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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old February 1st, 2009, 11:16 AM   #1
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Best way to control color on XL1a?

I'm running two of these -- and the color shifts wildly between them. My close-up camera steers toward magenta, and the wide-angle is hopelessly yellow. I've tried to white-balance using a graycard, but the color shift is still obvious. It just turns real blue, the other is blue-yellow (weird!). We have warm incandescent lighting...

To compound the problem, I'm shooting in a very dark church sanctuary, AND I'm in the very back.

Is there another way to get the color working right? We can't afford to get new cameras, otherwise I'd ditch these clunkers and get HDVs...
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Old February 1st, 2009, 02:44 PM   #2
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Those cameras have internal menus with several color-centric settings. SEe if they're set the same first off, and then, if they are (and the cameras still don't match), find, if you can, a calibrated production monitor and hook both cameras up to it (you should be able to do both simultaneously if you use the RCAs. . .though you might have to buy RCA/Bnc Adapters first). Then just switch between inputs A/B on the monitor to check each camera and fiddle with whatever needs to be fiddled with on the cams to make them match. If you can't find a real monitor, I guess a regular TV might do.

Also, try the indoor presets for white balance instead of doing it manually, see what that does (you probably already do this).

I hate to ask 'cause it'll seem like i think you're dumb (I don't), but when you white balance them, are you pointing both cams at the exact same spot? What I mean is, leave the card where it is, point both cams at it, then white balance each.

XL1s was a good camera in its day (if I hadn't wanted 24p capability I"d still have mine), but an odd choice for shooting in a dark environment---not nearly the most sensitive camera in that class of camcorders that could've been purchased.
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Old February 1st, 2009, 04:33 PM   #3
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Hi Ted.............

I echo what Josh said about pushing you're luck with an XL1s (you did mean "s", didn't you? Never heard of a XL1a) in such an environment.

However, that notwithstanding, you need to do a test (if it hasn't already been done).

You need to switch the cameras so you're "close up" cam is doing the "wides" and vice versa.

If the colour shift (close up - magenta) and (wide - yellow) still holds, then you cannot be WB'ing in the same colour light that you're subsequently shooting in.

Windows, especially stained glass, can cause havoc.

If, on the other hand, the colour shift changes after the swap, you may have a CB problem with one of the cams, tho' if they're both still off (but different) you're going to have you're work cut out to find it.

Probably "preaching to the converted" here, but you must have the grey card at exactly the location of your chosen target when setting manual WB, which, in the case of your "close up" cam will probably necessitate taking the cam up to the front of house, unless your grey card is huge.

Going back to your light sources, double check the "warm white incandescent" hasn't been thrown out by someone sneaking in a gas discharge or flouro somewhere.

As for natural lighting, depending on what there is and how it's getting there, it's possible you'll never get the WB right in a mixed environment.

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Old February 1st, 2009, 04:49 PM   #4
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I didn't think of the crazy mixed lighting conditions. Try all the preset white balances (tungsten, outdoor, auto), see if any of them look right. Compare what your naked eye sees to the cam's EVF. If the light doesn't change WHILE YOU ARE SHOOTING (I capitalize because if the light changes at different times of the day than when you're taping, who cares? As long as it's constant when you need it), auto white balance might even work for you.

Also, keep in mind the white balance isn't magic. It negates what it sees in attempt to make the color temperature "neutral". So if your grey card is getting hit with blue light, it's going to compensate by making your picture more orange, and vice versa. If the camera sees super blue, it will go super orange (ugly!). If it sees green, it'll go magenta, and vice versa. What I'm getting at is that you can get weird results if whatever light is hitting your grey card is odd. . .say, sun coming through stained glass mixed with indoor lighting. The camera'll never be able to work with all that.
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 08:54 AM   #5
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No windows to worry about here, just very dim house lights.

The stage is lit nicely, tho.

I used a Panny DVX100a for wide angle last week and the difference was astounding. Razor sharp and spot on color. The XL was way off.

My mistake on the XL1a -- it's the very first version of the camera (not the S model or a first gen. revision)

Both XL1 cams suffer from occassional gain and shutter shift, even on manual. LAst Sunday, the closeup cam slid darker and darker as the service progressed -- the camera guys don't touch the controls, just pan from left to right. I ran downstairs to look at the settings, and it was wide open -- gain at 12, f2.8, shutter 1/60, and it looked like -3gain, f6, 1/300. I fiddled with it and the brightness came back.

Both cams do this, btw.

Thanks for the graycard and monitor tips -- never thought to put it in the same spot for both cameras...
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 09:07 PM   #6
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There is NO color control in an original XL1 other than manual white balance.

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Old February 4th, 2009, 05:24 AM   #7
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One approach is to try getting a selection of lightly colored colored cards and manual white balance on them instead of a gray card. Experiment until you find the correct color cards to get the best match. In general, the video color will shift in the opposite direction from the color card you use. E.g., if you want the video to be more blue, use a yellow card. While not perfect and a bit of a pain, it can help. Do fine tuning in post.
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Old March 6th, 2009, 03:46 PM   #8
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Fix it in Post

I have had these same problems with the XL1a cameras...

Just leave them set to WB for indoors (light bulb) - and forget about trying to match the two on location - even with white cards... the low/different lighting in a church setting, or any on location "natural" setting will never give you perfect results...

even the most basic of editors now has a decent color corrector - you can match footage fairly easily and quickly, esp if your talking about being stationary for the whole shoot (like a wedding ceremony, on tripods for 90 percent of it)

even with my XL1s's I really do the same thing - no camera can match exactly at different angles at different distances without being able to 100% control the lighting - studio use is different, which is where WB set comes in very nicely :-)

Anyways, just my 2 cents - also, agreed about XL1a's in a dim church - maybe not the best choice, but if it's all you have, then that's all you have - +12, and pray for min grain in your blacks :-)

On other thing - don't ever use the AWB on these cameras - I did that ONCE in a church, and the color would change all on it's own - so, that was a FUN time in Post, fixing all that footage :-) - it's almost better to be a little bit wrong, but consistant :-)
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