Canon XL H1 HD Camcorder Used by Local Documentary Producer

For Robert Parish, being a one-man video crew used to mean frequent trips to the chiropractor. “Being in pain doesn’t really help with the creative process,” he recalled. “Portable broadcast cameras used to cause me back problems.”

An award-winning film and video producer based in Cincinnati, Parish currently specializes in corporate videos for Fortune 100 companies, sports shows for national cable networks, and locally broadcast documentaries for public television on such topics as his son Jack’s struggle with autism. He is also the producer of the culinary show Amy’s Table and his own local travel series In the Tank Cincinnati. In addition he’s producing a history series that repurposes news features he originally recorded with Al Schottelkotte, the late, legendary Cincinnati TV anchor. As for Parish’s back problems, they became a thing of the past when Canon introduced its original XL1 broadcast-quality DV camcorder in 1997.

“Canon’s XL1 camcorder was 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.”

With the nation’s conversion to HDTV looming ever closer, Parish recently graduated up to Canon’s new XL H1 HD camcorder to meet the needs of his busy production schedule. “The XL H1 HD camcorder is far and away better than the cameras we were using for broadcast just five years ago,” he commented. “And its similar design to the XL1 camcorder enabled me to get up to speed on it very quickly. 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.”

“I shot with the XL H1 HD camcorder for a couple of weeks, and it was just extraordinary,” Parish said. “The image quality was great, as was everything else about it. I love all of the new features; it just really felt perfect for me. Plus I think that Canon’s optics are by far the best of any kind of video. I shot as much as I could. I was out there every day, just shooting away.”

“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.”

Parish used his XL H1 HD camcorder to shoot new episodes of In the Tank Cincinnati, his half-hour series for CET in which he drives around visiting interesting local places and personalities. “I host the show, so I’m on-camera,” he explained. “Because it’s produced on a public television budget, I go out as a one-man band. A lot of times on shoots, even when I’m doing interviews, it will just be me. I’ll set the camera up, make sure everything looks good, and then sit down and do the interviews.

“I use lights for interviews, but with the XL H1 HD camcorder I didn’t have to tweak it very much. When I wasn’t using lights, I knew what adjustments to make, and everything looked just fine. I did some stuff where I really wanted to show off the XL H1 HD camcorder. I actually mounted it in the back of my car and took it through a car wash. Just that part alone was amazing. To not have to worry about getting good video, to know that I’m going to come back with useable footage, that’s a great feeling.”

“I like to think that although I’m not primarily a videographer, I’m a good enough shooter that I can come up with interesting angles and compositions,” said Parish, reflecting on his role as a one-man producer/shooter creating local content in the true spirit of public television. He adds that although he recorded to HDV tape in the XL H1 HD camcorder while shooting In the Tank Cincinnati, the final product was broadcast in standard-definition video.

“I’m shooting in high def, and then basically putting that into Final Cut Pro but spitting it out as standard def right now, just because of my own editing-processing issues,” he said. “But even if I’m taking the camcorders 16:9 HD image and putting it out in the regular, not true HD format, it’s still beautiful.”

Audience reactions to In the Tank Cincinnati provided instant verification for his assessment of the XL H1 HD camcorder’s standard-definition video quality.

“When the first show aired with the XL H1 footage I shot, the comments I got were extraordinary,” Parish related. “They were focused not so much on the stories or the people in the episode—which is what I usually hear about—but about how visually stunning the program was. I got more comments about that particular show, in terms of just how it looked on the air, and it wasn’t even broadcast in true HD!”

As a veteran producer of television documentaries who is passionate about the importance of democratizing the tools of video content-creation for the sake of promoting the diversity of ideas expressed on television, Parish offers his own unique perspective on the importance of Canon’s introduction of its XL H1 HD camcorder, based on his own user experience.

“The XL H1 HD camcorder is like a mini version of the kind of cameras that those of us who have worked in broadcasting for a long time are used to working with,” he observed. “I think what it really comes down to is that the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder has given those of us who work in this field a real opportunity to produce programs that we believe in, that we feel matter. The XL H1 HD camcorder enables us to be more creative without hurting ourselves, as far as money goes. But beyond its affordability and the design of the camera is its image quality, which ultimately enhances our creative process.”