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Canon XL H Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XL H1S (with SDI), Canon XL H1A (without SDI). Also XL H1.

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Old February 26th, 2006, 06:09 PM   #1
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Opera Shoot-XL H1 & HD P2 Impressions & Pics

Okay, I've had the XL H1 for a couple months, but this was really its first big test. For the production of "Salome'," I had to be invisible and shoot from the back of the theater. I shot both Friday and Sunday's show and am editing it together down to 1 show intercut between Wides on Friday and CU's on Sunday. (Not an easy task, but these people are pretty consistent in their performances.) Here are some notes:

-The H1 is incredible. I say this a lot on these boards, but I don't care if it's HDV, 4:0:0:0:0 color space, color aberrational, etc. :-) It just shoots really great video. I shot the opera in 24F mode and with the stage lighting and costuming, it looks extremely filmic.
-One big difference between the Z1, HVX200 and the Canon that does not get enough attention is the lense. The Canon lense is 20x compared to 12x of others. I was frequently at 20x for CU's. The other cameras would not have been able to come close to this from the back of the theater. 20x saved me on this as it did on another live music shoot I did this weekend.
-The grain was a little bit more than I wanted, but I shot at +6 db the entire show because of the minimal stage lighting (very dark story) and being so zoomed in. For +6 db gain, I think the grain is not only acceptable, but looks fine with this more filmic look. I would not shoot anything more than +6db or you'll really start seeing it. Strangely enough, on the SD output (real time from Kona card), you don't see the grain at all. With the higher res of HD, you can see it. (It always looks worse in stills, unfortunately.)
-Autofocus is nearly worthless in a situation like this (low light, constant movement). Don't bother. I shot manual focus the entire time. Very tricky because they were walking closer and farther all the time...zoomed in all the way, this makes a big difference. Next time, I'll use the "feet" numbers on the zoom (to middle stage, to front of stage). This way, I can roughly do it by the numbers. Very handy tool.
-The audio on the camera sounded very good. I didn't use it, but could have. Much better than I would expect from on-camera mics.
-One final note, off camera-topic: I luckily kept my Pelican case nearby. Once people were seated, I had to bring my tripod (Cartoni Focus, single stage) as high as it would go. I had to stand on the case the whole show. Worked great...never collapsed...no heads in the shots.)

-This unit worked flawlessly. It records 2 tracks to .wav files on a compact flash or microdrive. I got the 6 gig microdrive that allowed for approx 8 hours recording.
-Best thing about this? Untethered! I was shooting from the best place VISUALLY, but it was lousy for audio (under the mezzanine.) I had my audio guy go on top of the mezzanine where it sounded much better.
-We had no problems setting this unit up or recording with it. The sound was great...we used a Sennheiser TLM103 and Senneiser MKH-60 to record.
-Plug it into a mac and it comes up as a disk. Just drag the .wav files into FCP and sync them up...no problem. It can also do TC sync, but we didn't test this yet.

Let me know if you have any questions. I think the other cameras are great filmmaking cameras, but I don't know how you can beat the H1 for this type of work. Lense alone was worth the extra cost. Not sure what the client would think if all I could give them was a full body shot, rather than nice close-ups.

On my .mac account, I have some stills in the OperaNC folder. Grab the ones with the date for nice long shots. Some closeups are in the other 2 folders (Solame', Joch). Here is the link:


One final note. They used some of these HD stills for photos in newspapers for reviews. Just another advantage of shooting high def over standard def...they'd look horrible SD, but were pretty nice in HD.
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Old February 26th, 2006, 06:23 PM   #2
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+6 db on the H1 is just great

I must add, I have the same experience. Shot a pretty hard lit runway show for a client and shot it all at +6 db gain - great looking footage, nearly no visible grain, not on mine 23" cinema display anyway. H1 is so good with low light. And for that kind of circumstances - isn't it great to have the "dial" white balance? Talked with lighting guys - they told what they had in mind for colour temperature - and then just dial in 3500 K - so great!!!
Jonas Nyström, DoP :: HOT SHOT® SWEDEN :: www.hotshot.nu :: RED #1567, RED 18-50mm T3 :: XL A1, Letus Extreme :: XL H1, 20X & 6X lens (for sale) :: www.vimeo.com/nystrom
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Old February 26th, 2006, 08:23 PM   #3
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Thanks for the great report Kevin...now I want a Tascam HD-P2 unit.

The more I use the 20x the more I am impressed with it. No, it's not like a manual lens, but it has amazing reach and stabilization, and overall, wonderful sharpness, contrast and quality. I've come to really love the focal distance readout too. Anyone that thinks you can't repeat focus with the stock H1 lens is either unfamiliar with this feature or just being ignorant.

Not a whole lot of angst out there with this camera, it would seem. Too bad the price has kept a lot of folks from coming aboard.
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Old February 26th, 2006, 08:37 PM   #4
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Nice Work Kevin. Hey - who designed that set anyway? But what about the dance of the seven veils - was she really wearing that costume, or did she do it the real way like this? http://tech.operaphilly.com/sets/salome/1995/2.jpeg ;-)

But seriously, those are some nice images from the H1!
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Old February 26th, 2006, 09:49 PM   #5
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Yes, Boyd. They did it the same way, but I was instructed to pan away during the final "unveiling." :-) Nice set...the local paper thought so, too:

"Virtually every element of this production was right.

Deserving first mention is artistic director Robert Galbraith's confident, creative direction, filled with thoughtful motivations, focused action and beautifully balanced stage pictures. Galbraith was aided by the stunning setting (from the Opera Company of Philadelphia), with its massive palace doors and flaming torches adorning imposing stone walls. Ken Yunker's subtle, ever-changing lighting and Patricia Herbert's rich costumes completed the company's most impressive physical production."

Good work!

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