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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 21st, 2006, 11:38 AM   #1
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XL H1 for first indie feature -- questions.

Hey guys, my name's Greg and in August I'll be shooting my first indie feature. I'm 17, so this is going to be a learning experience more than anything. My budget is small, around $20,000.

Currently, I'm planning on shooting on a Canon XL H1 (HD) and editing on a Macbook Pro (2 gigs RAM, 2 g processor) with either Avid Express Pro or FCP.
I'll probably take mastering out of state (I live in kansas) and get it transfered to film at Soho Video to Film Transfers.

I have already bought the MacBook, but not the camera or NLE. I'm not renting the equipment, so I need to know what is best for my money.

I have a few questions:

*What is the difference between the XL 2's 24P and the H1'S 24F?

*Avid EP or FCP - which is better for HD? Which is better for 24F?

*Is Avid E.P. HD already out for Mac?

*Which NLE is better for mastering, if I decide to do the mastering on my Mac?

*Should I shoot in 24F or 60i (keeping the future film conversion in mind)? The "film look" will be automatic with the film conversion but I'd be nice to know I can have a more ready looking movie before hand, or if I decide not to transfer it to film.

I know that there is no definate "better" for most of these questions, but I'd like opinions.

Thanks.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 12:11 PM   #2
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Hi Greg, welcome to DV Info Net.

There isn't that much visual difference between 24P on the XL2 and 24F on the H1, except of course the resolution is different, the H1 produces a video frame that is four times the size of the XL2 image. Between 24P and 24F though, you're not going to notice any visual difference.

Can a MacBook handle HDV editing? That's my question for our Mac experts.

Somebody correct me, but I think neither Avid nor FCP are compatible with Canon's HD Frame mode... yet.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 01:19 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd
Can a MacBook handle HDV editing? That's my question for our Mac experts.

Somebody correct me, but I think neither Avid nor FCP are compatible with Canon's HD Frame mode... yet.
I'm guessing the MacBook can handle it, but it'll still be the same old limitations.

I'm not sure about the Avid, but my guess is it is even less flexible than FCP when it comes to workarounds. I have heard nothing about Avid EP supporting 24F mode.

You can work with 24F HDV material, but the workarounds are definite PITA's.
You can capture/convert your 24F HDV footage to a more easily editable HD codec like DVCProHD or PhotoJPEG with a utility program called HDVxDV http://www.hdvxdv.com/

From there, if you want to work with 24F in an HD 24P timeline, not a 29.97 HD timeline, you have to extract the pulldown frames from the original capture. This is a hassle, but will get you to where you want to be, at least with an intermediate file. It involves redundant copying and extracting of clips.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 03:15 PM   #4
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Greg,

I just finished shooting a feature with the XL H1, have a little input:

-My Powerbook G4 can just barely handle HDV with FCP, so your Macbook Pro should be fine.

-Neither Avid Xpress Pro HD nor FCP support 24F, though FCP is rumored to soon. Who knows how long it will take Avid. Note that the Mac version of Avid XP doesn't even yet support HDV. As far as which one is better, I prefer the Avid's interface, but FCP is probably more flexible for your project.

-If you're mastering in your own system, FCP is probably better. If you're going to a big fancy place to spend $30,000 for an online, Avid XP might be preferable. Might, that is.

-The difference between 24F and 24P is largely technical, not a real concern. The only thing is whether your NLE can capture 24F. Again, FCP is rumored to soon.

-If you plan on transferring to film or finishing at 24fps at all, and want the motion of film, shoot 24F (or 24P), not 60i. 60i can be converted to 24P later, but with some artifacting. (Warning: do not shoot 30F to get 24fps, unless you plan slowing it down to get a slight slow motion effect.)

-As far as your concerns about having something to easier to show, both FCP and the camera "telecine" the 24P material, giving you a 60i output to watch. So no real advantage shooting 60i simply for ease. The hassle factor really comes from downconverting HDV to NTSC, regardless of frame rate. (Note that we don't know yet how exactly FCP will deal with 24F. Also note that the XL H1 can downconvert HDV 24F footage to 60i NTSC.)

-Last thing, you mention your plan to transfer to film. You should know that there's no real need anymore, as most festivals these days project 24P HD video. Many filmmakers master to HD, and only go to film if they have a lot of money or are distributing the film. Often even pictures shot on film will forego a print and screen HD. Nearly half the films screened at Sundance in 2006 were screened digitally. With good projectors, you can't tell the difference. (Ironically, it's at the smaller festivals with the crappier HD projectors that you would truly benefit from a film print.)

Good luck!

P.S. I love the XL H1, but a new Firestore drive has come out for the Panasonic HVX200, that makes it a viable (and cheaper?) option. In case you weren't aware.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 05:17 PM   #5
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Greg, just to make sure:
don't forget good audio on your project!
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Old April 21st, 2006, 05:26 PM   #6
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Does all this equipment come separate from the film's $20K budget?

I would be inclined to consider a (possibly used) XL-2 or DVX-100A/B for a project like this. You need to consider whether you really want to be on the bleeding edge where the workflows are still ragged, or whether you want to be where you can focus on the needs of the movie without pulling your hair out over tech issues. You can still shoot at 24P with these cameras to make an eventual film transfer easier, but I would second the previous advice of not going to a film out until you have a distribution deal.

I didn't notice any mention of sound, lights, on-set monitors, wardrobe, props, etc, etc.

Above all, please don't neglect to feed the folks that are going to be working for free on this :-)
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Old April 21st, 2006, 06:02 PM   #7
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Aside from a smoother workflow entailed, you also may want to consider the established wide and manual lens options for the XL2, as they are more catered to film production than the H1's black monster. I recently invested in the 16x manual lens for my XL2, and it was the best thing I ever did.

…If you are absolutely set on the H1, I have heard that it still holds up okay (whereas the 3x does not). If you are truly concerned about the film look, you may also want to check out mini35 adapters and such. Such investments in optics will transcend your choice of frame rate in regards to a possible film out, no?
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 02:09 PM   #8
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Thanks alot guys.

But your answers have spawned a few more questions.

If decide to go with the XL H1, what are my post production options?

Any idea when 24f editing will be available on AXP? FCP?

Why can Avid handle the XL2's 24p and not the H1's 24f?

One of the reasons I needed the H1 was native 16x9 aspect ratio. If I use an XL2, will the 16x9 setting be decent? Does it cut off picture or hurt resolution?

If you had to choose - two XL2's or one XL H1?


Thanks again.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 02:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Trechak
Thanks alot guys. If decide to go with the XL2, will there be a really noticable resolution/quality difference when projected or if transfered to film?
For sure. The H1's resolution and color space will really help the image when transferred to film. We're talking a 1.5 million pixel frame vs. a 400K frame. (1440x1080 vs. 854x480...the recording format would be 720x480 anamorphic, so it really would be 350K)

Quote:
If you had to choose - two XL2's or one XL H1?
H1 easily. Quality over quantity.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 03:13 PM   #10
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Greg,

Forgot to say, but if you want the easiest, high quality workflow for 24F HDV, you might want to consider the Cineform/Premiere Pro option. http://www.cineform.com/press/rel-CanonXLH1.htm

That is, of course, if you're not already heavily invested in the Mac platform.
If so, I recommend converting your footage to DVCProHD or PhotoJPEG and getting it to a 24P 1080 timeline. This can be done with the current tools, but it involves a lot of time copying clips, extracting 24p from 1080i pulldown footage, and then saving the extracted clips to be the actual footage that you would edit. But this way you get true 24P media that will be easier to edit and the motion will look right.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 03:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Trechak
Any idea when 24f editing will be available on AXP? FCP?
With FCP, before you finish shooting, if not before you start. Avid? Who knows. First they have to get HDV for the Mac going.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Trechak
Why can Avid handle the XL2's 24p and not the H1's 24f?
The XL2 has been around longer. DV 24P has been around longer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Trechak
One of the reasons I needed the H1 was native 16x9 aspect ratio. If I use an XL2, will the 16x9 setting be decent? Does it cut off picture or hurt resolution?
The XL2 has native 16x9 chips. It's a pretty nice camera.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Trechak
If you had to choose - two XL2's or one XL H1?
Once you see footage from the XL H1 on an HDTV, you'll never go back to DV. HD is startling. It's practically like shooting on film, and it costs barely more than DV. The real choice is which HD camera, not HD or DV. In a few years DV, as a serious production format, will be obsolete. If it's a cost issue, I'd go with the Sony H1U over the XL2. Or the JVC? Been hearing increasingly good things about that camera.
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Old April 27th, 2006, 10:05 PM   #12
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Beyond what the guys have said above, keep in mind that you have a MacBook - the first line of Intel-based Macs, meaning that even if AVID were to release a new version tomorrow, it may or may not support the new processors. Final Cut Pro is just now shipping in the correct binary. However, at the same time this is a very good thing because Final Cut Pro BLAZES on the new CPU's in the MacBooks, much moreso than it does even on the G5's. I'm sorry to say it (being a G5 owner) but I've tested it and it is true.

Good luck on your feature. I am only 19 and have been shooting films as well. And for that reason, I could like to caution you - you mention this is your first feature and all, and 20k is a lot of money for a 17 year old. Do you have a lot of filming experience outside of feature films? Because if this is your first real film project in general, I hate to be skeptical, but from my own personal experience, the camera was not the biggest issue - it was the learning curve and the skillset. No camera in the world would have made my first films look good. And likewise, a great filmmaker can make do with a worse camera. So given that fact, I would recommend you not spend all this money on a first real project.

Of course, if you're a seasoned pro to short films and just haven't shot something with this length before, then you can completely ignore this caution. :)
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Old April 28th, 2006, 12:41 AM   #13
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You might want to rethink that owning v. renting thing. Even if you want to own your own stuff someday, you need to make the best decissionm for this project , and You will certainly be able to rent far moe equipment than you could ever buy for this production. As mentioned earlier, do you have any of the other depts covered? lights sound, grip,, FOOD. You might want to also rent each of these cameras for a day each and shoot some tests and seen for yourself how each handles the scenes you will be dealing with.
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Old April 28th, 2006, 02:31 AM   #14
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Since this is a free-for-all now, I'll throw in my personal advice. I think it's awesome that you're 17 and making a feature. I also think it's unwise. Particularly to spend $20K on it. But that's what's so great about teenage art: it's fantastically unwise. And potentially vivid in a way that more mature artists can't reproduce. It's a shame that film is such a complicated and labor intensive medium; it takes so long to develop our skills. It's nice to see that people such as yourself are going through the process and producing work with a youthful vision. So if I have any advice for you it's this: do it the way you want to do it. Don't try to do it "right." Don't try to be "mature" with your subject, story, or style. Follow your weird artistic instincts, even if you feel they may be stupid or trite or wrong. In a choice between making something safe and making something potentially bad, choose to make something potentially bad. This is the last chance you'll have to make a film and blame its flaws on your youth. It's your last chance to have your work judged on its strengths rather than its weaknesses. Take it.

And generally, I say own-and-sell rather than rent. Cheaper in the long run and much more convenient. And isn't there a way you can spend less than $20K on this? How about $5K? Find a way to do it so it's not the last film you ever make. Go with the Sony HDV if that saves you $2K. It's not a huge quality difference if $2K means a lot to you. And go to college. This better not be one of those "I could either go to film school or make a film" deals.

How did this get so far off topic? What's going on here? Is the original poster even reading this anymore? Where are my glasses... I can't find my glasses... The nurses are stealing things from me, I tell you.
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Old April 28th, 2006, 03:07 AM   #15
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