Few questions for xh-a1

I haven't even started recording yet, let alone turn it on until 2 days after I got it. Been reading the manual alot. A couple quick questions.

- The manual Iris; when I move it by hand, nothing seems to change... is it because it automatically does it?

- 24f and 60vi ; To be honest, I really cant see much of a difference, perhaps its because it looks different on a television screen?

- why does it ask me to adjust the dioptric, what is this?

- White balance; what kind of routine must I take before shooting, I have a hard time understand why this is important, shouldnt I just leave it at automatic?

- why is manually choosing your shutter speed important?

- it also says i.AF on my screen when im shooting, what is that?

Will post if I have anymore. Thanks
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answering a few of your questions

I own the Canon XH-A1. It is a great camera and I hope I can shed some light onto your questions.

24F is a frame rate that you can use so that the footage you capture will have the motion cadence and look of film. This is the frame rate that film cameras shoot at and that is why hollywood productions, many tv shows, etc. have a different looking motion than regular 60i video. 60i (interlaced) video is typically used in reality television, news footage, etc. If you have owned video cameras in the past before the introduction of 24p technology for independent filmmakers, it most likely shot exclusively in 60i.

I won't go into explaining how they are exactly different, because I could write many pages on how and why things are the way they are, including the history of television in using the interlaced scan for broadcast. The point is, if you don't want it to look like a movie or narrative project, use the 60i setting. If you are making a movie, I advise you to use the 24F setting.

As far as the manual iris goes, i'm not sure what your problem is. You may have the camera wheel on the left side on "A" which stands for Automatic. If you put it on M for manual you can control everything manually. With that you can change your F-Stop which determines how much light is let in, and you can also control your focus, and shutter speed with the rings on the lens.

Presets are things that you can use in order to get a certain color look or gamma setting, etc. while you are shooting so that you don't have to do as much in post production to fix the look. For example, I use the custom preset 9 a lot, which I'm pretty sure in factory settings is already set to have the color reproduction (or at least fairly close) of film. I use preset 1 if i'm shootin regular reality video most of the time. Those are just a couple examples.

iAF is instant auto focus. With this on, you camera should automatically focus on objects in the center of the frame quickly without any extra work on your part. This is handy for run and gun documentary, or reality shooting, but I would suggest always manually focusing when shooting narrative film projects, so that you can focus in on certain areas and leave certain areas out of focus.

White Balance. With this you have a present of 3200k which is basically most indoor incadescent light, and the 5600k is for outdoor shooting. However, let's say you use the 3200k indoor setting while shooting outdoors in the bright sun; if you do this, you will get a very cold blue look because the setting is expecting the less hot kelvin temp. and therefore reads the image incorrectly. Some people actually do this on purpose. I usually don't ,because I make all of my color changes in post usuallly.

I hope I answered all of your questions. If I wasn't clear on anything, let me know. Does this help??
shutter speed

Well, think of it this way, when using 60i it's best to use 1/60. This stands for one/sixtieth of a second. And when using 24F, the standard shutter is 1/48.

Now, with those being the standard basic settings, you're asking why ever change it. Good question. I typically don't fool around with mine much. However, if you have ever seen the movie "Saving Private Ryan" you will notice that although they are shooting in 24 frames per second film, it still has a choppy motion to it during the battle scenes. Not as fluid and blurred as normal film. This is because they are using a fast shutter. I'm not sure what they used, but I would guess it was probably above 1/100. Keep in mind standard is 1/48 when working with the 24F setting, so if you in turn did the opposite of what was done on "SPR" you would get the opposite effect.

Saving Private Ryan gets referenced a lot because it had a distinct look to it. And when people are trying to use an example, they will many times talk about this film because most people have seen it and its easy to explain principles by using it as a reference point. So...that's why I did it.

That's a very basic explanation of shutter speed and it has other uses. But I think that's good to go on. Does that make sense at all?
don't think so

Somebody can jump in and correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think that anyone using any camera would be able to get the look of Saving Private Ryan with presets in camera. I haven't tinkered with presets a lot with the XH-A1 mainly because I like the preset I'm using because it does the black knee stretch, gamma, etc. like film. So, because it already looks like film, any additional effects I want to add such as darkening shadows, or creating a green looking cast, I almost always do in post with Adobe Premiere CS3.

However, there is a program called Magic Bullet Looks (a third party plug-in) that allows you to do some really amazing things with color and stylized looks. I watched a guy online do a tutorial with it and he actually used magic bullet looks to get the "SPR" look.

Most high end editing programs such as Premiere, Avid, Final Cut, will all do a great job at doing neat things in color correction. If you want to do highly stylized looks, consider purchasing a strong editing program and possibly even adding magic bullet to that program because I don't think in camera effects are ever going to get it completely done for you.

I hope this helps.
one more thing

I forgot to add; if you want a washed out look without doing any special tints or contrast, simply adjusting the saturation slider down in any editing program should do the job for you.
Sounds awesome Swanpond. Hey man, I am using this preset I got from this website, alot of people like it, because it has the film look with good color. Please look at this, and give me your advice.

Here's the final VIVIDRGB. Please disregard any others. Thanks.

Gamma: Cine1
Color Matrix: Normal
Color Gain: 25 (This is about the limit. Adding more color does very little to enhancing chroma and does a lot for introducing unwanted noise)
Color Phase: 0
Knee: Low
Black: Middle
Master Ped: -5
Setup Level: 0
HDF: High (or "mid" if sharpness is set to 0)
H/V Detail: 0
Sharpness: 3 (adjust to taste)
NR1: Off
NR2: Off
Coring: 0
Red Gain: -2
Green Gain: -2
Blue Gain: -3
RG Matrix: 0
RB Matrix: 0
GR Matrix: 0
GB Matrix: 10
BR Matrix: 0
BG Matrix: -13

If you are using a 35mm adapter, dial down the color gain to 0, the sharpness to 0 and the HDF to mid. For some reason, these adapters tend to produce very vibrant color so adjustments are necessary.
alot of guys use it, and say its fantastic.
Did any one answer your question about the diopter? The diopter is the lens in front of the internal viewfinder (the one you look through the peep-hole to see). If it is set incorrectly, your viewfinder will always look fuzzy. Mine always gets messed up when moving the camera from place to place, so it's a good idea to adjust it (it's a little slider on the bottom side of the thing with the eyecup).

Finally, in regards to controlling the look. I have played with most of the settings and I believe you can achieve some pretty unique looks; including the Saving Private Ryan look. The one thing that the built in CINE preset does different from your preset (among others) is the sharpness on the built in CINE is set way down. I did not like that, so I customized my settings and saved them to the memory card. I recommend if you find something you like, that you name it and save it, then you can feel free to experiment without losing something that you know works well for you.

Regarding shutter speeds, there may be times when your subject isn't moving much where a higher shutter will make no difference, but a wider aperture (achievable by shortening the exposure time) will give you less depth of field, for better selective focus. There may also be times where a longer shutterspeed may give you an enhanced motion effect and let you get more light into the camera. Although it's more common for a cinematographer to adjust the aperture and leave the shutter speed alone, the shutter speed is another tool for controlling exposure which has a completely different effect on the look from the aperture setting.

If anyone knows a Canon engineer, ask them why oh why they put the switch for the XLR microphones on a menu. I was shooting a commercial on Wednesday and didn't realize until I was setting up for some very specific audio that my camera was switched over to the internal microphones. Then I had to find which menu contained the XLR setting, while I had actors looking at me like "how hard could this be?". Seconds seemed like hours, even days. All of the other controls for the mics (chan 1 or chan 1/2, mic/line, and phantom power) are right there by the jacks. Why not just add one more for int./ext. ??? I will never switch the XLR's off again. I did it for some personal shooting I was doing in the yard to document a construction project, then I promptly forgot I had done it. :(
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good thoughts


I agree about the XLR on/off switch. Why they didn't put it on the outside is beyond me. I've ran into similar situations where that slowed me down as well. However, that it one of the few bad things I can say about the XH-A1. For the most part, it's an excellent camera with very few flaws.


The list of numbers and specs looks pretty good as far as presets go. When I get home today, I will look at that and try those numbers out. Thanks.
Swanpound, no problem. I searched more and found another preset, I think im going to use. It emulates the 35mm film look.

Just incase you want it. The one I posted before is better if you want to capture amazing colors. This one is suppose to be like 35mm film.

Gamma: Cine2
Color Matrix: Normal
Color Gain: 0
Color Phase: 0
Knee: Low
Black: Middle
Master Pedestrial: 0
Setup Level : 1
Red Grain : 0
Green Grain : 0
Blue Gain :0
RGM : -20
RBM : -16
GRM : 4
GBM : -20
BRM : 4
BGM : -20
Horizontal Detail Frequency :Middle
H/V Detail Balance : 0
Sharpness : -3
Noise Reduction 1 : Off
Noise Reduction 2 : Off
Coring : 3

also, thank you Oakstreet!
From what I understand, unless you definately plan on transerferring to film, you shouldn't worry with 2:3:3:2. You should probably just stick with 2:3. In fact, when shooting in HDV, 2:3 is the only option they give you on the XH-A1 anyway (if I'm reading pg. 40 in the manual correctly).

Thanks for the preset information. I put it into my camera and it looks good. It was pretty similar to what I already had, with a few changes.

Where did you get the info saying that it looks like 35mm? Not that it doesn't, but I was just wondering.

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[mod edit]On another filmmaking forum[/mod edit]

This guy asks for the kodak preset that gets close to the 35mm film look. And the guy respondes with the zipfile to download it.
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I just finished shooting the short film today. (remake of a scene from pulp fiction, with a few changes of my own).

Will put it up on youtube and show you in a few days when im finished editing.

thanks a bunch!
Not to throw a wrench into this discussion, but 35mm film doesn't have one look. Different film stocks can vary a lot in color reproduction and how they treat shadow detail and/or highlight detail. I think Knightly will back me up here, but this relentless pursuit of "the film look" seems to be one of those "the grass is greener..." arguments. You should configure your camera to give your shots that look that works with your vision.

The pull down issue is probably the only reason I really wish the Canon shot in 720p (true 24fps). Having said that, I do really like the look I get from my Canon XH-A1. I'm shooting for television, mostly, so 30p is fine for me. There is enough control to give me just the look I want for a specific project.
What Oakstreet said is correct. Not all film stocks look the same. And, we should all be going for what looks best to us and the projects we are working on. But we all agree, I think, that there are certain things one can do to achieve a more film like quality. Knee and gamma come to mind.

You are also correct Oakstreet that people are a little obsessive about this quest to make video look like something it's not. But, I will say that I am thankful that technology has progressed in such a way that now you don't have to have a huge budget to get a very nice picture quality that can hold its own with the major studios, IF proper care is taken to lighting, composition, etc.
Swanpond, I agree that the XH-A1 (for example) has come a long way towards giving us much better looking video. However, it just happens to be that the film guys have always had a wider dynamic range, and that is the direction that the digital world had to move in order to achieve a natural look. What I really want from my video is dynamic range and control of things like gamma, shadow detail, etc. I don't care that film got there first, it's just a natural, pleasing look I want; generally. Ultimately, I want control, so I can get a wide range of looks (for lack of a better word).

In any case, keep shooting!