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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 11:08 AM   #1
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Xl2 For Independent Film

Hello, I've been browsing this site (and DVXuser.com) ever since the XL2 was announced, and I finally feel ready to ask some intelligent questions. I hope that you can help me out.

I'm a filmmaker, in the past I've made short films in 16mm, but due to budgetary reasons, I want to tackle a feature length film using miniDV, which I've never used before, and know nothing about when it comes to technical issues.

I'm looking for the best camera on the market to do it. I don't own anything yet so I'm wide open to any camera. What I'm looking for is the camera that can best aproximate the look of film. I have a $22,000 budget, and want to shoot native widescreen, 24p, be able to have a shallower depth of field, etc. I would like to leave open the possibility of a transfer to film, although it'll probably go straight to video. I've studied "Pieces of April (PD150?)" "28 Days Later (XL1)" "Spellbound (XL1)" "Tadpole (PD150)" and other features, as well as the samples here and in other forums, and the only times that I've been blown away visually have been 1) the Seinfeld/Superman commercials shot with XL1s and mini35 w/Cooke lens (find it at www.jerry.digisle.tv/room.html) and 2) the night shoot that Johnnie did in Vienna, and that's why I'm favouring the XL2 with mini35 package, but I would like to work out some questions:

1) THE PRICE for the camera seems steep, specially with the DVX at $3,500 and Sony's FX1 coming with HD at about the same price. Would you think that the Sony HD camera might be a better buy, even without 24p, just because of the resolution? I'm afraid that in five/eight years, movies shot in SD will be unwatchable once people start buying more HD TV sets and that becomes the standard. But I would loose the 24p and film lenses, and could I still edit on Final Cut Pro? What would be the advantages/disadvantages of the XL2 vs FX1 (at least as far as specs since we haven't seen the FX1 in action)

2) FOCUS PROBLEMS have been raised, which would be catastrophic. Is the LCD screen adequate? Do I need a monitor? If so, which one's best? CRTs are better than LCDs? How do you use it while in a shoot with a very mobile camera. What cables are needed? What's the best way to check focus?

3) GREEN SCREEN COMPOSITING/EFFECTS I have heard that miniDV is bad for compositing, any word on how the XL2 performs? What are the miniDV problems in this area?

4) SETTINGS. Not sure how to explain this one exactly, but I understand that its hard to MARK a setting that you want, like a focus setting or F-stop setting. Is this true? If so, Is there a way to remedy this? Is there any attachments that can remedy this?

5) HARDER TO HIDE. Silly issue maybe, but I'm shooting in Mexico without permits, and the DVX and the FX1 seem a bit more inconspicuos. There's no way you can say that's your tourist camcorder with the XL2!

6) STEADICAM-LIKE RIGS. Much more affordable/lighter with the DVX (and potentially the FX1). I need to move fast on this film, and a rig like this would be neccesary. Which would be a good, affordable one for the XL2?

7) MUTED COLORS, MORE VIDEO-ISH IMAGE. Some people have said that, even though it provides a crisper image than the DVX, the XL2 has a more "video look" with colors a bit washed out, etc. The quickie shots I've seen (with the exception of the Vienna night footage) do point in that direction, BUT then I haven't seen an extensive tryout to aproximate film-like images, like people have tried for years with the DVX, AND I haven't seen it in action with the mini35 and film lenses. Is anyone else in this same boat, as far as the specific situation that they want to see examples of from the camera before buying one?

8) TRANSFER TO FILM. Any lab that people can recommend? I would like to get their feedback as far as the best experience (and worst I guess) in transfering, best settings, camera, conditions, etc.


Can I please get your opinions on these issues?

Also, what are the settings that you've found make the image more film-like? Are there any extensive reviews up for the XL2 against the DVX, or maybe one with the mini35 attachment on both?

Thank you very much.


Alex
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 12:31 PM   #2
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Alex,

I enjoyed reading your post...I am also considering the XL2 and I am looking forward to some indepth replies to your questions. There are lots of good people here to help that really know the deal.

-paul.
nyc
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 01:10 PM   #3
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"3) GREEN SCREEN COMPOSITING/EFFECTS I have heard that miniDV is bad for compositing, any word on how the XL2 performs? What are the miniDV problems in this area?"

I can tell you that green screen and compositing is tricky for any camera that records dvformat. The format has only 4:1:1 sampling which means it only samples the color imformation once for every 4 pixels which leaves a stair step pattern in the color channels that wreaks havoc on compositing. There are
workarounds and good results can be achieved. It is however not the ideal format for this type of work.

"5) HARDER TO HIDE. Silly issue maybe, but I'm shooting in Mexico without permits, and the DVX and the FX1 seem a bit more inconspicuos. There's no way you can say that's your tourist camcorder with the XL2!"

the XL2 will make it a little harder to shoot in public places without a permit. Hands down the DVX or other small camera will definitely draw much less attention.

7)" MUTED COLORS, MORE VIDEO-ISH IMAGE. Some people have said that, even though it provides a crisper image than the DVX, the XL2 has a more "video look" with colors a bit washed out, etc."

I wouldn't worry about muted colors. The default settings seem to error on the safe side and the colors are a little more flat. But just a few tweaks in the menu and you can have a super saturated film look.

"4) SETTINGS. Not sure how to explain this one exactly, but I understand that its hard to MARK a setting that you want, like a focus setting or F-stop setting. Is this true? If so, Is there a way to remedy this? Is there any attachments that can remedy this?"

I'm not sure what you mean but the barrel of the default lens has no marking for focal length or zoom. Since these function are servo driven the rings spin infinitely and cannot be marked for accurate reproduction of settings. A manual lens can be used for this. Also the iris on the 20x is electronic and therefore you have to toggle through your F-stops electronically. However you can easily remember your settings and reproduce them but you cannot mark them as you would on a manual iris.

I'm sure others will chime in with more useful tips but I figured I'd contribute what I know already.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 01:59 PM   #4
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For filmmaking, you'd definitely want to use the "filmmaking lens," which is either the 16x manual or the 14x manual (or if you have the budget, a rental package with the Mini-35 adapter and cinema glass).
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 02:30 PM   #5
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Ola,

Quote I got last night on the mini 35 was about 10 grand to buy. That's without a camera to attach it to. Cool setup. Pricey. But renting for a feature might be cheaper than 16mm processing. Might be. I was unsure if the $1000 rental fee was by the week or the shoot...

DVX and XL2 has no real price difference if 16x9 is going to be your main medium because of all the DVX accessories needed to make 16x9 work at quality.

You could hide the DVX in a taxidermied Chihuahua and no one would be the wiser. Totally awesome size.

But in 5 to 8 years not being able to watch any SD movies because of HD? Does that mean any movie I have now or can rent now on either VHS or DVD will be unwatchable? How the heck am I gonna watch the Marx Brothers?

The settings - I have this same issue with the markerless barrels - but there are lenses that will help you work around some of these issues - for the extra cash.

If you have permit issues and low profile issues - look more into the DVX. Even with the anamorphic and matte box it's still a pretty small camera. And I think (i'm sure i saw one when hunting around) century optics sells a flip out 16x9 screen that you can exchange with the stock screen for around $300.

db
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 02:36 PM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by Dan Barnhill :
. And I think (i'm sure i saw one when hunting around) century optics sells a flip out 16x9 screen that you can exchange with the stock screen for around $300.

db -->>>

Where did you see one of these puppies? I didn't think century mad anything but a anamorphic little converter for 2-3 inch screens. Cause that is something I'd like to have. Let me know or give me some clues and I will search for it.

Marty
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 02:43 PM   #7
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Marty,

Give me a few minutes to retrace my steps. I came across the link on one of the other sites. I'll hunt it down.

Dan
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 02:54 PM   #8
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I just talked to Century and they do make an anamorphic eyepiece adapter that replaced the eyepiece on the DVX. It is $395.00.

They also have a magnifier in the works for the DVX100/a that goes over the LCD and stretches the image anamorphically but it is in the development phase and is not available yet.

IF what you saw was something other than these let me know.

Thanks.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 02:59 PM   #9
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If I may ask...

If you're going to be shooting a feature why would you use the MiniDV format? Wouldn't it make more sense to simply rent a pro DV or HD rig for the time you'll be spending shooting?

I purchased the XL2 and I love the camera in every possible way, but it also suits my purposes (training videos and web based applications) perfectly (as well as having some fun making a few shorts as a hobby). However if I were to shoot a feature, and anticipated a transfer to film, I would rent higher-end gear.

Am I off base here?

Best,

Matt
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 03:18 PM   #10
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<I just talked to Century and they do make an anamorphic eyepiece adapter that replaced the eyepiece on the DVX. It is $395.00.

IF what you saw was something other than these let me know.>

Just as I posted my bit about that I thought, "hmm - maybe I have my head up my arse, you can't get anything from C. Optics for $300."

Of course now I can't find the blasted post. I do most of my post reading late at night when I'm groggy and even goofier - I should probably take notes.

If I find it, I'll post it here.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 03:59 PM   #11
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The mini 35 somebody mentioned at $1000 was the weekly rate. For a month, you should be able to get it for $3000, maybe less.

And then you still have the lenses to rent on top of it.

I am in the same boat and like somebody suggested have looked at renting something better. I assume they are talking about HD, but when you get to looking at those rental rates (about $3000 to $4000 a week, plus $1000 for a zoom), it kind of drives up the costs.

Besides, when you are done with one film, you already have spent money to buy the camera, so your next film should be less expensive.

I would talk to whoever you are going to have blow the film up and ask them what THEY think you need. If they tell you 24p and 16X9, then the XL2 sounds like the camera for you.

Regarding HDV, it is the wave of the future but are you set up for HDV editing? If so, then you might want to think about it, but if not, make sure you add the costs of an editing station into your overall budget, whether to rent or to buy. DV is cheaper in that regard.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 04:22 PM   #12
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I'm not here to answer questions, just add more of them (talk about selfish).

Since this seems like the new "XL2 for filmmakers" thread, I thought I'd ask if somebody here ever tried himself (or know someone who did) to use 16mm film lenses with the XL1 or XL2.

I think this is a path to consider since you will probably get all the resolution the XL2 can handle out of it, the adapter can be bought at around $500 and the magnification factor is only 2x.

I don't know, there's just something about using a few Zeiss high speed primes with the XL2 that draws my interest.

Of course that could be done with the Mini35, but I cannot find a rental house that has it in Montreal, and I'd rather buy anyway if budget allows.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 04:27 PM   #13
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<The mini 35 somebody mentioned at $1000 was the weekly rate. For a month, you should be able to get it for $3000, maybe less.

And then you still have the lenses to rent on top of it.>

Actually, the guy from ZGC said four lenses ( i think it was four) were included in the rental package.

For filmmakers working on a low budget - I wonder if we are a but premature in worrying about HD. Let an audience build itself up for that first - and that's still probably going to be a few years yet. For me, that's a few years too long to sit around and wait for the general population sweating out a sluggish economy with mixed news on unemployment to go buy overpriced TV sets for a medium with no international standards yet. But that's just me and I'm a bufoon.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 05:32 PM   #14
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as far as steadicam rigs for the xl2, I am an xl2 owner and also have a steadicam flyer. The flyer is ideal for an xl2 setup. The arm on the flyer is hands down the best thing out there for the price point. I talked to long time operators at NAB and they all agreed that this is a master series quality arm packaged for small cameras.

Frank Rush @ tiffen is the contact if you are interested

-Rand
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 07:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
the adapter can be bought at around $500 and the magnification factor is only 2x.
I haven't seen this -- where is there a 16mm lens adapter for the XL cameras? I've got a nice Zeiss 10-100 in Arri Bayonet mount that it'd be interesting to try on an XL2...
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