Canon’s XL H1 Takes The Heat For Take One Productions
Martorana and his Take One Productions team traveled to Las Vegas last April to attend the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) exhibition to see what kinds of HD video cameras might be available for the assignment, and to determine the kind of camera they may need to fully transition their company to HD production in the future. Although Take One had produced in HD for a number of years, they were shopping for a lower-cost camera that would provide added price-performance value for their productions.
“This is an important time,” comments Martorana of the nation’s ongoing transition to HDTV and the production industry’s mandate to address it. “Where do you put your eggs? You can’t put them in one basket.” He admits that his company has “always been in the Ã¢Â€Â˜big name’ camp” in terms of the brands of cameras it purchases.
“We were in the broadcast game,” he elaborates. “We weren’t in the HDV game. Looking at an HDV camcorder was something we never imagined.” But then he entered Canon’s exhibit at NAB, saw the XL H1 HD camcorder and “saw things that you’d expect from a camera three times the cost.” “We’ve shot with the highest quality cameras on the market,” Martorana notes. “But when playing back the footage we got from the XL H1 [output from its HDSDI connector to a broadcast record deck], I have to tell you: We stuck our noses to the monitor and said Ã¢Â€Â˜What is this?’ As far as we could tell, the XL H1 HD camcorder must be a $100,000 camcorder!”
Essential Features Canon’s XL H1 Takes the Heat for Take One Productions /Page 2 As a standard feature, Canon’s XL H1 HD camcorder includes a “Professional Jack Pack” of four BNC connectors that provide: genlock input to synchronize a multi-camera, live-switched production environment; SMPTE time code input and output to facilitate editing and other post-production processes; and uncompressed digital HD-SDI (SMPTE 292M) video output at 1.485 Gigabits per second, as well as SD-SDI (SMPTE 259M). The XL H1 HD camcorder’s HD-SDI output was a significant factor in Martorana’s purchase decision. During the steel mill shoot, Take One ran time code and HD-SDI to their broadcast record deck. They simultaneously used the XL H1′s in-camera HDV recorder for back-up video and for audio. The matched time code allowed for syncing the two recordings in post-production.
The XL H1 HD camcorder’s HD-SDI output wasn’t, however, the only significant factor in its purchase. “It also had a lot to do with the XL H1 HD camcorder’s ability to accept different lenses,” he explains. Take One tested a variety of comparable cameras, but Martorana says the XL H1 was “clearly different than other comparably priced cameras” in this regard. (Canon recently introduced a wide-angle HD zoom lens for the camera.) Take One’s XL H1 HD camcorder met the challenge of shooting in the steel mill and of capturing the intensely bright images of molten metal against dark, black backgrounds.
A Versatile Camera
Martorana admits that Take One’s acquisition of the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder was originally just for the steel mill shoot. “We figured that if we didn’t like it, we’d use it for the gig and throw it away,” he says. “We paid for the XL H1 on that one job.”
Now, however, Take One’s XL H1 has become a major asset to the company’s equipment inventory and is being used on a wide range of productions. Recent assignments have included taking the XL H1 into construction sites. “Taking big cameras into that environment is always a drag,” Martorana explains. “But the reduced size and weight of the XL H1 HD camcorder allows us to get shots we couldn’t get before with larger cameras, yet we’re not compromising resolution.”
Although the XL H1 HD camcorder is smaller than traditional professional cameras it’s not so small as to not be taken seriously among clients. This is especially important in commercial production, where “perception is everything,” Martorana confides.
“The HDV format is perfect for certain clients and certain jobs, but when you’re working with a higher level of client, then the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder makes a difference,” he says, noting that Take One has added a matte box, rods, follow focus, and an Anton Bauer battery bracket to its XL H1 HD camcorder. “It looks like a film camera now. It feels like a very serious, Ã¢Â€Â˜big-format’ camera on your shoulder. It does not look like what people normally think of when they hear you’re using the HDV format. And when we feed the XL H1′s HD-SDI output to our broadcast record deck, the image quality is unparalleled. For its price point, the Canon XL H1 is truly amazing.”