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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 May 12th, 2006, 11:42 AM   #16
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And once again, we agree that composition and attention to what it is and what is not included in the frame is the most important thing to creating a "filmlook".

My shopping list then continues as follows, in order of priority:

Exposure/lighting
24p (or at the very least, 30p)
Depth of field management
Camera movement (which sometimes means none at all)
Production design, makeup/wardrobe/hair etc.

At different times and for different shots, some of the items slide up and down the list...i.e. production design may be as simple as removing a lampshade from behind someone's head, which may be the most important element of one setup; whereas a room with white walls can be creatively shot so that it is not a noticeable issue, but it would be preferable to have it painted a more appropriate color.
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Old May 12th, 2006, 11:47 AM   #17
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You are right - Twittery background foliage is probably the most annoying thing about this medium, and unfortunately the Canon cameras have always been the worst of the breed in this regard - I get nervous dialing the detail and the coring, but sometimes you just have to..

Surprisingly, when I look back at footage that I shot with my DSR300 in the 90's, I don't see near the artfacting that appears with the H1 (and the XL2).. Not being a technical person, I've never been able to figure that one out to my satisfaction. I'm sure there are contributors who have a better handle on it.

As for shooting exteriors, there are many here who have posted very nice looking stuff, so it is possible.. But even with film, shooting in the middle of the day results in poor looking exteriors - I use polarisors, ND grads, ProMists when I have to, but in general I try to shoot exteriors before 9:30 and after 5 and reserve the middle of the day for interiors - not always possible, I admit, but I do it when I can...
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Old May 12th, 2006, 12:11 PM   #18
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Nice looking exteriors are definitely a function of picking the right time and direction to shoot. When I shot the pre-release test of the HD100 last summer, I picked a courtyard garden location that had a lot of shade but the open top delivered an ambience like a huge silk. I avoided any direct sun in the frame but took advantage of the natural bounces created by sun hitting the concrete floor and walls.

This week we shot tests for a feature with the Genesis, and subjected the camera to the worst kind of mid-day sun to see how it would handle it. It really does seem to have a latitude almost that of 35mm, and when it does clip it does so cleaner than any camera I've seen to date.

I've only had one shooting experience with the XLH1, and that was as a last-minute second camera to cut against an F900. The reports I've heard back from the client is that it looks very good, although the difference is noticeable (I expect a certain amount of that is due to the HDV compression) and they may degrade the F900 footage to help it match. Overall I was very impressed with the image from the camera when I switched between the two on the monitor. Shocked, really!
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Old May 12th, 2006, 12:24 PM   #19
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Yeah, it's a great looking image - the clipping doesn't bother me as much as it would some because I always dial my master ped down anyway because I like a contrasty image (I started shooting B&W and can't get over it) - And the H1 looks very good when used for B&W by the way...

The biggest problem that people will face with HDV in general is the fact that exposure has to be very clean, kind of like shooting with a reversal film like Kodachrome... even a slight under or over exposure is very noticeable, and (since I shoot docs and therefore have to use the finder instead of a monitor to judge) very easy to screw up...
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Old May 12th, 2006, 02:23 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert
My shopping list then continues as follows, in order of priority:

Exposure/lighting
24p (or at the very least, 30p)
Depth of field management
Camera movement (which sometimes means none at all)
Production design, makeup/wardrobe/hair etc.
This is the list I use, but I bump Production design to the top of the list...moderately OK pictures of interesting things are still interesting. Beautiful pix of uninteresting things is uninteresting. I learned taht the hard way as I was able to dial in the settings of the camera to be less "Video". I found the locations shoots where I was able to position my actors in front of neat backgrounds that I could blur out slightly look heads and shoulders better than the shots I got where I could do the same with an uninteresting background.

I've also seen really crappy 35mm film images, so I've shied away from going for the "Filmlook" and veered more toward working within the medium of video to get compelling pictures. The learning curve is steep as Video has alot of arbitrary boundaries that are imposed by the format. Once you learn to work within those limitations, you can get really nice images out of just about any camera. Not the least of which is the resolution limitations which are over come by not using deep focus in DV. The other is contrast range which is overcome the same way it is in film, through appropriate use of lighting.

Film manufacturers have spent the last x-hundred years making film have less grain and better color reproduction. The first thing we do to get video to look like film is to alter the color reproduction and add grain...isn't this taking a step backwards to try to adapt a new technology to the limitations of the old one?
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Old May 12th, 2006, 02:26 PM   #21
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Well said, Cole.
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Old May 12th, 2006, 02:46 PM   #22
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<<moderately OK pictures of interesting things are still interesting. Beautiful pix of uninteresting things is uninteresting.>>

This is obviously a matter of personal choice, but I would say that there's tons of amateur video shot on vacations in gorgeous places that I would find underwhelming (always fascinated to see tourists walking down a street with camcorder pointing randomly here and there like an afterthought). Whereas even a seemingly mundane environment can be improved with the right approach and a good eye. One can make the uninteresting become interesting! And as I indicated--"production design" incorporates certain things that should be an initial consideration but could be bundled under composition, etc.

<<Film manufacturers have spent the last x-hundred years making film have less grain and better color reproduction. The first thing we do to get video to look like film is to alter the color reproduction and add grain...isn't this taking a step backwards to try to adapt a new technology to the limitations of the old one?>>

I personally don't add grain to video (I wish the Mini35 did not have that side effect), but I do feel that traditionally, video has always rendered colors more garishly than film and thus it's not a bad thing to emulate. Not all film stocks are designed to reproduce colors just as the eye sees it--there are low-contrast stocks, ones with pastel or super-saturated palates; then there's the various lab process that contribute to desaturation and contrast manipulation.

A large percent of what we think of as a modern film look is being created in digital post now anyway, and that will surely continue to be the case in the future. The paradigm that is being followed by most of the high-end HD cameras is to capture a neutral image with as much dynamic range as possible while creating a LUT with the desired look, then using that as a template in post for further tweaking.
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Old May 12th, 2006, 03:23 PM   #23
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Agreed on the point of tourists shooting stuff and careful composition improving boring subjects. Agreed that there are a variety of film stocks...but these are a matter of choice, not necessity. Personally, I desaturate my shots a bit, but that's stylistic as are all of the stock choices, etc. If a particular look is chosen because it'll look right for the vision of the piece, then by all means, go with that...but not just to not be video, that's just silly. My take on it is to make great photography with whatever medium, not trying to get one to look like another...unless that is the point of the piece.
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Old May 12th, 2006, 09:33 PM   #24
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I'm glad that my initial post in this thread has generated these responses. Filmmaking is an art form, and as such is highly subjective. It's great to see that the people here are thinking about the medium and are open to other's views.

Robert Rodriquez has made HD sing in a way that I would have never thought possible, but he has a great eye and a vision. Now tools somewhat similar to the ones that he uses are available to nearly everyone.

I think that the technical pros and cons of the H1 and HD/HDV in general are valuable and need discussing. But so does the philosophy, the 'why", of creating compelling images... I have found this forum refreshing compared to several others that I have visited...
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Old May 12th, 2006, 11:15 PM   #25
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Alot of what is important in any artform is learning to use the cons of the format into pros.

When I started making my feature 3 years ago, I spent lots of time researching what everyone hated about DV and what made video look like video. I applied what I know of optical physics to this and what I knew of photography to overcome these limitations - still working within the medium. The movie is a learning piece.

We started it to have a compact learning time (as opposed to many shorts). As we progressed, you can nearly see the improvements to the images. They started out looking very "video" and ended up broadcastably delicious.

I found that even when I had dialled in the camera to the best possible picture for the scene, without decent and convincing costumes or at the very least, an interesting background, it still looked hollow, low budgety.

By throwing actors in front of a plant or a fountain, it became much more convincing with the background having character and life to it...much less "one actor in one location with no/minimal set design" indie fare. The goal is eventually to be able to make Hollywood looking movies with DV and HDV looks like the holy grail for that, it allows backgrounds to be in focus and look interesting...it allows for a much more subtle DoF effect than the one that has to be applied in DV to hide the low resolution in the backgrounds.

I'm going to be getting a JVC HD100 at some point in time, and am very excited by that from a Videographer's standpoint as it will allow me to have more creative control over my frame...my canvas just got larger. This artform is no different than any other. We need to work with the medium to get our vision across to the audience. They don't care that it's not film, but they'll be able to tell if you try to convince them it is.

I really like this thread too, I find it very stimulating to be able to discuss my views on the Digital vs. Film debate. Thanks guys!
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Old May 13th, 2006, 11:32 AM   #26
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The reason the "film look" is so important, especially to low-budget indie filmmakers is that each and every one of us grew up watching movies produced on film and admired that look. As video has progressed, we have done our best to make our projects not look like they were just shot with Dad's home video camera, and more like something that would actually be taken seriously on the big screen. An intelligent script, great acting, directing, and cinematography with a VHS-C camera can make more of an impact that a horribly created, acted, and written movie on 35mm, but when you can get the best tools available to the right filmmaker, the outcome can be riveting. If a filmmaker wants to make a cinematic feature, and they cannot afford to use film, a camera such as the HD100 or the HVX200 will allow the filmmaker a low budget alternative that can acheive higher resolution shots with a filmlike appearance. If I had a high enough budget, I would shoot it on film. Lower budget, I will use the next best alternative, HDV or DVCPro HD. Many of the incredible videographers on this websight have shown what both of these cameras can produce, and I would be blessed to have any one of them.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 12:10 PM   #27
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CK is one of my favorite movies ever but to me that argument is old... B&W film and color video are apples and oranges. I still fight with people about 24P all the time, I have shot THOUSANDS of hours of non-24P that doesnt have that live video look. Long lenses, warm colors, nice framing, etc. are IMHO more of a factor than 24P. Of course 24p is the ONE thing that you cannot overcome without tech but it alone does not achieve film look...



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Old May 13th, 2006, 01:10 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert
... but I still see tendencies towards "twittery" backgrounds, especially in foliage.
I don't think this is 1/3-inch CCDs at work. It is small details moving from one interlaced line to another line. It's called interline flicker. It creates a busy pix and I see it constantly on Discovery HD (no 1/3-inch CCDs) and on all 1080i HDTV.

It can be made much worse if you do not lower your HDTV's sharpness to the point where NO outlines are created. That could be zero or up to about 15. Not much higher.

And, of course, it solved by shooting real progressive.

Test: watch the crowd in a wide-shot at a sports event on ABC, FOX, or ESPEN and compare it to NBC or CBS. Also look at signage. The 720p is very quiet.
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Last edited by Steve Mullen; May 13th, 2006 at 05:55 PM.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 05:31 PM   #29
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Steve: That's interesting because the worst I've seen it is in footage I shot with the XL2 at 24p. Moving on trees was nearly impossible - at the time I wasn't dialing the gain down to -3 and my detail was at 0 (I had been shooting with my DSR300 @ 60i for 4 years and didn't need to touch it), but I never tested the XL2 at 60i.

With the H1 I keep the gain at -3 until I completely run out of light. I've only dialed detail down to -4 though, because I like glass and use diffussion (ProMists mosly, 1/4 and 1/2) and don't want to overdo it... I still see some sparkling but it's not horrible. A friend has a Sony and I don't notice it from his camera at all, but his image is considerably softer too.

I'm trying some of the Presets from this site tomorrow to see what other people are doing.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 07:09 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
CK is one of my favorite movies ever but to me that argument is old... B&W film and color video are apples and oranges. I still fight with people about 24P all the time, I have shot THOUSANDS of hours of non-24P that doesnt have that live video look. Long lenses, warm colors, nice framing, etc. are IMHO more of a factor than 24P. Of course 24p is the ONE thing that you cannot overcome without tech but it alone does not achieve film look...



ash =o)
There were always some things that were fine at 60i, like headshots and doc style footage, but any time I had to shoot a narrative scene, no matter what I threw at it from the production value side of things, it always looked "fake" to me until I started playing around with a 30 fps look via a framestore in the late 80's. (later via the Filmlook process, and of course through to 24p cameras today). Of course it's possible that I had a more visceral reaction to the footage than other people did.
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