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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
May 21

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5/21/2008 12:18 PM  RssIcon

Online video is an increasingly important source of circulation and ad revenue for newspapers. Web video supplements the news in print editions, offering a TV-like online news experience and few limits on story length. As a result, more and more newspapers are outfitting their news photographers with affordable digital video cameras such as Canon U.S.A.’s XH A1 HD camcorder. An added benefit of newspaper photographers using the Canon XH A1 HD camcorder is that not only can it be used to create high-quality online video content, its superb picture quality enables newspapers to capture still video frames and use them in the print edition.

“Our Web site has become a real priority, as the shift of news consumption goes in that direction,” explained Torry Bruno, associate managing editor for Photography at the Chicago Tribune, which recently purchased two Canon XH A1 camcorders. “It’s something our photo department has dabbled in for many years. The idea of convergence is one that’s been around for a long time.

“The first priority for most of our shooters remains still pictures for the newspaper,” Bruno added. “That’s still our bread-and-butter, still the primary source of the company’s readership. But is there a way to capture great images for the newspaper while also capturing great moving images for its Web site? This has been our challenge. The selection of the camera to answer this need was a major consideration.”

Choosing such a camera, one that can capture both high-resolution digital stills as well as high-definition motion video, soon led Bruno and colleague Tom Van Dyke, an award-winning photojournalist for nearly 25 years, to the Canon XH A1 HD camcorder.

“The Canon camcorders were a natural evolution because our photographers have been using Canon Mark II’s for many years now,” Bruno related. “Also, the Canon XH A1 HD camcorder just felt familiar and comfortable, and it’s a nice transition for photographers who are used to the Canon still camera. I think Canon had still-camera photographers in mind when they designed the XH A1.”

West Coast Choice

Across the country, the San Francisco Chronicle, known as “The Voice of the West,” has become its eyes and ears as well, with online video on its SFGate.com Web site further expanding its comprehensive coverage of the Bay Area. Among the top five newspaper Web sites nationally for daily visitors, the Chronicle’s staff photographers capture their SFGate.com online video reports using four XH A1 HD camcorders, which do double-duty shooting still images for the paper as well.

“One of the things I like about the XH A1 HD camcorder is that I can relate a lot of what we’re doing to my experience with the Canon digital still camera,” said Chronicle staff photographer Carlos Avila Gonzalez. “Canon didn’t make things so foreign on the video camera that you couldn’t easily translate it. They have really put together a wonderful piece of equipment; it looks and feels like the still cameras we use now. From the moment you pick it up, you feel really comfortable with it. I literally picked up a video camera for the first time six months ago, so for me to have gone from ‘zero to 60’ this fast really speaks well for the camera.”

Ideal Features

The Canon XH A1 HD camcorder captures still images in full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution in either video color space or digital camera color space. These stills are stored to a memory card (SDHC, SD or MMC), which can also be used for camera-to-camera transfer of custom settings. Still images captured in video color space include time code and camera set-up metadata. Still images captured in digital still color space include EXiF metadata. Also included are numerous advanced still camera features, such as auto exposure bracketing, selectable metering modes, continuous shooting, and the option to use select Canon EOS System Speedlite flashes. As a world leader in optics, Canon has equipped the XH A1 HD camcorder with a Genuine Canon 20X HD video zoom L-series lens (incorporating Fluorite and Ultra-Low-Dispersion elements) as a standard feature. An optional 0.8x HD Wide Angle Adapter is available as well.

The XH A1 HD camcorder also features Super-Range OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), a feature that can prove handy amid fast-paced news events. Super-Range OIS combines gyro and feedback from the image sensors to provide image stabilization through a wide range of camera motions. Super Range OIS corrects for fast vibration (when shooting, for example, from a moving car), medium-speed motion often apparent in hand-held recording, and even slower motion found in body sway. And, unlike electronic image stabilization, the Canon OIS does not compromise image quality.

For those seeking a particularly innovative “look” to their videography, the Canon XH A1 HD camcorder features Total Image Control of more than 23 independently adjustable picture-creation variables. Advanced Image Enhancement and Auto Exposure modes, as well as Canon’s Console software package provide a wide array of creative choices.

Instant News

For Gonzalez, the addition of Canon’s XH A1 HD camcorders to the Chronicle’s newsgathering tools was a major asset during one of the Bay Area’s biggest news stories of 2007: the collapse of a freeway interchange that crippled some of the major traffic arteries through the city. The San Francisco Chronicle posted daily video updates and detour maps on SFGate.com as the rebuilding efforts proceeded. These provided commuters with an information-packed, up-to-the-minute online resource for planning their route to work, which they could check before leaving home each morning.

“We also had a traffic ‘maze’ page that was updated every day with videos, photos, and sound,” Gonzalez stated. “It made for a nice, complete package. It’s not the kind of thing we could have done in print because by the time deadlines roll around, you’d have to revise it all over again. With the SFGate Web publication, we could literally update it minute-by-minute if needed. Any development can be put on there right away, including video. The immediacy that the XH A1 gave us was a really important factor. We were able to post a video of the reconstruction within hours of shooting it, rather than waiting until the next morning, so that commuters could then plan their route ahead of time. It slowed down our Web site speed because everybody wanted to see what was going on, to see what their next day’s commute would be like.”

To Gonzalez, the impact of video is undeniable. “I’ve always known that there are some things you can do with video that can’t be done with still photos,” he declared. “As a photographer, you are present in the moment. You get to experience the sound, you get to experience the power of somebody’s voice, or the power of the event that you’re photographing. The reader never gets to see that, they never have that context. When I saw what video can do in terms of conveying those things, I was really drawn to it, and really excited about the video I was shooting with the Canon XH A1.”

At the Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, Bruno sees the Canon XH A1 as a valuable tool for the broader competitive environment of the multimedia world. It is, he said, an environment in which it’s important to be fresh and innovative. “What we find is that our photojournalistic approach is what is making us distinctive,” he said.

“We can’t operate like TV and compete with them,” Van Dyke added. “But while there’s talk among newspaper photographers about being able to compete with expensive live news trucks by working with a laptop and streaming live HD camcorder video, I don’t think anyone has done it yet. But the tools are there, and the pieces are there just waiting for someone to put them together.”

Van Dyke cited the example of recently flying to Texas to shoot a story, editing it on a laptop, and e-mailing it back to Chicago in time for the Sunday paper deadline.

“What’s significant about that is the picture editor on duty had the confidence in the technology that we would have a front-page picture for a million-circulation newspaper – on deadline,” Bruno noted. “Out of that single camera, we got a five-column front-page photo and a video piece on our Web site. This is an opportunity to take storytelling to a whole new level.”

About Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Canon U.S.A., Inc. delivers consumer, business-to-business, and industrial imaging solutions. Its parent company, Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ), a top patent holder of technology, ranking third overall in the U.S. in 2007†, with global revenues of $39.3 billion, is listed as one of Fortune's Most Admired Companies in America and is on the 2006 BusinessWeek list of "Top 100 Brands." To keep apprised of the latest news from Canon U.S.A., sign up for the Company's RSS news feed by visiting www.usa.canon.com/pressroom.

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†IFI Patent Intelligence Press Release, January 2008

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