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Canon XL H Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XL H1S (with SDI), Canon XL H1A (without SDI). Also XL H1.


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Old September 10th, 2007, 02:09 PM   #1
Starway Pictures
 
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The Blackout: Just Wrapped Feature with XLH1

We just wrapped our feature film "The Blackout" last week. It was an intense 27 day shoot (6 day weeks) in and around downtown Los Angeles. We shot in loft apartments, dank and dirty basements, rooftops with cranes and finished with stage work in Hollywood.

Wow, what an experience.

We shot with a fully outfitted XLH1. We bypassed HDV tape altogether and tapped into the camera's HD-SDI output and ran the feed directly to a Kona LHe card in a quad-core MacPro running Final Cut Studio 2. We captured everything using ProRes 422 HQ. The capture station was setup and configured by Promax in Irvine and performed flawlessly throughout the entire shoot. We never dropped one frame or crashed once.

From the Kona card we ran a loop-through feed to a Blackmagic HDLink converter which fed the 1080P picture to a 23" Cinema Display with a Vesa mount attached to a c-stand. We setup the HDLink with a custom LUT. Plus we used a modified version of the Disjecta custom camera preset.

We did not use any DoF adapters. We used primarily the Canon 6x HD lens and the 20x lens. Because of the nature of our film (taking place primarily during a power blackout at night) we knew we'd always be pushing the exposure envelope. So keeping the iris fully open and using longer focal lengths when applicable kept our depth of field relatively shallow. Additionally we couldn't really afford to lose an additional 1-1.5 stops with an adapter. Also our shooting schedule was so aggressive we couldn't afford any additional time futzing with back-focus and spinning ground glass.

We did have one critical camera failure half-way through the shoot. The mounting sleeve was accidentally ripped out of the base of the camera. Thanks to our friends at the Canon repair center we had a replacement camera within two hours and were shooting the same morning. Thank you Canon!

All of our behind-the-scenes video was shot with a Canon XH-A1 camera in 60i, HDV, and a custom preset applied. We also used Canon's wide-angle lens adapter, which surprised us to it's picture quality. We shot 30-hours of BTS! All photography was shot with a 5D, 30D and RebelXT (nearly 2000 photos).

So this was a pretty big Canon show. That was not our intention, but it ended up that way. Both XLH1 cameras performed very well. Both exhibited the same strange Viewfinder issues. Canon's replacement camera displayed slightly better low-noise performance than our camera, but both cameras inter-cut flawlessly.

Also, the A1 is a remarkable little gem of a camera. I often found myself using the A1 as a director's finder. It's so small and so light weight that it was very easy to use the flip out LCD, find my shot, show it to the DP and AC and they'd setup the H1 accordingly. And now I'm thinking about picking up an HV20 for this exact purpose.

Frame grabs and BTS photos to follow.
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Old September 10th, 2007, 04:19 PM   #2
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Congratulations Robert, looking forward to seeeing some of the rushes!
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I have a dream that one day canon will release a 35mm ef to xl adapter and I'll have iris control and a 35mm dof of all my ef lenses, and it will be awesome...
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Old September 10th, 2007, 07:49 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Sanders View Post
All of our behind-the-scenes video was shot with a Canon XH-A1 camera in 60i, HDV, and a custom preset applied.
Is there any chance you could make this preset available? Thanks!
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Old September 11th, 2007, 10:39 AM   #4
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Sounds awesome. Will you be using Color to grade it?
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Originally Posted by Robert Sanders View Post
which fed the 1080P picture to a 23" Cinema Display
How did you remove the pulldown to make it 1080p? Or did you mean 1080i?
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Old September 11th, 2007, 11:07 AM   #5
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WHat do you mean by 'strange viewfinder issues"?
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Old September 11th, 2007, 02:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jack Walker View Post
Is there any chance you could make this preset available? Thanks!
Sure. I'll have to pull the preset off the camera when I get a chance. I'll work with Chris to help add it to the master list as well.

Off the top of my head the preset is the same as the Disjecta (Stephen Dempsey) preset with a little more blue added.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 02:08 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Will Griffith View Post
Sounds awesome. Will you be using Color to grade it?

How did you remove the pulldown to make it 1080p? Or did you mean 1080i?
Yes, we will definitely be using Color. We've already done some sample grading using Color and we're very happy with the power Color provides. It's a great tool (a dangerous tool).

The 24F HD-SDI stream coming out of the camera is 60i. We're using Cinema Tools to properly remove the pulldown. I've heard that the new Compressor has a good "guesser" and can do batch conversions, but we've been having some problems with Compressor and 10-bit codecs such as ProRes.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 02:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez View Post
WHat do you mean by 'strange viewfinder issues"?
There seems to be a short or loose connection somewhere within the viewfinder. Whenever the viewfinder is handled or touched the display suddenly exhibits strange chroma smearing, a complete loss of color information altogether, or a loss of the entire signal. If you tap/thump the viewfinder it corrects itself.

I found it funny that the AC would bring up how nice it will be to have Canon fix the viewfinder after we sent it in and then to find that the viewfinder of the replacement camera exhibited the exact same problems.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 02:13 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Nick Hiltgen View Post
Congratulations Robert, looking forward to seeeing some of the rushes!
Thanks Nick. I was just getting ready to post some images when the producer stopped me. Hopefully we'll get something up soon.

Looking forward to the theatrical release of "The Signal".
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Old September 11th, 2007, 02:50 PM   #10
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Sure it just wasn't the exact same viewfinder? I hadn't heard of this problem.
Working with my partners xlh1, we are using the FU-1000. No color of course, but much sharper and easier to focus. Using a monitor for color checking.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 04:55 PM   #11
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I believe the viewfinder issue is one that I've run into several times. the cable actually works itself out of the port on the camera body. If you fully remove it then slowly push it back in , then feel for the snap of the internal locking ring it usually fixes the issue for some time. The main problem is if you look at an XL2 and H1 side by side you will notice that they have the 90 degree cable coming out and going slightly forward on the XL2, the H1 has the 90 degree going straight up, then turning another 90 degrees back out the front. This produces extra stress on the cable under normal use and works the cable out. causing weird viewfinder issues.

Otherwise congrats on the feature, love your work flow. thanks for adding all the details.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 05:47 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Craig Chartier View Post
I believe the viewfinder issue is one that I've run into several times. the cable actually works itself out of the port on the camera body. If you fully remove it then slowly push it back in , then feel for the snap of the internal locking ring it usually fixes the issue for some time. The main problem is if you look at an XL2 and H1 side by side you will notice that they have the 90 degree cable coming out and going slightly forward on the XL2, the H1 has the 90 degree going straight up, then turning another 90 degrees back out the front. This produces extra stress on the cable under normal use and works the cable out. causing weird viewfinder issues.

Otherwise congrats on the feature, love your work flow. thanks for adding all the details.
Huh. That's something I'm going to try tonight when I get back home. Thank you for the heads up on that.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 05:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez View Post
Sure it just wasn't the exact same viewfinder? I hadn't heard of this problem.
Working with my partners xlh1, we are using the FU-1000. No color of course, but much sharper and easier to focus. Using a monitor for color checking.
I really wanted to upgrade to the FU-1000 (worst product name ever), but that money was better spent on makeup and wardrobe.
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Old September 13th, 2007, 06:49 AM   #14
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Robert,

did you use any filtering? And was a matte box and follow focus used also ?

looking forward to the BTS and some clips....

Congrats !

Also...what kind of budget did you have for the production ?
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Old September 13th, 2007, 02:37 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Kevin Martorana View Post
Robert,

did you use any filtering? And was a matte box and follow focus used also ?

looking forward to the BTS and some clips....

Congrats !

Also...what kind of budget did you have for the production ?
We used a Chrosziel matte box and follow focus, base plate and iris rods by Birns & Sawyer. No one makes a focus gear for the 6x lens so we bought a gear strap from Zacuto and it seemed to work well.

We used .3 and .6 ND, a polizer for exterior daytime shots, and a black Pro-mist.
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