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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old August 28th, 2002, 09:38 AM   #1
 
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Suggested filters for XL1

Cinematographer Barry Braverman suggested the following for the Canon XL1. I presume the same would apply to the XL1s.

"Undoubtedly one of the most popular DV cameras in the world, my test XL1 model came equipped with a 16X auto-focus lens and an image in desperate need of a professional makeover. Featuring the harshest image of any camera I tested, the XL1's visual quality may only be described as "grating with a strong curse."

"Videomaker Susan di Rende of Los Angeles says the look is reminiscent of a "poorly played brass instrument. Hyper-reality at its worst," she adds, even as she continues to use the camera precisely for its hyper-real look.

"Di Rende's preferences notwithstanding, I was able to dramatically improve the XL1's performance. While the old standby 1/2 Black Pro Mist proved to be of little help, producing a murky and confused image (even at a 1/4 and 1/8 grades), the camera responded well to Tiffen's new 1/2 Black Diffusion FX filter. The resultant image is tasteful and sharp; the diffused look not at all obvious or brassy. What a difference!

"The Soft FX offers another excellent solution for XL1 owners, although this filter, even in the minimum 1/2 grade, may be a bit heavy for nonfiction applications. The principal difference between the Black Diffusion FX and Soft FX is the degree of apparent diffusion. The Soft FX produces a noticeably diffused look while the Black Diffusion FX maintains absolute sharpness along with the diffusion. Incredible!

"One world of caution however if you're considering the Black Diffusion FX for your XL-1 (or other small-format DV camera). Like any similar filter (or net) with large image elements or engravings, the BDFX should NOT be used with your lens at full-wide position and stopped down beyond F4. In other words when shooting exteriors, you MUST maintain an F4 or larger iris setting to prevent the filter element pattern from appearing on the screen."

Barry Braverman is a veteran director of photography based in Los Angeles with more than 18 years of experience as a nonfiction specialist.
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Old August 30th, 2002, 04:55 PM   #2
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I agree with Barry.

I used the BDFX last September in bright daylight for a shhot around an outdoor pool. It worked quite well at removing the "edginess" of the video signal, while still maintaining clarity. Had to use some ND to help maintain a wide open setting on the lens.

Check out my review at http://www.dvinfo.net/articles/production/berube1.php

- don
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 02:16 AM   #3
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Great post!

I am shooting some Independent movies with the Canon XL and was wondering which filter you would recommend:

-- 1/2 Black Diffusion FX filter
or
--The Soft FX

The reason I ask is that you said the soft FX filter, even in the minimum 1/2 grade, may be a bit heavy for nonfiction applications.

I'm assuming you say this because you are using the filter for documentary type work. Should I go with the Soft FX filter since I am making non-fictional movies or would you still recommend the 1/2 Black Diffusion FX filter?

Also, where can I purchase these items at good prices?
Thank you for your time.
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 02:54 AM   #4
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Start off with the Black Pro Mist in a 1/2 value. SOmething tells me that you may enjoy the 1 value as well - check it out.

Look for the TIFFEN "Film Look" DV Filter Kit as well, decent collection of filters plus a nice carrying case.

ZGC.com 973-335-4460 ask for Mizell - he's the man, fair and square, but not too square! He's pretty cool actually and very knowledgeable. :o)

- don
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 06:31 AM   #5
 
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Todd, I prefer the Black Diffusion FX over the Black Pro Mist, which just seemed, to me, to muddy the image.

I'm using the Black Diffusion FX as Barry suggested for shots with people (interior/exterior). The Soft FX is used for exterior shots without people.

Currently, I'm shooting a series of tests with these two filters and the XL1s (using its varied settings). I plan to make them avaiable on my web site in the very near future. I'll post the link when they're ready.

Don suggested looking into the "film look" filter kit. I did and wasn't happy with the results. However, no two shooters see things the same way. Mine, too, was a consideration of price vs. equipment. I already had some of those filters. And I like to travel light--whether I'm shooting documentary or narrative. I guess one could accuse me of being a "minimalist" in my approach. I'm of the school that says, "Less is more."
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 06:39 AM   #6
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You've lost me.... what is a 1/2 Black Diffusion FX filter ??

Ross
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 06:44 AM   #7
 
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Sorry, Ross. The Black Diffusion FX 1/2 (sometimes referred to as .5) is a filter used to modify the video's image, which some think is too "edgy." This filter softens or reduces the "edgy" look while maintaining the image sharpness.

Visit http://www.tiffen.com/black__diffusion.htm and take a look. They explain it very well with image samples.
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 07:20 AM   #8
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Thanks, as they say you learn something new every day.

Ross
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 09:14 AM   #9
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I wanted to thank everyone for their responses. You have greatly helped me.
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 09:44 AM   #10
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One more thing, concerning the Black Diffusion FX for the XL is the size. Is the 72mm the size that should be used for the camera?
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 10:14 AM   #11
 
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Yes, 72mm for the XL1/s.
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 02:00 PM   #12
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Jay, thank you so much for your help. I did want to clarify one more thing regarding the Black Diffusion FX filter. I have heard it gives more of a film look to movies. Is this true?

Thanks
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 03:34 PM   #13
 
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I wouldn't say that it makes video look more like film. It does seem to soften the "hard edge" that the video has, as compared to film while maintaining the sharpness of the image. As so many others have said elsewhere, there are several things that contribute to the "film look." The filters are just one. The contributors are frame rate (24 vs. 30 fps), scanning method (progressive vs. interlaced), depth of field (shallow vs. deep), and perhaps most importantly, lighting. In all honesty, when I look at video shot this way, I can still see a difference.

I came into all this from film. Frankly, I never thought video looked good at all. Electronic moving images were, in my mind, a bastard child. Up until a very few years ago, when Sony sent me a demo tape of their new Digital Beta camera, did I even start to think about video as a viable alternative to film. With the advent of the Canon XL1, and like cameras, was I willing to totally make the switch. It didn't (and still doesn't) look like film, but for me it has a quality and beauty all its own. I like and appreciate the way it looks. It is able, in its own way, to deliver some very subtle images when applied correctly.

For example, a couple of years ago I worked on a documentary about the composer Chopin. Some of the footage was shoot in France (NTSC, not PAL). The images very clearly showed the subtle varations in the tones of faded, stained stucco on the old buildings. It was beautiful! The same can be said about people, too--when lit and shot properly! But it doesn't look like film.

Frankly, (see below on my thoughts about opinions) I think the person who invests in video (rental or purchase) and then bends over backwards to make the image "look like film" is being rather silly. If you (in the editorial sense) want the film look, then shoot on film. If shooting on film has become cost prohibitive, like it has for me, then shoot on digital video and accept the image for what it is and for it can do. Like independent filmmaker Jon Jost said, DV is a medium and it has its own aesthetic qualities. Personally, I'm still learning what they are!

This is all very similar to the XL1's "new" lens stink. Instead of appreciating it for what it was, too many users complained about what it wasn't. Hence, they never learned to master the tool itself nor learned how to apply it to their circumstances. Their loss.

A long-winded answer to a very brief question. Sorry!
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 05:17 PM   #14
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No problem Jay. Your opinion on the film look issue was very informative. I guess I should explain why I asked the question.
I am in the process of making an independent film with my Canon XL and submitting it to some film festivals. I want the best look possible so that my movie doesn't come off looking too cheesy.
The script is strong enough to support the quality of the actual picture, so I guess I shouldn't be worried. I was just looking for any helpful tips. Most festivals realize that alot of people submit work with DV, so I guess this isn't even a problem to consider.
I'm just hoping (like everyone in the business) to get noticed through my work and hopefully have something come of it.

Thanks again for your time.
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 05:24 PM   #15
 
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Todd, please don't misunderstand. I wasn't criticizing you or your desire to get the best possible image. I never thought you were be critical of video, either. Hopefully, all of us are striving for the best images in all that we do.

If you have a strong story--in my mind the most important thing--and if you can deliver it in a professional way, be it on film or video, I don't think you'll have any problems. Of course, you must have strong actors. I'd put them right up there with a strong story/script! Even the most beautiful images can not save poor acting.
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