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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 April 28th, 2008, 12:22 PM   #1
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About the XLs and HDV

I just sold my XL H1, and had sold my A1 to my sound man several months ago (actually I "paid" him with it for 10 days work in NY).

The XL H1 is an excellent tool which I had to sell because my current project demanded that I produce in DVCPRO HD 720/24pn, so I bought an HPX500 and HVX200 - and it didn't make sense for me to keep all these cameras around.

When I look back over the productions that I made with the XLs, I am amazed at the visual quality that a so-called "amateur" (not my term) acquisition medium like HDV is capable of - It is still amazing to me that all that compression can result in files that are so vibrant and actually take up less space than mini-DV.

During my current production, I shot several scenes with the H1 at 24f - I needed to use a smaller camera and hadn't acquired the HVX yet - and discovered that the 24fps setting intercuts well with the DVCPRO HD, despite what some have said here and elsewhere.

As for HDV itself, I never had a single dreaded drop-out in 100+ tapes (about 70 for the H1 and 30 for the A1) and always treated it in post exactly as I had DVCAM, without any problems. All the criticism of long GOP that you read everywhere just doesn't apply if you're careful, use quality tapes (I always used Sony Digital Masters) and "hot rod" your computer with plenty of memory and an after-market card.

I used, and still use, a BlackMagic Decklink HD Pro card to view on an external monitor, (I haven't experienced the AJA). But in a G5 Quad with 6 gs of RAM and the Decklink card I have happily cut along with virtually total real-time rendering (some extreme effects, like 55mm softs, are the exceptions). Don't try to save a little money in that department.

The point of this meandering blurb is that you read everywhere opinions by pundits, not unlike those that comment on the Democratic National Primaries, about what's wrong with 24f, long GOP, tape acquisition, etc, etc, etc.

But it's about making films, and the Canons are near the top of the heap, IMHO.

I did always complain about the viewfinder, and am sorry that hasn't been resolved (by either Canon OR Panasonic) - That's a strength Sony is capitalizing on - at the expense of a rolling shutter.. Nothing's perfect!!!
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Old April 28th, 2008, 12:40 PM   #2
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Great to know that there always some people that will keep on without turning there backs on the best piece of equipment out there. Canon Xl's series.

We own a few Xl-h1 and we are very happy with the quality and solid equipment they are.

We've record over 300 tapes in our first XL-H1 and still great and working perfectly fine, only send the unit to canon for the Firewire Port a year ago.Thats it.

Plus we have done jobs on very unstable stream temperatures and they are loyal. Never had a problem.

THANKS GOD !

Keep it up !

Carlos Quinones
It's Written Productions, LLC.

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Old April 28th, 2008, 01:11 PM   #3
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...you read everywhere opinions by pundits... about what's wrong with 24f, long GOP, tape acquisition, etc.
Most of the armchair criticism leveled against HDV is made by those who have never actually used it and are therefore clueless about it. I do my best to discourage that strange and regrettable mindset from posting here.
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Old April 28th, 2008, 01:40 PM   #4
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Heck, I sold my XL H1 a little while back, but missed it so much ...

I went and bought another one!

It really is a fantastic camera.
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Old April 28th, 2008, 02:19 PM   #5
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I've not used the XLH1, but have used the HVX and Sony's FX7 extensively. From my observation in the best lit scenarios, I still prefer the DVCProHD color space over the HVD color space. Heck, there are times I even prefer the softer HVX image over the FX7. It's just creamier, to use a technical term. Both HDV and DVCProHD do an admirable job for the money, but if I had to chose my favorite, I'd go with DVCProHD.
That's just one man's opinion.
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Old April 28th, 2008, 02:44 PM   #6
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I shot a feature that primarily used the uncompressed HD-SDI out and went straight to hard disc for optimum quality (an anamorphic 35mm release print could in the film's future). However, I've had to shoot some pickup shots and a couple run-n-gun exterior's in downtown L.A. on HDV tape.

And to be honest, you can't really tell the difference between the HDV material and the uncompressed footage even when they're intercut.

That's how good Canon's HDV implementation is.
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Old April 28th, 2008, 04:24 PM   #7
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I 100% agree. Everytime I see my HDV footage, I am amazed. Canon's HDV implementation is the best out there and tapes work flawlessly. I am not buying HDV mastertape ($13 for a tape is way too much). I use Panasonic AMQ tapes and haven't had a single dropout. If you look on BH Photo Video in the product review of this tape stock, everyone says the same. Canon's HDV implementation with Panasonic AMQ tape = dream combination. And much easier for archiving then P2 or SxS cards. And yes, they both should have fixed the viewfinders.
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Old April 28th, 2008, 09:54 PM   #8
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I will say that the "film look" is, and always has been, better with Panasonic's matrix settings. I was able to come pretty close with the XL H1, though. But the Panasonic color space is always going to give DVCPRO HD an edge even if other factors are the same.

The feature I miss the most, and wish was incorporated in every pro and high-end so-called prosumer camera, is the ability to dial in white balance. I got very spoiled with the H1 in that regard - it is a great feature.

As bad as the viewfinder is on the H1, I got used to it and was able to hit focus accurately even with these old eyes.. The HPX500 is a B&W finder, which makes it somewhat sharper, but also feels like a step back in time...

Like I said, no camera's perfect (except maybe my 20 year old super16 Aaton which I never get to use anymore).
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Old April 29th, 2008, 12:04 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Steve Rosen View Post
The HPX500 is a B&W finder, which makes it somewhat sharper, but also feels like a step back in time...
The same EVF (or same type at least) has always been available for the XL H1.

In fact it's the same Ikegami EVF found on a lot of pro cams. Just has a Canon badge on it instead.
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Old April 29th, 2008, 12:44 AM   #10
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Quote:
you can't really tell the difference between the HDV material and the uncompressed footage even when they're intercut.
Robert, didn't you really notice a difference, isn't uncompressed more saturated?

Interesting, talking with the users of JVC camera using HDSDI signal, they say
uncompressed signal taken to Hard Disc is noisier! After getting rid of the noise, the signal is better from tape actually, they say, do not know specifics of the workflow though. Have you noticed anything similar?
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Old April 29th, 2008, 11:23 AM   #11
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Chris: I had originally intended to get the B&W finder for the H1, but read here of some problems with powering it, so I just got used to the stock one rather than take the chance.

Also, I do like to compose with color, so, as I said, after (many) years of shooting film the B&W finder feels like a step backward.. On the 500 there is at least a flip out LCD that allows me to check color (ballpark) and since I shoot documentaries, a larger monitor is out of the question...

As for intercutting 24f HDV with DVCPRO HD, I do desaturate the DVCPRO footage slightly when the footage is in the same scene - if the HDV's a stand-alone segment it works just fine.

It's frustrating that the improvement in LCD technology over the past two years just hasn't found it's way to the people at Canon or Panasonic for some reason...
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Old April 29th, 2008, 02:38 PM   #12
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I have had the BW viewfinder now for about 3 weeks and it works fine. It does drain the battery faster but not too bad. The vierdict is still out as the main shoot that I had got postponed. I have used it in some very generic tests at home and it feels as though I will be able to focus with more accuracy, but until I try it in a "work" environment and shoot all day I Will not be sure.

Typically I go out on a shoot all day and think it all went great, to find out 3-4 of the shots that I thought were in focus, are just a tiny bit soft! I think you all know what I mean. The H1 looks in focus in the EVF but in reality it is off a little. With the peaking circuit on the fu1000 it does seem easier to focus. If you combine the peaking of the H1 and the FU1000 it becomes obvious that you are in focus...albeit a bit cartoony looking in the EVF. But I think this will at least give me a lot more confidence as to when I am in focus for sure or not.

I should note, that I use the 16x manual lens most of the time and shoot at F1.6 all the way through the zoom range. At the long end of this glass the DOF is pretty shallow and I can really see what is in focus or not...it lights up with white edges.

FWIW.

I do feel a little lost without color but I am going to have to be certain to white balance just about everything with a card and trust it.
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Old April 29th, 2008, 08:32 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oleg Kalyan View Post
Robert, didn't you really notice a difference, isn't uncompressed more saturated?

Interesting, talking with the users of JVC camera using HDSDI signal, they say
uncompressed signal taken to Hard Disc is noisier! After getting rid of the noise, the signal is better from tape actually, they say, do not know specifics of the workflow though. Have you noticed anything similar?
Not with the Canon. In fact, I thought the noise floor was far more pleasing uncompressed. It looks almost exactly like footage from an F900. And it grades a little better. The noise on the HDV material looks a little more compressed replete with macro-blocking and compression artifacts in the deep blacks.

There is some noticeable high-frequency interlace artifacts in the super-whites in the uncompressed footage. It appears that the HDV algorithm is smoothing a lot of that out. Again, these are minor occurrences that we've fixed using the Nattress filters for Apple's Color app.
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Old April 30th, 2008, 09:47 PM   #14
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Hey Michael,

If you ever sell your second XL-H1, be sure to email me if you sell it at the price of the other one, that was a killer deal I was quite dissapointed to pass! ;-)

Cheers,
Gabe
Fotonik Films
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Old May 1st, 2008, 09:22 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Gabriel Berube View Post
Hey Michael,

If you ever sell your second XL-H1, be sure to email me if you sell it at the price of the other one, that was a killer deal I was quite dissapointed to pass! ;-)

Cheers,
Gabe
Fotonik Films

LOL ... it's funny you mention this, cause I had another guy tell me the same thing ... that he would buy the camera if I sold it again ...

What's interesting is I may actually sell and get the XL-H1S as I would like some of the new features ... I dunno, still thinking about it.
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