Image quality -- that moment of zen at DVinfo.net

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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old October 17th, 2005, 07:55 PM   #1
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Image quality -- that moment of zen

Well, almost a month now with my XL2 and I feel like I'm finally understanding how to get great looking footage out of it. After meticulously adjusting each preset parameter in all sorts of conditions, working with gain, AE shift etc, deciding which warmcards work best in what conditions, I think I'm finally satisfied with my footage... in general.

And than, there will be those moments, those short spans of time when the video gods look down on my XL2 and grant me image quality that astounds me... When most of my footage looks very good, I'll have a take that truely looks incredible. Now, I consider myself lucky to get the footage to resemble 16mm (which is an amazing feat for a dv camera in itself, I know). But than I'll have a moment of zen, I'll have a 15 sec segment that truely, honestly looks like 35mm. I know! Sounds crazy! To make sure it's not my mind playing tricks on me, I'll bring someone over to my monitor and say "what does that look like? What was it shot on?" They'll say "35", not even considering that I shot it on my *comparitively* lowly XL2. Than I'll say "that's the XL2!", and gasps of delight follow. It's amazing, but it's truely tantalizing! I can get great looking footage much of the time (while some of it admittedly looks like crap), and I'm happy with the standard I've reached... but than something like what I just described will happen, and I fall on my hands and knees and say "why?!?! why must you torcher me with these sporadically great images I know I can't get but by accident?"

Ok, that might be a little exaggerated, but the point still stands. And the point is? I want to know how many of you feel the same way. You shoot and you shoot, and it looks great (16milimeterish), and than you'll see some footage that's simply amazing, but you don't know why or how it happened, and moreover, why it can't look like that all the time?

Or do I just need more practice with the camera?
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Old October 17th, 2005, 11:34 PM   #2
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For me, it seems to be the lighting. When I can really get the lights just right... it's magic!
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Old October 18th, 2005, 02:00 AM   #3
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I heard someone say that a good light kit is more important than a good camera for overall image quality, and I'd have to agree.
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Old October 18th, 2005, 04:02 AM   #4
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Me too

Justin,

Oh, I have to agree with you. Of course I have only had my XL 2 for about 8 months and I probably don't shoot as much as you. But, every now and then, I get this amazingly fantastic shot. I think to myself, "Wow, did I do that?" Then when my customer sees it I hear, "Oh, Wow nice shot!". It keeps me going and trying to improve my technique.
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Old October 18th, 2005, 03:08 PM   #5
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I've been doing 99% run-and-gun with my XL2; no tripod, no setups, available light, no presets, etc.
The last thing I've taped was an event in a TV studio a couple weeks ago. Studio lights paired with the great people I was observing made it some of the best footage I've ever shot.
It was hard to edit because I just kept watching it over and over!
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Old October 19th, 2005, 12:25 PM   #6
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Ok, so I'm not alone... thanks for the comments.

As for lights, I'd have to agree, too, but many times they'll be shots that are purely scenic (with nothing to light)... On that note, one thing I'd love to add to my rig is a matte box so I could get some gradient filters on there. I think Tiffen makes a round one, but what's the point if it can't be adjusted vertically?

Also... Wow, Jeff, it looks like you know exactly what I meant, but why not get into the presets etc? It was getting into the presets that made the camera really start to come alive for me... though I could see how it wouldn't be as big a deal if you usually shoot in a studio enviorment.
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Old October 19th, 2005, 02:01 PM   #7
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Justin,

If you're doing outdoor work, then I would really recommend gradient filters. I don't yet have a matte box for my XL2 so I've used a couple of the Tiffen round gradients (blue sky and sunset) The gradient has a soft edge so there's a little "wiggle room" for horizontal adjustment but I do find myself composing shots to match the filter, which is a pain. They're still worth it, IMHO, but I'm saving my kopecs for a matte box as well.
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Old October 19th, 2005, 02:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Haupt
As for lights, I'd have to agree, too, but many times they'll be shots that are purely scenic (with nothing to light)... On that note, one thing I'd love to add to my rig is a matte box so I could get some gradient filters on there.
Also... Wow, Jeff, it looks like you know exactly what I meant, but why not get into the presets etc?
I have to partially plead ignorance on (not) using settings. I have not had the time to study camera theory, properly light a model, point the camera at them and observe what all the settings do. I have done a couple theatrical shots (not shoots) with the XL2 and used some settings then. Even then I'm not sure if these eyes are smart enough to tell the difference anyway.

Plus in this project I don't really have time to flip through menus to tweak cine gamma, master ped, etc. So far I've been in situations where I could be 100 feet underground in a headlamp-lit rock pile, then one minute later be in a sunswept lush green landscape. So I'm just shooting for latitude; get a decent composition, nice exposure / focus, set whatever WB works that minute,
and then maybe turn the sharpness down/color up a click.

People will probably say I'm wasting the camera, but I've taped things I couldn't have gotten with my other cameras. Once this project is finished I plan on revisiting the manual and working on my own theatrical stuff.
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Old October 19th, 2005, 03:20 PM   #9
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Just like HD

I showed a couple of test shots at a film club from the XL2 (to demonstrate 16:9 format), and one of the comments that came from the floor was
"Is that HD ?"

No, it was shot using one of the presets downloaded from this 'ere forum.

Thanks to all. What a great camera !!
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