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drew_town

The Competative XL1s

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Hey everyone,

 

I'll be participating in a filmmaking competition soon. It's one of those contests in which you have 48 hours to make a short film/video from start to finish. I've participated twice before and both times this one team has racked up with the cinematography award. This guy is able to shoot the most unbelievable footage with his XL1s. When his footage is projected in puts all the other hi-def projects to shame. I've been to school and I know a lot about lighting and exposure and so on, but this other guy is always one step up. The most noticeable thing about his footage is the complete lack of noise- no grain even when projected and his images are always very detailed and crisp. We both shoot on an XL1s that are pretty outfitted. I've got a 14x manual lens and some nice lens filters. I've got some nice lights (arris and ltms). I think this guy has a follow focus and maybe even a matte box (which I don't). I was wondering if anyone had some tips to really take the XL1s format to the next level. We'll be transfering our footage to D9 and editing 8-bit uncompressed the whole way. Editing on FCP. But if you guys have some secrets that might help me compete with this guy I'd really appreciate it. I'll make sure to give you guys some props in the credits too. Thanks.

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Only thing I would suggest is to use a good production monitor while you're shooting, and make sure it is calibrated properly, which is easy with the SMPTE color bars that the XL1S produces. Good luck.

 

-Tim

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the lack of grain is probably do to the fact that you have a setting on the camera, I THINK its called db or something like that, and the less of that you have, the less digital "Grain" or noise you'll get. set to 0db the camera will have less of an ability to see in dark areas, but it will be less "grainy". Set it to a higher db and it will have the ability to see into the dark more, but it will also introduce noise or grain. For instance, look at collateral, while shot with some HD and not XL1, still it tells you my point. Michael Mann wanted to "see" more into the LA night, which required upping the db, and adding the very noticeable grain.

 

My unexperianced advice is shoot in as light of places as possible, so you dont have to use the db setting. Or If you need to shoot in dark areas, just bring leave it @ 0db, which will look pretty good.

 

Im still not sure its called db, but I think it is?

 

I find it hard to beleive that ANY XL anything could be better than HD. XL1/2 is DV, HD is well, HD. Canon has like 400,000 pixels on there XL1/2, Sony HD has 2.2 Million. I rest my case.

 

Most of the other guys success is probably do a lot to lighting, remember, to get ride of that horrible DV look:

 

1. Shoot @ 24p if possible.

2. DO NOT light flat.

3. Shoot 16x9 is possible.

 

However, take my post with a grain of salt, because I have no personal experiance with camera work, more less an XL1/2.

 

Someone correct me if I'm wronge. Thanks. And good luck your project!

 

As to the matte box thing, that should'nt make a HUGE difference.

Edited by Landon D. Parks

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>>a setting on the camera, I THINK its called db or something like that...

>>Im still not sure its called db, but I think it is?

 

It's called "Gain." What it does is amplify the signal coming from the image block to a degree higher (or lower, when using negative values) than is considered normal for that camera, and the amount is measured in decibels (dB). +6dB is approximately a one stop sensitivity gain. Accordingly, -3dB would be a loss of sensitivity by half a stop, but also means cleaner images. Use it if the option is available and when lighting permits it.

 

 

>>Canon has like 400,000 pixels on there XL1/2, Sony HD has 2.2 Million. I rest

>>my case.

 

It's not just about the pixel count - how each camera renders colors, handles contrast ratios, etc. makes a significant difference. For example, a Panasonic SDX900 has the same 720x480/576 resolution as any cheap camcorder, but will produce superior images.

 

Though, as was mentioned, lighting and composition are key, and are what can make one production really stand out from the others.

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***Update***

 

We finished shooting this short. The -3dB gain setting made a big difference in reducing grain and so did editing 8-bit uncompressed. We spent a lot of time on lighting and I think it paid off. The screening will be on the 26th and I can't wait to see it projected (yeah I know most people dread that but I'm optimistic). A couple of tips that I'd like to share that we learned while we were shooting:

 

1. Shoot a lot of extreme close-ups. You're able to bring out the fine details when you keep everything tight.

2. Always shoot a take or two where you pull the focus. These shots really kept the image moving and were easy to do when you shoot the tight shots.

3. The handheld shots always looked better than the tripod shots. Even if I was really trying to hold it perfectly still the handheld versions look a lot better.

 

I've included a couple of stills for you to critiqure if you'd like.

 

Thanks for the input.

post-1980-1109104478.jpg

post-1980-1109104500.jpg

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I'm not a post-prod. guy

And I know this is not the place in the forum to ask about post-production...

 

But please could someone enlighten me as to what is 8-bit uncompressed editing?

How is that managed and what kinda tools are necessary for it?

 

Thanks and please don't report me :)

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what is 8-bit uncompressed editing?

 

Well when you capture your footage straight from your dv tape to your computer, chances are you're working with DV compression (which I think is 4:2:0 compression). By copying the footage over to D9 tapes you can use an AJA box and XRaid (in our case) and capture 8-bit uncompressed (which is 4:2:2). You get a lot more color information which cleans up a picture and reduces noise.

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***Update***

 

We finished shooting this short. The -3dB gain setting made a big difference in reducing grain and so did editing 8-bit uncompressed. We spent a lot of time on lighting and I think it paid off. The screening will be on the 26th and I can't wait to see it projected (yeah I know most people dread that but I'm optimistic). A couple of tips that I'd like to share that we learned while we were shooting:

 

1. Shoot a lot of extreme close-ups. You're able to bring out the fine details when you keep everything tight.

2. Always shoot a take or two where you pull the focus. These shots really kept the image moving and were easy to do when you shoot the tight shots.

3. The handheld shots always looked better than the tripod shots. Even if I was really trying to hold it perfectly still the handheld versions look a lot better.

 

I've included a couple of stills for you to critiqure if you'd like.

 

Thanks for the input.

 

 

Hi drew...

 

I like the still pic u attached,it looks really good, btw may I know how do u achieve the Toe shot? what lens do u use?

 

Thanks!

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Well when you capture your footage straight from your dv tape to your computer, chances are you're working with DV compression (which I think is 4:2:0 compression). By copying the footage over to D9 tapes you can use an AJA box and XRaid (in our case) and capture 8-bit uncompressed (which is 4:2:2). You get a lot more color information which cleans up a picture and reduces noise.

 

 

Please tell me more about this... i still dont get it! where could i find more info about this..

 

 

thanx

 

ciao

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Well when you capture your footage straight from your dv tape to your computer, chances are you're working with DV compression (which I think is 4:2:0 compression). By copying the footage over to D9 tapes you can use an AJA box and XRaid (in our case) and capture 8-bit uncompressed (which is 4:2:2). You get a lot more color information which cleans up a picture and reduces noise.

You don't get any more picture information than what was originally recorded to the DV tape. This is at 4:2:0 (if shooting PAL) or 4:1:1 (if shooting NTSC). "Capturing" (which really should be called "copying" in my opinion), doesn't compress anything when dealing with DV. You are just moving data from one storage device to another (i.e. from tape to disk). "Dubbing" to a superior format doesn't "clean up" or alter the original picture. The only advantage to doing this is being able to manipulate the footage during editing in a larger color space and without generation loss. The same exact thing can be accomplished by capturing (copying) DV footage to your computer and transcoding it to a higher quality codec in the computer. This is what dubbing to D9 does -- it "transcodes" the video to a different format, albeit with unnecessary hardware.

 

Working in 4:2:2 is only advantageous when doing color correction or compositing. But again, if you are transcoding DV to a better format, the color information was already lost long ago -- your composites will still be limited by the 4:2:0 or 4:1:1 color sampling that was originally recorded to DV tape. Color correction in 4:2:2 will be better, as well as working with footage that undergoes multiple compression states. But this can all be done by transcoding to a different codec in the PC like HuffYUV or working uncompressed.

 

Another thing to keep in mind is when editing DV footage cuts-only, you don't necessarily go through recompression stage. it is entirely possible to capture DV, edit it, and then go back to tape without ever suffering a generation loss. And, it is even possible to edit, transcode to 4:2:2 and then color correct without losing any information. Once you go BACK to DV though, you suffer generation loss. If you STAY in an uncompressed state, you don't lose anything.

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You don't get any more picture information than what was originally recorded to the DV tape.

Thomas you're right. But what I don't like is how non-linear editors handle the dv codec. It's more of a rendering thing like when you add the widescreen mattes and ultimately render out your final project. You'll easily notice an improvement in image clarity when working uncomp. DV captured clips appear hazy. I'm not exactly sure why that is and the difference is only apparant to those who have both formats to compare. It's not going to make or break a picture, but I wanted to improve our footage anyway I could. Also it is much easier to composite and color correct especially when you're working with secondary color correction. I know we'd have better quality (source material) if we'd taken the D9 cameras out but that wasn't an option for this short. The reason we dubbed instead of transcoding is so we didn't tie up the computer and it was just sitting there. And we were shooting NTSC so it's 4:1:1 to clarify. Instead of going back to dv we mastered to D9. One more thing too, when you work with text in the dv codec, it looks hazy just like the footage. Uncomp cleans that up too. If anyone else would like to comment please do. I've tried this a couple of times and have been happier with the results.

 

And to answer tristan's question: we used a 14x manual lens on our XL1s to get the toe shot. You probably can't do it with the standard lens because there's no macro mode. You'd need a "close-up" set and I don't think you'd get the same result.

 

Would anyone be interested in seeing the short? If someone can suggest somewhere online I could post it I'd be up for that. It's a little over 4 mins.

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DV captured clips appear hazy.

The haziness you describe could be caused by the video card's video overlay. If you are using the overlay, and it is not adjusted properly, it will be an inaccurate representation of your video. ALWAYS use an external CRT video monitor. I am unsure of whether your D9 editing / hardware setup supports an external monitor, but if not, then you can't really make an accurate judgment.

 

what I don't like is how non-linear editors handle the dv codec

I agree -- I personally don't like how any editor handles DV footage except Avid and the Avid DV codec. I've used them all and I think Avid is the way to go for DV.

 

By the way, I never add widescreen mattes in the editor. It's an unnecessary step that forces recompression of every frame. Adding a widescreen matte can be easily performed by the MPEG2 encoder.

 

Kudos on the Canon 14x. It's a great lens. It really gives the XL1 more of a "camera" feel. Here's an even nicer alternative:

 

fujinon_xl1.jpg

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That's a nice setup. I wouldn't guess the servo works with that setup but I bet it'll shoot some nice stuff. If Canon had put a iris on the 16x manual lens, that thing would be the bomb. I just can't give up the iris on the 14x for 16x. B)

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Well when you capture your footage straight from your dv tape to your computer, chances are you're working with DV compression (which I think is 4:2:0 compression). By copying the footage over to D9 tapes you can use an AJA box and XRaid (in our case) and capture 8-bit uncompressed (which is 4:2:2). You get a lot more color information which cleans up a picture and reduces noise.

 

Any1 can xplain to me D9 and AJA box & X raid? some kinds of footage storage? sorry bro I am news to all this just wana learn more.....

 

Thanks!

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