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Old December 26th, 2008, 10:05 AM   #1
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Need Advice on Canon XH-A1 etc.

Hello all, I just recently entered into the world of independent film making with my acquisition of the Canon XH-A1 (No Complaints yet) but I do have a few questions for your experts here at DVI. I plan on making documentaries and short films, but mostly the latter. Here are my questions:

1. I have multiple tripods lying around my home, however, I need a tripod that can pan and tilt fluidly and without any hiccups. Any suggestions? Is there a great tripod under two-hundred bucks that does this well? If I said fluid 2-way head would I be correct?

2. I've heard a lot about the dangers of using the camera's playback. Are these substantial claims? Will it kill the heads? Can I use it to move my footage onto my computer (via firewire)?

3. I purchased the Sony HDV 1080i tapes to use on my Canon XH-A1. So far they have worked fantastic. Lots of people warn against using a different brand of tapes on the same camera. Any thoughts?

4. I was told in a tutorial video, before you start to film on any video camera, to fast forward through the entire tape then completely rewind to adjust the tapes tension to the cameras liking - never heard of this before it was mentioned by the video instructor - anyone have an idea if this is true or practical?

Thanks for everything in guys...really appreciate the help.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 10:52 AM   #2
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1. For 200 bucks I doubt there's a tripod that's going to be very smooth. The cheapest I've found is the Libec 22, but it's barely adequate. It is smooth and quite useable, but it's over $400.

2. There's no real problem using a camera for loading footage. I've been doing it for a couple of years, no problems. I don't log individual takes; instead I load in approximately 20 minute chunks. If you log every take you put more wear and tear on the mechanism, but even then it shouldn't hurt the camera. My objection to using the camera as a deck is it's slower than a regular deck, but since I've been doing it, it's not as big a hassle as I thought it would be. I wouldn't want to do it in an edit suite with a client around paying by the hour and having to search back and forth through dozens of tapes.

3. I'm using Sony's overpriced Digital Mastering tapes (about $16 each). Absolutely no problems at all. Not a single dropout. I started with Panasonic's AMQ tapes and they were great for the first few, but then I had a really bad batch with serious dropouts on five out of 10 tapes, then on some others. Cleaned my heads, switched to Sony with no trouble. I have a client who uses the cheap Sony Premium tapes and they haven't reported any problems. I prefer the best quality tape I can get.

4. That's one of those old wive's tales that is a waste of time. Back in the 3/4" days, some people did it thinking it might help avoid tape jams in the old decks, but there was never any evidence it really worked. The problems were usually the mechanism, not the way the tape was wound at the factory.

If your camera is new, it's a good idea to use your head cleaning tape once before shooting anything. I use mine after around 50 hours, or after shooting in dusty conditions.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 10:56 AM   #3
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Hi and welcome to DVi!

I'm not a pro, but I'll try to answer your questions.

1. Forget it. For a good tripod with a fluid head I suggest to start looking in the $1000 range and up. I suggest checking out Manfrotto.

2. Many prefer to use cheaper camcorders as decks, the bonus is you get a "free" b camera.
However I don't think that you have to worry about wearing out heads unless you plan to shoot several tapes every day for the life of the camera.
If you decide you need a bcam for XHA1, get HV20 or HV30, because you need a cam that can capture 24p hdv to pc (compatibility issue), besides those are great cams on their own.

3. It doesn't mean you can't use Sony brand tapes on Canon camcorder, you can use any brand, but if you decide to switch tape brand, clean the camera with a head cleaning tape.
Btw, you don't need HDV labelled tape to shoot hdv, usual good quality minidv tapes are totally fine too, and you save lots of money.

4. I've heard the same, but never done or experimented with it, too impractical, ihmo, but it may be true.

edit: Damn, too late, Bill got there first. :)
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Old December 26th, 2008, 11:07 AM   #4
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Welcome to the A1. I love this camera.

1. I have an inexpensive tripod that has been working fine for us for over a year now: The Matthews M25. It was inexpensive (currently listed on B&H at $185) and works just fine for my/our needs. I do Automotive product installation videos and talking-head product info videos, so I usually don't have much movement of the camera on the tripod. I don't think that it is fluid in any way, but it was inexpensive and works great for us. Though it does have a tendency to want to tilt forward if I have the WD-H72 wide-angle installed. Again, inexpensive, but works pretty good.

2. I don't have any issues with this. I don't have a deck, so I load everything into the PC by playing the tape back on the A1.

3. I use Panasonic Advanced Master DV tapes. They aren't very pricey and they work just great. I think that any DV tape can record HDV, but the true HDV tapes might be higher quality. But the same 1's and 0's are still recorded either way.

4. I don't know anything about forwarding throught the whole tape and then rewinding it to reset it. I do subscribe to the notion of recording 30 seconds of color bars to the beginning of each tape.

Enjoy the A1!
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Old December 26th, 2008, 11:11 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will Mahoney View Post
Welcome to the A1. I love this camera.

1. I have an inexpensive tripod that has been working fine for us for over a year now: The Matthews M25. It was inexpensive (currently listed on B&H at $185) and works just fine for my/our needs. I do Automotive product installation videos and talking-head product info videos, so I usually don't have much movement of the camera on the tripod. I don't think that it is fluid in any way, but it was inexpensive and works great for us. Though it does have a tendency to want to tilt forward if I have the WD-H72 wide-angle installed. Again, inexpensive, but works pretty good.

2. I don't have any issues with this. I don't have a deck, so I load everything into the PC by playing the tape back on the A1.

3. I use Panasonic Advanced Master DV tapes. They aren't very pricey and they work just great. I think that any DV tape can record HDV, but the true HDV tapes might be higher quality. But the same 1's and 0's are still recorded either way.

4. I don't know anything about forwarding throught the whole tape and then rewinding it to reset it. I do subscribe to the notion of recording 30 seconds of color bars to the beginning of each tape.

Enjoy the A1!
What exactly is the purpose of of recording the color bars? I'm sure it has something to do with the tapes colors, but what exactly?
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Old December 26th, 2008, 11:15 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Andris Krastins View Post
Hi and welcome to DVi!

I'm not a pro, but I'll try to answer your questions.

1. Forget it. For a good tripod with a fluid head I suggest to start looking in the $1000 range and up. I suggest checking out Manfrotto.

2. Many prefer to use cheaper camcorders as decks, the bonus is you get a "free" b camera.
However I don't think that you have to worry about wearing out heads unless you plan to shoot several tapes every day for the life of the camera.
If you decide you need a bcam for XHA1, get HV20 or HV30, because you need a cam that can capture 24p hdv to pc (compatibility issue), besides those are great cams on their own.

3. It doesn't mean you can't use Sony brand tapes on Canon camcorder, you can use any brand, but if you decide to switch tape brand, clean the camera with a head cleaning tape.
Btw, you don't need HDV labelled tape to shoot hdv, usual good quality minidv tapes are totally fine too, and you save lots of money.

4. I've heard the same, but never done or experimented with it, too impractical, ihmo, but it may be true.

edit: Damn, too late, Bill got there first. :)
In reference to your answer to my second question - Does this mean I cannot capture my Canon XH-A1's footage directly to my PC (Using Adobe Premiere Pro CS4) using firewire?
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Old December 26th, 2008, 11:20 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Alex Manning View Post
In reference to your answer to my second question - Does this mean I cannot capture my Canon XH-A1's footage directly to my PC (Using Adobe Premiere Pro CS4) using firewire?
Of course you can, if by directly you mean capturing using XHA1. I don't see how my post could have suggested otherwise. :)

p.s. I really suggest getting a good tripod, if you want to make short films. It's very frustrating if the shot fails just because of a poor head or wobbly legs, actors and crew won't love you, when you say "just one more time, guys" for the Nth time.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 11:28 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Andris Krastins View Post
Of course you can, if by directly you mean capturing using XHA1. I don't see how my post could have suggested otherwise. :)

p.s. I really suggest getting a good tripod, if you want to make short films. It's very frustrating if the shot fails just because of a poor head or wobbly legs, actors and crew won't love you, when you say "just one more time, guys" for the Nth time.
Haha, good suggestion. I don't that to happen ;-) I must have misread your post...thanks for clarifying! I just want a tripod that doesn't have that "skip" when trying to pan or tilt you know.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 12:44 PM   #9
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Here's an inxpensive tripod that we bought as an experiment. It's not up to our Cartonis or Sachtlers, , but it's light, adequate for the XHa1, and though the head settings are non-adjustable, they are smooth enough for our purposes (news). : Matthews | M25 Tripod System | M25 | B&H Photo Video

This is the Matthews M25, less than $200; cleverly made and the guy who got his hands on it turned in a Sachtler and won't give the Matthews up, says his back feels way better at the end of the day. I guess it depends on your needs. This job has a lot of plastic on it, but it's not shabby.

2. Pre-tensioning tape in Mini-Dv seems unnecessary in my experience.

3. Conventional wisdom is pick a tape brand and stick with it. Some tapes (Sony and Panasonic, I am told) use wet-lube, and others (JVC, Maxell,etc) use a dry lube; either one is fine but mixing the two makes goop that can clog your heads. Or so the urban legend goes. FWIW we use tons of Maxell DV-M63 Master tapes, which we buy on-line with quantity discount for about $4.50 each, with complete satisfaction.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 12:50 PM   #10
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color bars question

Presumably the color bars and tone give you a starting place for calibrating your footage. In practical use, the only thing we do with them is record 20 secs at the head of the tape to give log-and-capture in Final Cut space to respond to the input from the Sony decks we log from --- there is a little lag in the system responding and this avoids losing any of the first clip. Our practice is to "capture now" the entire tape, so we just start the capture and go get coffee.../Battle Vaughan/miamiherald.com video team
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Old December 26th, 2008, 01:01 PM   #11
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The Matthews tripod was recommended to me as the best value for money. There are much better tripods - but not at that price. There's a review here on dvinfoif you search for it. I've been very happy with mine and whenever I feel it's not as good as I would like and starting looking for an upgrade, the amount would have to spend to get a significantly better one for my A1 puts me off again.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 01:07 PM   #12
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if you are going to waste money on a sub $200 tripod, then the M25 is the way to go. If you want tripod you will be happy with, go with Libec.

JS
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Old December 26th, 2008, 01:35 PM   #13
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http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/tripod-st...thews-m25.html

If you are seriously into making films, you need a better tripod than the either of these, whoever makes the bits.
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Old December 26th, 2008, 08:41 PM   #14
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I mentioned the Libec 22 as being barely adequate. It is smooth but you will get bounceback at the end of a pan. That is controllable if you engage the lock right at the end of the move. That can be done without causing a lurch. However, after using the 22 for a few days, I sold it and got a Libec 38. No bounceback and it handles the weight of the camera with shotgun mic, wireless receiver and mattebox OK. Still, it's not as good as a $1600 Gitzo or the Libec 55. In my case I needed something as small and lightweight as I could get. You can use a really cheap tripod if you don't make many moves, but I wouldn't go under the Libec 22. A friend has one of those sub-$200 Matthews tripods and it's fine for locked down shots but that's about it. I was able to make a wide angle pan smoothly, but moving around at a longer focal length was problematic. Still, if that's all a guy can afford at the time, you can make do with it. Better than shooting everything hand held.
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Old December 27th, 2008, 08:12 PM   #15
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Re:30 sec of bars and tone.

In theory, one reason for the bars and tone is to calibrate the edit system to the color and audio levels of the incoming media. But probably one of the best reasons for doing it is that it is typically the first part of the tape that is more suseptable to damage than other parts of the tape. If something goes wrong during the loading, threading, rewinding operations of the deck, it is usually the front of the tape that gets damaged. So if something does get damaged somehow, it is better if it isn't the money shot. Another small issue is that some decks pull out more tape when loading than others. If your much needed footage is right on the front of the tape, it is possible that the playback deck may not be able to get to it. How many times have you rewound a tape and then you noticed it will only go back to where 2 or 3 seconds displaying on the time code. It happens all the time.
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