New A1 - overall impressions -thoughts, issues and your input please… 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 February 23rd, 2007, 12:26 PM   #1
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New A1 - overall impressions -thoughts, issues and your input please…

After putting my new A1 though some testing for an up coming project, I come away with a mixture of disappointment and excitement.

Granted, there is a learning curve for any new piece of gear (camera) that one is trying to master -- but I will say that this camera as compared to my XL1s is not as ‘good to go’ straight out of the box. And that is very much a disappointment.

Specifically, I purchased this camera because I shoot mostly corporate video/training films and thought this camera would serve as a perfect segue way in the HD realm while being an excellent camera in SD as well. And perhaps it still will…

But so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Quite plainly, the overall picture (in SD) is soft and lacks any ‘punch’ as compared to my XL1s -- particularly with regard to skin tones (faces) as someone had mentioned in another thread. Please note, I do not use any ‘auto’ settings what so ever – only manual. All of the camera settings are at full ‘null’ as of now – and perhaps that is the problem.

All of my observations/tests were performed with a gain setting of -3, because this camera seems WAY too noisy otherwise – particularly in low light. Remedy: crank up a bunch of lights and turn down the gain. But even then…

*Note: For my evaluation, I was shooting a medium shot of a well lit person standing in front of a well lit green screen. I would shoot with the A1 first, then put the XL1s on the tripod and shoot the exact same shot, same settings, etc.

My impressions thus far are:

SD – The overall images are very soft and flat – (yes, I focused and refocused using the cameras AF as well as my eagle eyes ;-)

To shoot SD, this camera needs a very WELL LIT source – and even then as compared to the XL1s, (which seems hyper-sharp by comparison) again, to my eyes, the image seems far to mushy and soft in the faces and skin tone areas.

The flip-out LCD is no help to the above issue – I increased the sharpness from the default up one notch and that seems to help, but it still falls short in my estimate. I know it is not there for critical monitoring/focus, but it could be better I feel.

So overall: SD > not sold. I like the image my XL1 Produces better at this point. Having said that, I know I need to learn more about the custom settings and tweak them to get the desired look.

On an up note, I do feel confident that I will be able to figure that out – and perhaps if anyone here has ANY advice to that effect – I would LOVE to hear it. I have been searching the boards and web in general in regards to this issue and my head is about to explode!

On to HDV:

The issue of softness and lack of punchyness (faces, etc) still applies here I’m afraid, but… WOW – my green screen footage when comped with my background is amazing on several levels. One HUGE one is that I can shoot a medium shot (waist up) and then perform post production zooms (into medium close up) that look amazing. Again, wow.

Overall keying is MUCH easier than with DV footage in every respect. That is, it seems easier to get better, cleaner results when applying the same techniques one would to DV footage. And again, the zooming/panning capability – that’s worth the price of admission right there.

Color – excellent. ‘Nuff said. My subject was wearing a fuchsia/pink jacket (yes it was a female) and the color remained dead on through the comp process and back to my NLE. The XL1 (DV) source – not even close in this respect.

So with the above noted it leaves me a bit torn at this point. I had hoped for an excellent SD camera straight out of the box, which doesn’t seem to be the case. Again, because I still work primarily in SD, this is/was a huge factor in buying this camera. Insomuch as I pulled the trigger and bought because of all of the great things I have read on this forum about the SD picture of this camera – it comes as again, as a bit of a disappointment.

Finally, I know I need to tweak this camera to get it to the crispness and punchyness that I want. So, I ask of anyone’s kindness here to point me in the right direction in that regard if possible. Again, I’ve scoured the net for info, but perhaps because this is a new camera, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there.

What are the settings you guys (and gals if any) are using to tweak the image? I know not every situation is the same, but surely there must be something I can do to get the overall sharpness and punchyness (contrast) to where I want it…

I’m going to buy a card reader today in order to download/upload some of the custom setting on this board – we’ll see what happens there.

There are so many features I really do LOVE about this camera – Canon seemingly put a lot of brain power behind this camera and perhaps I need to do the same thing to get the most out of it and look I want! Again – any help in that regard would be much appreciated.

In closing – this positing will be appearing in the books/novels on tape section at your local book stores :-) – sorry about the long post!
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 12:57 PM   #2
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Canons custom presets white paper certainly helps:

http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache...ient=firefox-a
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 03:00 PM   #3
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One thing to keep in mind when evaluating SD from this (and other HDV cams): consider your output medium. If you're going to deliver on DVD, the quality is amazing if you shoot HDV, edit, output to MPEG without going to DV in the process. I was amazed at the quality of the images these cameras produce when you post them this way. I would agree HD material downconverted in the cam or by software to DV looks fairly ordinary. But bypassing DV helps the final product tremendously.
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 03:12 PM   #4
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-3db

The worst video I ever shot was bluescreen interviews "with a gain setting of -3" - which is, I think, reserved for the brilliant white out-of-doors. Perhaps that has some effect on things.

I'm currently toying with the idea of 1 x JVC GY-HD200u or 2 x A1s...but don't think I'll ever care about SD again - except as an output.

I think I'm hearing you say you want to shoot SD. I think, perhaps, you want to be shooting HD and dropping that footage in FCP into an SD timeline. Maybe that will be better...?
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 04:16 PM   #5
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From the Canon manual:

-3: for the lowest noise recording for indoor, low light or low contrast scenes.

0: for lifelike night scenes or scenes under artificial lighting.

+3: Increases the brightness in indoor or low-light scenes. Increases the depth of field.

Humm… so based on that, perhaps I’ll experiment around with 0 gain. I guess I assumed that if -3 was the best for low light (which somehow doesn't make sense to me), that that setting would offer the cleanest (or least amount of noise) footage. Maybe I was wrong.

However, the green screen footage (HDV) looked great.

FYI—I’d love to shoot everything HDV – but in this transition period, it’s just not possible with the different needs of different clients. However, and as stated earlier, I’m still not altogether impressed with the ‘out of the box’ quality of the A1’s HDV.

I will add again, that I need to learn more about the custom presents.

I really do want to have a love affair with this camera, but alas she seems to be playing coy at the moment! She doesn’t give it up easily like the others do :-)
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 04:30 PM   #6
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-3 Love

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Binder
From the Canon manual:
-3: for the lowest noise recording for indoor, low light or low contrast scenes.
Well, I was remembering from the XL-1. But I was doing so incorrectly. You're right! It's for low noise in low light/contrast situtations...huh. That means that shoot I'm remember was trashed by color balance, and not by -3. In fact, the -3 probably helped.

Funny how we make assumptions and later adjustments based on those fallacious assumptions.
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 09:02 PM   #7
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I don't think that you should have to make a lot of adjustments to the A1 to get it to perform well in the SD mode. I haven't had to.
Experience in shooting several SD projects so far, (all indoors, with correct lighting) indicates that the results certainly compare favorably with those shot with a PD170/VX2100, in the relatively well lit environs that I shoot in. The Sony seems a bit more blue-ish in color cast, while the Canon is decidedly warmer, with very good skin tones.
Now I am not shooting very demanding material--instructional videos, for now--but I am very quality conscious and so far consider the A1 a very good SD cam. Could your unit just be defective? Getting quality results should not be such a challenge.
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Old February 24th, 2007, 12:51 AM   #8
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Hey Geoff, how d0 you output stright to MPEG, do you do it in camera or you need NLE software to do it. I am in the same boat, i shoot mostly in SD and so far i havn't seen a wow picture from my A1 yet. If the picture is better HD and converting in camera to SD, i might try it.
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Old February 25th, 2007, 07:02 AM   #9
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I havent shot a second of SD on the A1. There seems little point to me when a NLE downconversion can increase your overall colour space and the resulting SD image is far better than any SD I have seen from ANY camera.
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Old February 25th, 2007, 08:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiflom Bahta
Hey Geoff, how d0 you output stright to MPEG, do you do it in camera or you need NLE software to do it. I am in the same boat, i shoot mostly in SD and so far i havn't seen a wow picture from my A1 yet. If the picture is better HD and converting in camera to SD, i might try it.
I use Avid, once I finish cutting, transcode to DNXHD, make a Quicktime Reference file which I import into Sorenson Squeeze and compress to MPEG. This method keeps the footage HD until it gets compressed by Squeeze, eliminating the extra compression step of going to DV if you downconvert in the camera.
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Old February 25th, 2007, 11:07 AM   #11
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Why not just shoot stright SD. This seem a lot of work. I have not shoot HD with this camera yet but if you guys think the picture is better if shoot HD and then down convert in camera or NLE, i might give a try. I like stright SD with this camera, it just need more light and everything else A ok
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Old February 25th, 2007, 11:44 AM   #12
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Shooting HD is future-proofing. That way you can create an SD project now, and then go back later on and create an HD version when you need it. It's the best of both worlds, if you don't mind the extra steps in the workflow.
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Old February 25th, 2007, 12:08 PM   #13
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It depends on your delivery format. If you're going to dvd, you'll notice a significant quality difference if you avoid any form of DV compression (like downconverting in camera or software). If you're delivering SD miniDV tapes (DV), then the question is moot.
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