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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 February 23rd, 2006, 09:16 PM   #1
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Any help would be greatly appreciated....

Long time reader, first-time poster. I need your help.

I'm a screenwriter about to embark on the journey of making the first feature. I've had alot of experience working with many other cameras over the years, but am just now getting ready to invest a decent amount of money in a good DV kit.

The XL2 is the camera that I've settled on for my feature, as it is the most vibrant and film-representative DV camera on the market. People won't balk at it's cheapness, is my point.

My screenplay is good. Damn good. My entire film will be built around the screenplay, my actors and my visuals.

What I need from you guys is XL2 expertise. I need a one-stop-shop here as to what lenses, etc are most beneficial to a project of this kind. Now, I'd like to keep the cost of the camera/accessories under $7000 or so, but am very curious as to what will give me a solid picture, being that all the lighting, audio and post-production is top-notch (which it will be).

I have no illusions that my film look is going to be 35mm-quality, I just want it to be within range that people can forget that they're watching a film made with substantial budget limitations.

I have very little cinematography knowledge and am not afraid to say so, so whatever help you guys could offer, would be greatly appreciated.
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 09:18 PM   #2
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By the by, I'm also investing in the construction of a nice Steadicam, which will be what I shoot most of the movie with.
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 09:30 PM   #3
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Andrew,

For an informed reply, we will need to know what the conditions are. Indoors, outdoors, etc, etc. The camera is $4,000, and you may want a 3x or 16x manual. You did not mention if you need to buy lighting or audio, you just said that it will be "top notch."

Be more specific please.

Mike
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 10:04 PM   #4
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Andrew,

As a screenwriter (two optioned features) and a filmmaker (My doc is in distribution) I have to ask you this.

Why do you want to own your own gear?

I'm not putting the brakes on your concept, I'm just asking why you want to shift from being a screenwriter (fulltime?) to attempting to become a Producer/Director/DP and more? It's a lot to put on your plate.

I guess I'm asking you to lay out for us, what your ultimate goal is. To see this particular script realized in the best possible way? To become a DP? To become a Director? Maybe the best way to spend your 6 or 7 grand, is to hire a competent DP, two or three weeks of rental on the gear and good food for your cast and crew?

But if what you want is to own the assets, because you intend to use them to make money (shooting other projects for hire?) Then that's another concern as well.

Believe me, I understand the frustration behind waiting around for someone else to spend money on your script... I even named my fledgling company "Get Out and Push Productions" at one point. Because sometimes that is what it takes. But before you spend the money, decide if buying a car to get where your going is more efficient to than hiring a skilled driver who knows the route. Follow me? What's the destination here?

(Apologies for the mixed metaphors.)

Richard
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Old February 24th, 2006, 12:18 AM   #5
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To answer Mike's questions, the mood of the film is dark but realistic.

More specifically, there are two seperate but eventually colliding storylines. One is dark and noir-ish (outdoor night shooting and smoky bars) and the other is very clean-cut and business-like (clean, well-lit office buildings and day shooting) so most of the film will be indoors, and when it's outdoors, it will be late afternoon/night shooting.

What I meant by all the other aspects is that they're taken care of. I closely know many, many people with the means I need to make the audio and editing top-notch (my roommate owns a recording studio).

Essentially, what I've come here for is information on the only aspect I don't know much about. The XL2.

Sorry I wasn't more specific about conditions. So yeah, the best way I can explain it is in Roger Deakins terminology. Half of it is very Blood Simple/Miller's Crossing/Barton Fink, while the other half is Fargo. But as I said, I don't intend on or expect to have my film look even close to the quality of these films, but it's just the basic idea, you know?

To answer Richard's questions, I'm going to be going into business in my music community doing small music videos and event photography as well, so this is an investment in addition to means to make my film.

I'm only 20, but I've wanted direct a feature for 8 years (sounds ridiculous, but it's the absolute truth) and haven't had the means, so I've been screenwriting, editing screenplays and working on small productions in the meantime, preparing for my first feature. So I'm not really a screenwriter in the Robert Towne sense, more to keep busy. It's like practice. I've never wanted to sell a screenplay (against the advice of my teachers/mentors), because 1) I wouldn't want to see someone else make them and 2) because I don't want to be pegged a for-hire screenwriter, since directing has always been what I want to do. If I write, I write for me.

The other reason I want my own equipment (from video to audio to editing) is because I want the mobility and spontaneity to be a factor in the shoot. Plus, my cast and crew are all going to be friends and actors from local troupes and have schedules to be worked around, so any renting or hiring would be more costly than I could manage.

It sounds odd, but they're the circumstances I've adjusted to.

So anyway, the point is, visual quality isn't #1 priority, but I'm going to be making this movie and taking it on the circuit, so the best quality I can afford is beneficial.

Any help would be appreciated and possibly credited.

Last edited by Andrew Peterson Padilla; February 24th, 2006 at 02:20 AM.
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Old February 24th, 2006, 12:27 AM   #6
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Why are you stuck on XL2 ? Why not consider some form of HD/HDV for a better filmout or nicer DVD production? H1, HD100, Z1?
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Old February 24th, 2006, 12:49 AM   #7
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XL2 is the best within my pricerange, at least as far as I know.
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Old February 24th, 2006, 03:19 AM   #8
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Honestly, its not about what camera you buy/have, its about who is using it. If you have a great script, you'll be able to get a great DP to shoot it. Really, save your $ and get someone on board who can shoot, with gear if poss. Better still, use some of your $ to pay them. Cinematography is an art. You'll find that your screenplay will sing with the right person shooting it. And you'll find collaboration can be fantastic. A good DP will bring more to the project. Don't be fooled that the camera makes the difference.
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Old February 24th, 2006, 05:51 AM   #9
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If only. If only...
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Old February 24th, 2006, 07:13 AM   #10
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Ify ou are planning on making this film, and then using the XL2 for corporate vids and such to make money, it is a good bet. Don't simply buy it for one film. Mine has paid for itself, and I do independant film as well, but make sure you use it! otherwise it's a waste.
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Old February 25th, 2006, 05:10 AM   #11
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I appreciate it all, but I really don't need confirmation or otherwise about whether or not the XL2 is a good idea. It's what I'm going with.

All I need from you guys (what I REALLY need from you guys) is recommendations for lenses that would suit a film shoot in a general sense. What are some good wide angle lenses? What will achieve for me the non-camcorder-y, family video look (other than what is done in post).

I know it's pretty easy to set myself up for a good position in post, and I'm aware that good quality doesn't come without effort and hard work, when it comes to lighting, audio and the quality of your material... Those are all taken care of. I just need to know what add-ons will be beneficial to the XL2 on this venture.

Once again, the look for the film is two-fold. One is very darkly neo-noir and the other is somewhat bright and plain. Futher down the road, when the two storylines collide, it's a fusion of the two. Mostly indoor shooting, with most of the outdoor shooting at night/late afternoon.

I'm pretty sure I'm alright with the packaged zoom lense, as the whole film will general be wide shots, no zoom. But that said, I'm still interested in learning about some nice zoom lenses.

And yes, I'm using this camera for other financial purposes as well.

Thanks,
Andrew

PS Make sure you've read all my posts, because pretty much my entire case is explained.
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Old February 25th, 2006, 08:36 AM   #12
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The 20X lens is great, but not condusiver to theatrical film making. It is super sharp, but focusing is a pain. the 16X is a fantastic lens, with repeatable rack focusing, but has no autofocus. It also has the widest aperture available on an XL lens, allowing the shallowest DOF. The 14x manual (hard to find) is also quite a good little lens, but has no IS and breaths quite heavily when racking (zooms a bit).

The 3X is a great little lens. I couldn't live without mine. But be warned, it will appear a little soft compared to the 20X lens, and is hard to focus.

Any EF lens you attach with the EF adapter will be magnified by 7.6 times, so unless you are going super telephoto, forget it.


I would check out www.redrockmicro.com or www.letus35.com or http://homepage.ntlworld.com/wayne.kinney/sg35.htm

These are 35mm adapters allowing you to use actual 35mm lenses with the XL2 for real 35mm DOF and rack focusing. A must for a real indie film maker.

Good Luck
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Old February 25th, 2006, 09:30 AM   #13
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Imho!

Andrew,

Ok, now we have more info. The XL2 is just fine, and you said that "is" what you’re getting, so that point is moot.

As far as the lenses go, the 20x is just fine. I would add a 3x wide angle, because you will be shooting a lot indoors, and it will be a total necessity. And it is a great lens! Both lenses have autofocus, and the 20x has optical IS. IS on the 20x may assist you in your steadycam shots, and with the 3x you won’t need it.

Rack focus is nice on the 16x manual, but I don’t think you need it for your project. The 20x has a feature that will give a similar effect. You can focus it on one subject and set the preset, then focus on the second subject and start shooting. Then, with the push of a button, it will quickly return to the preset and focus on the first subject. You could then manually focus back on the second subject, or better yet change angles and repeat step one. That would give you good rack focus shots.

I would go to this site and download theXL2 features movie, and watch it over and over.

http://dvestore.com/theatre/index.html

Some have trouble downloading it, I did, so let us know if you have any problems. This movie is excellent and will introduce you to all of the features and setting of the XL2 you will want to adjust or change to make your movie more CINE like. The XL2 records in 24p at 48fps, which is identical to film. Then you change the GAMMA CURVE to CINE like, and the COLOR MARTIX to CINE like, and then adjust BLACK STRETCH, COLOR GAIN, SETUP LEVEL, and MASTER PEDESTAL to achieve the total movie look you want. It will not be exactly like film, but then no DV or HDV camera will!

After that it is your lighting, sound (very important), shot composition, framing, and creativity that will make it movie-like. If you want to direct, you should know this by now. Make your movie so engrossing that no one will notice or care what it was shot with.

Someone mentioned that the 20x and 3x are difficult to focus, but I have never had that problem. Both autofocus’s work quite well, even if you just want an assist and shoot in manual, and remember that movies have a softer focus anyway, video is sharp! If you want a sharp focus, try getting a B&W, CRT viewfinder, FU-1000. It is better to help you focus, but I don’t believe you will need it.

Just so you know where I am coming from, I have all of the lenses and viewfinders and all, 20x, 16x auto, 16x manual, 14x manual, and 3x auto, plus adapters. So I am saying that the 20x and the 3x will serve you just fine.

You technique, script, lighting, sound, and camera settings will be the key to make a movie that looks like film.

If you have additional question, don’t hesitate to ask.

Good Luck!

Mike
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Old February 25th, 2006, 09:32 AM   #14
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Andrew, I share your passion too (and at 17… it looks like I am getting a head start!)

As far as my limited experience proves, the AF on the 20x isn’t that great anyway… so you are not losing anything in that regard with the 16x (would you need auto focus for narrative filmmaking anyway?).

For more robust lens performance, definitely invest in a wired remote (perhaps even a 3rd party product better than the one canon makes), and also a substantial monitor to make accurate focusing decisions .

This is just a personal preference, but I would also encourage you to shoot your desired looks IN camera (assuming that you bought the XL2 in part for its versatility in this regard). I am just a kid and could be wrong, but ‘look to tape’ effects always seem to have more texture and vitality to me. Since you are going for a whole gamut of visual style here, I thought perhaps that would be something to consider, depending on how concrete your vision for the film is now.

To everyone else: One more thing (and I have seen this quite a bit lately)…

I was thinking that, when someone asks for help in regards to an Xl2 (or any other camera), let us not merely respond… “well, why don’t you go out and buy an XLH1, HVX?”, etc. That kind of advice doesn’t help in situations like these!


Anywho, my blessings to your film!

EDIT: Okay... Mike just convered all my measly points... and much better I must add. Sorry about that. :)
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Old February 25th, 2006, 10:30 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff McElroy

To everyone else: One more thing (and I have seen this quite a bit lately)…

I was thinking that, when someone asks for help in regards to an Xl2 (or any other camera), let us not merely respond… “well, why don’t you go out and buy an XLH1, HVX?”, etc. That kind of advice doesn’t help in situations like these!

EDIT: Okay... Mike just convered all my measly points... and much better I must add. Sorry about that. :)
Jeff,

That is an excellent point, as I too am tired of everyone trying to get people to switch to HD cameras. I have considered one for myself lately and have decided to wait. But, I see so many people try to talk new wedding videographer’s and others into HD, and I think that it makes little sense at this time. Perhaps for an established business with a specific need for it, it is a good idea, but not for starting out.

I recently posted some replies to a person wanting suggestions on equipment for a new wedding business. Some were quite honest and said that cameras like PD150s, and PD170, GL2s, Sonys etc. were great for that purpose, but the majority said that he should get an HD camera and then wanted to argue over which one was best.

That kind of irritated me, so I went through the Wedding and Events section of this forum and went through the entire first four pages of posts, over 100+ posts, and examined what equipment those posting had listed in their profiles. Not one person had a HD camera listed. There were all of the cameras mentioned above and XL1s's and XL2s, but not one HD camera. When I asked one of the more vocal proponents of HD if he shot HD, he said yes and changed his profile to show 2 FX1's, but admitted to only shooting one thing in HD and of course, could not deliver it to his client in HD.

I am not against HD, just the opposite in fact, and I have an older JVC HD camera. But I never use it, as I prefer the versatility of the XL1s and the XL2, and the great variety of options for them. I have studied and watched this forum for months and months now, trying to learn as much as I can about all of the new HD cameras, and I have learned a lot! My conclusion has been to wait another year or so.

Funny side note to the above! I went to an Indiefilm club meeting last week, as they were going to be discussing the cameras that are available to the Indie Film maker now. I thought this would be a place to really get some more useful information! Guess what, I didn't learn a thing! They had professionals discussing DV cameras, and 4 HD cameras, Pany, Sony, JVC, and Canon. At first I felt disappointed that I did not learn anything new, and then it hit me. I did not learn anything, because I had learned sooooo much on this forum!!!! :) Then I felt really good, knowing that the time I have spent on this forum was not wasted. That was a good feeling!!!!! :)

Keep up the good work Jeff!

Mike
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