As the nation‘s television broadcasting system prepares to transition to widescreen digital video, an increasing number of professionals are choosing Canon U.S.A.‘s cost-effective digital high-definition (HD) camcorders to create the high-quality content their clients demand. These HD camcorders are earning high praise from a wide variety of professional users for their superb picture quality, ease of use, and versatile feature set.
“I tout the XL H1 HD camcorder for its Image Stabilization and the results we achieved,” remarked Brian Weidling, producer/director and partner in Tumbleweed Entertainment. This Southern California video production company 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) plays on a major 24-hour mobile programming network and is 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,” Weidling added. “The combination of the 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.”
Weidling explained that his eight-person crew captured Go Green‘s video using the 20X HD lens that comes standard with the XL H1 HD camcorder (which can also be outfitted with other XL interchangeable lenses). This 38.9 - 778mm lens is coupled with the XL H1‘s Super Range Optical Image Stabilization system, sophisticated Canon technology that corrects camera shake instantly for steady shots even when they're hand-held at long focal lengths or taken while the XL H1 HD camcorder is in motion. Capturing a steady shot is crucial when the final show will be seen by viewers on the tiny display screens of cell phones or other personal digital devices.
From Small to Large Screens
Canon‘s XL H1 has also become the choice of many independent digital filmmakers who rely on its superb HD picture quality to fill the movie screens in screening rooms. One such filmmaker is director Erik Laibe, whose film Header: The Breakaway Dream tells the story of a Middle Eastern soccer player who comes to the U.S. only to be lured away by another professional team. The budget was under $1 million.
“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.”
This is where the XL H1‘s HD-SDI (SMPTE 292M) output proved essential to the project. At 1.485 Gigabits per second, the uncompressed output of the XL H1‘s HD-SDI (SMPTE 292M) provides optimal picture quality needed for digital filmmaking. One of four BNC‘s on the XL H1‘s built-in Professional Jack Pack, the HD-SDI (and SD-SDI SMPTE 259M) connector is mounted alongside a genlock input to synchronize the use of the XL H1 in a multi-camera, live-switched production environment. Also included are BNC‘s for SMPTE time code input and output to facilitate editing and other professional postproduction processes.
“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.”
Broadcast television stations are also among the many users of the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder. Robert Parish, an award-winning film and video producer based in Cincinnati, uses his to shoot his own local travel series 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.
“Ergonomically you can cradle the XL H1 HD camcorder like a baby, and that‘s awesome. Plus, you can use it like a typical camera. It‘s very steady and well-balanced, and yet only weighs a little over eight pounds. So much of what we do in this business is about feelings and creativity. In order to be truly creative and put out the kind of product that you envision, all your equipment--whether it‘s your camera, your word processing, your editing equipment--has to feel right. If it doesn‘t feel right, it‘s hard to put out a really good product. I felt really at home with the XL H1 HD camcorder from the minute I touched it.
“The XL H1 HD camcorder is far and away better than the cameras we were using for broadcast just five years ago,” Parish concluded. “We did some comparisons down at CET [public television station WCET], and we could barely tell the difference between footage shot with the XL H1 HD camcorder and a bigger, much more expensive portable HD camera.”
Serving the Congregation
Video has become integral to communication in nearly every aspect of modern life, and that includes worship. The Friendship Baptist Church in Rock Island, Tennessee, provides an example of this. A center of religious worship for more than 100 years, the church recently added a video outreach initiative produced in high definition television (HDTV). Originating from its new thousand-seat sanctuary with a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system, Friendship Ministries designed its video system to capture Sunday and Wednesday services in high-quality HDTV and also provide a major Nashville TV station with a weekly 30-minute standard definition edit of these services for satellite distribution. Live coverage during services is also fed to video projectors for display on large screens so that congregants in even the back rows of the balcony will be able to see every detail of the service.
Accomplishing this ambitious plan on a limited budget demanded innovative technology that leverages the latest in affordable digital production solutions. According to Chris Gentry, Media Director of Friendship Ministries, this meant choosing three Canon XL H1 HD camcorders for the church‘s HDTV video-capture needs.
“We went shopping for equipment to launch our television ministry in the middle Tennessee area,” Gentry related. “We spoke to different media-service providers, and all of them were very excited about the Canon XL H1 camera. They basically told us that Canon had leveled the playing field between the big corporate-type production houses and the smaller users such as ourselves. They compared the Canon XL H1 to $30,000 to $40,000 cameras and showed how the XL H1 is more advanced and a much better value in terms of features and price. We purchased three.
“We like their size, compactness, and low weight,” Gentry said of the Canon XL H1 camcorders. “They‘re not big, bulky, or hard to maneuver. This is especially important for the camera operator who‘ll be using the shoulder-mount version. The cameras will be manned by volunteers in the congregation so we‘re glad they‘re easy to use.”
Digital HDTV is the future of video production and delivery. A wide variety of today‘s video content creators are getting a head start on tomorrow‘s television by using Canon U.S.A.‘s professional, cost-effective digital high-definition camcorders such as the XL H1 (and the XH G1 and XH A1) to create programming that looks great today and will continue to look great in the digital, widescreen HDTV future.