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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Nov 21

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11/21/2008 12:27 PM  RssIcon

Whether it’s for a cable or broadcast network, a locally originated TV show, a corporate production, wedding/event videography, or an independent digital movie, today’s new generation of Canon’s lightweight digital HD camcorders are increasingly the choice of a wide range of professional users. Canon constantly refines its professional HD camcorders, with the new XH A1S and XH G1S being the most recent models to be upgraded. Both HD camcorders incorporate enhanced features for improved operation, including greater image control and improved audio capabilities.

With features such as Genuine Canon zoom lenses, Total Image Control, and HD/SD capture in multiple frame rates, Canon’s three-CCD professional HD camcorders provide producers with an excellent means of capturing broadcast-quality HDTV images in a convenient form factor. Several models – the XH G1S, XL H1S, XH G1, and XL H1 – also provide professional connections for genlock, SMPTE time code input/output, and HD-SDI/SD-SDI video output with embedded audio.

Network Production

“Our Canon XH G1 camcorders work great for us,” noted Guiding Light director of production services Lou Grieci. Guiding Light, the multiple Emmy-winning daytime drama (and the longest-running scripted series in broadcast history), is filmed only with Canon’s XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders. Both models are engineered with the technology, features, and durability necessary for producing five daily one-hour shows each and every week for an audience of millions of dedicated viewers.

“We do seven taping days a week over a five-day period; five days here in our Manhattan studio and two days in the field,” Grieci added. “We use a total of 18 Canon XH G1 camcorders and shoot 10- to 12-hour days, three cameras at a time, or four cameras out in the field. We produce 250 shows per year. We also have one Canon XL H1. We use its wide-angle lens for establishing shots.”

Chosen for reasons of creativity and practicality, the compact size and low-light capabilities of the Canon XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders enable the producers of this top-rated daytime drama to shoot in real locations in a suburban New Jersey town – public parks, private homes, and local streets – for a you-are-there “reality television” look that helps engage viewers and reinforces the believability of the environments depicted onscreen.

Local TV

Robert Parish, an award-winning Ohio-based film and video producer, uses a Canon XL H1 HD camcorder to shoot a local travel series titled In the Tank Cincinnati.

“Canon’s XL1 camcorder is not only affordable, it gave me the opportunity to do the kind of work that I wanted to without hiring a lot of extra people,” Parish explained. “It was fun to work with, easy to manage, and lightweight. I was able to get shots that I wouldn’t even think about trying to get with a bigger camera. And the wide-angle lens on the XL1 camcorder enabled me to get shots of myself driving around in my car, which are an essential part of In the Tank Cincinnati.

“The XL H1 is also very friendly to the human body,” Parish continued. “It’s intuitive; I almost felt as if I could ‘speak’ to it in a sense and get it to do what I wanted. Everything on the camera is really well-thought-out. I was impressed by the fact that the XL H1 HD camcorder’s controls are easy to understand. Obviously, the people who designed the camera work in the business. They know what it is that makes users comfortable when we’re out there working. This is not true of all HDV camcorders.

Corporate Video

Kevin Martorana, President of Take One Productions in Lancaster PA, faced a unique production challenge. How to shoot inside a steel mill, rife with intense heat, grit and grime, and difficult--if not potentially spectacular--high chroma imagery of 2900-degree (F) molten steel contrasted with equally challenging black-blacks. Not only were these conditions enough to test the imaging capabilities of the most advanced digital video cameras on the market, the footage had to be shot in HD as well.

Reviewing available camcorders that could capture HD images amid such challenging conditions, Martorana chose Canon’s XL H1. “Looking at an HDV camcorder was something we never imagined,” he recalled, but added that he “saw things that you’d expect from a camera three times the cost. We’ve shot with the highest quality cameras on the market, but when playing back the footage we got from the XL H1 [output from its HD SDI connector to a 100 Mbps broadcast record deck], I have to tell you: We stuck our noses to the monitor and said ‘What is this?’ As far as we could tell, the XL H1 must be a $100,000 camcorder!”

Enjoying the peace of mind to be had in using an under-$10,000 camcorder in the hazardous environment of a steel mill, Martorana found that his XL H1 met the challenge of shooting intensely bright images of molten metal against dark, black backgrounds. “The reduced size and weight of the XL H1 allows us to get shots we couldn’t get before with larger cameras, yet we’re not compromising resolution,” he said. “We paid for the XL H1 on that one job. For its price point, the Canon XL H1 is truly amazing.”

Indy Film

Accomplished producer/director/actor Jimmy Hanks used Canon’s XH G1 and XH A1 HD camcorders as an affordable, yet creatively versatile, means of shooting his independent cinema and television pilot productions. These include The Floor, which he describes as depicting “the seamy underbelly of telemarketers.” Hanks reports that the Canon XH G1 and XH A1 HD camcorders allowed his team to shoot 16 pages in just two days. The pilot made extensive use of Steadicam rigs to capture running shots, and at only 5.2 lbs. (including lens and battery) both camcorders were well-suited for this demanding application.

“These cameras are so light that being able to ‘run-and-gun’ with them on Steadicams was great,” Hanks enthused. “We had absolutely no problems. I could be shooting on a Steadicam and pass from one person, turn a corner and frame somebody who was 20 feet away, all very instantaneously. You would have a hard time having a focus-puller on a film camera do it as well as that. Canon’s Instant AF [autofocus] is so fast. It’s rock solid.”

Instant AF is Canon’s next-generation autofocus technology, which combines an external AF sensor with Canon’s high-performance internal AF system to achieve fast and accurate focus even in low-light, low-contrast, or high-brightness situations. Precise focus is especially critical in HD video because its increased picture quality makes inaccurate focus more evident to the viewer, especially when viewed on larger television screens.

Overall, Hanks is enthusiastic about the performance, quality, and creative latitude provided by the Canon XH G1, XH A1, and XL H1 HD camcorders he has used. “As I’ve been using them more and more, I’ve become very impressed with the quality of the pictures we are capturing,” he concluded. “I can see myself shooting what I think are high-concept dramatic narratives this way. Depending on the project, I don’t know that I would ever need to shoot film.”

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