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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 January 13th, 2007, 03:44 PM   #1
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I see a lot of threads about this accessory and that and which camera is best and I hate this feature because. But what I am missing is a bit of shooter experience. You know, the down and dirty. The "My ear was frozen the entire time and the tripod wouldn't stop shaking because of the 40mph winds but when I got back the footage was awesome" stories. So I will get it started.

I live in Kansas City. I have lived here for over a year and am just discovering the interesting sights and shooting opportunities the city has to offer. I have experience with ENG style Betacam, DVCPro cameras, the Sony DXC-D35, and the venerable Sony F-900/3. My first camera was a Hi8 Sony TRV-900. I entered the digital arena with a Canon Elura 2 (which I still own) and recently the XH-A1. Video has always had a hard time not looking like video. I think most of us want our video to look like or emulate film in motion and depth of field and color. Technically we are getting closer to that wish. I get my footage home and hook up my high def monitor (read component CRT HDTV) and am blown away by the footage. I mean, give this camera to a monkey on a bungie and hit record and you would fill theaters (at least until someone pointed out that the monkey wasn't able to zoom and focus at the same time and someone else would add that monkeys can't zoom and focus at the same time anyway) Enough banter... on to my story.

I was looking for new ways to shoot the downtown area (already shot at night and day) and thought I do a bit of time lapse with the A1. A friend clued me in to some bridges that had a good view of the west side of downtown and I though that would be prime for capturing a sunset. I waited until just before 4 and headed out there as our sunsets in this part of the world hit around 4:30p this time of year. I had borrowed some kick a** sticks from a friend (Sachtler 18plus CF). They are wonderful although a bit overkill for this camera. I mean, I would have to add 5 more pounds just to get the camera to balance properly. It was a minor annoyance because it was like butter and solid as a rock. So with timelapse I have learned that you need a stable platform as the wind will wreak havok with footage sped up 1500%.

In your head its easy to calculate a shoot and most of the time these calculations are correct but sometimes you get into it and find that you don't know what the h*** you were thinking. Its nice when this happens and you don't have to feign confidence. Its also nice to have time to learn a camera on your own time without the added pressure of a client breathing down your neck.

On to the nuts and bolts. I decided to use -9 sharpening(i have since changed my philosophy) -2 setup, -1 pedestal, normal gamma, -3dB gain, 1/6 shutter 24p. I shot from 5:00 to 5:30. Even though sunset is at 4:30 there is still a lot of light in the sky and my purpose was to get from light to complete darkness in about 30min. I started my exposure just a notch overexposed. This shot is cut in half at the first by shadows below and full sun above. I was impressed by the cameras ability to maintain detail in both sections. I decided to focus on the glass of the buildings in the background instead of the freeway in the forground. My white balance was set for 56k and I shifted it to night buy adding more blue in post. It was cold and my hands were numb but I was occupied with the process so I didn't mind. Once everything was set I really didn't have much to do except monitor and keep from bumping the setup. I really buried the tripod. The ground was moist so I had to take the feet off and plant the thing. I turned the LCD in so it would turn off and conserve the battery.

Functional notes: the zoom rocker would be better if you could dial down the variable speed so you could open up the lower end of the range. All of the rings are very handy. I find myself using the zoom ring more than the zoom rocker.

The edit was pretty straighforward. Brought in footage in FCP, layed it to timeline, changed speed to 30 sec and voila timelapse. I copied the clip and inserted it over the original then edited it back to just before night hit and cooled it down to match the day footage. Those sodium vapors were a deep salmon by the time night hit.

Notice how much noise is in the sky. There is not as much in Final Cut. The sky going from bright blue to navy to black is a challenge for HDV. Those colors aren't stair stepping their way to black in nature. I'm not sure if sky detail would help in this situation *anyone?*. I know that If I did this with the HVX I wouldn't be discussing this. But could I do this with the HVX. Can you get 30+ minutes of 1080 24p footage at a go with P2?


CLIP
http://www.chebutterfield.com/KCtimelapse.mov

Last edited by Che Butterfield; January 14th, 2007 at 12:18 AM.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 03:51 PM   #2
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Damn, you found my secret cityscape angle. I thought I was the only person who knew about that spot. If you go down that street in front of where they built the new condos, you can squeeze out beyond the fence to the grassy slope and frame your shot with an evergreen tree, if they haven't cut it down.
Good looking stuff there, but I didn't let the whole clip load yet. What compression did you export it with?
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Old January 13th, 2007, 03:54 PM   #3
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I tried most of them and found photo jpeg to be one of the best. Luckily it was only a 5 sec clip. I would rethink compressing a 5min piece with photo jpeg.

Evergreen is still there.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 04:06 PM   #4
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Since there are two people from KC with the XH A1 (and another 2 on the way that I know of already), we should get together for coffee or something one of these days.

The only stuff I've shot so far has been a bunch of interviews and a few exteriors for a documentary. I shot all at 24F with that cine 1 setup that I just tweaked a bit by pressing the blacks, softening and saturation a notch or two. I'll have to look at the camera to give you exact numbers, and it's at the office.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 04:11 PM   #5
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Good idea! Shooting right now in KC is a real challenge for any cameraman. Unless you like the look of fresh sleet.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 04:14 PM   #6
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I enjoyed seeing some people shot with the A1. Looks great.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 04:17 PM   #7
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Yeah, it's too damn cold to go outside. I COULD go shoot some nice, scenic ice-covered trees and stuff. Or I could sit between the fireplace and TV and watch the "V for Vendetta" DVD. Guess which rational course of action I'm taking.

I just downloaded your clip. It wasn't loading when I just clicked on it, so I option-clicked and it downloaded fine. Excellent time lapse, and your ending exposure came out perfect. I did one like that of a sunset over the Missouri River, up at that scenic curve near Parkville. It was in my Betacam days, so I only had a half hour tape. I had gone out the previous evening to figure out what the ending exposure should be. When I set that properly, my beginning was too hot and I had to do a lot of tweaking in post. I think the XH A1 actually has better latitude in that regard than the old BVW.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 04:55 PM   #8
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Nice timelapse Che. The sky is pretty noisy, and the exposure looks great, so I assume it must be the compression. To what degree is the noise in the sky visible in the original file? What gain settings did you use?

BTW, the building on the left is quite interesting. Is that like a giant ad board running 24/7? Why is it that I suspect that may be the water and power building?
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Old January 13th, 2007, 06:16 PM   #9
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Actually, that's a hotel with a really high priced customizable computer controlled sign that covers the entire south side of the building. They make it christmasy for Christmas, red, white and blue for the 4th of July, etc. Used to be the Vista; I think it's a Marriott now.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 06:52 PM   #10
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Wow. Very nice job.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 07:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Che Butterfield
The sky going from bright blue to navy to black is a challenge for HDV. Those colors aren't stair stepping there way to black in nature. I'm not sure if sky detail would help in this situation *anyone?*. I know that If I did this with the HVX I wouldn't be discussing this. But could I do this with the HVX. Can you get 30+ minutes of 1080 24p footage at a go with P2?
Actually the HVX has a hell of a lot of noise in the shadows, so regardless of whether you could get 30 minutes of 1080p24 on a P2 card (the answer to that one is "not yet") you might have a different sort of noise to contend with.

I don't think sky detail would help in this case.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 10:22 PM   #12
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Add number 3 to the list of people in Kansas City with a XH-A1!
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Old January 14th, 2007, 12:24 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Matthew Wilson
Nice timelapse Che. The sky is pretty noisy, and the exposure looks great, so I assume it must be the compression. To what degree is the noise in the sky visible in the original file? What gain settings did you use?
I used either -3db or 0dB gain. I personally think that is all color noise. The original doesn't have as much noise but exhibits the same qualities. I think this is showing the limitations of HDV 4:2:0 sampling.
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Old January 14th, 2007, 06:19 PM   #14
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Thanks Che - Yeah, I suspect you are right. Solid colors and grads seem to suffer the most in this format. I take it you were not using noise reduction.
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Old January 14th, 2007, 11:02 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Matthew Wilson
Thanks Che - Yeah, I suspect you are right. Solid colors and grads seem to suffer the most in this format. I take it you were not using noise reduction.

No noise reduction. I've noticed that with HDV in this cam you have to use some movie magic to hide it and avoid it. I have noticed a very noisy picture with most of my shots. Even a -3dB. Add 3-way color correction in FCP and boost levels and you can see the color noise rear its ugly head. In the same way you can cover multitudes of noise with a little color correction in FCP or Premier or Vegas or whatever you are using. This is where the duct tape starts to fall off of these prosumer cameras. There are still plenty of tricks to hide it in post but you begin to realize where all the money goes when you buy into these professional $60,000 solutions.

I am happy with duct tape and bailing wire. I can buy a lot of it with $4000 and I feel that I can still fool the masses most of the time.
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