8th, 2006, 08:07 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Stebbins
would you have time to write or direct someone in the direction of a tutorial explaining how the different settings counterbalance and effect each other? An overview of sorts?
We're actually working on a fairly comprehensive overview of this... and will be looking for input from several knowledgeable DV Info folks who are XL and XH owners (heads up Ash, you're on that list)!
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Old November 8th, 2006, 08:08 AM   #9
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When you increase the CORING from say 0 to +4, aren't you "increasing" the detail along with the noise? Or does it work the other direction?
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Old November 8th, 2006, 08:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Tom Roper
When you increase the CORING from say 0 to +4, aren't you "increasing" the detail along with the noise? Or does it work the other direction?
No, increasing the Coring helps remove noise.

from Canon's XL2 pages on their website...

Quote:
Coring (-6 to +6)


The Coring function on the XL2 is useful in helping to remove image "noise." Coring removes fine detail information that is not a major contributor to the picture detail but which adds noise to the image. You can adjust just how much detail information is removed -- just enough coring to reduce picture noise, but not enough to hurt the detail in the image.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 08:18 AM   #11
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Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks Greg!

Really looking forward to this discussion of settings.
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Old November 8th, 2006, 09:22 AM   #12
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What it comes down to is a bit of tradeoff and settings. If you add noise reduction (NR1 and NR2) and setup higher detail coring and tweak line detailing, you risk the loss of fine details and possible "trailing" can come into play exaggerated even more with the lower shutter speeds necessary to achieve very good low-light recording. Lower frame rates help as do open apertures but the real assets lie dormant in the custom settings.....I'm guessing XH A1 owners will become very proficient with their custom settings as the auto settings introduce too much noise at lower light levels.

More than ever this camera will demand mastery of it's custom settings and will reward the user with much better low-light performance. The term "Prosumer" has increased relevance with this camera as the end user will need to fully understand knee-point adjustment, black stretch, master pedestal, gamma curves etc to get the most of this "Prosumer" camcorder.

Professional camcorders for the consumer public- ...we all asked for it- Canon gave it to us!
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Old November 8th, 2006, 09:37 AM   #13
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I am afan or crushing blacks in camera, namely because most noise shows up in dark areas, and I would rather eliminate it. Also, I find black far more appealing than, dull, grey, noisy anything... film registers black as black (with much more latitude of course!) so I like having a lot of latitude in highlights, and crushing the black levels right down!
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Old November 8th, 2006, 09:51 AM   #14
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...and the A1 will let you crush away via all the advanced custom settings- Gamma, Knee, Black, Master Pedestal and Setup Level are all present!
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Old November 8th, 2006, 10:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Nunez
What it comes down to is a bit of tradeoff and settings. If you add noise reduction (NR1 and NR2) and setup higher detail coring and tweak line detailing, you risk the loss of fine details and possible "trailing" can come into play exaggerated even more with the lower shutter speeds necessary to achieve very good low-light recording. Lower frame rates help as do open apertures but the real assets lie dormant in the custom settings.....I'm guessing XH A1 owners will become very proficient with their custom settings as the auto settings introduce too much noise at lower light levels.

More than ever this camera will demand mastery of it's custom settings and will reward the user with much better low-light performance. The term "Prosumer" has increased relevance with this camera as the end user will need to fully understand knee-point adjustment, black stretch, master pedestal, gamma curves etc to get the most of this "Prosumer" camcorder.

Professional camcorders for the consumer public- ...we all asked for it- Canon gave it to us!
On the flip side, I want the maximum achievable quality and detail when the lighting is strong. The look I want should include a little more punch, a little more vivid, with faithful yet saturated colors, and fine detail.

The out of the box image by that criteria is more muted.

Jacking up the color gain alone is not satisfactory. This is a work in progress, to learn things you have to get your hands dirty and experiment which I am doing, if making a few mistakes in the process. But a conclusion I am coming to is that the color balance is a little off which becomes more apparent as I strive to get more saturation that remains faithful to the scene.

In the ISF world of TV calibration, the term to describe this is grayscale tracking, wherein a 0 to 100 IRE signal is injected and the color decoder is adjusted such that 6500K color temperature is constant across the tracking range.

This is not achieved with simple adds/cuts to the RGB channels, but with the RGB Matrix which Canon has included.

The calibration method has to be different since this is a cam not a monitor. Hopefully someone will shed more light on the best methods. What I did was a manual white balance, then aim the cam at a macbeth color checker card, then tweak on the RGB Matrix parameters until the colors on the card matched the colors seen on the calibrated monitor.
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