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Old October 21st, 2002, 01:08 PM   #1
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Some Help Please


I've been given the task to purchase a Camera & Editing Suite for wildlife filiming to be used for web & TV screening. The only training I have is that which I found on the net and this forum. Could anyone please suggest some material I could read regarding:

1. Technical spesifications of Cameras. I'm interested in the XL1s.
2. Directing wildlife documentaries.
3. Non linear editing.
4. Anything else useful.

Thank you very much.

Jean K
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Old October 21st, 2002, 01:40 PM   #2
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Look at the Read About It thread on this forum:

The Digital Filmaking Handbook by Ben Long and Sonja Schenk is a pretty good overview.
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Old October 21st, 2002, 01:51 PM   #3
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Thank you for the help!!
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Old October 21st, 2002, 02:13 PM   #4
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Hello Jean and Welcome!
I am not a wildlife videographer but I can perhaps add a useful comment or two (numbered according to your numbers).

1. The XL1s might be an excellent platform for such a task for several reasons.
a. It's compact and lightweight as compared to large professional cameras.
b. Its interchangeable lens sytem might be very handy for the job.
c. The availability of an "EF adapter" for the XL1s opens a wide variety of Canon's tremendous EF lens family for use with the XL1s. The EF family of lenses are designed for still photography but are of excellent quality for videography also. Unless you can convince your subjects to come closer to the camera (could be precarious <g>) the EF lenses might enable you to get shots that would otherwise be impossible with the standard array of XL1s lenses. Use the "Search" button at the top of this page to find more on the "EF" adapter.

2. I've no idea. "Hey, can someone get the shine off of that water buffalo's nose? I'm getting glare."

3. I'm a strong advocate for the Mac platform for editing. A good Mac combined with Final Cut Pro makes for a powerful editing system involving minimal fuss and capable of handling darn near anything you'll ever throw at it. There are also dedicated editing systems such as the Casablanca.

4. Once you've made your camera selection give some dedicated thought to a support system for it. Typically this will be a good tripod but could also be a body-mounted system such as a GlideCam or SteadiCam rig. When selecting a tripod I'd be very inclined to get the lightest, but -most rugged-, legs and head you can afford. It's likely that it will take a beating in the bush. Also, be prepared for sticker shock on high-quality tripods; US$2000+ for such gear are not uncommon prices. But keep in mind that completely steady and reliable support for the camera for long shots is absolutely as essential as the camera itself. The slightest tremor will ruin a 1000 yard shot. Sachtler, Miller, O'Connor and Vinten are brands that come to mind. Bogen/Manfrotto is the most common value brand found for prosumer use but I'm not sure I'd be as confident of them in the middle of the Kalahari with heat, dust and sand. Top-grade tripods/heads are designed to withstand such rigors and still operate smoothly.

Also make sure to set aside some of your budget for rain and dust protection for your camera and lenses. PortaBrace is -the- brand to have for reliability and durability. (See for their entire line.)

Good luck and stay safe! Keep us posted.
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Old October 21st, 2002, 02:56 PM   #5
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There are several wildlife documentary people that hit here from time to time (myself included). I've been producing wildlife documentaries since the late '80's. I started doing them in S-VHS, then moved to Betacam SP and now I use mini DV. The one common thread in all those cameras is the ability to interchange lenses. Canon's XL1s is the least expensive mini DV camera with interchangeable lenses.

How important are interchangeable lenses? The standard 16X zoom lens that comes with the XL1 is the equivalent to 624mm in 35mm terms (or a little over 12X magnification). Now let's take the XL1s and put the Canon EOS EF 100-400mm zoom lens on. Because of the difference in size of the video chips (1/3 inch) and 35mm film the effective focal length of the lens is multiplied by 7.2 The 100-400mm is effectively a 720mm to 2800mm lens. The magnification has gone from a mere 12X to a whopping 56X. This is a tremendous advantage in my work.

What's the down side? Really there aren't many except as Ken noted, tripods. If you want to do smooth flight shots of birds the tripods get hideous expensive. My Vinten Vision 10 was about $6,000 new. You can find suitable tripods used for around $2,000. If you don't do flight shots you can settle for something less with little loss of performance.

The other advantage to the XL1s is weight. There was time I carried 50 to 60 pounds of gear up sides of mountains. Not any more. My legs, back and arms are a little too tired. I've cut the weight of my gear in half by going to the XL1s.

I use Macs for all my editing. Final Cut Pro is a great NLE for documentary work. If you have any additional questions, post back and I'll help as much as I can

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Old October 22nd, 2002, 07:33 AM   #6
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If you go with the EOS/EV 100-400 (which I truly recommend),
avoid a cheap tripod. I went with a Vinten Vision 3 ($2K).
With practice and a smooth flowing motion, you can pan with it fully zoomed
and get some good shots, but it isn't easy.

The images produced while using the EV 100-400 are much sharper
and have better color than the standard 16X.
Jacques Mersereau
University of Michigan-Video Studio Manager
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Old October 22nd, 2002, 12:40 PM   #7
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Thank you for all the great avice guys!!
I don't know what I would have done without it!
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