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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old January 14th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #1
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XL2 and onboard light for night shooting?

Hey guys and gals.

I have been asked by a friend to help him shoot a short film that is taking place mostly at night in the same style as these documentary shows that follow police officers at night. Due to the budget available we are most probably only able to stump up enough to afford a SD camera and the XL2 springs to mind.

My only reservation is that it is apparently poor in low light conditions. I was wondering if an onboard light would be sufficient enough to make the footage suitable for viewing or whether perhaps going more for the PD170 and an onboard light would be better?
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Old January 15th, 2008, 01:42 AM   #2
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The PD170 will definitely be more manageable than the XL2 for run and gun situations. It's smaller, lighter and is the best low light SD camcorder available. The drawbacks is that it only shoots 4:3 natively and all things being equal as far a lighting goes, the XL2 has a better picture. The XL2 has a 20x zoom lens while the PD170 is 12x. If you're shooting up close and personal most of the time then the 12x on the Sony will be more than adequate.

If you're always going to shoot with a light then the low light capabilities of the PD170 won't be needed. However, if you did go with the Sony you wouldn't need as much light on your subject as you would with the XL2.

There are lots of lighting choices on the market with big differences in pricing. For myself, I use a Frezzi Dimmer Mini-Fill with a satchel battery. It's a professional setup with a professional price. The idea behind the dimmer feature is obvious - you only dial in as much light as you need. With proper lighting you don't have to dial in any picture gain and you just use the dimmer on the light instead of changing the exposure on the camera. No picture gain means you're getting nice rich blacks instead of picture noise in those areas.

Hope this helps.

- Don
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Old January 15th, 2008, 03:12 AM   #3
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Hey! Thanks for the reply.

That certainly looks like a cool piece of kit and one that I shall certainly be looking out for. However, due to restraints and time we are only able to now hire from a specific company and so only any of the following bunch are available:

http://www.hireacamera.com/camcorder..._menulight.asp

Any suggestions as to which one would be more suitable?

As for which camera to use. Because the onboard light will be used throughout the night shot close up (there is only one case in which the night wont be needed and that will be when shooting from afar of someone under a street lamp) and that I have more experience with it, the XL2 looks like the piece to go with. You could also argue that some of the gain (if there is any) might add to the realism of the piece due to the nature of the film we are trying to shoot.

Thanks again! :)
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Old January 15th, 2008, 03:32 AM   #4
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Sounds like you're going to be using the on-camera light a lot James so the LED makes sense simply because the batteries last so much longer. But in run 'n' gun situations umbilical cords to battery packs (Paglight) are a pain, so the Sony 20-DW2 might be an idea. It uses the Sony batteries clipped to the back of it.

On-camera lights are never very effective past about 2 to 3 metres, so that's where the low light capabilities of the PD170 will really help. It really is far better than the Canon.

But like Don says, the PD170 (even your PAL one) isn't so hot in the 16:9 mode (not sure the XL2 is much better), and if you're shooting 4:3, who's the film for?

tom.
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Old January 15th, 2008, 05:20 AM   #5
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I agree with Tom in that the Paglight type units that connect to a seperate battery belt can sometimes be a pain. I use mine sometimes but will need to leave it behind on my next flight due to weight restrictions (the belt is very heavy). It also dosn't really chuck out more light than a simple on-board Canon VL-10Li.
The Canon unit is quite good and I use it a lot for run-n-gun situations because it is so quick and easy to use.
For more static filming I'll use the Canon VL or Reporter beltpack-powered unit on-camera plus a large 20-LED portable unit off-camera.
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Old January 15th, 2008, 05:59 AM   #6
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The film is for a friend who has written a television series and wants to film a small part of it to see if companies in the local area might be willing to stump up some cash to get the whole series up and going.

I was pretty histant about shooting at night since the last time I did it the results were awful and that was inside! I now know to light the scene more and bring it down in post! :D

Where exactly does the LED light connect to? One of the AV outputs?

If what you say is true then it seems liket he PD170 with the LED light and possibly a PAG orbitor for stability is the way to go.
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Old January 15th, 2008, 06:10 AM   #7
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Looking for sponsorship - I'd be wary about shooting in 4:3 then. Of course if the action and excitement overcomes the technical losses, then shooting with the PD170 in its 16:9 mode is fine.

Sometimes LED and tungsten lights run off a tap on the battery fitted to the back of the cam, but they can be self-powered with a clip-on NP-F as the 20-DW2 does.

A simple, cheap, light and effective Lumiquest diffuser spreads the light to cover the wide-angle at the loss of a stop or two. The big L bracket does stabilise when running and gunning.

tom.
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Old January 15th, 2008, 06:49 AM   #8
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Yeah I was a little wary about 4:3 but the 16:9 on the 170 doesn't look that great. Especially compared to the XL2. Which is why with that, along with some experience on it made me choose it first off.

the problem we have is what we have on offer. The UK is limited in areas as to renting equipment, so all we have is on the link I provided earlier.
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Old January 16th, 2008, 10:12 AM   #9
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Don't know about the LEDs but I use an A/B Ultralight 2 connected to an A/B brick (Dionic 90 on a GoldMount) attached to the accessory on the back of the camera.

I was using a Paglight P.O.S. with the battery velcroed to that accessory, but it was a hassle cuz the light wasn't very bright and it didn't last very long. The Ultralight lasts 3+ hours (on the Dionic 90 powering only the light...but it can power the camera at the same time, too). A bit bright, but a little softbox goes a long way.

Jonathan
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Old January 16th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Davies-Patrick View Post
the Paglight...dosn't really chuck out more light than a simple on-board Canon VL-10Li.
Tony, which Paglight do you have? THE Paglight can take up to a 100W globe and a 24W HMI globe, which is the equivalent to 100W tungsten. They have several other smaller lights, but I don't know too much about them, though.

If your camera has an aftermarket battery adapter, like PAG, or Anton/Bauer, you should be able to plug your light into the battery mount, but you may have to have a couple extra batteries to accommodate using a light.

If you are running off the on camera battery, you will probably want about 50W, or less. That way, you won't kill the battery so quickly. If you are going all night, though, you'll probably want 25W and get real close. Like Robert Capa said, if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.

Here's the Pag 2005 catalog. Can't find anything newer.

If you are going all night probably a 25W-35W light with no diffusion is best, that way you aren't draining the battery too much. The light ain't pretty, but it'll be okay. Most of what you see on cops, they are usually within about thirty feet, or less to their subject.

With the XL2 go to a 1/24 shutter, that will help pick up a little more light. I advise against using gain, unless you really have to. For instance, if the subject is far away. The knob is easily accessed for the few moments of shooting, until you can run in closer.
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Old February 1st, 2008, 05:37 AM   #11
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On board light suggestions...?

I'd like to get some on-board lighting -- but when looking at the VL-3, I wonder if this is perhaps more a cute concept than actually a functional light source? Any suggestions welcome.

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Old February 1st, 2008, 06:08 AM   #12
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I use the VL-10Li. In this video I used it exclusively. Everything was shot with this light in the dark. http://blip.tv/file/612459

This light is a great buy!
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Old February 1st, 2008, 11:09 AM   #13
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Don't know how much wattage you need or what you're needing the light for, but I use an Anton-Bauer Ultralight 2. Comes with the Powertap that I attach to the piece that came with the XL2 that goes above the XLR inputs (looks like the MA-100). Powers the camera and the light at the same time. AB Battery is a Dionic 90...lasts more than 3 hours when using it just for the light. It adds a little more weight to the back, which helps (a bit) counter the 20x lens I have. I use a 25 and a 50 watt bulb. You can also attach a small softbox to it if desired.

Jonathan
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Old February 1st, 2008, 05:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Kirsch View Post
Don't know how much wattage you need or what you're needing the light for, but I use an Anton-Bauer Ultralight 2.

I was thinking of using it for fill light during daylight shoots. Your Anton-Bauer looks very tempting, but I wonder if it would be an overkill for my application, and maybe also too bulky. I like the puny size of the VL-3 and its power source (directly from the camera), but I'm afraid 3 Watt won't be sufficient as a close range fill light..?

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Old February 4th, 2008, 04:42 PM   #15
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Hey, Don, what's a "satchel" battery? I've got a Frezzi Dimmer minifill too. Great light! I've been looking for camera mounted battery options to Anton Bauer.
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