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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old May 22nd, 2002, 09:49 AM   #1
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Tweaking XL1 Footage

I've been interested to read the various threads here regarding image softness, comparisons of the XL1 and XL1S with the JVC DV500, PD150, etc. I'm still using my "old" (April 1999) XL1 and getting good results. I do my image sharpening in post production using Final Cut Pro 2.0. But I also do a lot of brightness/contrast tweaking and color balance adjustment (to make up for any washed out color due to the lower contrast). With the proper adjustments your video footage can be dramatically improved! I always try to shoot at -3 db or (at most) 0 db (with aperture not more than 5.6) to get the smoothest images. I've found I can significantly improve images using a circular polarizing filter and a UV haze filter at the same time on my 16x and 3x lenses. I ususally shoot in standard interlaced mode for the extra resolution. One of the big problems with the Xl1 and 1S is the limited contrast range. You want to be careful not to blow out the whites and other light colors. This is where the polarizing filter really helps. The clean images of the XL1 and even cleaner images of the 1S lend themselves beautifully to tweaking in post. I can't emphasize this enough. The noisier the image, the less tweakable the footage. How's that for an aphorism! For what its worth, my next major acquisition will probably be the 16x manual servo zoom lens, which I had occasion to try out on an XL1S.
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Old May 22nd, 2002, 10:33 AM   #2
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I agree with you 100% Don. I've also seen a lot of independent/
low-budget movies that would have looked a lot better if they
would have actually had a post-production phase (besides adding
the lightsabers -- need I say more?). There is so much to do
in the area of contrast, brightness and color. Especially color
correction, or color changing even can go a long way.

Ofcourse, no post production can save a bad shot. Try to shoot
it as best as you can and enhance it even further in post, I
believe that together with a good story this is where our strength
as independent and low-budget movie makers truly lies.

Good luck to us all!
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Old May 22nd, 2002, 02:06 PM   #3
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One tweaking tip. If you're using an XL1 or 1S, though this probably applies more to the XL1 as it lacks a sharpness adjustment, when you set the "unsharp mask" video filter be sure not to adjust the pixel setting to greater than "1" (there might be a special effect you're going for that would require using a higher pixel setting, however). With the pixel setting at "1" feel free to dial up your sharpness setting appreciably if needed. The sharpening effect is much more subtle at the "1" pixel setting (using Final Cut Pro). I'll sometimes set the sharpening as high as "60" or higher, depending on the footage. More commonly my setting might be in the 20-40 range. This way you can achieve the sharpness associated with the PD 150 without the video look. I don't see any added noise using these settings. Of course, one major drawback is the time required to render your clip. I'm still using a B&W G3 400, so I just do my rendering on clips while I run errands, do chores or sleep! The rendering can take hours sometimes. But the results are worth it.
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Old May 26th, 2002, 02:50 PM   #4
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Don,
I have tried to use a polarizing filter with the XL-1 to reduce contrast, but found that unless shooting sky or glare at 90 degrees to the sun, it only acted as a neutral density filter. How are you getting the filter to improve the range of contrast under other conditions and not just darken the scene.

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Old May 29th, 2002, 10:08 AM   #5
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Are you using a circular polarizer? You can adjust the filter by rotating the ring to get the desired effect. While you'll get the maximum effect when the sun is at a 90 degree angle, the polarizer can still make quite a difference at other times of the day. I find it reduces glare and and intensifies colors in many situations. Glare reduction really improves contrast performance. Sometimes it's hard to predict what kind of effect the polarizing filter will have. Remember, light can be reflected from various angles, so the effect can range anywhere from slight to great, depending on the scene. Obviously there are situations where you wouldn't need it. But you want to have it with you, since you never know what opportunity might arise to grab that once in a lifetime shot where the polarizer might really make a difference.
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Old May 29th, 2002, 10:32 AM   #6
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I have done some tweaking in post myself, mostly color correction. Now, with the XL-1 I understand you have no control and have to tweak. But the 1S has setting to compensate for sharpness, color saturation, etc. For the most part I prefer not to render clips, just time wise. (My DVStorm system does sharpness and color correction in realtime, so I am lucky.)

It almost seems we should just say "correct lighting is key"...that's aphoristic. :)

>One of the big problems with the Xl1 and 1S
> is the limited contrast range.
>You want to be careful not to blow
> out the whites and other light colors.

I have also noticed the opposite. While trying to keep the highlights down to 100IRE you loose some color saturation. Most stuff I shoot is outdoors and the -3, on camera ND and locked exposure will let me shoot 4.0 to 5.6 and keep everything happy.
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Old May 29th, 2002, 11:24 AM   #7
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Yes, there are advantages to having the XL1S over the XL1. I certainly don't want to do any more rendering than I have to. And I envy you being able to apply a number of effects in real time. With my next computer and Final Cut Pro upgrade, rendering time should be cut drastically. Another tweak I perform is to adjust color balance as I reduce the contrast. By boosting color intensity along the whole RGB spectrum you not only add apparent detail, but compensate for the reduced contrast range. I discovered this through experimentation. Of course, it helps if you've been shooting at the -3 db setting. It is thrilling to be able to take a so-so video clip, say an indoor shot with people standing in front of windows, and tweak it to bring out maximum detail and eliminate glare. You can make your footage look like it was shot with a 2/3 inch chip camcorder with optimal exposure settings, when in fact you're using a 1/3 inch chip camcorder in a "run and gun" video situation. Of course, you don't have to tell people you tweaked the footage. They'll just think you're a real video pro! Ah, the wonders of DV video!
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Old May 29th, 2002, 11:54 AM   #8
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Correction has saved my poor camera setup routine a number of times. I had a blue man crew long before they were popular :)

As far as envy...there are still other issues with the camera that may make you happy to own the XL-1. Let's just say I am happy I ahve a GL-1 for backup.

Anyway, DV is still one of the biggest advacements we'll see for us mid level video guys. And yes, the DVStorm is a great system.
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