From a leading daytime drama to a cable sitcom, from locally produced public television programming to a popular audience-participation show, Canon’s professional HD camcorders are increasingly being used to shoot a wide variety of television programming. 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 are providing producers with an excellent means of capturing broadcast-quality images in a convenient form factor. Three of these models – the XL H1S, XH G1, and XL H1 – also provide professional connections for genlock, time code, and HD-SDI/SD-SDI video output.
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. 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.
“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.
One of the first shows to be shot with the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder was the Lifetime Television/Lions Gate comedy series Lovespring International, an improvisational comedy about an unconventional dating agency. Director of photography Laura Merians used three hand-held XL H1’s to shoot the series in 1080/24 Frame mode. In addition to its genlock, time code, and HD-SDI/SD-SDI connectors, the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder had the added advantage of its 60-minute HDV cassette, which allowed Merians to keep the camera rolling on actors as they improvised their performances.
“This is a huge factor in doing long takes,” Merians stated. “There are absolutely performances and moments that we would not have been able to capture if it were not for the low weight and small size of these cameras.” She also notes that the low-light capabilities of the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder enabled her to capture imagery with less lighting gear than other formats would have required. This too saved space and helped provide an environment conducive to improvisation.
Public television stations producing quality documentaries of regional interest must balance HDTV production values with realistic budget considerations. For Indianapolis Public Television station WFYI, this challenge was met by using the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder to shoot a documentary based on the acclaimed book The Natural Heritage of Indiana. Acclaimed nature documentary producer and videographer Sam Orr found that the camera had the right features for the job.
“Overall I am very pleased with it,” Orr said. “A primary reason that I recommended its acquisition was its 20x built-in zoom, as well as the Canon EF 1.6 extender available for the XL H1, creating the equivalent of a +30x zoom, which is significantly higher than the comparable HDV cameras and necessary for wildlife work. The lens is robust and, for the price, an excellent value as well.
“I am a nature documentary filmmaker and often times have to make do with little or no crew,” Orr added. “Larger-format cameras are too bulky to carry and set-up easily. Some of the storage options for other HDV cameras are too expensive and impractical for non-scripted programs that can easily generate hundreds of hours of footage. The Canon XL H1 was really the only current option for my needs: a high-quality lens with good zoom capability on a lightweight camera body, with inexpensive, high-def media acquisition.”
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.”
The Canon XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders offered production advantages outside the studio as well. The show also features reaction shots of audience participants as they leave the studio and share their thoughts on what they’ve seen inside.
“We can quickly break-off the cameras from their tripods in the back of the room and run outside to get reaction shots,” Thaler explained. “That saves money because we don’t need a separate ENG crew to do that.
“The industry is definitely being shaped and changed, especially by these cameras,” Thaler concluded. “It’s really bridging the gap between industrial and broadcast, where the limitations aren’t as clear anymore. We’re very happy with our XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders from Canon U.S.A.”