Local Texas station uses Canon infrared camera to shoot in near total darkness

With small-market TV stations facing challenges to produce compelling, low-cost high-definition local programming, KRGV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Weslaco, Texas, has used the infrared features of a low-cost Canon video camera to produce an award-winning special on illegal immigration in near total darkness.

The station’s hand-held Canon XA10 HD camcorders were instrumental in producing The Battle in Brooks County, a special report on the plight of illegal immigrants that won a 2011 Lone Star Emmy Award. Reporter Jordan Williams and photographer Mike Ortiz accompanied sheriff’s deputies on night patrols of vast ranchlands and used the camcorders in near total darkness to document the perils of illegal immigrants abandoned by human traffickers in the deserts of southern Texas.

“During the past decade, our area has seen hundreds of illegal immigrants cross the border, get lost in the brush and die,” Williams said. “We were out on patrol one day and found two men who were dehydrated and in very bad health. Mike had his shoulder-mounted ENG camera and I had the Canon XA10, and we did an instant two-camera shoot right there on the side of the road. The men told us their story and were suffering so badly they had to be taken to the hospital. It’s a sequence that will always stick in my mind.”

Ortiz added that the station captured memorable footage at night as well, including interviews with volunteers who patrol the ranchlands in the dark looking for lost illegal immigrants. “The XA10 is small, versatile, non-intimidating and it gives us great video,” he said. “That’s what I need in my line of work.”

Capable of shooting in conditions with little to no ambient light, the 1.7 pound Canon XA10 HD camcorder features infrared video capture and an infrared emitter with a diffuser, as well as a green or white color option to shoot HD infrared imagery even in complete darkness. It is priced at $1,999.

The camcorder captures 1080p video using an AVCHD codec recording to a 64GB internal flash drive or two SDXC-compatible card slots. Equipped with a built-in 10x HD zoom lens (with a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 30.4mm – 304mm), a 1/3-inch native 1920 x 1080 CMOS image sensor and DIGIC DV III image processor, the XA10 provides users with complete manual control.

However, it was the infrared features of the camcorder that caught the station’s attention. “We do a lot of undercover news here in South Texas, where nights are dark out in the brush of ranch country,” said Isreal Alfaro, KRGV’s operations manager.

“The XA10 also caught my attention for its HD image quality, professional features, mobility and file-based workflow convenience. It’s just like connecting an external hard drive to your computer editor. I showed it to our news director and she wanted one immediately. The XA10 is small but it packs a big punch in quality and looks nice and sharp on the air in HD. It’s also very cost-effective. We just purchased a second one.”