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Old March 11th, 2002, 09:51 AM   #1
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XL-1S Revisited

Have been shooting the XL-1S for several months now and figured I'd throw out some thoughts for anyone interested. Here is a quick recap of the first week:

- Camera seemed to have soft focus
- Quality was less than GL-1, i.e. detail and sharpness
- Motor problems

Sent camera in an Canon had it back within 7 days (XL-1 Owners club pays off if you have not joined). Adjusted loading mechanism, adjusted something in the lens, reset to spec. Must say, fine job here.

Shooting in the outdoors 90% of the time in less than favorable conditions has helped prove the extra cost of this camera over the incredible GL-1. From low light to blazing Arizona afternoon sun, the XL-1S is producing some beautiful video. Here are a couple observations:

- With most smaller chip cameras today and the full 0 to 115+ IRE capture, I find contrast is a real problem. Darks are too dark and brights too bright. The manual controls of the camera are excellent. In most daylight situations I setup as follows:

* One extra step of Color
* One extra step of Sharpness
* Two steps on Setup
* -3 gain and camera ND on
* Lock exposure at 4.0 to the top of 5.6
* AE shift -.5 to -1.0 (depends on light)

- I set my zebra at 100, so I only see a bit of crawl on hot edges, glares, clouds and such. It seems you have to be carefull on how much you clamp down on the highs with smaller chip cameras. Too much and you loose color saturation. Too little and it is difficult to get any detail in hot spots.

- The most important part of camera setup has been manual white balance and doing it often with changing light. I have tried the sun and incandessant presets and have not been happy with the color renditions. Though the overall temp of the picture was close, specific ranges were off. I have heard people talk about what white level to set at, 10% to 20% white cards, but I haven't had too many problems using the sunny side of a clean, white truck to white balance on. I would love to hear any comments on this. I might try creating different white balance boards in Photoshop when I get a chance.

- Audio metering is great and manual controls good. I don't like to stereo setup on the main channel, and would rather have individual control of each and not a left/right knob. Luckily I have gain control on the wireless recievers and adjust levels between two seperate mics there if needed. ( I'm using the MA100)

I am still not happy about the lens servo noise with the on camera mic. I am waiting to buy the aftermarket adapters, but trust me, Canon has recieved several calls and letters about this problem. The on camera mic is fine and I look forward to being able to us it in more situations when I get the isolators.

- My NUMBER ONE COMPLAINT is how delicate the machanical side of this camera is. I have shot my GL-1 for over a year and a half with nothing more than a dozen head cleanings. No tape prblems, gliches, or such. It has just recently starting moaning and groaning a bit more when loading tapes, and I will be sending it in soon for a lube, oil and filter.

The XL-1S on the other hand is still having problems. Cleaning seems to be critical. Even after cleaning I still notice 10 times more tape drop out, especailly around start and stop points. I have also come close to a couple tapes getting eaten when the deck spools off extra tape before ejecting. I will be sending the unit in again for adjustment and can only hope this isn't a design problem with the new and improved internal deck.

- I still see the images of the GL-1 have superior clarity when compared side be side witht he XL-1S. The 16X lens definately has better focusing, but at the cost of image clarity. I am talking sharpness and clarity, not video quality. The XL-1S has excellent signal to noise and video quality, far superior to the GL-1. Might be time to check out the full manual lens. I just use the steady shot so much, and the 16X standard lens does work well enough that I don't think I can afford the compromise at this time. Would be neat to checkout though.

And while the XL-1S has faster aquisition, the GL-1 has a better sweet-spot when the foucs snaps in. I end up having to "settle into" the focus of the XL-1S, were I can usually hit the image focus on the GL-1 without hunting back and forth.

So, to answer my own initial question from awhile back, "is the XL-1S worth the extra cost over the GL-1?" In many situations it is a resounding "yes," but there is a caveat to that.

I still say the GL-1 is the best camera for the price, and better than many cameras at higher prices. The image quality, lightweight design, full compliment of manual controls, and bullet proof work ethic will keep the camera in my equipment list for a long time, and will sneak out on some shoots that the XL-1S stays home on.

The extra cost of the XL-1s is justified IF you need the extra image quality, control over video setup, or audio control. Mind you when you use those extra features it takes more time and skill to learn and use them correctly, as I have learned. The GL-1 out of the box is ready to go with only a minor learning curve. I found the XL-1S took more trial and error to find the best setup. But now that I have found the magic combinations I shoot it almost exclusively.

Just like any of the tools we all use, you'll have to find which is best suited for the job at hand. Both have a permanent place is my toolkit.

Hope to meet some of you at NAB next month. I will be at Circus Circus (Okay, my company isn't that well off) for the duration of the show. Email and maybe we can get our paths to cross.

michael@azuho.com

Best to all. Would really like to hear other comments about any of this.
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Old March 11th, 2002, 10:22 AM   #2
 
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Re: XL-1S Revisited

<<<-- Originally posted by AzSportsman :
* One extra step of Color
* One extra step of Sharpness
* Two steps on Setup
* -3 gain and camera ND on
* Lock exposure at 4.0 to the top of 5.6
* AE shift -.5 to -1.0 (depends on light)

- I set my zebra at 100, so I only see a bit of crawl on hot edges, glares, clouds and such. It seems you have to be carefull on how much you clamp down on the highs with smaller chip cameras.

- The most important part of camera setup has been manual white balance and doing it often with changing light. I have heard people talk about what white level to set at, 10% to 20% white cards, but I haven't had too many problems using the sunny side of a clean, white truck to white balance on. I would love to hear any comments on this.

I am still not happy about the lens servo noise with the on camera mic. I am waiting to buy the aftermarket adapters, but trust me, Canon has recieved several calls and letters about this problem.


Mike...
A few comments. I am using almost the exact same setup here in the high altitude of New Mexico. I set the white balance with an 18% grey card in the sun, one step up on color balance and sharpness,
-3db gain, -.75 shift in AE in very bright sun.

As for servo noise, I've been mounting a Sennheiser ME66 in the stock Canon mount by wrapping a piece of foam around the ME66 barrel so it fits snug in the canon mount. Together with a Lightwave EVF isolator, I have had no more probs with motor noise.

I'm a little disappointed in the focus, but, I've been using frame movie mode, exclusively.
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Old March 11th, 2002, 10:30 AM   #3
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Do you also set your exposure at that time?

I tried all kinds of materials for sound insulation with the stock mic. No luck. I know the lightwave isolators work, Just haven't had the need, or budgeted cash, for them.

Yeah, the focus on the 16x II lens still leaves room for improvements. I have "learned" to shoot with it, but I don't expect to have to say that about a lens.

- Michael
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Old March 11th, 2002, 10:38 AM   #4
 
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<<<-- Originally posted by AzSportsman : Do you also set your exposure at that time?

Mike...

Not sure what you mean. I've been checking exposure before shooting with an incident light meter. At an ASA of 160, the results seem to agree fairly well with the XL1s internal meter. I use the AE at -.75 to get rid of the zebra in the sky when shadows in the frame fool the meter into overexposing. I meter the highlights, let the shadows fall where they may. I was setting the black level to 7.5 IRE, but, after reading Adam Wilt's latest article on pedestal, I'm trying a setting at 0 IRE.
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Old March 11th, 2002, 11:02 AM   #5
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Sorry,

Ran two thoughts together on that one. What I meant to ask was do you lock exposure when shooting and about where does it shoot? As I said, I shoot mostly around 5.6, but open to around 4.0 when shooting shadowed subjects. I lock exposure because with a 10am sun you don't get backlit per se, but you do get shadowing. With auto exposure I find it clamps down too much when I swing from one side to another.

I have gone back and forth between editing in a 0 IRE or a 7.5 IRE environment. I really do like the look of the video I capture with a couple steps up on the setup. And I have been taught NOT to fix everything in post, so if I want 7.5 IRE output I should shoot for it.

I haven't read Adam's article yet, but I am sure it will make great food for thought.

- Michael.
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Old March 11th, 2002, 11:58 AM   #6
 
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ahhh, I understand. A lot of the scenes I shoot are outdoors in and around trees that provide mottled shade. Yikes, indeed!! I can't fix the exposure or I'll underexpose as I pan into the shady areas. With the ND filters in, my exposures run wide open aperture at 1/60 in the shade, and stopped down to f/5.6 to f/8 or so in the sunlight. Beleive me, I'm pushing the limits of the CCD latitude. If I expose for the shade, my skies are washed out white. I should use lighting to fill in the shady areas, but, it's pretty much run and gun...not much time for setup or hauling bulky lights around. Wouldn't it be great to have a "contrast filter" for color work?
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Old March 11th, 2002, 01:06 PM   #7
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-Beleive me, I'm pushing the limits of the CCD latitude. If I expose for the shade, my skies are washed out white. I should use lighting to fill in the shady areas, but, it's pretty much run and gun...not much time for setup or hauling bulky lights around. Wouldn't it be great to have a "contrast filter" for color work?

-----

Exactly! I feel your pain, and that is a perfect example of why I use a couple of clicks of setup in the custom menu. Pulls detail out of the dark shadow without having to over/under expose other areas. Still not perfect, but a step in the right direction. My old JVC KY-27 had a nice black stretch and compress that was really helpfull. Not actually moving pedestal like the Canon, but knee adjustment for luminance. I can fake the same effect in post on the Caonpus color correction, but I just hate fooling with picture quality.

Lighting?! I thought that was what the sun was for :) I don't know how many times I have colleauges say, "gee, a fill light would have been great right there." Sounds like you know that drill too. I would like to use relectors more, but I find if there is even the slightest wind it looks like we are right off a lake or such - that shimmering effect. You have any tips or tricks? I have tried bouncing a reflector off a bright white cotton shirt and it works, but I am modest and don't like to remove clothes during shooting.

- Michael.
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Old March 11th, 2002, 02:12 PM   #8
 
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LOL...misery loves company.

I'm gonna try a few clicks in setup, like you recommended..looks like it bottoms out at 0 IRE, based on some cal's I ran yesterday. Otherwise, a polarizing filter helps out a little bit on a sunny sky to reduce the glare...but not much more than 1/2 a stop....and then only at rt. angles to the sun. No magic solution, there. I've been trying to compose with less sky, but, then it loses effect. Ahhh, it's an imperfect world.
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Old March 11th, 2002, 06:15 PM   #9
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Tried the Polarzing filter, but wasn't too happy with results. Let me know how the setup adjustments work for you. I used to have them mapped out as to what each step up did on the waveform, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

Hard to landscape without a horizon, eh? :)

Cheers.
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Old March 11th, 2002, 11:52 PM   #10
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Just wondering if you guys find the noise very objectionable that's visible when you up the setup level? One nice thing is that when you do, you are also increasing your overall sensitivity, which narrows the (sensitivity) gap between the sony and canon.

I agree that I like to bump it up one notch, but even there, the noise is potentially obvious. At least it seems to me that it is when I shoot indoors at +6dB of gain. I do have one pixel that's bad and you need to look for it, but it can be seen if you're really watching for it. No one else has seemed to notice. Even at -3 dB, there is a little more noise, IMO. Granted it's not bad, but........

What about any noise you will see if you're using the s-video into your computer's cards? Or is it a firewire card? Do you like one over the other? Why? I've been thinking that firewire was really the only way to go.

Am I right that the reason you use the analog type input is so that you can tweak the input level to your NLE?

That's my only gripe with 1394, that it's one size that fits all.

PS. I feel at least a +3 to +5 is needed on the sharpness before it gets too edgy and unless it's a close-up portrait, out of the box, the xl1S is as soft as my beer gut (I don't shoot landscapes, or a lot of outdoor stuff with the skyline "edge," so maybe that's an issue). Again it seems more noisy and or edgy when the setup is also raised. My presets are for different gain settings (<12, 12, >12). More gain.... less sharpness, less setup level and more color. Each by one click per different gain setting. While the contrast will correspondingly change, the overall noise seems to be a closer match from scene to scene.
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Old March 12th, 2002, 12:12 AM   #11
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I have had no problems with any noise in the video from the XL-1S, even with gain up to +6db, and especially at -3db. Adjusting the setup levels also hasn't had an effect as best I can tell. Now, you are also talking about shooting with +3 to +5 steps of sharpness, which I notice noise after just +2 steps, so there might be your answer.

I only add one step of sharpness to add an edge. As I have said, it isn't as sharp as the GL-1, but I find that a bit too crisp at times. That debate with the XL-1S will fall to personal preference I believe.

As for capture, firewire is the only way to go for DV format. You have already done the 5:1 compression in the camera when writing to tape. If you use a capture card you are "digitizing" the footage again, which is another round of compression. Firewire "transfers" the information from the tape to the drives, just like writing from a disk.

As far as using analog input for tweaking levels to the NLE, I don't get what you are saying/asking. With firewire, once you have transfered the video from the tape to the drive you can tweak whatever you want on the NLE before putting it to tape. And if you use Canopus or the like, you can adjust levels and write back to tape without even having to render. I hope that is what you were talking about.

I also don't get your setup/gain ideas. I see you shoot indoors, mostly at +6db. What are you trying to accomplish and what settings are you adjusting to do it?
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Old March 12th, 2002, 01:17 PM   #12
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Preset 1 (<12dB gain)
Sharpness +5 (maybe +4)
Setup +1
Color 0

Preset 2 (12dB gain)
Sharpness +4 (maybe +3)
Setup 0
Color +1

Preset 3 (>12 dB gain)
Sharpness +3 (maybe +2)
Setup -1
Color +2

As gain goes up, so does noise. Therefore, I lower a couple of settings to offset the increase in noise. It helps to blend shots with differing gain settings. Granted, the blacks are getting lower, but hey...the visible noise drops a bit.

Tell me, is Matrox the closest thing to canopus on the Mac? And let's say I wanted to lighten ONE scene of my movie, I could do it on the fly during the final output back to my dv tape?
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Old March 12th, 2002, 01:35 PM   #13
 
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Shooting outdoors, I practically always use the ND filter and -3 db on the gain. There is no reason, whatever, to up the gain, unless it's an evening shot, which I generally don't do. I've also found that +1 on the sharpness is all I can stand. If I need more sharpness, I get better quality results in post using an unsharp mask. As for color, I generally go +1, makes for a nice warm image. More than that and it begins to look artificial....unless it's a sunrise/sunset...<g>.

If you're referring to a proc amp in final copy to tape, you're right. There is no other way that I'm aware of, to color shift "on the fly". Still, there's no DV proc amps on the market, which would make the use of component video mandatory when using a proc amp. I'm not willing to sacrifice recompression quality to have the "on the fly" advantage. I always publish on DVD, so all pre-printing manipulations are done in the NLE. No time to fiddle with knobs when I print.
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Old March 12th, 2002, 04:37 PM   #14
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I'm with Bill on this one. I only use a step or two of sharpness. I really think that the noise you are noticing is from the exaggerated sharpness. Well, that and possible having to shoot with gain. What type of productions are you doing? No chance for added lighting?

I am not sure about Matrox and the Mac system. You can apply color correction, but I believe you have to render before output. Usually one round of rendering isn't bad, but I personally don't do more compositing than that. I chose Canopus specifically for realtime output. I only have to render under extremely heavy composition, motion, or filtering. Really nice.
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Old March 12th, 2002, 11:57 PM   #15
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Well the noise I refer to is quite minimal and virtually unnoticeable if using the composite jack. In s-video it's a little less forgiving, but more detailed.

I agree that the harder you push the presets, the more likely to degrade the quality in one respect in order to improve another aspect of the image. I assume that's why the xl1 had no controls like this, they just optimized and produced them. But this is part of the fun of this cam. Getting to try combination after combination.

Still to me, when comparing to a 1st gen. D8 cam, the xl1s is hardly sharper unless you are at +5 or so. The d8 generated image (certainly) has other flaws, but is a sharp little image with decent gain up to at least +12 and +15. I can't think too highly when a $5k loaded cam isn't as sharp as a $800 (at the time) cam.

But the xl1s does definately give me nicer images, do not get me wrong.
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