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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 19th, 2005, 11:18 AM   #1
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"Sound is more important than image"

That is our filmmaking mantra; that audiences will tolerate (unhappily perhaps) an image with issues but will walk out if the sound is bad. In this vein, I would like to hear more about the sound on the H1 from those who have taken the plunge. And while I am at it kudos to everyone in this real names forum for such great, trustworthy work. I have a Z1 and have been happy with it (including the sound) very much but of course can't resist the possibility of an even better tool. So very very few indie/DV films ever hit the big time because they were just not in the ballpark of what a movie should look or sound like. Now with affordable HD(V) it truly is up to the storyteller to tell a great story. But even a great looking film will rot on the vine if the audio is bad. In fact, one indie DV film that looked GREAT and people loved at our film festival this summer had crunchy audio that ruined its chance of wide release. So before taking the H1 plunge I it would be great to hear more about the audio.
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Old December 19th, 2005, 12:24 PM   #2
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In HDV mode the sound is, at best, 4:1 compressed and if 4 channels are being used it's 8:1. While this is probably OK with 2 channels in most cases I did note that one of the first things I filmed (barking dog) had distorted sound. This is a taxing situation for both the compressor and the AGC and I don't know which to blame. People serious about sound would be well advised to do careful tests with the material they wish to record or to record externally (T/C out makes tagging audio recordings simple).
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Old December 19th, 2005, 01:03 PM   #3
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Yes, sound is important, and from the very first the HDV sollution seemed like a bad compromise to me. I haven't had a chance to test the H1 in critical situations yet, but I expect it (from what I've read) to be lossy in certain instances.

My sollution, which may sound complicated to anyone who hasn't shot double system before, would be to record critical (i.e. live music) audio seperately, in my case with a PortaDat, or even with my XL2, and marry the two in post.

Since output from the computer would introduce the same problems, I would probably output the picture to HDV and the sound to SD and have an HD master made at a post house. May be overkill, and I won't know till I test it, but if the audio on the project is mega-important (a documentary about a piano competition for instance) this would let me sleep at night.. Steve Rosen
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Old December 19th, 2005, 01:38 PM   #4
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One advantage of HDCAM, we didn't need to cart around a DAT as we did with 16mm, the sound (voice and nat sound) was fine. By the way like Shannon I am a producer not a DOP but I love the idea of being able to have a small crew and shoot things myself (gasp!) on occasion.
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Old December 19th, 2005, 03:41 PM   #5
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I, too, am a producer/director. I make documentaries, for PBS mostly, and commercials to pay the bills.

I do usually work with an audio person - he uses a Sennheiser on a short pole and sends me a wireless signal from a Shure mixer to CH 1. I record CH 2 with an AT on the camera. Not a big problem for him to carry a small DAT or a small SD camera and still send me a reference wireless.

This is a suggestion for those times when, as I said, audio quality is critical... I personally don't think the audio on this camera would be an issue for normal, voice range recording.
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Old December 19th, 2005, 04:09 PM   #6
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Steve, yes that makes sense, what I am actually trying to do is figure out the balance between a large doc crew used for the films I helped produce--Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11--and my owner vastly lower budget film. On instinct a few weeks ago I came across a few kids hanging out and hoped out my car and interviewed them with the Z1 myself and it turned out really well. Other shoots I need a full crew of course.
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Old December 20th, 2005, 10:01 AM   #7
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And I don't think you would run into any problems with the H1 either - audio seems about the same from both cameras (Canon & Sony).

I shoot that way often, actually. I use an Audio Technica on the camera, very nice shotgun that matches well with my 816 that my soundman uses. I like the AT because, 1) it's half the price 2) it's a little shorter and 3) it's very rugged and 4) I had one laying around. The diameter is smaller so I wrap gaffers tape around it to make it fit the shock mount...

Which brings up another small but not insignificant point fot that type shooting. The on-camera shock mount on the H1 is by far the best I've seen on any video camera...

To be honest I haven't even tried the mike that came with the cameras (XL2 or H1)... I've never trusted them and have always stuck something else on, but it's probably fine, and it is stereo if that appeals... Steve
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Old December 20th, 2005, 11:07 AM   #8
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One concern I have with audio in HDV is the compression when it comes time to do some noise reduction/removal in Soundtrack Pro. This scenario is often an inevitability, and I worry that the material will suffer because the noise reduction would possibly amplify the compression artifacts, along with other flaws in the source.

This would be an interesting test:

Shoot a scene with voice talent mic'ed by lav in a fairly noisy background environment, like a city street or a room with loud fan running in the background.

Record to an H1 and maybe a DVX or DAT simultaneously.

Perform the same level of noise reduction on both camera tracks.

Listen for differences.

Note: I would always take the audio from HDV out of the format, and convert to uncompressed audio for this kind of operation. I'm sure it would be horrible to render the results back to a lossy audio codec.
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Old December 20th, 2005, 12:56 PM   #9
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Good idea, and yes it (ambient noise) is something that you take for granted when recording on location..

I don't like the "fix it in post" attitude when it's applied toward the image, but, for docs at least, it is, as you say, inevitable that some tweaking is going to be necessary with the audio... I don't have the time right now to do the test (I'm still getting happy with menu settings and I begin a shoot next week) but, hopefully, someone here will do it...

I use FCP too (have been since v 1,0), and Soundtrack is good for those of us that aren't audio experts...
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