Two camera shoot - report from the field at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Canon EOS / MXF / AVCHD / HDV / DV Camera Systems > Canon HDV and DV Camera Systems > Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders > Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog

Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
Can't find it on the XL1 Watchdog site? Discuss it here.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old March 14th, 2002, 09:15 PM   #1
Major Player
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 355
Two camera shoot - report from the field

We just completed our second day of shooting with and XL-1 and an XL-1s. The two cameras shoot simultaneously with the same audio fed to both from a mixer; the video output of both cameras is fed two three monitors (one hi-res for me and the DP to look at with an A/B switch; the other two monitors are for the client to see both cameras simultaneously.

Originally this post was going to be a plea for help but thanks to a last minute "breakthrough" the problem was solved.

First the problem:

It seems we were unable to feed the output of both cameras without a buzz in the audio. Nothing we tried on location seemed to work. We finally resorted to rehearsing with both cameras being fed but disconnecting the video feed from one of the cameras when we were set to record. This would do away with the audio buzz. For one scene, where the video output of both cameras was critical, we resorted to feeding the audio to only one camera. Needless to say - none of these workarounds were acceptable. We had a fairly irritated client (three of them) and it was a little frustrating for me not to be able to see both cameras.

The solution:

Our DP made a number of phone calls to several sound engineers. One of them had worked with the same setup and said he experienced the same problem and it drove him nuts. He claimed there was no way to fix it - it was just a grounding problem with the XL-1. This was what led to the "breakthrough" which, unfortunately, came after we had wrapped for the day earlier tonight. Our audio operator installed a "ground lifter" in the audio feed to one of the camera and that solved the problem!! Man, am I relieved. I can now watch both cameras as well as feed the client's monitors. Why or where this bad grounding exists is not known to us. Were just glad we found a solution.

Other observations:

We all know the XL-1s is sharper than the XL-1 but we don't appreciate how much so until we need to intercut between the two. Out DP is using a very slight ProMist filter on the XL-1s to soften the image and make it match the XL-1.

The first two days of production were mainly exteriors in and around a soccer field. Yesterday it rained most of day - a light rain - and our problem was, well, getting wet and trying not to notice the rain. (The script didn't call for rain.) We were able to "hide" the rain visually but the sound of rain drops falling on the large umbrellas and plastic we had covering the gear was hard to mask. This is something I'll have to "hide" in the audio mix which already is going to be more extensive than planned.

Today was a bright sunny day and our problem was... you guessed it - bright sunlight with the high contrast it brings. Of the two days, today was by far the more difficult. Since we're not using HMIs but mainly Arris with blue gels and lots of reflectors, we had to pour a ton of light just to get the pictures to look acceptable. At one point, late in the day, we almost blinded one of our actresses with a reflector shining right into her eyes. We had to keep re-staging scenes and altering the blocking to accommodate the contrast limitations of the XL-1(s). The "S" is a huge improvement over the old XL-1 but it still has its limitations when it comes to handling high contrast scenes.

Speaking of the old XL-1, the auto off feature really gets to be a big pain after a while. It goes off just when you need to see the picture.

Besides the ProMist filter on the XL-1s we've also been using a polarizer. This came in very handy in reducing glare from the "NextTurf" - a newer form of ArtroTurf that covered the soccer field. It also helped a lot in punching in some colors that would have been washed out in the bright sunlight.

That's it for now. It's been two exhausting days. From now on most of the shooting will be indoors where we have more control of the lighting but Im sure other problems will pop up. I'll keep you informed of any new discovery.
__________________
Ozzie Alfonso
www.ozziealfonso.com
Ozzie Alfonso is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 14th, 2002, 09:58 PM   #2
Retired DV Info Net Almunus
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,943
Ozzie,

Your practical diary with a professional crew and ambitious project is truly an invaluable reference for many of us. I hope you're getting some sort of cathartic experience from sharing it with us, in compensation for your efforts.

Hey, Chris, can you put up a page on the Watchdog to preserve this diary? I think lots of folks will enjoy, and benefit from reading Ozzie's notes.
__________________
Lady X Films: A lady with a boring wardrobe...and a global mission.

Hey, you don't have enough stuff!
Buy with confidence from our sponsors. Hand-picked as the best in the business...Really!

See some of my work one frame at a time: www.KenTanaka.com
Ken Tanaka is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 14th, 2002, 10:01 PM   #3
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Pembroke Pines, Florida
Posts: 1,418
Much appreciated....

Ozzie,

keep these posts coming- I am sure I am not alone whan I say us "amateurs" enjoy hearing experiences (both good & bad) of professional videographers when using an XL1(S)....
__________________
Steve Nunez-New York City
www.stevenunez.com
Steve Nunez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 14th, 2002, 10:15 PM   #4
Retired DV Info Net Almunus
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Austin, TX USA
Posts: 2,882
Ditto, Ozzie.

Wish I were there...regardless of the rain...as a volunteer gopher, umbrella-holder, whatever...just to see it all in action. Writing it all down is the next best thing.

Thanks.
__________________
John Locke
SursumFilms.com
John Locke is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 15th, 2002, 04:24 AM   #5
RED Code Chef
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Holland
Posts: 12,514
Thank you for sharing this with us Ozzie! It is great to hear
stories like this. Any chance you can snap some nice pictures
with the XL1's in use on a professional set? Been collecting
some XL1 pictures in professional use :) .....

One other question. You seem to be very familiair with
lighting issues. Since I am in Holland and not that much
is happening here with film etc. I find it hard to wrap my
head around lighting. Everyone talks about all the different
lamp types, gels, lighting ratios and stuff. It confuses me
a bit. I have read one book on the subject (and some general
books who also cover lighting) but it is still difficult. Do you
have any suggestions for us low-budget shooters who do
(allmost) everything themselves? What is a good way to
learn lighting?

Thanks for any time you can spare on this and I hope your
shoot turns out a bit more pleasant!

Good luck to you and your crew!
__________________

Rob Lohman, visuar@iname.com
DV Info Wrangler & RED Code Chef

Join the DV Challenge | Lady X

Search DVinfo.net for quick answers | Buy from the best: DVinfo.net sponsors
Rob Lohman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 15th, 2002, 05:56 AM   #6
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Brunn am Gebirge, Austria
Posts: 161
Hi Rob,

I have not a lot of experience with lighting myself (well, actually NO experience with pro-lighting).

But...

I am in the middle reading this book and it is a real eye-opener:

"Placing Shadows - Lighting techniques for video production" by Chuck B. Gloman and Tom Letourneau

I will be getting "Master of Light and Depth" by Ross Lowell (from Lowell lights) soon (I cant wait to get it, oversea orders from Amazon take so damn long) and let you know how good/bad this one is, too.

For cheapo lighting: Do you have an Ikea store at your place? After reading about half the book, I found so many household lamps (with clamps, stands, chinese lanterns...) and reflectors there that can be abused for video production.

But there is one question that does bother me:

We can manually white balance, is there a need to get 3200K Photofloods or 5000K daylight lamps, cant we just balance to the 2900K of common household bulbs and get the same results?

Is it because they differ too much in colortemperature? If I have 2 household bulbs maybe on burns at 2800 and the other at 3000, are pro bulbs sort of calibrated? (aaargh my english, jeez you cant calibrate a bulb *ggg*)
__________________
Peter Koller
Vienna, Austria http://www.kop11.com
Peter Koller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 15th, 2002, 05:58 AM   #7
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Brunn am Gebirge, Austria
Posts: 161
The book is called "MATTERS of light and depth" and not "masters"... sorry for the confusion.

Cheers
__________________
Peter Koller
Vienna, Austria http://www.kop11.com
Peter Koller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 15th, 2002, 10:06 AM   #8
Retired DV Info Net Almunus
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,943
Typically to normalize lamps of different colors you would use color-correcting gels. For example, some level of "Color Temperature Blue" would "cool-down" an overly (visually) warm incandescent lamp. StudioDepot.com has quite a number of gels for sale.
__________________
Lady X Films: A lady with a boring wardrobe...and a global mission.

Hey, you don't have enough stuff!
Buy with confidence from our sponsors. Hand-picked as the best in the business...Really!

See some of my work one frame at a time: www.KenTanaka.com
Ken Tanaka is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 15th, 2002, 05:54 PM   #9
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 540
The grounding/hum issue that Ozzie was fighting is all too common. There is a prevailing myth going around to "ground everything". That will usually lead to ground loops, since ground paths are coming from the mixer power, camera power, camera accessories, through the XLR cables, etc. There is also the issue of single-point and multi-point grounds. In the last several years, we've made some amazing progress in this area in our FAA electronics systems. Revising our thinking has greatly increased systems reliability.

Best to try to have only one ground path, with everything being grounded back to that point. In some cases, opening one end of the shield on the audio cable will also help. Ground isolators can be useful, as Ozzie discovered.

There is an entire science devoted to this subject. Best approach is to just experiment (well before the shoot, if possible).
__________________
-- Vic Owen --
Vic Owen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 15th, 2002, 07:51 PM   #10
Major Player
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 355
Day 3:

I'll make this one short because after three days of constant pushing I'm a bit tired and I still have two more to go before a day off.

With the grounding problem solved we had an easier time today. The shooting was mainly in one interior location which we proceeded to light more than I had wished for. I had a friendly argument with our DP but he was right - we needed to use more lights than I thought necessary. Mainly, we had to light the actors while keeping direct lights off the walls. In a small office with low ceiling and white walls, this was not simple, especially since we needed to shoot with the 3x to get the master shot. There were flags everywhere masking any spilled lights and masking lens glare. Both cameras had flags on them. This proved to be the "complaint" of the day.

Because the XL-1 EVF is not overscanned, it's impossible for the operator to see if his camera flag is dipping into the top of the frame. The sound man who usually relies on the operators to tell him when the boom is dipping into the shot, was clueless. It fell to me, the director, to tell the operators and sound man when there was a flag in the shot or a boom since I was the only one looking into the overscanned monitor that shows the entire raster.

Complaining about the XL-1 color LCD EVF is not new, but when you have to actually do serious production it becomes a really big problem. The DP asked why I didn't just buy the black and white hires EVF. His opinion is that it's impossible to focus with the regular EVF and because it's an LCD it's also a poor screen to judge color. I can't say I disagree. Of course, keep in mind, we're doing a professional production - very high demands amplify otherwise minor drawbacks.

The first QuickTime tests came in from day one. As predicted by someone here a few months back, they were dark - or at least - darker than what we had shot. We decided NOT to overexpose in the camera since eventually this drama will be broadcast. Our choice was to "brighten" the image in post. But this is trickier than it seems. The Avid (non DV) we're using tends to compress blacks coming from a DV source and put the image through a series of codexes before it spits it out as a QT. Over the weekend our editor is going to experiment feeding raw footage directly off a MiniDV player via FireWire to FCP3. His thinking is that the less compression we go through, the better.

I'll let you know how this goes. Oh yes, I've been taking pictures when possible and at some point I'll find a way to post them.
__________________
Ozzie Alfonso
www.ozziealfonso.com
Ozzie Alfonso is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 15th, 2002, 10:38 PM   #11
Retired DV Info Net Almunus
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,943
The underscan of the XL1/XL1s lcd vf is my primary gripe with this device. You can't just assume it's showing only action-safe area. You wind up with flags, booms, fingers, etc. creeping into the usable frame. The b&w vf is a world of difference. If only it had an action-safe guide mask option.
__________________
Lady X Films: A lady with a boring wardrobe...and a global mission.

Hey, you don't have enough stuff!
Buy with confidence from our sponsors. Hand-picked as the best in the business...Really!

See some of my work one frame at a time: www.KenTanaka.com
Ken Tanaka is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 16th, 2002, 12:28 AM   #12
Major Player
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 540
Ken--

Does the B&W VF overscan? I've found that the external Varizoom type LCD displays do, and I have to remember to put a "virtual" safe zone on the monitor to keep the actors in the picture, along with a cross check to the VF.
__________________
-- Vic Owen --
Vic Owen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 16th, 2002, 01:47 AM   #13
Retired DV Info Net Almunus
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,943
<<<-- Originally posted by Vic Owen : Ken--

Does the B&W VF overscan? -->>>

Sure does. Wall-to-wall beautiful black and white.
__________________
Lady X Films: A lady with a boring wardrobe...and a global mission.

Hey, you don't have enough stuff!
Buy with confidence from our sponsors. Hand-picked as the best in the business...Really!

See some of my work one frame at a time: www.KenTanaka.com
Ken Tanaka is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 16th, 2002, 11:23 PM   #14
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Gents:

Not to nitpick, but since this could be a potential source of communication problems: a display that underscans shows the entire raster. Thus the B&W viewfinder underscans, and the color LCD viewfinder overscans.

But many thanks for reminding me of all this, because I have a two camera XL1 shoot tomorrow with both types of viewfinders represented. And although we will be running audio to both cameras, we are using video transmitters out to dual handheld monitors so hopefully that will prevent the grounding issues mentioned here!

Regarding the lighting question, if I may offer advice on that...reading books is great, and watching films is even better. Once you start playing with lighting, it suddenly changes the way you watch other people's work, like a door opening in the brain. It's a challenging process but very rewarding.

Some of the most beautifully lit scenes have been done with a very minimal amount of lighting--just because Hollywood films have 40 ft lighting and grip trucks doesn't always mean it takes all that to achieve a lovely image. I had the wonderful privilege of working with Roger Deakins last year, who is one of the most talented DP's in the business (he has shot many of the Coen brothers films, plus A Beautiful Mind, Shawshank Redemption, and a zillion others). When we were shooting a city day exterior, he didn't use a single light or reflector, just waited for just the right time of day. And it looked fantastic!

One thing that I have tried to steer my own work towards in the last few years is thinking in terms of subtraction rather than addition, i.e. controlling the light with flags, etc. One of the handiest and easiest things to have in your kit are show cards, which are basically posterboard that is black on one side and white on the other. Experiment with sitting someone next to a window and illuminated by the exterior light, and moving the card around to different positions to alternately fill (using the white side) and negative fill (using the black side), as well as creating edge skims by holding the white side from a three-quarter-to-the-rear position. And all that is "free"--no electricity needed.

One of the great joys of DV is that it doesn't require a tremendous amount of light to achieve exposure, so a minimal amount of equipment can potentially deliver a fine image in a controlled environment. Those exteriors that Ozzie referred to--if it makes you guys feel better, even the top of the line HD cameras suffer from the same contrast issues in bright sunlight. It's a royal pain in the ass. Ozzie, far be it for me to second-guess your DP, but usually we shoot the reflectors through 4x4 diffusion frames (opal, 216, light/heavy grid etc) if they are kicking into an actor's face, it's a more natural light and much easier for them to look into.

Good luck with the rest of the shoot!
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 17th, 2002, 11:07 PM   #15
Major Player
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 355
Days 4 and 5

Exhaustion. Thats the only word. Five days of 12 to 13 hour days is more than I care to deal with at this point in my life, but its a living and there are fun moments. Im learning more about the XL-1 duo than I ever expected. Let me share a few minor points our DP Yahel Herzog has unearthed.

Although were running the cameras on manual they both (the XL-1 and XL-1s) have a tendency to stray from their white balance. Weve checked this out under the same lighting conditions, with the same lenses no matter how well we setup the white balance, after a while it WILL stray causing us to balance the cameras more often than necessary. This has come to the fore because were using two cameras and are constantly comparing the two for proper match. Our DP half-jokingly commented that maybe Canon really didnt trust anyone to maintain white balance and there seems to be some internal compensation the cameras will perform even in the manual mode. I cant vouch for that opinion but I can see that they do stray.

If you want a real shock, place the XL-1s and the XL-1 side by side and set them to the factory automatic pre-sets for color. They will be so far apart in color balance your first thought would be that there must be something wrong. But there isnt, they are simply miles apart in the way Canon has pre-determined their automatic settings.

Our main problem at the moment has nothing to do with the cameras. Weve made the QuickTime movies as per our contract and the client is complaining they are too dark. We have re-made them several times to the point that Im satisfied but they still insist they are too dark. Are there any standards for QuickTime? Is there a digital counterpart for SMPTE bars and tone? Any standard that we can follow when dumping the material out of the Avid and into Cleaner? Weve already found out the Avid codex is part of the problem and that has improved the results tremendously but its still a crapshoot. Ive looked at the same QT movie in different computers and they look completely different. They look great on my LCD, a little darker on my sons CRT but fine after a few adjustments. I can see why companies have been formed that specialize solely in tape to QT transfers. Theres more work in this process than Im prepared, or equipped to do, at the moment. I have a nagging suspicion what the client really wants are perfectly flat images. If thats the case, were in deep doo doo since weve been lighting this the best way we know how with a limited number of instruments.

More after a long sleep. One day off and its back to work for four more and were not even a third of the way through.
__________________
Ozzie Alfonso
www.ozziealfonso.com
Ozzie Alfonso is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Canon EOS / MXF / AVCHD / HDV / DV Camera Systems > Canon HDV and DV Camera Systems > Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders > Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:04 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network