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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old May 14th, 2003, 03:14 AM   #1
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Bringing the best out of the XL1/XL1S

hi all,

May be shooting my short film on a XL1 and would like to know what are the settings that can bring the best quality out of this camcorder. Posted a similar post in the PD150 forum as still not sure which cam i am able to get.

Below are some issues I though of

1) Colour intensity - Should be neutral. Its better to adjust this in Premiere or FCP.

2) Sharpness - Soft. Using the same logic as digital photo imaging, shapening of image should always be left at the last stage and in a much better software than the one in the camcorder.

3) WB - As of from a white paper

4) Auto Gain Limit - 0. The higher the gain, the higher the noise in the image. (Is it possible to use a photography light meter to meter for the camcorder when i set gain limit to zero? Is it the same as setting the ISO to a constant? If so, what is it most likely to be? ISO100? ISO200?)

5) Casette - Mini DV but shoot in DVCAM format (as suggested in the operating manual)

6) Progressive scan - should i set this on ?

7) Frame Mode - should i set this one? since this supposedly gives a "cinematic look"?

8) Audio - I know absolutely nothing about this as I am a photographer, only knows about image. Just set to the max volume during recording? Use a off camera mic? Please advise

9) 16:9 or normal - Normal. I figured it out. But can i do to how it will look like in 16:9 croped?

Also, what are the equivalent focal length of the lens on the XL1/XL1S as that os a 35mm camera? eg. 28mm-80mm.

Please see if my logic on the above is right and advise on anything that I may have missed out.

It also seems that many pple in the industry I know use the PD150 as the "first" camera and the XL1/XL1s as the "second camera". Is there something about the XL1 that makes them have this habit?

THanks

Cheers
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Old May 14th, 2003, 05:32 AM   #2
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A few thoughts

There has been much discussion of equivalent ISO and light meter use. Video does not have the same dynamic range as film, and video can give immediate exposure feedback on the monitor (consider it to be an expensive light meter), so ISO is not as meaningful or necessary. Light meters are sometimes used when lighting a set without a video camera present to check lighting.

Adjusting gain is a bit like push processing, and has somewhat similar image effects. Depending on how you measure it, the ISO of the XL1 at 0 dB gain is on the order of 200, give or take a stop.

The XL1/XL1s are MiniDV only. You can use blank DVCAM tape if you feel the higher cost and quality standard are worth it for your shoot.

Frame mode has a progressive scan-like effect, but is not true progressive scan. Whether or not to use frame mode depends on the visual effect you are trying to achieve. Standard movie mode deals with motion better than frame mode and has a bit better vertical resolution.

Read the threads in the audio section. There is an art to it, just as there is to composing the image. An on camera mic is only good for ambient sound, very poor for dialog, especially if the speaker is more than a few feet away. If you know nothing about audio, try the automatic setting first, then expirment with manual settings. You do not want the sound to start clipping - results in gross distortion. Pros will use external mics for most shooting.

Lens equivalents are nominal because 35mm still has an aspect ration of 2:3 while NTSC video is 3:4. With that in mind, the standard XL1 lens is nominally equivalent to about a 38mm lens on 35mm still camera at the wide setting, with a 16x zoom ratio.
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Old May 14th, 2003, 05:32 AM   #3
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Hi Ong....

1) Colour intensity - Should be neutral. Its better to adjust this in Premiere or FCP.

I prefer to shoot neutral and adjust color in post. If you do shoot neutral then be sure to get a good white balance. It's hard to undo something that is far off from a normal white balance.

2) Sharpness - Soft. Using the same logic as digital photo imaging, sharpening of image should always be left at the last stage and in a much better software than the one in the camcorder.

Sharpening control isn't available on the XL1, just the XL1s. Some NLE's have sharpening available as an option, but it probably requires rendering. You're right about the procedure used in digital photography. Just be aware that with video it's 30 low-resolution images per second, and applying any filters often takes up lots of computer processing time, especially if it's a custom unsharp mask setting.

3) WB - As of from a white paper

Some white paper has a faint bluish tinge, such as Epson's Archival Matte paper. Whatever you use, be sure to use the same one for consistency.

4) Auto Gain Limit - 0. (Is it possible to use a photography light meter to meter for the camcorder when i set gain limit to zero?

Set your gain to zero or -3 to minimize noise. Depends on the situation. As for meters, some people use 'em. Most don't. Many will depend on a monitor and see for themselves exactly what they'll be getting. Using a meter requires that you know precisely how sensitive your imaging system is under all the available settings, and what it's tonal range limits are at each one.

It's taking the zone system and applying it to video. Tremendous potential, but a real pain in the --- if it's going to be done exactly right. Faster (and some say better) to get a good field monitor and eyeball it. Back that up with a waveform monitor if necessary (if the situation allows all that much hardware). The waveform monitor will give you the video equivalent of a histogram. Valuable info.

5) Casette - Mini DV but shoot in DVCAM format (as suggested in the operating manual)

The XL1 shoots only in Mini DV.

6) Progressive scan - should i set this on ?
7) Frame Mode - should i set this one? since this supposedly gives a "cinematic look"?

Stick to standard 60i for maximum sharpness. Anything else will look softer. Do a few tests to find out exactly how soft.

8) Audio - I know absolutely nothing about this as I am a photographer, only knows about image. Just set to the max volume during recording? Use a off camera mic? Please advise

There are strict limits to digital audio. My "real" job is being the chief photog of a newspaper but in my side business I'm lucky to know a few professionals who truly understand and master audio. Just as you can't get it too dark or too light in photos, you shouldn't get it too soft or too loud in audio. Especially with digital audio -- extreme adjustments don't sound too good. You might want to let the camera's automatic level control handle it until you become comfortable with audio. It's a whole seperate discipline.

9) 16:9 or normal - Normal. I figured it out. But can i do to how it will look like in 16:9 croped?

The XL1 only shows full 4:3 aspect ratio. The XL1s provides cropping guides to show where the 16:9 frame is. "shooting to protect 16:9" is a good idea as it'll allow you the option of going either way in post production. But if you're a stickler for composition, it's not the best way to go.

Also, what are the equivalent focal length of the lens on the XL1/XL1S as that os a 35mm camera? eg. 28mm-80mm.

I think the standard lens is about equal to a 35mm - 560mm zoom. As for the XL1 and XL1s being a "second camera", it's the first and second camera for me. They're all I got...!

Dean Sensui
Base Two Productions
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Old May 14th, 2003, 11:36 AM   #4
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Regarding gain: a lot of people indeed just check the image in
the viewfinder, on the monitor etc. BUT, do not underestimate
the value of the ZEBRA STRIPES. I have mine set lower than
the maximum level to leave a bit of headroom. This way I can
easily see when something is overexposed or not. With my
settings some zebra stripes in the image won't be a problem
because I have some headroom available (due to my lower
setting)
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