In a world of continually multiplying delivery outlets for HD video – including broadcast and cable television, corporate media, the Web, mobile devices, and even movie theaters – the need for affordable, high-performance digital HD video cameras becomes ever-more critical. Canon U.S.A., Inc. is addressing this need with a range of three-CCD HD camcorders packed with sophisticated features, reliability, and connectivity that professionals demand. Features such as Genuine Canon zoom lenses, Total Image Control, HD/SD capture in multiple frame rates, and professional connections for genlock, time code, and HD-SDI/SD-SDI video output are making Canon’s XH G1, XL H1S, and XL H1 the first choice of a wide range of content creators.
Guiding Light, the multiple Emmy-winning daytime drama with the distinction of being the longest-running scripted series in broadcast history, uses the lightweight Canon’s XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders exclusively.
“Our Canon XH G1 camcorders work great for us,” noted Guiding Light director of production services Lou Grieci. “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. 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 – public parks, private homes, and local streets – in a suburban New Jersey town for a you-are-there “reality television” look that helps engage viewers and reinforces the believability of the environments depicted onscreen. Even the show’s Manhattan production offices double as sets. Both the Canon XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders feature Canon’s Optical Image Stabilization feature, which is an added benefit, given the show’s hand-held production esthetic.
The compact size of Canon’s XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders are also important for a leading studio-produced cable series featuring a world-famous author and lecturer. When the series’ producer requested high-def close-ups of the show’s star interacting with audience members – close-ups that had to be shot inconspicuously with a telephoto lens from the back of a 5,000-seat studio – Thaler Films, an Emmy Award-winning New York-based production company, chose Canon’s XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders as an alternative to the traditional studio cameras they had been using to shoot this live-to-tape series.
“The Canon XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders gave us everything we needed,” affirmed David Thaler. “The XL H1 gave us the great option of interchangeable lenses, although it turned out that the 20x HD zoom lens provided with the camera gave us all the framing we wanted. The biggest selling points for both the Canon XL H1 and the Canon XH G1, however, were their industry-standard connections (HD-SDI output, time code in/out, and genlock input), which enables us to slave all these cameras together. Once we started doing our homework on these cameras we discovered all the hidden treasures that they have.”
Take One Productions, in Lancaster PA, faced a unique production challenge. Company president Kevin Martorana had to shoot inside a steel mill where intense heat, grit, grime, and 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.
Martorana saw Canon’s XL H1 at an industry trade show and was greatly impressed. “Looking at an HDV camcorder...[we] 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.”
Online video is an increasingly important way for newspapers to supplement circulation and impact ad revenue. 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. “The Canon camcorders were a natural evolution because our photographers have been using Canon Mark II’s for many years now. 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.”
A Southern California video production company, Tumbleweed Entertainment used Canon’s XL H1 HD camcorder to capture footage for a made-for-mobile series consisting of 12 three-minute short films titled Go Green. The series, which includes episodes on home-energy management, automobile fuel economy, and the recycling of household refrigerants (as well as many other topics) played on a major 24-hour mobile programming network and was designed to educate viewers on becoming more “eco-friendly.”
“These programs are designed for viewing on the Internet and cell phones, where even a slightly shaky picture can quickly become distorted and pixilated,” explained Brian Weidling, producer/director and partner in Tumbleweed. “The combination of the [XL H1 HD camcorder] lens and the camera body provides a professional feel. The type of glass that Canon uses provides a better look than most of the other cameras currently in the market. Some of the other camcorders on the market are too light. You get too much of that ‘shaky-cam’ look just because you are dealing with something that is hand-held.” He adds that capturing a steady shot is crucial when the final show will be seen by viewers on a tiny cell-phone screen or other personal digital device.
Hollywood was not surprised recently when news broke that a major theatrical feature will be shot exclusively with Canon HD camcorders. Independent digital filmmakers have been trailblazing with Canon’s HD camcorders for some time, and they have reported excellent results with “film-outs,” in which the edited, finished Canon digital HD video is recorded to 35mm film for theatrical exhibition.
Among the many independent digital filmmakers who have paved the way for Hollywood is director Erik Laibe, who shot his movie Header: The Breakaway Dream for less than $1 million using Canon XH H1 HD camcorders.
“If this film had to be shot on 35mm, it probably wouldn’t have been made because of the cost, because it would have been too much of a risk,” Laibe said. “I like the fact the XL H1 accepts other lenses. Portions of the film were shot using a Canon 400 photo lens with the EF Adapter, which turns it into something like a 2800 millimeter lens. It definitely had its advantages; we were shooting in a stadium and wanted to blow out the background, so it worked quite well. Also, we wanted to avoid compression.”
The XL H1’s HD-SDI (SMPTE 292M) output proved essential to Laibe’s project. At 1.485 Gigabits per second, the uncompressed output of the XL H1’s HD-SDI provides optimal picture quality needed for digital filmmaking. A professional BNC connector for SMPTE time code input/output also facilitates editing and professional postproduction.
“The XL H1 is a great tool,” Laibe affirmed. “It’s allowing filmmakers to make certain things that wouldn’t have gotten made, necessarily. The XL H1 was relatively easy to use and the operators took to it quite quickly even though it was the first time they shot with it. These cameras have pretty extensive menus. All in all, it gave great images. A lot of other cameras have gotten buzz for this or that, but when you really get down to the meat of the situation—the image quality of the XL H1, the lack of artifacting, the interchangeable lenses, the optics, and everything else—at least in our testing and experience—it’s a hell of a camera, and we’re looking forward to the next time we pull them out of the cases.”