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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old August 2nd, 2006, 11:20 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Lake Bluff, IL
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Basic settings questions

I've got a couple of basic settings questions that will sound ridiculous to some, but I would appreciate some thoughts on these.

1. I've been shooting with an XL1s for the past four years, but recently received the XL2. I had a basic scale of settings (ND, iris, shutter speed) that changed based on the lighting conditions. However, in my first week with the XL2 I'm finding that I have to start all over in terms of finding the right combinations, especially in semi-to-very bright lighting conditions. I think this is mostly due to my inexperience with the added ND filter on the XL2, and I've discovered that my FU-1000 viewfinder has not been an accurate barometer as to the amount of light I am letting in. I've discovered on several occasions now that what looks great through the viewfinder often leaves me shaking my head on capture. An external monitor is not a valid option at this time, so I have to have a solid settings scale that I can trust. I shoot sports, thus l like to keep my settings locked in manual mode so that my shot does not change if I suddenly go from ground to sky. I like to keep my shutter speed at 250 for as long as I can and adjust the other settings as much as possible in changing lighting conditions before lowering the shutter speed. I've gone out and done some tests, so I'm getting closer to a scale for the XL2, but I was wondering if anyone had some basic rules they use in pairing up the iris and ND filters when the shutter is set to a higher number like 250 in regards to different lighting conditions. For instance, I've found that in very bright conditions, ND-1, 250 shutter speed, and an iris around 6 gets me in the ballpark. Anyone have any useful tips?

2. I've been reading the "A tip on custom settings..." thread, and I have to admit I've never delved much deeper into the settings than adding a little color and sharpness to my shots. Could someone explain what some of the other settings control, such as knee and core?

3. I was looking through some of the custom downloadable presets, and was interested in the one called "sports" but wasn't sure if that could be used in all environments. How much are the use of those presets determined by lighting conditions? Would "sports" be as useful in a dome as in the Florida sun, or would that not matter because I'm compensating for lighting with ND, shutter, and iris?

Thanks for help with any or all of these questions.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 02:18 AM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Oppland, Norway
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Dan, concerning your first question: the zebra stripes is your friend. Experiment with those in different light conditions and you'll find the proper exposure settings pretty fast.
The link below gives you a good explanation using zebra stripes:
- Per Johan
Vimeo Site and Stock Footage Library at Pond5
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 09:21 AM   #3
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Thanks Per Johan. I've used zebra stripes in the past, but I had never gotten a good explanation on proper use, so I was never sure how much striping I was supposed to be seeing at each setting. That article helps. I would still be interested to know if anyone has come up with a basic scale to determine an ND filter/iris combination in conjunction with a high shutter speed for the XL2.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 11:27 AM   #4
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I know that you're just looking to get in the ballpark and then fine-tune from there, but because small differences in light can lead to big differences on video, I really think you're going to get better results if you set your exposure "from scratch" before each shot. This will force you to think about exposure from the ground up every time you press record; you're more likely to make decisions based upon the needs of your subject. Every means of exposure control produces (or decreases) a certain effect that changes aspects of your image that are not directly exposure-related: shutter speed affects motion rendering, iris affects depth of field, ND filters have an effect on color reproduction, and adding gain also adds grain. Because of these "side effects," setting exposure is a balancing act between different image properties. By performing this balancing act every time you set exposure, you're making the most of your camera's capabilities and producing the best possible image--or at least the image that best suits your tastes and/or needs.

I know that it may not always be practical to perform this kind of mental calculus in the field, in situations where snap decisions are required. In those situations, maybe using one of the partial AE modes like Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority would work well for you, depending on whether you want to emphasize depth of field or a certain shutter-related motion effect. Full manual, however, will pretty much always give you a better chance of getting the best possible image, with the exception of situations where light levels fluctuate wildly (in which case Av or Tv is probably best). With a little practice, you'll find that before long it's not too hard to make all these exposure decisions more or less on the fly.

If you don't feel you can trust the EVF for setting exposure, try calibrating it with color bars. You could also sit down next to a TV whose brightness/contrast levels you trust and try to match those qualities in the EVF. If you're looking through the eyecup all the time (or at least to set exposure), ambient light shouldn't affect the EVF's reliability too much. That, when combined with a little help from your zebra stripes, should get you pretty much right where you need to be.

So there's my proverbial pair of pennies, for it's worth.
-->jarrod whaley.
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Old August 6th, 2006, 08:38 PM   #5
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Thanks Jarrod,
I've been using the Zebra stripes and they've helped. With zebra stipes set to 90 I set the camera to manual and then routinely click over to automatic to get a comparison before going back to manual to shoot. I love what this camera turns out when it is set right!
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