“The Voice of the West” since 1865, the six-time Pulitzer Prize winning San Francisco Chronicle is now the 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 Canon‘s XH A1 HD camcorders, which do double-duty shooting still images for the paper as well.
Knowing the importance of the Internet to the future of the news media, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Photo Dept. management witnessed a trade show demo of the Canon XH A1 HD camcorder and purchased four units after learning that it not only shoots high-quality widescreen video but also digital still images, which can be captured at full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution in either video color space or digital camera color space. The Canon XH A1 HD camcorders were immediately put to use by two full-time still photographers to shoot video for the newspaper‘s SFGate.com Web site. Since then additional photographers have been outfitted with video cameras as well. When the XH A1 HD camcorders first arrived, staff photographer Carlos Avila Gonzalez had been familiar with Canon still cameras but was new to video. Then he saw that the user interface of the XH A1 HD camcorder enabled him to quickly learn the new medium.
A New Shooting Style
“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 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.”
Gonzalez is shooting video for the SFGate.com Web site and frequently captures still frames simultaneously for the print edition of the Chronicle. Using the XH A1 HD camcorder for both tasks has even introduced a new shooting style to his work. “It‘s more fluid for me to be able to just keep shooting and pull from what I‘m seeing, as opposed to switching mentally back to still images,” he revealed. “The images look really good in the newspaper. Several stories have run both online and in the paper using stills from the video I shot, and they look great.”
The Canon XH A1‘s digital stills are stored to a memory card (SDHC, SD, or MMC), which can also be used for camera-to-camera transfer of custom image settings. Still images captured in video color space include time code and camera set-up metadata while 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 attach 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 quality 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.
Footage shot for the SFGate.com Web site can both supplement articles in the Chronicle and provide additional content that is exclusive to the Web experience. “With multimedia, because space is not at as much of a premium as it is in a newspaper, you can produce these wonderful multi-picture slideshows,” Gonzalez noted. “You can also have sound - people telling their own story, the ambient sounds - and I think that‘s what really made us realize that video was a natural progression.”
“Being able to shoot video is really reshaping the way we think in terms of how we gather our stories and produce these packages,” Gonzalez continued. “Now we have a lot more flexibility, it‘s not just a single picture in the paper. You can have multiple pieces that come together. Before the Web, you had a very finite environment to work with, but on the Web you have expandability. You have the ability to go in, produce something, and seamlessly keep adding to it. You can‘t do that in a newspaper because the first part is already gone; you can‘t go back and add pictures to it after the fact. With the Web, because everything is linked together, it really creates a more complete storytelling package.”
Adding Canon 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 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.”
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 2007 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