INDIE FILMMAKERS: Always set -3db & Noise_Reduction_2 & Coring & Sharpness..... at DVinfo.net

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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 January 16th, 2006, 01:02 PM   #1
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INDIE FILMMAKERS: Always set -3db & Noise_Reduction_2 & Coring & Sharpness.....

If you remember last week during the 6-camera shootout, we attempted to place all the cameras in the best setting they could be in to pull the best image performance we could get. The XL-H1 was not optomized for it's best picture but we did the best we all knew how. During the test Barry pointed out some noise in the H1 picture that was on the monitor that I had never seen before on my HD television and that you guys had never seen before in any of the test clips that have been uploaded over the past weeks by various people.

So here @ home after the shootout I did another test between my Sony Z1U and the XL-H1 to try and reproduce the noise we saw and see how the noise is compared to each camera. All controls on manual, 60i/0db/f1.8/60th/tungsten. My Dell W1900 HD monitor has two component inputs, so I was able to A/B the cameras.....

Well, what I found is the same thing Barry pointed out....the Sony is just crispy clean @ 0db. The XL-H1 @ 0db had very sublte, but noticable dancing thingys going on in the brighter areas. The dark areas on both carmers were pitch black, but the Canon had a party going on in the brighter areas whereas the sony was cleaner in those brighter areas. Sony spanks Canon when it comes to noise @ 0db.
However, you may be happy to hear that the Canon XL-H1 is a night owl. It can damn near see in the dark! I had both cameras pointing in my bedroom closet and believe me when I tell you, the H1 was seeing clothing tags & reading words on books as if there was a light on. The Sony Z1U just couldn't see the same things. It showed the same items as a black siloughette(sp?).

Now remember these cameras are on identical settings, no picture profles or cutom presets are being used.

Well, guess what I looked down and seen....... (-3db)!! How on earth did I miss that? Why we didn't have the H1 on that setting during the tests last week is beyond me. Since all cameras were supposed to be on their "BEST" settings, then I should have had the XL-H1 @ -3db during the shootout. Sorry guys, I wasn't paying attention...things were kinda crazy. Well, as any XL-H1 owner can confirm, the -3db and the 0db setting is an pretty obvious difference. So @ -3db, the Canon's noise gets even cleaner. Personally, I wish Canon would have just called it zero instead of negative three, so we won't be confused, but alas, they didn't. Anyhow, after switching the H1 to -3db, the image got as clean as the Sony was on 0db.

Now that that was done, I decided to go into the menus to optomize the settings even more....

I put the Z1U in PP1 and went into the settings for PP1 to see if it had any options to see if I can make clearer the already clear 0db picture. Nope, there was nothing. Only thing I seen was Black Stretch & Sharpness. I kept the sharpness @ 11 (0 to 15 scale) and the Black Stretch off. This is how it was factory set.

I put the XL-H1 on CP1 and went into the settings for CP1 to see if it had any options to see if I can make clearer the already clear -3db picture. Yes, it had 3 options. I kept the sharpness @ 0 (-9 to +9 scale) and the Black Stretch off. This is how it was factory set. Beyond those settings, there were 3 others that i know will improve noise beyond the already un-noisy picture....they were CORING, NR1 & NR2. There were others the XL-H1 has that the Z1U doesn't, but I have no idea what they do (Setup, Master Ped & Knee)
CORING: When I increased the number on coring, the image got even cleaner. I didn't see any other changes besides that. Made me want to keep coring at the highest number at all times. That may be a wrong thing to do, but I didn't see any other adverse affects or reasons why not.

NOISE REDCUTION 1: I do "NOT" like this setting. This setting cleaned up whatever little noise there may have been ALL THE WAY. Image looked like I was looking out a window on my Dell HD tv. HOWEVER, the reason I don't like it is because, the ghosting became apparent when the camera itself moved. On low, it was ok, medium it got worse, but on High it was utterly nasty! This setting is good for locked shots ONLY or photographers taking pictures. Subjects moving in the frame of a locked off shot is just fine but for hand held run & gun shots where the camera itself moves....DO NOT use this setting.

NOISE REDUCTION 2: Now we're talkin'! When turning this setting on, there was no increased ghosting at all, and everything became silky smooth. I am officially labeling this the "BET/MTV Music Video" setting. Because it looked like everyting in the picture became like silk. As if the XL-H1 has an airbrush built in or something. If you ever seen those magazines like "MAXIM" or "BLACK MEN" with the women with that creamy smooth skin, then you knw what I'm talking about. I bet this would be exellent for shooting dark cars under halogen lights! or even music videos that have night club scenes where there's lots of half naked women sippin' expensive drinks and poppin' their ass for the camera.

The moral of the 1st part of the story is.....Upon close examination, this XL-H1 is not as clean as the Z1U when their settings are even or the cameras are on fully automatic mode. However, if you are a good DP and you know what each image setting means and you can dial stuff in, the XL-H1 can tweak the image to do all kindas stuff that will make it cleaner and see better in the dark at the same time. Great for indie movie making. Least not forget the AE SHIFT knob under the handle. I don't even know what that's for, but I'm sure it does something good & noticable when used correctly. I only wish we had an XL guru with us last week.


ABOUT HIGHLIGHT HANDLING WITH THE CANON XL-H1

The best way to describe this camera------> A VAMPIRE!
It loves the moon and hates the sun! *smile* As noted during the test last week, we tested the Dynamic Range/Latitude of the 24p cameras. Here is MY opinion on the winners:
super dark low light detail
XL-H1 - gold medal
HVX200 - silver medal
HD100 - bronze medal
blown out highlight handling
HD100 - gold medal
HVX200 - silver medal
XL-H1 - bronze medal

This is what we were best able to dial the cameras in at. If a mouse would have walked across the room 50 feet away in a dark corner, the Canon would have seen it. The other cameras would not. If The Terminator would have appeared from the future in his bright warpping time travel portal to come hunt down John Connor, the HD100 would have taken his picture, the others cameras would not. The XL-H1 simply can't see bright lights well and I didn't & STILL DON'T know how to fix that in-camera.....

.....This past Saturday we shot a little 4-page short film on the H1. It was just me, two buddies an actor & an actress. This project cost us the Subway sandwhiches and a case of bottled water. Just something to do on a rainy Saturday. *smile*

We used CineGamma1, Sharpness at -5, and everything else was factory set. Jay Nemeth told me if you plan to do a film out...TURN SHARPNESS OFF! If you're making a DVD, then a little sharpness is good, but not too much. Turning the sharpness down for the so-called 'film-look' helps. There are other setting that I just don't know about that will make this camera look like film as well, but since I was the resident DP on this day, that's all I did. LOL

It rained here in Los Angeles & the sky was nasty grey with patches of clouds. There was a scene where the actor had to get out of his car and go up to a ladies front door. He was in the car and camera was outside the passenger window. We had no lights to help us. The XL-H1 resolved him and all his low lit detail inside the car excellently but the scene called for him to get out the car and walk away.

AS SOON as he got out the car and we panned the camera up towards the sky..... GOODBYE SKY!! *smile*

Now, I wish the sky was pretty blue to better test this, but the it still had clouds in it and there was a house accross the street that had dark trim with a DIRECTV dish half on it and half in the sky, so there was enough information to test. No matter what setting I put the camera on, it could not tell the difference from the DIRECTV dish and the sky...and the sky was pure grey. No cloud puff details or anthing. Just ugly.
*lightbulb* turn on the ND filter....."Yesssss that fixed it guys! I can see everything perfectly now....sky details and all...it all looks great. Ok Tom get back in the car let's try it again............DAMMIT......Now I can't see Tom!!!" *smile*
There was no fixing it. In order to see Tom in his car, I had to turn the ND filter off...but now there's no more sky. In order to see the sky I needed the ND filter, but now there's no more Tom. *sigh*

Thank goodness I own a mattebox and a 4x4 G.ND filter. It helped, but not as much because my only Graduated ND filter is about a .6 (i think) and wasn't strong enough.

So the moral of the 2nd part of the story is.....Pick your trade-off.

I personlly prefer better low light detail because that's something you cannot get back if you never capture it. and if your camera doesn't record good low light, then you have to get lights and pray it's lit correctly and all the cumbersome stuff that comes with that, or use GAIN and if you do that....here comes the noise which is non-removable. However if you have a good low light camera (for indie movies) then your setups are faster and the dark images are cleaner.
I prefer that because if your camera won't handle bright highlights that well (direct lamp shots or grey skys) then you can simply pop a ND filter on or stop down the iris, and be done with it.

That's why low light detail handling is imortant it to Shannon.

THE PROBLEM IS....what if you need low light detail "AND" highlight handling in the same shot??? What do you do?

What would you do?

- ShannonRawls.com
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Last edited by Shannon Rawls; January 16th, 2006 at 07:40 PM.
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Old January 16th, 2006, 03:17 PM   #2
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Shannon, to things to prevent that highlight blow out, on the sky, 1) polarizer's seem to always make any shot of the sky lok better. 2) Knee, that setting you didn't know ::smile:: is used for adjusting highllights for over exposure, in fact if you turn to page 82 on the pdf manual (I don't have my hard copy of the manual here right now) you'll see an example of what each option does in the knee setting.

On another note, I wish I could have been at the shoot out, where's the link to the results, I'm curious. Seem's kinda wrong to have a panasonic guru but no canon one...

Also I'm slightly relieved that these were the settings we were trying to use, as at least our tests turned out about the same. I'm thinking that turning coring down, and perhaps the sharpness a little would result a little less grainey image, which would be nice in some respects, but now we know. thanks again Shannon!
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Old January 16th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #3
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A Canon rep at their booth at CES told me the maximum Latitude settings for the camera were:

Cine 1
Knee low
Black Stretch Normal (default)
Master Pedestal -2
Setup Level -2

I have no idea what Ped and Setup affect and would have guessed that you would have used Black stretch. Unfortunately I did not get the Rep's name.
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Old January 16th, 2006, 04:15 PM   #4
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Polarizers are not the holy grail of all skies--in fact, I've never found them to be of any use when faced with the ugly gray/white business Shannon experienced (as did we all in LA this weekend--how about that wind??!). In general they will only help with matters when skies are blue and the camera is pointing 90 degrees from the sun.

In this instance the standard practice would be to do an iris pull when tilting up to the sky (sort of a manual version of auto-iris). If done smoothly and with the right timing it should be reasonably seamless.

However the standard lenses on the Canon don't make this sort of thing easy. This was why I kept my 14x manual for the XL1 vs the later 16x manual; the stepless iris ring on the 14x allowed me to opportunity to pull iris as needed.
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Old January 16th, 2006, 04:21 PM   #5
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Would Scene transition of Z1 work

Out of curiosity, would the scene transition feature of the Z1 or FX1 adjust iris too ???

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Old January 16th, 2006, 04:31 PM   #6
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Sannon: You've discovered all the things that I have in the past few weeks..

I have my camera set at Coring @ +4; Knee @ Low; Black Stretch @ usually normal, but I change it sometimes; Master Ped @ -4; Setup @ 0 or -2.

And I ALWAYS shoot with Gain @ -3 unless I totally run out of light. I sacrifice the shutter before I sacrifice gain.

I've never experimented with the Noise Reduction, assumed it was one of those things like "Film Grain" on the XL2 that is there to trick people.. On your recommendation I'll give #2 a try... Steve Rosen
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Old January 16th, 2006, 04:48 PM   #7
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Charles, didn't realize it was that nasty out here, it was beautiful in atlanta... (ok a little cold) I guess my expeience has been a little different then yours regarding the pola, but it seemed to work well for me in my work. Either way I wonder if the knee setting would help this highlight problem, if ever so slightly.
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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...

Last edited by Nick Hiltgen; January 16th, 2006 at 05:32 PM.
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Old January 16th, 2006, 04:50 PM   #8
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Any thing Like Shot aTransition on H1

I just got my FX1 out, and it does allow adjustment of iris with shot transition. Is there any feature like that on the H1 ?

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Old January 16th, 2006, 06:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shannon Rawls
THE PROBLEM IS....what if you need low light detail "AND" highlight handling in the same shot??? What do you do?

What would you do?

- ShannonRawls.com
It's one of the trade off of having a smaller sensor, 2/3" sensors can handle a wider dynamic range. That said, Use everything, G.ND or Grad color filters, polarizers (when they're appropriate), Knee settings and I guess the most important is lighting control tools (if you're in a situation where you have the luxury) but even a home made reflector board will make a difference.

I prefer not to blow out highlights and sacrifice some shadows during a shoot, you can bring up the shadows in post (Abobe's Shadow/Highlight tool is priceless) as long as they're there.
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Old January 16th, 2006, 07:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert
This was why I kept my 14x manual for the XL1 vs the later 16x manual; the stepless iris ring on the 14x allowed me to opportunity to pull iris as needed.
Besides the obvious, what is the difference of the 14x manual and the 16x manual?
Some people are saying the 16x manual is wider then the 20x HD. I don't understand how since they are both 5.4mm, but that's what people are saying. So now I wonder if the 14x man is as wide or wider then a 16x man on the XL-H1 camera? And what other differences do they have between them

1. 14x man has a stepless iris ring and 16x man does not. *priceless*
2. 16x is 16x and 14x is 14x *not that big a deal*
3. what else?

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Old January 16th, 2006, 09:41 PM   #11
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i've owned both the 14x and 16x, and i've almost always gone with the 14x because of the fully manual iris. subjectively, it just feels better. the 16x has it's advantages tho. it has two ND filters built into the lens and a stationary front element. the 14x's front element rotates, so this will limit your ability to mount things in front of the glass, like matte boxes, etc.

ken tanaka has a good article on the 16x manual lens here:
http://www.dvinfo.net/canon/articles/article82.php
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Old January 16th, 2006, 11:08 PM   #12
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mine has eleven

Quote:
The moral of the 1st part of the story is.....Upon close examination, this XL-H1 is not as clean as the Z1U when their settings are even
It depends on ones definition of "even". One could argue that both cameras set to the lowest gain setting is even. It's important to remember that 6db means less gain than 9db and more gain than 3db on the "same" camera. 6db does not mean the same gain as 6db on a camera made by another manufacturer. In this context, dB is a logarithmic unit used to describe a ratio, and is not a measure like meters or volts or hours. Perhaps it would be less confusing if cameras had black gain knobs with little white hash marks of varying lengths, and no numbers.

-- This one goes to eleven. It's one louder. -- Spinal Tap

Best,
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Old January 17th, 2006, 01:08 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shannon Rawls
1. 14x man has a stepless iris ring and 16x man does not. *priceless*
2. 16x is 16x and 14x is 14x *not that big a deal*
3. what else?
If I'm not mistaken, the other main difference is that the 14x has no neutral density filters in it, and no power zoom; and the 16x has both. The 14x has a real, stepless iris ring, the 16x doesn't; the 16x has switchable neutral density filters, the 14x doesn't; the 16x has power zoom, the 14x doesn't.
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Old January 17th, 2006, 02:51 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Shannon Rawls
blown out highlight handling
HD100 - gold medal
HVX200 - silver medal
XL-H1 - bronze medal
So, 4th place to Z1U. I don't have the same impression than you. But as Z1U & XL-H1 owner, can you confirm this?
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Old January 17th, 2006, 10:29 AM   #15
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So, 4th place to Z1U. I don't have the same impression than you. But as Z1U & XL-H1 owner, can you confirm this?
Ya know...we didn't test it. We didn't do the 2-stop increase on the Z1U like we did the other cameras. I haven't tested it here either and I'm too lazy to do it now.

But I CAN PROBABLY GUARANTEE YOU.... that the SONY Z1U kicks the Canon XL-H1's donkey in blownout highlight handling. I bet the H1 is probably worst of all when it comes to blown out brightness.

I say this, because I have a hunch that if we would have used the Z1U instead of the H1 last weekend for our short, I would not have had the problem I had. I dunno what it is. I think the XL-H1's 20x HD lens just let's a crap load of light in. it's one big "EYEBALL" ya know? I wonder if using the 16x manual lens would help on the highlights? (which is one huge advantage of having interchangable lenses, i'm not *stuck* with what i got)

Yes, I think the stock XL-H1 comes in last place when it comes to extreme highlights like a bright grey sky. If this is important to you, then stop down, or you can use the ND filters the lens comes with, or you can get a mattebox and 4x4 G.ND filters like I have or maybe you can simply change the lens. Otherwise, don't buy the XL-H1. Get one of the other cameras for your project if it's in the budget.

If your doing some gorrilla indie type stuff and you get stuck in a situation where you need to get details in the super dark shadows "AND" handle super bright highlights in the same shot/take (like I did last weekend), then I suggest you don't do gorrilla indie type stuff and shoot film. *smile* Otherwise, pick your evil and/or "TEST" your cameras beforehand.

- ShannonRawls.com
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