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Old November 11th, 2010, 08:30 PM   #1
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Greetings to everyone, my name is Vlady Gerasimov and I am a student in the American University in Bulgaria. The reason I signed up for this forum is that I am a part of a student extra curricular organization called More Honors (www.more-honors.org; More Honors | Facebook) which has been around for nearly 15 years now, shooting short clips. Our business is mainly shooting funny shorts, that at the end of every year are a part of a show, a mock of the Oscars, with an attendance of at least 1400 people, or at least that's what it was in the beginning. More Honors has evolved since its creation into a huge event, for which our team of 19 people prepares for a year. Our videos have ranged from simple ideas caught on a small camcoder, to elaborate flicks with a lot of effort put into them, sometimes even months worth of work.

Each video represents a category, and for each category there are nominated students, who get a statuette. Our categories vary over the years, but some examples are Casanova of the Year, Alcohol Friendly, Gossip, Lazy, Future Leader, Lifetime Achievement etc.

Having this introduction out of the way, I can now cut to the chase. Thank you for bearing with me so far.

Last year we got a present - a Canon XH-A1s, Rhode shotgun mic with two vibration reduction holders, a mic pole, and a Manfrotto tripod with 501HDV fluid head.

That's basically the equipment we have, apart from the editing and post production PCs.

What would you recommend that we invest into next? We have a tight budget - almost all of our money goes to renting equipment for the show in the end of the year.

Also, I have read a lot about the XH-A1s camera, and I couldn't completely grasp the turning off the AGC. Why and how do I do that, besides just flicking the button?

There is one more thing that is really puzzling to me. The aperture of our lens can be open to f1.6, but somehow I cannot get the blur and bokeh that an aperture that open should normally get. Why is that?

Audiowise, can this camera record two separate channels from two independent mics, as opposed to recording left channel from one and right channel from the other? And I'm not asking about the built in mic, but what would happen if we plug in a shotgun mic in channel 1 and an ambient mic in channel 2 to get the lower and higher frequencies separately.

I am sorry to blurt all of this out at once like this, thank you very much in advance for the patience, I will look forward to your answers.

Best,
Vlady Gerasimov
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Old November 11th, 2010, 10:41 PM   #2
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"What would you recommend that we invest into next? We have a tight budget - almost all of our money goes to renting equipment for the show in the end of the year."

Depends on how tight your budget is. Assuming it is very tight, I suggest getting another microphone. If you are shooting a stage, I also suggest a couple of mike stands and many meters of XLR cable. (You put the mikes at the in front of the stage and run the cables to your camera which is probably in the back or side of the room someplace.) If your are shooting in other kinds of venues, I suggest a wireless lavalier such as the Senheiser G3 with an omni rather than cardoid mic. You can run the lavalier in parallel with the Rode. (I'll talk about channels below.) If you have a little more money and ready access to microphones, I suggest you get a tapeless recording unit, such as the Datavideo DN60 or the Sony MRC1k. Wireless recording will rgeatly speed up editing and assembly of programs. Another thing to consider is llights. (I am not able to give you recommendations on lights as I do use them. Sorry.)

"I couldn't completely grasp the turning off the AGC. Why and how do I do that, besides just flicking the button?"

That is it. You just set the AGC switch to off (the position towards the back of the camera.) The reason you want AGC off is his: it can and often will make your pictures look fuzzy or grainy even when shooting a well lit scene. To me, the auto-gain on the XHA1 is very poorly implemented. The camera is otherwise so capable, that I recommend leaving AGC off. If you are shooting something that is not well lit, set the camera in AV, TV or M mode and start with the "L" position on the "Gain" toggle switch (the silver colored one below the AGC). Boost the gain to "M" (or "H") only when all else fails.

Also, check out the library of downloadable presets. XH Custom Presets Download Library (copy)

"The aperture of our lens can be open to f1.6, but somehow I cannot get the blur and bokeh that an aperture that open should normally get. Why is that?"

Not quite sure what you mean by "normally get." Maybe you are comparing the XHA1 images to what you would see with still camera (a 35mm camera or DSLR)? If that is what we are talking abut, you need to understand that you have hit on one of the basic differences between video cameras and other kinds of camaers. Most video cameras (those without changeable lenses) are designed for a rather deep depth-of-field (DOF). This enables them to deal easily with rapidly changing subjects. Film cameras and still cameras (and some video cameras with the ability to change lenses) can have shallow DoF with all that entails (bokeh, blur, etc.) It is just how the camera is designed. There are ways of working around the design with the XHA1 if you really do want shallow depth of field. To find threads discussing those techniques, do a search in the XH forum using the terms "depth of field" and "DoF."

"Audiowise, can this camera record two separate channels from two independent mics, as opposed to recording left channel from one and right channel from the other? And I'm not asking about the built in mic, but what would happen if we plug in a shotgun mic in channel 1 and an ambient mic in channel 2 to get the lower and higher frequencies separately."

Yes. You can use channel 1 and 2 as stereo right and left or you can convert them to separate mono channels. It has to be done in your editing software. I'The camera simply records what comes in each channel.
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Old November 12th, 2010, 05:10 AM   #3
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Thank you very much for your reply.

I was wondering exactly about the DOF, I thought it might have something to do with the type of camera, but I thought that if some DSLR can shoot video with a shallow DOF, why not with this one as well, if the lens is good enough.

About the sound, it seems that we still have a long way to go. We haven't yet tried using a dedicated audio capture device, but based on what I've read so far, it seems like a good idea. We haven't done slating as well, which should prove to be a challenge...

Anyways, thank you very much again!

Lighting is also a matter of interest. We do have a lighting kit, but it's limited to two projectors with stands, some filters (blue, orange, white), diffuser, and an umbrella. As far as my knowledge goes, we need at least three light sources, correct?
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