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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old September 20th, 2004, 10:44 AM   #1
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Second Impressions: Thoughts on Color & Sharpness

Several users have reported a lack of excitement about the Color rendition of the Xl2, and several others have made comments that the footage looked blurry. In 3 weeks with the camera I have been largely impressed but just about everything in terms of image quality, but I decided to do some checking regarding these issues.

Sharpness:

there seem to be two things that will cause a blurry image with the Xl2...and these will be no surprise to Xl1s owners as the same issues existed with that camera. First is using the lense in a wide open configuration. There is a noticeable halo-like aberration that occurs when the 20x lens is at wide open 1.6-2.2. This halo is barely visible on an SD monitor, but is quite apparent on a HD monitor, or Computer monitor.

This softness all but disappears at f2.8 and the rest of the lens fstop range seems to produce excellent sharpness.

The second cause of blurriness seems to be related to use of 1/30 sec shutter in 30p and 60i mode. This blurriness looks a lot like the pull down artifacts one often sees when viewing video to film conversions. It is mostly apparent in moving subjects or camera work. Interestingly, it seems that canon is pushing us to use 1/30 shutter in 30p mode...as there is an indicator in the viewfinder that lights whenever the speed is other than 1/30. I think this is a mistake on Canon's part.

Realistically I feel the native shutter for 30p should be 1/60...it simply gives superior results. For 24p the shutter should be 1/48 (canon's recommendation as well).


Color

I feel the Canon color tuning is about right for most situations, however I think that Canon has chosen to err on the conservative side, probably because it sees this camera as appropriate for broadcast, where colors are limited to "legal" specs. For some users who wish for a more punchy, saturated image, and are less concerned about being chastised by an engineer somewhere down the line, the cinegamma, cinecolor, and color gain settings offer a decidedly nice option for achieving this end.

I spent some time at our local i Madonarri festival (chalk "painting" on city sidewalks) yesterday. I hadn't really played with the color on the camera yet, as I wanted to get a feel for where it was at default. I came up with a list of settings that produce what I'm going to call the SuperPolarized Technicolor Dream. Feel free to use and adapt these. I'm calling them this for two reasons...when you cycle the preset on and off, it is like you added two polarizing filters on-axis to your lens, and the color is off-the-page unrealistic...but very beautiful to look at.

Barry's SuperPolarized Technicolor Dream

Gamma: Cine
Knee & Black: Middle
Color Matrix: Cine
Color Gain: +4
Color Phase: neutral
R gain: +2
G gain: +3
B Gain: -2

Realistically your white balance will effect how you position the R,G,B Gains...Mine was designed to pump the yellow-red portion of the spectrum. Also, for anyone with sane mind...this setting is really too saturated...so I would play with adjusting the Color Gain down to +1 or +2 for a saturated, but more natural display of color. I'll try to post some images later.

Barry
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Old September 20th, 2004, 11:26 AM   #2
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I notice similar results. I used Cinegamma and I punched up the colors a little and in an average scene it adds just the right ammount of color to make it look good. But if I get in an environment that has any type of punchy colors for real....it goes way over board and looks very "technicolor fake". I am trying to find a happy medium where it adds a little color to average scenes but doesn't muck up in colorful scenes.

Still finding that it produces far less color in average to low light situations when compared to DVX or PD150. But oh well.

Regarding the softness. I shot with the lens at F1.8 for about 40 minutes inside of an average lit room and noticed some of the footage looked soft (blurry?) around the edge of the lens. I never...ever noticed this on the DVX, XL1 or PD150. What exactly causes this and why? I absolutely need to shoot with the iris wide open much of the time and will be saddened if this occurs on a regular basis.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 11:48 AM   #3
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<<But if I get in an environment that has any type of punchy colors for real....it goes way over board and looks very "technicolor fake". I am trying to find a happy medium where it adds a little color to average scenes but doesn't muck up in colorful scenes.>>


Marty

Realistically, and in practice...the purpose behind these presets is to have them at your beckoned call to call up when you need them...thus a perfect setting that works in all situations is probably not possible. Cycling through presets is nearly instantaneous on the xl2, so I would build one for saturated scenes and one for "normal scenes" and then you'll have the best setting for both situations.


regarding the softness...this must be something inherent to the design of the xl series lenses, because the gl2 doesn't show this problem either. Perhaps this is one of the reasons neither Sony or Panasonic has ventured into 20x (or interchangeable) territory with their lenses.

Barry
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Old September 20th, 2004, 12:04 PM   #4
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Are we talking about a softness or halo all around the edge? As if you applied a filther to blur the edges? Or when you say Halo do you mean a halo around individual objects that are bright?

I will be using individual presets also once I get my camera back from Canon. They are looking at it now for possible issues. Unfortunatley I had increased the color and then shot outside in nice daylight. In the viewfinder it looked just right. On the TV the colors.....particularly greens and reds are straight out of munchkin land....too much and almost fake looking. This is why I feel the viewfinder is not representing what I was recording accurately or I would have know on the spot to change presets. In the viewfinder it was dead on. But it looks different on TV/Field monitor. Again...this is with only the sharpness of the VF increased.

On another note......zooming in and focusing works fine if I am filming a tree or a building or some inanimate object. But moving people, cars, planes, etc are harder to work with as they are...well.....moving! :)

So what methods do you employ when filming subjects that are moving and in different focal lengths? In a non scripted environment too.

Also....Barry......I went to Circuit City and watched XL2 footage on a Plasma 55" hi def monitor and it looked like hell! Artifacts everywhere and total breakdown of the image. DVX footage also showed this. On this particular day there is no chance of confusing XL2 for anything remotely near HD. Must have been an issue with the TV and it was scaling or something. Cause it looked downright jagged and blocky much of the time. And the colors!!! Holy Cripes they were way too brilliant.

I did this to assure myself that the XL2 was indeed worth the investment after seeing my XL2 footage back to back with a DVX on 3 different standard def tvs and seeing no improvement or differences whatsoever. I however see a big difference on my JVC production monitor. So I thought HI-DEF TV should be able to show me some advantages to the XL2 16x9 res boost.

On this day HD slayed any DV footage by a large margin. Xl2, DVX are no match. What was worse is they both looked worse on HDTV than on SD televisions. It actually killed the image.

sorry for the ramble!
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Old September 20th, 2004, 12:28 PM   #5
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Marty,

Not completely related, but regarding SD on an HDTV monitor. My father-in-law just recently purchased a 43" HDTV DLP television that looked great in the store but once he fed it an SD signal when he brought it home, it looked absolutely horrible. He returned the television since there were only about six channels in HD here and he would only be watching SD video.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 01:04 PM   #6
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Don,
that has been my experience also. But I thought I remembered Barry saying that the footage he shot at the beach looked incredible down at circuit city. That is why I was trying this.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 01:59 PM   #7
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Don -

That's a pretty common problem with HD displays, especially the projection (front or rear) variety. For anybody reading this who is interested in going HD, I would highly suggest that you check out SD footage on the set before you buy it. There are some sets out there that do quite well with it, and others that look horrible.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 02:01 PM   #8
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Wow... that Circuit City test is a bummer. I wonder if something was wrong with the HD display. I could swear I read a post a few days back where somebody said the footage looked excellent on a big plasma display. I'd like to hear more about XL2 user's experiences viewing on large standard def as well as HD displays.
I have no aspirations for ever transferring to film, but it would be nice to have the image hold up well on a big screen.
I wonder how the image would look uprezzed to HD then viewed on a plasma? I'm sure time will tell.
By the way, thanks to all posting clips online! Keep 'em coming!
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Old September 20th, 2004, 02:15 PM   #9
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Thanks Barry, this is exactly the sort of thing I've been looking for! What type of adjustments would you make to this for a more realistic film effect - or is that way too broad a question?
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Old September 20th, 2004, 02:31 PM   #10
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You didn't say what monitor you viewed the footage on
that looked so bad. ALMOST
all of these HDTVs are really cruddy imo. The only one I have been really
impressed with is the Panasonic plasma screen @$10K.

Almost all the others that price less than that
are mosaic/banding/soft/noisy/poor registraton . . . yuck.

Then there's the upconversion factor. I have seen what a $50,000+
Terenex box can do with upconversion and what some of these
built in HDTV coverters do. Believe me, there is NO comparison. The
Terenex box is amazing.

So, in other words, that particular "test" had more to do with
condemning the monitor than the camera IMHO.

A real test would be to take XL2 footage, upconvert it with a Volare box,
record it into an NLE that can do uncompressed HD
and run that signal into a real Sony HD monitor. Then, you'll know
the best that the XL2 is capable of.

And Barry, though I expect the new lens that comes with the XL2 to
be better than the 16X (junk imo), for the price point the 20X
simply cannot be that much better.
I have not used my 16X since getting into the EOS adapter
and EF lens. The sharpness and color saturation is *remarkably better*
with 35mm glass.

The last time I tried the 16X, it seemed no matter what I
tried I could not get it focussed. The reason? The 16X lens is only capable
of about 200-250 lines of resolution imo. Once you get used to what
the camera body can do with real glass, especially film lens, you simply
can never go back to the video glass except for facial closeups where
some softness is a good thing.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 02:42 PM   #11
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All I was saying is that in this particular case the image looked worse on a HI-Def tv. I sure will not go through all of those steps to get my customer a DVD that looks good on hi-def! What you described is not my goal.

In my short time with the XL2 I can say that the average television can't seem to resolve the increase in resolution I see on my production monitor. So why pay for the extra res if the end user/customer can't see it? My next thought is some of my clients will be using Hi Def monitors to view. Maybe on those I will see a big increase and therefore justify the cost difference for me over the DVX100A. But in this test the $3000 dollar TV killed the image. So until I can convince my clients and myself to now buy a $10,000.00 television so they can see the increase in res I get for my $5000.00 camera then the point is mute. I really like what I am seeing with XL2... On my pro monitor. But so far everything I have viewed on any HD or Standard TV doesn't retain the information.....therefore rendering the DVX100 almost the same quality. In 16x9 the XL2 is a little better.

Nobody else sees this?
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Old September 20th, 2004, 02:57 PM   #12
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Jacques,

Am I right in understanding that the EOS adapter increases the focal length of the lens by a factor of 7.5? If this is correct, what lenses are you using and how does it work? Can you do the same with Nikkon lenses as I see that there is a Nikon lens adapter as well.

Thanks,

Matthew
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Old September 20th, 2004, 04:28 PM   #13
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Marty...did you take a dvd to circuit city, or the camera? My experience is based on hooking the xl2 (running off a tape) directly to a Sony Wega HD 34" CRT (one of the most beautiful displays I've seen anywhere) at my home. The footage looks stunning...I can go right up to the set, and there is only the bare minimum of aliasing...the upres technique on that particular set may also be your problem.

Also...yes the xl2 monitor is desaturated compared to the final image...but I'm confused here...last week you were telling us that the final image had no saturation now its too saturated...Look...set up your production monitor and use the adjustments for the LCD to get a closer match to what the final output is...I just did, and I was able to get very close...certainly much closer than the image displayed on the DVX LCD sitting right next to it.

<<On another note......zooming in and focusing works fine if I am filming a tree or a building or some inanimate object. But moving people, cars, planes, etc are harder to work with as they are...well.....moving! :)
So what methods do you employ when filming subjects that are moving and in different focal lengths? In a non scripted environment too.>>

This would be difficult to do manually with the auto lens marty...it's servo system is really built around autofocus, and this is and has been a highly discussed topic on these boards for years. However the autofocus functions nicely in this situation, you might want to try that, next bet is to purchase a manual lens for the camera (I know your dvx didn't need the extra lens...u shouldn't have gotten rid of it :)...but seriously the indexed focusing is one of my favorite things about the dvx...but also remember that focusing a 10x lens is about 50 times easier than focusing a 20x...stick to the wide end of the xl2 and you won't be having so many problems.) Follow focusing a long telephoto lens like this is never easy...sports photographers spend years perfecting it. The servo on the xl2 doesn't make the job easier...but I'm not sure I would blame this all on the camera.

also...the halo I'm describing is like that caused by a soft focus lens.


Jacques...I'm not having any problem focusing the 20x, and I'm getting tack sharp images as long as I'm not wide open.


Barry
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Old September 20th, 2004, 05:03 PM   #14
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Mr. Cherry,

I used the 100-400 EF IS lens for most of our wildlife doc., but
also used the 16mm-35mm EF lens for some interviews. Yes,
the magnification factor isn't a help for normal stuff, but a great help
for super telephoto work. Like I said, I can't go back to the 16X
now that I am spoiled. I literally felt that I could NOT focus it the
last time I tried to use it. The 16X is soft as mush!

I do not believe there is an adapter for Nikon lens other than
the PS technik which I think has a Nikon "flavor", but at a large cost.

Mr. Hudzik,

I guess I am left scratching my bald head. What would make you think
that an HDTV would make SD video look better than an SD production
monitor? Remember, you're upconverting via a cheap converter and viewing
it on what is most likely a crummy HDTV. There is nothing in that formula
that would make the SD video look better. In fact, each of those steps
degrades the video.

<<< So why pay for the extra res if the end user/customer can't see it?>>>

The reason to pay for an XL2 in my situation is that native 16x9 SD video
can be upconverted to HD at a post house that does offer the Terenex box.
The XL2's 16x9 image does not need to be pan and scanned for upconversion to HD.
(if shot in 4x3, it would have to be Panned and Scanned to
fill the 16x9 screen with a 33% loss of pixels)
or suffer the loss of pixels if shot letterboxed (XL1's 16x9 mode).

The average NTSC TV (4x3) will show the letterboxed image (black bars top & bottom).
When you shoot in true 16x9, you will have more pixels to work with,
much as if you shoot in film you have more pixels to work with,
even though the final output of BOTH workflows (NTSC 4x3) has the same number of pixels.

It is always better to have more resolution from which to derive the final product.
That's one reason film looks much better than video on wide out
shots. More pixels/resolution to render the image.

The XL2 will look (I'll guess on this) a bit better than the DVX with an
anamorphic adapter or shot in the DVX's electronic 16x9. The main thing is
that the work flow is faster as you don't have to render out the unsqueezed
image.

I guess it all depends on what you are doing and who you are doing
it for. Right now I am bummed out that HD's TV signal is mpeg2 at 19mbps
which is NOT enough bandwidth for many many situations.
The image turns to a hideous mosaic imo when there is almost any
significant movement in the video. Trying to cover four times the
"resolution" at less than DV bandwidth with an old codec is stupid imo.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 10:03 PM   #15
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"I guess I am left scratching my bald head. What would make you think
that an HDTV would make SD video look better than an SD production
monitor?"

I never thought it would look better than a SD production monitor. I thought it would look better than a SD retail quality television. Because for me I can only really see the benefits of the increased 16x9 mode on my SD production monitor. Let me summarize my experience:

XL2 on Production Monitor:Amazing!!!
XL2 on regular retail tvs: Very Nice!
DVX100 on Production monitor: Very nice!
DVX100 on TV: Very Nice!

See the pattern? Graphically the XL2 seems to excel on a hi res screen. I consider myself a bit anal over picture quality and if I can honestly say that on a regular tv the DVX and XL2 look about the same then they probably do. I was simply looking for some type of sign that somewhere a client or consumer who watched my product on a hi def TV will be treated to a taste of what the XL2 can produce. Thats all

Barry....I initially felt the colors were a bit flat and muted. So I tweaked the menu and color options to bring out more colors. Hence the issue with saying the colors were overkill. I plan to compensate for this by adjusting them back to a mid point that is acceptable. I understand the concept of trying to calibrate the LCD to the production monitor. But the broad statements were that the LCD accurately represents the final picture. This in the same thread that say don't change anything on the LCD except sharpness.

So I am complimenting the wide range of color capabilites of the camera itself while stating at the default LCD settings I am not getting a very accurate view of those colors. Even the DVX didn't give that accurate colors but it is no big deal. As we use it we learn the tendencies of the camera and compensate for them.
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