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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
Canon XL2 / XL1S / XL1 and GL2 / XM2 / GL1 / XM1.

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Old December 7th, 2004, 08:00 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Washington
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Ease of Use?

Hi. I am considering buying an XL-2, but one thing is holding me back.
My concern is that it is going to take me forever to learn how to use this thing. I have absolutely no experience with cameras whatsoever and I plan on using the XL-2 to shoot some short films, maybe even a feature.
Looking through the brochure and reading so many of the posts on this board, I can't help but feel overwhelmed at how much has to be understood to use the camera properly.
I've actually considered shooting on film instead.
It's not that I don't want to learn or I'm lazy. I'm just afraid that I'm going to end up spending months upon months trying to learn how to use the camera instead of actually shooting my projects.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Shane Carl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 7th, 2004, 08:42 PM   #2
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Keep reading ... you'll be just fine.
If you are the kind of person who can pick up a new peice of software and dedicate yourself to the book and do the tutorials in their entirety, then you can easily master this peice of equipment. Plenty of online resources.
What you will quickly discover, is that you do not have to be at peace with the technical aspects of the XL2, or for that matter, any camera. You will produce your best work once you understand the cinematic principles of camera movement, production audio and lighting, lighting, lighting.
All peripheral to the camera itself, but when combined correctly, the result will get you where you need to be.
As for the learning curve with the camera, just play. Waste a bunch of tape with this exercise, but most importantly, think beyond the lens and assume the point of view of the viewer. That means motion. And well lit scenes.

Go for it.
Jimmy McKenzie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 7th, 2004, 08:53 PM   #3
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Hi Shane,

<< I've actually considered shooting on film instead. >>

That won't make things any easier -- the principles of good image making are pretty much the same for film and video.

The nice thing about the XL2 is that it has different program modes which will help you learn your way around the camera. Start out with the "A" Automatic mode. The camera does the work of proper exposure, white balance, shutter speed etc. for you so that you can concentrate on composing the image and taking smooth shots, etc. As you become more comfortable and familiar with the XL2, you can "graduate" to the more sophisticated program modes, working your way up to "M" Full Manual if you desire. The XL2 does a fine job in Auto mode. Just point and shoot, don't sweat the details until you're ready to learn them one at a time. The more you shoot, the more like second nature it will eventually become.

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Chris Hurd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 7th, 2004, 08:59 PM   #4
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Hi Shane - Welcome to the forum.

Jimmy's advice was great in explaining the elements of filmmaking and the important basic aspects of camera use.

Although no one can tell you exactly what's best for you we can share some of our experiences which may help you decide. I come from a film background (NYU 1981) and of, first, lighting and, then, shooting film for over twenty years. I've been on small docs, industrials, small and large features as well as big-budget commercials. I even had a very forgetable film commercial on the Superbowl a few years ago.

In the last few years I have been shooting much more video than film. At first it was simple economics. I needed to learn the technical details and menus of video in order to stay employed and competitive as I already knew the basic elements of camera work.

But I also acquired a few Canon XL's to shoot and produce my own material. Right now I am in the middle of producing a small, feature-length, doc shot on a Canon XL. I simply couldn't have afforded to shoot this out-of-pocket project on film.

So there are many benefits to video in that it is definitley here to stay, more widely used than film and easier to work with in term of the economics. Presently I am even off-lining my project at home on a PC downloaded from my camera.

The technical aspects of the camera will come to you with time and you may wish to learn them anyway if you are serious.

I still prefer to shoot on film but I feel that video has come so far along that it is a very robust and viable medium for much of the work out there today.
Jim Sofranko is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 8th, 2004, 12:22 PM   #5
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More for the sake of promoting discussion than advocacy let me throw out the idea that manual is the least sophisticated mode (from the camera's point of view anyway) and may be the best way to learn the capabilities and limitations of the camera because it forces the photographer to think about what he is doing at every step of the way. When these capabilities and limitations are fully appreciated more or less automation can then be introduced as needed for the particular application.

The skills required to get a good image in manual mode are no more than are required to get a good image with a still camera, digital or film except that you generally don't have to think about DOF. For example, Ansel Adams zone system (if you use that) is equally applicable here. The main differences between film and digital are that color balancing is done electronically in digital as opposed to selection of stock or the use of filters with film and it is important that one understand how to correctly balance the camera for the light available (only having two built in settings is a shortcoming, IMO, requiring manual balance in most situations as color balance is something I would never trust to auto - and I'm colorblind). Another difference is that one can mine detail from shadows with video to a greater extent than with film whereas one can recover more detail from over exposed film than video. I would think that both these things would be discovered pretty quickly if one did some shooting in fully manual mode.
A. J. deLange is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 8th, 2004, 02:03 PM   #6
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Hi Shane,

I can talk a little from my point of view: I come from a simple 1 CCD JVC handycam, and moved up a month ago to a (used) XL1S. I was also very afraid that I really wouldn't be able to handle all the manuals, but I have to say, with the little photography lessons I get at school, it really isn't so hard.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure someone who knows the cam better than I do can make much more beautiful pictures with it, but I think the XL cams look more sophisticated than they really are (and I mean this in a good way!)

So don't be afraid ;-)
Good luck!
Mathieu Ghekiere is offline   Reply

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