Summary of my issues and solutions - great info for newbies at

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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 December 15th, 2008, 01:56 PM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Garfield, NJ
Posts: 3
Summary of my issues and solutions - great info for newbies

I just wanted to publish a note about the main issues I have gone through over the past year. I have been able to find solutions to these issues actually just by reading posts from forums like this. So, I wanted to return the favor and share my findings which I hope it helps the newcomers to videography, specially wedding videography. I apologize if I am being redundant since I know some of these are in other threads, but I wanted to combine them all in one thread.

******** Camcorder Issues ********
Camcorder: XH-A1. I was really hesitant to buy this $3000+ camcorder, but now I am so happy I did. When I first bought it, I used to shoot in automatic mode…. What I mistake! To make a long story short, if you just bought a XH-A1, then do the following:

- Automatic Gain Control (AGC) set to OFF. Try shooting indoor in low-light conditions and you’ll see the difference. The AGC adds way too much noise if set of ON.

- AGC values. So, you set to OFF the AGC, now you have three options for the gain. If shooting outside, I guess these should be -3, 0 and 3. Always start with the lowest gain and increase only if necessary. If shooting indoor with low-light, then you can do 0, 3 and 6. Again, start with 0 and then increase if necessary. Now, if using 6+ gain, then I would suggest to set the NR2 (noise reduction setting) to Medium. This is something I have seen in some of the presets. Do NOT touch NR1 as it will ad a ghost image.

-24F? Yes, BUT at least 1/48th shutter speed. You can increase the shutter speed when shooting outside. The default is 1/24 and this will cause the video look blurry. After changing this to 1/48th, AGC to -3 or 0 and using some of the presets, I finally was able to see a true cinematic appeal on the videos. Not to mention that this will be shown progressive (1080p) in the LCD TV which is better than interlaced (1080i).

- Load some of the Canon PRESETS developed by Canon users. I think most people would agree that the factory defaults are not impressive at all. You’ll find these PRESETS in this forum. I particularly like the PANALOOK2, VISION03 and VividRGB for shooting outside.

XH Custom Presets Download Library (copy) - The Digital Video Information Network

I have not found a PRESET specifically for shooting in low-light conditions, but you can modify one of these to fit your needs. As I said before, I would try the NR2 set to Medium and gain at 6+.

Focus – again in low-light conditions you may find the XH-A1 having difficulty focusing the subject. Or perhaps the background is composed of tiny lights which the camera tries to focus leaving the subject in front out of focus. A few things that can be done. For critical shots, change the focus to manual and help yourself with the MANG button which temporarily zooms to the subject for better control of the focus. This is what I am doing for now. Also, you can get an external LCD display since the camera lcd is really small for this task. This is so critical when shooting in HD. I have seen people recommending Marshall V-R70P-HDA 7", though I am waiting to see the lcds from that promised to have HD lcds for about $500.

Light – this is somewhat obvious. However, believe it or not I shot my sister wedding the next day I bought the camera and still did not have a light. Gladly enough, the reception as not too dark. I shot it in 24F and 1/24 shutter with AGC set to ON!!! I can’t believe I did that. The video turned out a bit blurry, but hey it was free of charge. Setting your AGC to OFF and gain to -3, 0 or 3 will make this camera to really need some light in low-light conditions. I use the Canon VL-10Li II. Yes you can get brighter light, but then you may end up blinding your subjects.

Loud sound - I remember shooting one of my first wedding with the built-in camera mic. It was a Spanish wedding and the DJ really hit it with the volume. OMG! The sound was so distorted that I had to find the original music to try to overlay it. Sound is so important. The canon has an attenuator for both the XLR mics and the built-in mic. Use headphones to monitor your sound.

Echo - In some churches there’s so much echo. I learned the hard way that there is really no “remove echo” filter. To avoid this, just put a mic close to the audio source. I mic the groom and place an mp3 recorder (with an external lav mic) on the podium in addition to a XLR mic on the camcorder. So, at least 3 mics are necessary while shooting ceremonies. Anything less than this and you’ll find yourself scratching your head in the editing room.

In the reception, I use both: wireless mic (low level) on a pedestal close to the speaker and the ME64 on the camera usually with attenuator ON. You could also get a feed from the DJ at your own risk. Either way you have to monitor your sound.

I use:
Lectrosonics 100 Series (On groom)
Lectrosonics | 100 Series - Wireless UHF | UCR100LMAM1525PK-26

Sennheiser ME66 Or ME64 with K6 power (on camcorder)

Zoom H2 (audio recorder)
Zoom | H2 - Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder | H2 | B&H

******** Editing System Issues ********
Computer System – I built my system by researching the most cost-efficient cpus and ended up getting the E6700. This was about 18 months ago. Later I found this web site that pretty much lists all the system components:

Videoguys Recommended Computer Systems for video editing

Some people recommend 4 hard drives: one for you OS, the second for video projects, the third for rendering and exporting for menu authoring and a fourth hd for media storage (music, pictures, etc). This is what I have, except that my fourth hd is an external hard drive.

Now, hard drives do generate a lot of heat. This caused my system to damage the fan of my video card twice. The video card would get heated and make either Premiere Pro or Magic Bullet Looks (MBL) crash. Other symptoms were red frames in the final video when using MBL or Encore not being able to start. I spent a few months trying to fix premiere and MBL and ended up being just too much heat for the video card. I installed four fans inside the case (two pulling air into the box and two extracting air out of the box), one next to the video card (NVidia FX1500) and problem solved.

More about Magic Bullet Looks here:
Red Giant Software: Magic Bullet Looks 1.1

******** HD to SD ********
Ok. So I shoot SD and burn it on DVD, great! I shoot in HD and burn it to blu-ray, great! However, Premiere Pro does a very poor job converting from HD to SD. I am not sure if this is fixed in CS4. The cheap solution I found is using Roxio DVDit Pro HD. You import the hd video, change to DVD (could be double layer) layout and burn it to a .iso image. If the .iso image is too big, you can easily reduce it with DVD Shrink. The quality loss is not noticeable. Roxio does a much better job down-converting to SD. I have not done much research in this area recently so I am aware of better, cost-effective solutions.

Again, sorry for the long post, but I hope this helps someone.


Raul Ramirez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 25th, 2009, 08:08 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Yukon, Oklahoma
Posts: 5
As someone who's very new to the wide range of video but is starting with an XH-A1 (long, mildly boring story on why I'm starting there, but it's all good) I have to say this write up is great! Thank you for the time you took to do it. I've already started making adjustments and learning more about this camera.
stationarymotion photography
My tools of the trade : XH-A1, 5D, 20D, CS4
Regan Robinett is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 5th, 2009, 11:10 AM   #3
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: St. Louis, MO
Posts: 1

hear hear!
Daniel Sadicario is offline   Reply

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