Small HD cameras pack big punch in capturing courtroom documentary footage

Calamari Productions, a multifaceted independent TV and digital media production company with experience in child welfare documentaries, uses Canon XH A1 HD cameras to remain as inconspicuous as possible so as to not influence the people and events it shoots.

Calamari Productions has obtained state Supreme Court access in several states to film inside America's child welfare and juvenile courts, detention centers and prisons.

“We go into a lot of sensitive situations where we have to be as unobtrusive as possible,” said Chip Warren, Calamari Productions VP of media and production. The Canon XH A1 camcorder lets the production company “get into places and capture footage” that would not be possible with larger cameras, he said.

Weighing 4.6lbs, the Canon XH A1 HD camcorder measures 13.8in by 7.4in. Despite its compact size, the camera shoots 1080p HD video at 60i, 30f or 24f frame rates. The camera captures light through a Canon 20x HD video zoom lens and directs it to three 1/3in native 1440 x 1080 16:9 CCDs with 1.67 million pixels per sensor. Canon’s DIGIC DV II HD image processor ensures optimum image clarity.

Using bigger cameras in a courtroom would require Calamari Productions to set them up and use “fixed, locked-off” shots of attorneys and judges, Warren said. Taking a larger, shoulder-mounted camera next to a witness box is far too disruptive, he said.

The smaller size of the Canon XH A1 lets Calamari Productions shoot court proceedings more realistically and dynamically. The courtroom setup with the Canon cameras includes two that are locked down and two that are used as handheld cameras to move throughout the courtroom. “We tip-toe around, and if something really dramatic is happening, we can get a better angle on it. We can zoom in and really capture the emotion. These smaller cameras give us a lot more options,” he said.