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-   -   The answer to better low light = custom settings! (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-xh-series-hdv-camcorders/79133-answer-better-low-light-custom-settings.html)

Ash Greyson November 8th, 2006 12:41 AM

The answer to better low light = custom settings!
 
I dont have the new G1 or A1, I have not even touched one. I am, however, one of the most experienced XL series shooters in the world and I can tell you that on the XL2 and XLH, you can get very good low light performance but you MUST adjust the custom settings. If you add gain to a flat image, you will desaturate color, unnaturally stretch the blacks, create washed out contrasts and introduce grain in the form of noise. Canon has multiple settings to combat each and every one of these side effects of low light shooting and they all work very very well.

All these "tests" I am seeing are ignoring these adjustments. This is not a car seat safety test and comparisons or findings should be done under optimum, not worst case, conditions. Honestly, it is like saying that camera "X" always looks blown out when shooting outside. Ok... so... did you bother to engage an ND filter or close the iris a little?

If anyone needs help with custom settings for specific situations, I would be happy to help. Once you understand how they all work together in different situations, it is pretty easy to tweak for any situation.



ash =o)

Adam Reuter November 8th, 2006 01:52 AM

I disagree
 
I'd have to disagree with you here, Ash. Most lowlight situations are run and gun. Yes, image control can be tweaked for optimum performance but you either have sensitive CCDs or you don't. The PD170 is a fine example...lowlight looks great with default settings. If you've ever seen nightclub footage from these cameras...it's a sight to behold!

I've shot with a JVC DV500 and DV5000. A big difference between the two models is lowlight. The DV500...by default...has poor lowlight. The DV5000 can OVEREXPOSE without turning on gain in low light situations (say...dim hallway fluorescent lights). That's why it has a 1/64 ND filter built-in. The DV500 only has a 1/16 ND filter if I recall correctly. I think that alone tells the story.

Have the tests so far been fair? I'm not sure. Until a reliable source gets a hold of one...I don't think so. This camera is highly configurable and I'm sure there's some way to get...as you say..."optimum images" out of it. I for one hope so...because I'm planning on buying one as my workhorse camera in the very near future!

Don Palomaki November 8th, 2006 05:16 AM

Then again, the Sony may be optimized for low light in its settings or exposure program, while the Canon is optimized for a different shooting domain.

To say that bulk of your of low light shooting is run-and-gun may be a true statement, but that may not apply to others.

Comparison to the PD170 is fair if the reason for buying the A1/G1 is to shoot as one would with a PD170, but then why buy a HDV camcorder?

Each prospective user/buyer must evaluate it in light of their needs, not someone elses.

Henry Cho November 8th, 2006 05:35 AM

ccd sensitivity and default settings are two different things altogether, and there may or may not be a correlation. personally, i have no idea what's happening on the ccd level with any of these cams in their default states, because there is so much happening in-camera by the time the image is put to tape.

regarding tweaking settings vs. zero-time-to-prep run-and-gun, here's a workaround: with the 9 in-camera presets and the virtually limitless amount of presets you can store on the sd card, you can literally store a preset for any given situation, including low light scenarios, you can possibly think of. to access a preset, it's a simple matter of pressing the custom preset button "x" amount of times. it will cycle through the 9 in-camera first, then cycle through the sd card.

ash, thanks for the offer. your xl2 advice has always been a boon to me and the camera's users here. i've posted my low-light clips and settings. how would you reduce noise in the night sky in the skyline +12dB gain clip? i think it looks ok considering 12dB on this cam is a pretty significant boost. i already have some coring and noise reduction going on, and the blacks were stretched.

Chris Hurd November 8th, 2006 06:45 AM

I'm with Ash on this one... the issue isn't as cut and dried as "the CCDs either have the sensitivity or they don't." That's not all there is to it, as Don points out above. As for "run and gun" situations, loading a pre-established Custom Preset, one that you've previously tweaked for low light optimization, it takes all of one button press to trigger the preset. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Jay Stebbins November 8th, 2006 06:55 AM

Ash,

By chance would you have time to write or direct someone in the direction of a tutorial explaining how the different settings counterbalance and effect each other? An overview of sorts?

Thanks,
Jay

Greg Boston November 8th, 2006 07:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jay Stebbins
Ash,

By chance would you have time to write or direct someone in the direction of a tutorial explaining how the different settings counterbalance and effect each other? An overview of sorts?

Thanks,
Jay

Not to jump in here for Ash, but I created a nice low light preset for my XL2 cameras to counter 6db gain (which was fairly clean by itself). I set it up for 30P, added a notch of Noise Reduction, increased the Coring a bit, and stretched the Blacks. Some folks like to crush the blacks in camera but I prefer to get the most lattitude possible in low light while combatting noise.

-gb-

Chris Hurd November 8th, 2006 08:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jay Stebbins
would you have time to write or direct someone in the direction of a tutorial explaining how the different settings counterbalance and effect each other? An overview of sorts?

We're actually working on a fairly comprehensive overview of this... and will be looking for input from several knowledgeable DV Info folks who are XL and XH owners (heads up Ash, you're on that list)!

Tom Roper November 8th, 2006 08:08 AM

When you increase the CORING from say 0 to +4, aren't you "increasing" the detail along with the noise? Or does it work the other direction?

Greg Boston November 8th, 2006 08:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tom Roper
When you increase the CORING from say 0 to +4, aren't you "increasing" the detail along with the noise? Or does it work the other direction?

No, increasing the Coring helps remove noise.

from Canon's XL2 pages on their website...

Quote:

Coring (-6 to +6)


The Coring function on the XL2 is useful in helping to remove image "noise." Coring removes fine detail information that is not a major contributor to the picture detail but which adds noise to the image. You can adjust just how much detail information is removed -- just enough coring to reduce picture noise, but not enough to hurt the detail in the image.
-gb-

Tom Roper November 8th, 2006 08:18 AM

Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks Greg!

Really looking forward to this discussion of settings.

Steve Nunez November 8th, 2006 09:22 AM

What it comes down to is a bit of tradeoff and settings. If you add noise reduction (NR1 and NR2) and setup higher detail coring and tweak line detailing, you risk the loss of fine details and possible "trailing" can come into play exaggerated even more with the lower shutter speeds necessary to achieve very good low-light recording. Lower frame rates help as do open apertures but the real assets lie dormant in the custom settings.....I'm guessing XH A1 owners will become very proficient with their custom settings as the auto settings introduce too much noise at lower light levels.

More than ever this camera will demand mastery of it's custom settings and will reward the user with much better low-light performance. The term "Prosumer" has increased relevance with this camera as the end user will need to fully understand knee-point adjustment, black stretch, master pedestal, gamma curves etc to get the most of this "Prosumer" camcorder.

Professional camcorders for the consumer public- ...we all asked for it- Canon gave it to us!

Matthew Nayman November 8th, 2006 09:37 AM

I am afan or crushing blacks in camera, namely because most noise shows up in dark areas, and I would rather eliminate it. Also, I find black far more appealing than, dull, grey, noisy anything... film registers black as black (with much more latitude of course!) so I like having a lot of latitude in highlights, and crushing the black levels right down!

Steve Nunez November 8th, 2006 09:51 AM

...and the A1 will let you crush away via all the advanced custom settings- Gamma, Knee, Black, Master Pedestal and Setup Level are all present!

Tom Roper November 8th, 2006 10:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Steve Nunez
What it comes down to is a bit of tradeoff and settings. If you add noise reduction (NR1 and NR2) and setup higher detail coring and tweak line detailing, you risk the loss of fine details and possible "trailing" can come into play exaggerated even more with the lower shutter speeds necessary to achieve very good low-light recording. Lower frame rates help as do open apertures but the real assets lie dormant in the custom settings.....I'm guessing XH A1 owners will become very proficient with their custom settings as the auto settings introduce too much noise at lower light levels.

More than ever this camera will demand mastery of it's custom settings and will reward the user with much better low-light performance. The term "Prosumer" has increased relevance with this camera as the end user will need to fully understand knee-point adjustment, black stretch, master pedestal, gamma curves etc to get the most of this "Prosumer" camcorder.

Professional camcorders for the consumer public- ...we all asked for it- Canon gave it to us!

On the flip side, I want the maximum achievable quality and detail when the lighting is strong. The look I want should include a little more punch, a little more vivid, with faithful yet saturated colors, and fine detail.

The out of the box image by that criteria is more muted.

Jacking up the color gain alone is not satisfactory. This is a work in progress, to learn things you have to get your hands dirty and experiment which I am doing, if making a few mistakes in the process. But a conclusion I am coming to is that the color balance is a little off which becomes more apparent as I strive to get more saturation that remains faithful to the scene.

In the ISF world of TV calibration, the term to describe this is grayscale tracking, wherein a 0 to 100 IRE signal is injected and the color decoder is adjusted such that 6500K color temperature is constant across the tracking range.

This is not achieved with simple adds/cuts to the RGB channels, but with the RGB Matrix which Canon has included.

The calibration method has to be different since this is a cam not a monitor. Hopefully someone will shed more light on the best methods. What I did was a manual white balance, then aim the cam at a macbeth color checker card, then tweak on the RGB Matrix parameters until the colors on the card matched the colors seen on the calibrated monitor.

Doug Bennett November 8th, 2006 10:33 AM

looking at the lowlight preset in the spreadsheet in the XLH1 forum the only things that are changed from defaults are black strech, noise reduction and coring.

does changing these settings in camera actually end up capturing more detail in lowlight, or could I just leave the presets at default and achieve the same in post?

does anyone have any other lowlight presets to recommend?

Greg Boston November 8th, 2006 10:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Steve Nunez
More than ever this camera will demand mastery of it's custom settings and will reward the user with much better low-light performance. The term "Prosumer" has increased relevance with this camera as the end user will need to fully understand knee-point adjustment, black stretch, master pedestal, gamma curves etc to get the most of this "Prosumer" camcorder.

Professional camcorders for the consumer public- ...we all asked for it- Canon gave it to us!

Not unlike the XL2 and XLH1 that preceeded it! At least it's not like they dumped it on us all at once. (hehe)

-gb-

Michael Padilla November 8th, 2006 11:18 AM

wedding presets
 
I use the wedding preset for my XL2's and am quite happy with it.. nice colors ok low light.. fairly good run & gun preset.

Can anyone come up with a similar preset for weddings.. my cameras will be delivered on Friday and I have a wedding the next day.. so I wont have the time to play around with it much.. that is if I choose to use them on Saturday.

Thanks!

Doug Bennett November 8th, 2006 11:51 AM

Michael what is the wedding preset? or is that a typo?

Lou Bruno November 8th, 2006 11:58 AM

Preset Name = WEDDINGS
Gamma = 1
Knee = 0
Black = 2
NR = 1
VDetail = 0
Color Matrix = 1
Color Gain = 1
Color Phase = -1
Red = 0
Green = 1
Blue = 1
SetupLevel = 0



Quote:

Originally Posted by Doug Bennett
Michael what is the wedding preset? or is that a typo?


Brent Graham November 8th, 2006 01:11 PM

Hey guys, this is my dream thread considering I've recently received my A1 and I'm really new to a lot of these CP user settings.

Couple questions...

Could someone explain what these do to the image, I'm not seeing huge changes in my LCD and I don't have a monitor:(

Gamma: this seems to increase the steepness of the gamma curve for more contrast?

Knee: this seems to deal with highlights or blowouts, but I don't see a change, even in my zebra zones.

Black: This makes sense, like knee only in blacks, it crushes the near black areas into black areas, or stretches the near black areas into gray ones for more detail (and grain?)

Master Pedestal: I've heard this defined as the darkness setting for the black level, but not really sure how that affects my image, doesn't seem to change in my LCD.

Setup Level: no idea.

Sharpness: this is easy, just like a television sharpness right? Sharper lines?

Horiz Detail: I don't see how my camera or why my camera would want to change it's detail? Please explain.

Detail Horiz Vert: Like above, this makes no sense.

Coring: was defined well above, but what does it do? It removes grain and detail?

NR1: not sure how this works, but the med/hi settings cause ghosting, so I like the low for night shooting CPs

NR2: seems to not cause ghosting but not be as strong as NR1.

Color Matrix: not sure. but I like cine2

Color Gain: saturates colors, or unsaturates for B/W

Color Phase: no idea.

R/G/B gains: these are obvious what they do, but I'm not sure why I'd use them rather than do it in post?

RG~BG matrix: no idea. these don't seem to change anything.


I'm surprised they don't include a manual with pictures illustrating these settings.

Henry Cho November 8th, 2006 01:29 PM

an overview of the settings is here:
http://www.usa.canon.com/app/html/XL..._control.shtml

Brent Graham November 8th, 2006 01:30 PM

Not to double post, I thought I'd share my 'night' settings, seems to work well with or without gain.

GAM: Normal
KNE: Auto
BLK: Stretch
PED: 9
SET: 9
SHP: 9
HDF: M
COR: 9
NR1: L
NR2: H
CMX: N
CGN: 50 <- I thought this made up for the desaturated colors

everything else 0, unless I want to play around with Green Gain for 'night vision' style shooting, but that's easily added in post.

Let me know what you think.

Henry Cho November 8th, 2006 02:02 PM

brent, thanks for sharing your preset.

a few observations:

you have your pedestal and setup level maxxed out. this is what's reducing the contrast in your image... not a bad thing in the right situation and if that's what you're going for. the stretched blacks will preserve details in the shadows. the combination you have is good for shots that have problematic lighting and that you will want to color correct in post.

you have your sharpness at max as well. if this actually is a low light preset, the sharpness will make any noise from adding gain more pronounced.

i found using nr2 at high with nr1 on anything created some degree of ghosting with moving objects.

Henry Cho November 8th, 2006 02:12 PM

let me add, another really nice "image control" option that i don't think is mentioned in the canon link is in the dial in white balance. you can go from super cool to super warm and everything in between by simply rotating a dial.

Brent Graham November 8th, 2006 02:30 PM

Henry,

I think you're right, there is some ghosting. I'm wondering if NR2 is some multiplier of the NR1 setting? As it doesn't seem to do anything when NR1 is off.

I'm using this setting to really stretch my nighttime options. I'm leaving saturday for a hunting trip in Africa and I'm trying to get set up for some night time interviews. I'm willing to sacrifice some quality if it means getting the shot.

Can you suggest a more moderate setting for ped and set? I have enough preset spots for a more moderate night setting.

I turned down the sharpness, seems to help with getting rid of grain.

Does anyone have any feelings on the steven dempsey's panalook? I've copied his settings, but his color gain is a totally different scale...I basically took his gain numbers and multiplied by 5, so color gain=5, R gain=10, G gain=10, B gain=15...how does this look to you guys?

Henry Cho November 8th, 2006 02:54 PM

nr1 and nr2 perform noise reduction in different ways. setting nr1 to "low" by itself reduces noise pretty significantly without introducing too many problems. the consensus, at this point, is that this is the ideal nr setting for low light to maintain a good picture.

keeping your blacks stretched is a good idea to me, since it's not a particular look you're going after. this will keep the details in the shadows, and you can always color correct later. remember that once you go to pure black (or pure white for that matter), details that disappear are gone forever.

also, if we're just talking interviews here, or anything short of a rampaging herd of elephants, cutting your shutter speed from 1/48 to 1/24, or from 1/60 to 1/30, will give you about an extra stop of light with no noticeable slow shutter effects.

if you're going to bump up the gain past +3dB, bump up coring and reduce sharpness to minimize noise.

with enough light to get you good exposure at +6 to +12dB gain, these settings should do the trick.

if all you care about is getting the shot, remember you have access to gain all the way up to +36dB. it will be noisy as hell AND make a candlelight look like a nuclear explosion.

hope that helps.

Steve Nunez November 8th, 2006 03:25 PM

Henry- where is this dial that can be rotated to tweak white balance?
(Are you referring to the dial on the rear that selects menu items???)

Tom Roper November 8th, 2006 03:38 PM

Steve,
Flip the switch underneath the LCD on top of the cam, then press the white balance button to make the temperature readout blink, then rotate the dial at the front next to the exposure lock. Once dialed to the temperature you want, press the white balance again to set it.

Brent Graham November 8th, 2006 03:39 PM

steve,

1) Set the white balance switch to the color temp setting (under the lcd when it's closed)
2) Push the white balance button on the side. The color temp number will begin flashing in the lcd/evf.
3) the wheel on the side of the unit (not the one on the back, the one on the side toward the lens) adjusts the color temp amount, ranging from cool to warm.

This goes all the way up to 12000K, pretty cool!

**edit** what tom said...:)

Steve Nunez November 8th, 2006 03:40 PM

You guys are awesome- how the heck did I miss that?
Thank you!

Brent Graham November 8th, 2006 04:38 PM

something about TOTAL USER CUSTOMIZATION just puts us all in a state of confusion!!!

It's a good thing, I'm sure I'll get back into the country and find out you guys have figured out how to toast bagels with this thing!

Any suggestions for the most 'filmic' colors and contrast?

I've heard people like cinegamma 2, but canon says this is for film out. While cine1 is for tv viewing, what do guys think.

I like a more contrasty image, so I prefer cine2. But I've yet to see my A1 footage on a tv. (I should just shoot some test footage and burn it)

Ash Greyson November 8th, 2006 10:42 PM

I shoot mainly XL2, XLH, HVX, SDX900 and Varicam these days and all those cameras need lots of tweaking to get the best picture. Remember you can save presets, not need to dial them in during run and gun even though at my level I can adjust them in seconds.

What I would really like to see is a text edit based program for these new Canon cameras like the one I use for Varicam. Basically, you can use your laptop to tweak the settings and save that to an SD card to load on the camera. Not only is this easier than navigating the menus in front of clients but it allows us all to share a general pool of knowledge. In any compressed codec, like DV or HDV, you should, IMHO, get as close to what you want for the final, IN camera.

In general, better low light performance will come by setting the gain to +6db, increasing saturation, decreasing sharpness, increasing coring, decreasing the master pedestal, decreasing the setup level (unless you intend to retain lots of shadow details) and engaging the NR function on 1 or low. If you go to +12dB, you just go a little more extreme on the saturation, coring, and sharpness, I generally press the blacks at that much gain as well.

It is personal preference but some people prefer to lower the shutter to 1/24 in 24P or 1/30th in 30P or 60i to avoid have to go to +12db gain.

In general I agree that the Sony cameras are better in low light out of the box but they lack the flexibilty that the Canon cameras have. If you were buying a camera for the SOLE purpose of shooting in low light, the Sony may be the better way to go but all this talk of the Canon producing a poor image in low light is nothing more than operator error or ignorance. I surely dont mean that in any rude way at all, I just dont think people are aware of all the options there are to help low light performance.



ash =o)

Ash Greyson November 8th, 2006 10:47 PM

I am not sure about these cameras but the XLH and XL2 are set up completely FLAT from the factory to retain maximum detail thru all ranges and maximum chroma resolution in a VERY clean image. This can look milky and flat with pastel like colors but all the INFORMATION is there and easily tweaked in post. As stated above, unless you are working in an uncompressed timeline, I think it is better to get as close as possible in camera.

For the record, the Sony F900 is set up just the same from the factory...milky, flat, clean and max detail.



ash =o)

Adam Reuter November 8th, 2006 11:03 PM

Re:
 
Sorry for making that semi-ignorant post yesterday. What I meant by my words was CCD sensitivity matters a lot. Perhaps the Canon is tuned like 100 ISO film is..."finely grained CCDs" that can be "pushed" for more extreme conditions. As I have not been fortunate enough to use this camera myself, I'm just speculating on past experience when it comes to camera sensors and such. Yes...in camera tweaking is very helpful, but a trade-off usually comes with it. To what degree that trade-off affects image quality is what ultimately matters.

If the engaged NR1 low setting at +12 dB does indeed achieve PD170-quality sensitivity/noise level as someone in this post ( http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=79138 ) stated...this camera is my dream come true ;-)

I've been waiting for a low-cost, versatile (wide lens that has a good zoom range, multiple frame modes, SD/HD, supported by multiple NLES), high quality (optically) camera since the HDV format came out. This lowlight capabilities is the one last hurdle that I need to see before taking the leap!

Ash Greyson November 9th, 2006 01:40 AM

PD-170 is the unrivaled champion of lowlight, you will not get that from any HD camera with 1/3" or smaller CCDs. When you pack the pixels in tighter, you lose some low light performance. The PD-170 is really an event camera and can actually make things look more lit than the naked eye while adding minimal noise. At this point, I just dont think these low end HD cameras are right...or even needed for most event shooting.

If by low light you mean natural and available light under normal conditions...then you will be fine... if by low light you mean, can get a clean image in a candle lit room... then the PD170 or a 2/3" CCD camera is the only way to go...


ash =o)

Bill Doyle November 9th, 2006 06:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
I shoot mainly XL2, XLH, HVX, SDX900 and Varicam these days and all those cameras need lots of tweaking to get the best picture. Remember you can save presets, not need to dial them in during run and gun even though at my level I can adjust them in seconds.

What I would really like to see is a text edit based program for these new Canon cameras like the one I use for Varicam. Basically, you can use your laptop to tweak the settings and save that to an SD card to load on the camera. Not only is this easier than navigating the menus in front of clients but it allows us all to share a general pool of knowledge. In any compressed codec, like DV or HDV, you should, IMHO, get as close to what you want for the final, IN camera.

In general, better low light performance will come by setting the gain to +6db, increasing saturation, decreasing sharpness, increasing coring, decreasing the master pedestal, decreasing the setup level (unless you intend to retain lots of shadow details) and engaging the NR function on 1 or low. If you go to +12dB, you just go a little more extreme on the saturation, coring, and sharpness, I generally press the blacks at that much gain as well.

It is personal preference but some people prefer to lower the shutter to 1/24 in 24P or 1/30th in 30P or 60i to avoid have to go to +12db gain.

In general I agree that the Sony cameras are better in low light out of the box but they lack the flexibilty that the Canon cameras have. If you were buying a camera for the SOLE purpose of shooting in low light, the Sony may be the better way to go but all this talk of the Canon producing a poor image in low light is nothing more than operator error or ignorance. I surely dont mean that in any rude way at all, I just dont think people are aware of all the options there are to help low light performance.



ash =o)

Ash brings up a good point with regard to a computer-based solution for editing and saving presets. Does anybody know if Canon's Console will do this? I have been trying to decide whether dv Rack or Console would be better for me and certainly the ability to easily manipulate custom settings would be a big factor. Once people start to post custom settings, I think we'll really see the ability of this camera. I pick mine up next week and coming from a GL-1, I don't think I'll be disappointed.

Don Palomaki November 9th, 2006 07:08 PM

Laws of physics apply, smaller pixels means less output for the same incident light. And if I recall correctly, dsired image output goes up with the area of the pixel, while noise increases with the square root of the area, so larger pixels will have better signal to noise ratios, other things being equal.

More pixels in the same physical area means worse signal to noise ratio. Signal processing tricks can mask the noise to a surprising extent.

Ash Greyson November 9th, 2006 11:47 PM

Correct Don but it is interesting to note that the XL2 packs in many more pixels than the DVX but it has a MUCH cleaner image... like you said, there are ways to mask the inherent issues.



ash =o)

Bruce S. Yarock November 10th, 2006 07:18 AM

Ash,
Here's the low light preset I was using on my XL2.I transfered it to the H1,and it doesn't cut it. The factory preset is better than this. I'm thinking that it's because on the XL2 (if I remember correctly-mine is sold and shipped)) the range is from -5 to +5, while on the H1 it's -9 to +9. And I basicaly copied the same numbers from the XL2 to the H1 (eg. master ped at -4 on the XL2 to -4 on the H1). Any thoughts on this problem?
Bruce S. Yarock
www.yarock.com

My previous low light preset (contrast needed in post).
Gamma = 1
Knee = 0
Black = 2
NR = 0
VDetail = 0
Color Matrix = 1
Color Gain = 2
Color Phase = 1
Red = 0
Green = -1
Blue = 1
SetupLevel = -4
Sharpness = 0
Coring = +2
MasterPed = -4


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