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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old September 17th, 2004, 04:02 PM   #1
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Traditional film focusing

I am not a video expert, I work mostly in film and even then, I am more of just a director who likes to operate his own camera. I have heard about some dv cameras being difficult to focus with.

I am wondering, with a manual lens on the XL2, is there is way to focus by using the traditional tape measure? In other words, is the focal plane marked on the camera somewhere?

I am used to working this way, I feel more confident about what I am doing. Also, for depth of field purposes, I usually like to know what that specifically is.

I am thinking about upgrading to an XL2 with a manual lens.

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Old September 17th, 2004, 04:25 PM   #2
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Hi Jim, we're similar in that respect. I've always been the creative director and director on our projects but more and more have enjoyed being behind the camera. That's why I got the first Xl1 and the new XL2.

I've been shooting for a while with the XL and Mini35 using primes and more critical focus.

A manual lens with the XL2 works nicely (I use the 14x full manual), nut the stock 20x is a very nice peice of glass as well and serves different purposes.

The short answer is "no" you won't have the critical focus markings you're use also won't be dealing with anywhere near the shallow DOF obviously.

Like anything else, shooting this way is an aquired skill and one that you'll likely adapt pretty quickly to. I move between the two and have gotten very used to it.

Charles Papert is someone with a much deeper experience in both mediums. I don't know if he's got his XL2 yet...I'm anxious to hear his thoughts.
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Old September 17th, 2004, 04:58 PM   #3
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Jim G, are you saying that you can't do that sort of focussing even with as lens like the 16x manual?

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Old September 17th, 2004, 05:14 PM   #4
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We set up the xl1, a focus chart, the 16 and 14 manual lenses, and measure and mark the barrels. Eyeball the film plane by looking at the prisim inside the body. Rough work, but it does the job. As the dof is not as critical in film, it's "good 'nuff".
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Old September 17th, 2004, 06:00 PM   #5
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I would think that for most situations where you might be getting out a tape measure...the "zoom in --focus--zoom out and reframe" technique would be the most accurate, and easiest way to focus in a locked down environment...The new zoom preset on the Auto lens is nice for this, but it would be a recommended method for the manual lens as well. I use this technique with every DV camera I own...not just the xl2. The none of the viewfinders are detailed enough allow accurate focusing at mid to wide zoom settings in my view.

There are barrel markings on the Manual zoom, but they aren't extremely detailed like ones on a cine lens. (no index marks on the rotating barrel).

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Old September 18th, 2004, 12:13 AM   #6
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I think you guys have pretty much covered it! I can't say that I've ever used the barrel markings on my 14x, since they are so few and close together. I use a Chrosziel follow focus and on the occasion, for a long lens critical focus shot, we will mark the ring on the follow focus knob. You really do have to be well into the long end of the lens to require critical attention to focus. As far as knowing the depth of field, with DV it's usually more about going through hoops to force something out of focus rather than knowing what will actually hold, which is usually too much!

Jim (Exton), if I can share my perspective as one who jumps between film and digital, I have found that there are certain things that are appropriately translatable between the mediums (lighting, framing, etc) and others that are specific to the individual medium (focus issues as described above; using a light meter vs the monitor, insisting on proper slating technique when the audio is being recorded directly to the camera, etc).

The only way I can imagine using a tape for focus with any effectiveness would be to expand the short travel of the manual lens by using a wireless lens control like the Preston FI&Z, Bartech, etc. The dial on the controller could then be taped out using a chart with a finer scale, similar to what one sees on cine lenses. But honestly--it just seems like overkill.

(The Mini35, as Jim Gilberti indicates, requires nearly identical attention as if one were shooting 35mm. I say "nearly" because the groundglass as well as the limited resolution of the medium presents a bit of a slop factor to critical focus).
Charles Papert
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Old September 18th, 2004, 02:45 PM   #7
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Thanks for y'all's help. I was thinking that is the way things were for video, but wasn't sure.

Since I started out in Super 8mm where you zoom in, focus, zoom out to frame, I can work that way. I was just hoping I could tape focus as well.

It will just take awhile to get used to the adjustment.
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