Dancing with Light

Canon XL H1

I never have been a fan of the Canon XL design and it looked cumbersome to do any hand held shooting because it is shoulder supported.  I went in with mild expectations and finished the week being a fan of the camera.

I was hoping to do some shooting at night, which I very seldom have done.  That opportunity presented itself with some night exterior recordings.  We staged some one being chased on a street and the only light used was 2 small Litepanels in which the talent occasionally ran into the lighted area.  I used the Canon and another member of the class used the Sony Z1.  We sat at the back of a van and opened the doors.  The Litepanels were on two c-stand arms fastened as one and rested on the van doors. The Litepanels were attached at opposite ends and were angled in slightly.  Our talent then proceeded to run behind the van and occasionally we had to tell the van driver to slow down so our actor could catch up.

I made minimal adjustments in the field.  The only change was the gain control, which I could easily adjust since the selection knob is external and Canon has the gains locked in.  I recorded the scene using 9db.  The other change I made which also could be accomplished with an external knob was the recording rate.  Both cameras were setup to record 60i.

When we watched the footage back in the classroom I was surprised how well it looked despite shooting at night and with minimal lighting.  We did increase the gain to 9db on both cameras.  I did not detect any noise on the Canon footage.

USING GAIN: Light test
We did a quick simple comparison of the 4 cameras.  I was the subject and I had about 6 foot-candles lighting myself and a chart that I was holding.  The Canon HL H1 picture compared to the other 3 cameras was brighter with no gain.  My skin tone was warmer.  The picture was contrasty.  When we switched in 6db you could detect a little noise.  When you switched in 12db the picture understandably was brighter but the noise was acceptable.  The Canon can handle low light environments and definitely handle night exteriors with minimal lighting.

The Canon is set up for interchangeable lenses.  It also has an optical image stabilizer for hand held work which I understand is better then electronic.

We did not cover this segment in Maine, but I do want to add this information, which is important in making a decision as to what camera to buy for your productions.  Videomakers Hi-Def Guide indicated that when you take tape out of the equation and you record to a hard drive you could take your video feed from the Canon jack pack, which includes SD/HD-SDI outputs.  Videomaker reads "if you shoot green screen work for keying effects, having the extra color information smoothes out the interaction between your subject and the green screen, which greatly aids in the believability of your special effects."  Considering budgets, timelines and editing, the Canon just might save you valuable time in edit when green screen is part of the process.  Of course, lighting will help tremendously no matter what camera you end up with.

As I mentioned before I was thoroughly impressed with the Canon XL H1.  If I found myself in a situation were I might be doing a lot of night exterior work I would strongly consider this camera.  I'm still not a fan of the design but I certainly have more respect for what this camera is capable of doing.  I can hardly wait to read about the next generation of Canon cameras that have come out which does not have the chainsaw look.