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Old March 20th, 2002, 11:33 PM   #1
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Exessive image softeness

I've been shooting in movie mode (full frame) with both an XL-1s and an XL-1 with a 3x lens and two 16x lenses. The XL-1s is new and the XL-1 has been recently overhauled by Canon.

Although the images look sharp on the 6" hires monitors we use for focusing, playing back the recorded material on a 19" CRT shows the images to be very soft. I'm aware the movie mode by its nature creates images that are softer than in TV mode but should this softness be so great as to render the image marginal in quality? Since the material being shot is well lit dramatic material where the slightest imperfection is amplified, it could well be we haven't noticed how much softer the movie mode really is.

It's not the focus since it's uniform through all takes and with all lenses in both cameras. As soon as the report of softness got back to us from our editor we switched over to normal TV mode and have yet to screen the new footage.

We ran tests on both cameras prior to shooting but the DP found nothing unusual, in fact he decided to use a 1/8 promist filter on the XL-1s to soften its image as to match it to the XL-1.

I can only attribute the softness to the Movie mode being seen on a large CRT screen but I never suspected the difference would be so great. Input from any of you is most appreciated.
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Old March 21st, 2002, 11:26 AM   #2
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I experienced a similar problem. I don't know if it is the same as yours or not, but any apperature setting over 5.6 would soften any image up. My solution is slapping on a ND8 Filter on any "brightly" lit scenes.

Hope this helps- Nori Wentworth
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Old March 21st, 2002, 12:48 PM   #3
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Hmm, I've always known Frame Movie mode to be a tangible bit softer than Normal Movie mode, but not to any extreme degree. I'm surprised it's noticeable on a 19" however coming from a professional production background I think you have a better eye for this than most. There *is* a slight decrease in resolution in Frame Movie mode but again it shouldn't be that big of a deal. How many days of shooting are involved?
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Old March 21st, 2002, 04:09 PM   #4
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HI OSSIE..I just got through a two day shoot using a new XL1S, all in frame mode...I dont see any softness at all....under preferences, I selected two notches up on the sharpness bar and one up one red.....the results are so much better than my XL1 which has gone back to be serviced...Have you played with the sharpness preferences at all? When I rack mine up to Max. its too sharp for pleasing people shots...I`m even getting real sharp images with a centuary optics wide adapter at the end of the new 16 X lens, as the 3X Canon lens had to go back for a focus check.....The images look as good as the XLI with the 3X lens when they were brand new...If you are not happy, maybe you should have Canon check out the XL1S (send the 16 and 3 back with the camera....good luck
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Old March 21st, 2002, 08:44 PM   #5
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Chris,

I was wondering if it was just my Beta trained eyes that was seeing the softness but I called in my 14 year old son and asked what he thought of the image he was seeing on our 21 inch Trinitron TV. "It looks blurry" was his immediate answer.

Tonight I looked at some of the takes since we went to standard TV mode and they are much sharper, as sharp I would expect although not as shrap as I would wish.

Five days of shooting were done in movie mode. I believe that's something close to 15 or 20 sixty minute tapes. We've run some tests putting QuickTime through Cleaner and sharpening up the images. So far that seems to be working. There are so many variables. I have my PC set to 1024x768 - the QTs look great at that fine resolution although small. Setting the PC to 800x600 is a rude awakening.
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Old March 22nd, 2002, 06:01 AM   #6
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Ozzie,

maybe you should try a custom setting with the sharpness turned up a bit (as suggested earlier) and shoot footage in Frame mode and compare it to footage shot in regular Movie mode (interlaced) after turning off the Custom preset- let us know what you end up with.
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Old March 22nd, 2002, 08:17 AM   #7
 
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Ozzie...

I'll second the comment made above by Shepsphoto. I shoot all my footage in movie mode with the XL1s. After several months of shooting and testing, I've settled on +1 to +2 on the sharpness setting and +1 on the color(red). This has proven to give the most satisfactory results, with less sharpness resulting in blurry, fuzzy images and more sharpness resulting in harsh, video-like images. If you can get rid of your blurries in post, I think it's because the sharpness setting is too low on your camera. Also, beware of overlighting your scene and driving the aperture below f/8.
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Old March 22nd, 2002, 02:22 PM   #8
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Interesting settings, Bill. I'm a little surprised to see you turn up the red since the Xl1s' image is naturally warm.

I hope to get free of my personal business affairs this afternoon and get a chance to try-out your settings. I've a laundry-list of lighting, filters and now setting adjustments to test-out. Just haven't had enough free time.
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Old March 22nd, 2002, 11:28 PM   #9
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The main reason for not increasing the sharpness on the XL-1s is because we're shooting with an XL-1 also and need to maintain as close a match - in sharpness and color - as possible. If we had two XL-1s or if the same adjustments were possible in the XL-1, then we'd have no problems. Of course if this were a one camera shoot it would be a piece of cake.

This is off topic but in the last two days we've experienced the XL-1 going blue on us as if the red and green chips had vanished. The first time it happened the camera operator reported a static schock just prior to the problem. It happened again today for no apparent reason. Each time turning the camera off and back on solved the problem. I'm curious to know if anyone has experienced this. I'd like to think it's due to a static discharge and not a sign of the XL-1 going down the tubes. We had it checked by Canon prior to the shoot.
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Last edited by Ozzie Alfonso; March 22nd, 2002 at 11:45 PM.
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Old March 22nd, 2002, 11:37 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Ozzie Alfonso : If we had two XL-1s or if the same adjustments were possible in the XL-1, then we'd have no problems. Of course if this were a one camera shoot it would be a piece of cake. -->>>

Ozzie,

It's funny isn't it? We almost automatically assume that a 2 camera shoot will make life easier.

Bill
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Old March 22nd, 2002, 11:53 PM   #11
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Shooting with two cameras has saved us a great deal of time. I can't say it has cut it in half because there's some overhead involved in the matching of the two cameras which takes up a little time. We've begun using a color and grey scale chip chart to set up the two cameras when we change sets or alter the lighting signifcantly. I'm also looking ahead to the editing which starts Monday. Since I'll still be shooting, our editor is going to have a rough time of it. We've been using a clapboard on all takes but still, the lack of unique time code will slow the post production process and with two cameras it's not going to be fun, not at first anyway.
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Old March 24th, 2002, 05:56 PM   #12
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This is addressed to anyone who might have a technical insight. The excessive softness I experienced when shooting in frame mode was perceived when the the MiniDV tape was outputted via a composite analog port. I haven't tested the output via the IEEE 1394 port. I'm wondering if that would make any difference?

The two MiniDV players we have at the office feeding the AVID don't have a FireWire output and force us to feed the composite into the Avid which, of course, won't accept anything else (we don't have the Avid Xpress DV although we do have FCP3 installed in a Mac laptop.)

This mixing of codexes and digital formats is new to me and I'm finding out there's a lot more complexity than I had ever imagined and few people with the knowledge to unravel the sources of any problem.
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Old March 24th, 2002, 06:10 PM   #13
 
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It's very likely that you're getting significant loss from downloading via composite connections. While DV downloads in a lossless way, everytime you transfer via composite, you suffer another stage of quality loss. It's not a one time deal, it's cumulative, Ozzie. I hope you'e using the S-video port ILO the RGB ports, which are the worst of all.
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Old March 24th, 2002, 08:18 PM   #14
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Ozzie,

Indeed, Bill is correct. The digital-to-analog conversion can be really brutal to footage. Try feeding some footage into your FCP3 system via Firewire to see just how much impact the DA conversion is having.
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Old March 25th, 2002, 01:45 AM   #15
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Message boards just rarely have the perfect answer for our totally individual set-ups. hey? Right about a seemingly limited amount of truly in-depth answers. I just spent about 3 days trying to configure a dvcpro deck via firewire to my G4. Let's just say it wasn't plug and play by any means (then again, now that it's up, maybe it WAS just me). I'm still not 100% sure if the audio is a-ok? But I think with 48k it may just work out... no 4 ch. :o( at least not yet!!!

The point is, I intend to stay digital start to finish. ASSuming dv is a perfect 10, then so should the final tape be a 10. Buh ha ha ha that dv is a "10" though, although an absolutely honest 7.5 (- 8)? I think so.

But even going through s-video has bothered me to death. (But in honesty, the s-video dubs were dang good.) I just do not want to go analog as long as possible, esp. considering this is digital technology. But as I understand it, unless you are using the $3-8,000 decks, the composite plug will suck. Even then, it's still, at least in theory, going to be poor compared to s-video.

Then let's consider how is the final playback VTR set-up (perhaps good ol' VHS)? Likely it's an RF cable or maybe, if you're "lucky," a composite wire. That is, unless it's one of we nuts who make video an obsession. It doesn't take long to make a very nice image, total crap. There can be a lot of weak links.

Sharpness being one of them. It gets a bit noisy/videoesque, but I don't see how you can live with less than +3, at a minimum. When I looked at a 19" tv, I was happy with my cheap D8. Now with the 27" sony, I'm not always all that happy period. Frankly if you were unhappy at 19 (unless it was a real monitor), it's not going to hold up very well.

Under FL lights, I've seen weird color shifts, even man. wt. bal. . But I'm going to try the destatic shutdown process. I just thought it was a type of shift due to elec. cycles.

Go to a 27" tv plug in the cam (s-vid) and shift from regular video to frame mode and watch the image shift in front of your eyes. It gets different. Same with 1/30th. I think that pixel shift tech. HELPS in regular mode. It makes for very smooth image lines. When we shoot straight lines, off-balance, they still look very smooth compared to other cams. I think that pixel shift tech. MAKES frame mode. I'm not going to say anything bad about frame mode, just that I prefer the straight image, at least for most things (bold) I do. 1/30th is pretty cool, and mighty handy, too.

PS I want to know what minidv players don't have firewire? Then again, why would the guys marketing these toys think we'd need firewire? Cut the firewire!! Save another $50. Give yourself another raise!

Bill, what was that about the RGB ports being the worst? Wouldn't three lines in (if possible) be better than y/c?
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