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Old October 9th, 2002, 04:09 PM   #1
scotland469
 
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Soft Picture with XL1S (Please Help!)

I have a brand new Canon XL1S. The footage from my first three shoots has received much criticism from other editors and videographers for having a "soft" picture. On these first three shoots (two dance performances, and a very straight-forward music video), there were two important factors: first, that I was taping from quite a long distance away from the stage behind the audience; and two, the stage lighting was very dynamic and intense.
On the two dance performances, I taped in manual mode only mainly because of the lighting. The picture is in focus, but is not very sharp. On the music video, I taped in Full Auto, but the comments from the editor were the same: soft picture. It was
especially obvious, because the other camera used for the video was a PD100, and its image was totally sharper.

I decided to do a two camera shoot for a wedding with the XLS1 and a PD100, where the lighting would be consistent and the distance would not be a factor. The XLS1's picture is softer than the PD100, but not to the extreme that it was in the music
video. One videographer said immediately when he saw the music video, that I needed to adjust the "back focus." Of course, the XL1S doesn't have a backfocus adjustment, but there is a sharpness adjustment. However, B&H and a Canon Rep told me that you shouldn't have to adjust the sharpness, the default setting should not give a "soft" picture at all.

Do you have any advice???

Thanks!

Scotland
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Old October 14th, 2002, 04:47 AM   #2
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Several things: Are you shooting in frame or normal mode? Frame mode is inherently softer than normal (I just read 25% less vertical resolution).

Also, the XL1s has three custom presets available. With these, you can adjust sharpness, as well as setup levels and color saturation, if need be. The PD100 is a Sony, correct? This means you're mixing cameras, a difficult task at the outset.

Do you have two monitors simultaneously available through which you can view the signal from both cameras at the same time? You could put them side by side and tweak one camera or the other or both until they look close.

I want to add that whether you have adjustable back focus depends on which lens you are using. I'm guessing you're using the stock lens, so you'd be right. Camera techs adjust the back focus on that lens. If it's a manual 16x (I don't know about the 14x) then you do actually have a back focus.
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Old October 14th, 2002, 07:22 PM   #3
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Soft Picture

I saw this post and it motivated me to do some experimenting with my XL-1s. For the most part I like the "softer" Canon look. But there have been a few times I wished it were a little sharper, so I decided to shoot some test footage and look at it.

I went into the menu and turned on one of the custom presets to full sharpness. I also bumped the system control a tad. The result was video that looked more like that the Sony cameras produce. Just to make sure, I shot some stuff side by side with a friend's VX 2000. We tweaked the XL-1s on one shot, checking the results by hooking up a monitor to both the Canon and the Sony. We got so close neither of us could tell the difference. We didn't have do do any color adjusting, by the way.

Your mention of being told you shouldn't have to adjust the sharpness bothered me some. If that were the case, why would they give you the ability to do it?
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Old October 14th, 2002, 07:54 PM   #4
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Scotland, just thought of something.

Do you have your digital zoom turned on? If so, this will lower your resolution once it gets past the lens's 16x. I believe it's because at this point you're simply enlarging the pixels in the full 16x zoom, rather than moving elements of the lens to get a narrower angle of view (that's what makes sense in my head, I have no idea if it's connected to reality). But the digital zoom will definitely lower resolution. I always have mine off. I'd recommend you do too, unless you're shooting for a private investigator or that show "Cheaters" or something.
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Old October 14th, 2002, 11:16 PM   #5
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Scot

Myself, and a few others on this board, had a similar experience with our new xl1s's. After being frustrated with problems of softness, I finally sent the camera back to canon. It came back with a note saying "returned to factory spec"...whatever they did (probably adjusting the back focus), it was a great improvement. And while the default look of the xl1s is still a little soft for my taste, it can be sharpened with camera presets to produce a nicely sharp image.

A couple of other things to look out for. As stated, the frame mode could be part of the culprit, but also your fstop...I think the xl1s lens is soft below f4, so make sure you keep it around 5.6 if possible. Also you didn't mention the amount of the stage you were getting in your shot. DV in general, and the xl1s in particular are not very sharp in "wide shot" situations (don't confuse this with wide angle). Add strong concert lighting, and you can be looking at glowing fuzzy aliens if you aren't zoomed in a fair amount.

Barry
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Old October 15th, 2002, 01:43 AM   #6
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As far as softness, I'd read you shouldn't stop down more than f8, but I think you meant going in the other direction.
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Old October 23rd, 2002, 12:09 PM   #7
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6 months of trial and error taught me:

+2 sharpness with contrasty situations (white being a concern)
+3 sharpness with less contrasty situtations (will intro. a little noise and any more gets too "video-y")
+2 setup works for me +1 will at least help a great deal.

I mix a 1S, pd100a and I'm needing to crank the sharpness on the pd150 to match (generally used a bit wider). I use cross-dissolve transitions to "soften the blow" of using different cams.

and of course, manual WB and no AF (push AF's pretty good, though)
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Old October 24th, 2002, 10:14 AM   #8
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If you're going to take your footage into post production, you're probably best off lowering the sharpness in camera to very little. The sharpen tools in After Effects or similar applications are generally much better at enhancing the sharpness of the image, without introducing image noise (which is in it's turn problematic for the DV codec, which will degrade image quality). The smooter/softer the image, the better for the codec. So make sure you have maximum focus, but leave the sharpening to postproduction, if you have the chance.

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Old October 25th, 2002, 01:21 PM   #9
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I'm sure Barend is correct, it's just that I hate to render. With 3 cams for an hour I'm at about 40 gig's and I've usually got two projects open and not tons of HD room plus, the time for rendering. I usually need to render one of the streams for balance. If I did each one, I'd do the sharpening in post, too.

PS - there is some wrath regarding the 900/100a's picture. It's got a sony sharpening preset (non-changeable) that's pretty high. Too bad it can't be dialed down a bit. Still mighty good considering I bought mine used for half the price of the 150 (also used) and about a third of the xl1S.

$10k for a dsr300 would've been nice, but I like three cams a whole lot!
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