If you’re going to bring documentary video cameras into the juvenile justice system, the more inconspicuous the better. Fortunately, today’s HD camcorders are bringing in pro quality without a lot on bulk.
At Calamari Productions, a production company doing lots of work inside juvenile courts and detention facilities, the gear includes XH A1 HD camcorders from Canon U.S.A.
“We go into a lot of sensitive situations where we have to be as unobtrusive as possible,” said Chip Warren, Calamari vice president for media and production. “The Canon XH A1 camcorder enables us to get into places—and capture footage—that would not be possible with a larger camera.”
Founded in 1995 by CEO/executive producer Karen Grau, Calamari Productions has obtained state Supreme Court access in several states to film inside America's child welfare and juvenile courts, juvenile detention centers and juvenile prisons. The company is based in Indianapolis with satellite offices in New York City and Austin, Texas.
The XH A1 measures 13.8 inches long by 7.4 inches high and shoots 1080p HD video at 60i, 30fps or 24 fps. It uses a Canon 20x HD video zoom lens and three 1/3-inch native 1440x1080 16:9 CCDs with 1.67 megapixels each.
“We would not be able to go into small cells to do interviews without the Canon XH A1,” Warren said. “We also shoot live and move around courtrooms during active cases. The camcorder helps us respect the fact that the courts do not want a circus atmosphere. A shoulder-mounted camera with larger lights would be very distracting. But with our camera operators—who are very good at what they do—and our compact Canon XH A1 HD camcorders, we can be like the proverbial ‘fly on the wall.’”
Plus, high audio quality enables the capture of nuanced moments.
“One example was when we were shooting in a detention-center classroom, where teenagers were working on simple skills in an uncharged atmosphere,” said Warren. “Like any kids, they can get rowdy and excited when there are cameras around. But with the small, stealthy XH A1 HD camcorder we were able to capture intimate footage of them telling frank, honest, gripping stories of their lives.”
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