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New to the XL2! Have I made the wrong decision!?


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#1 James Briggs

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 10:38 AM

Here's the thing! I just brought my XL2... would have liked the Z1 but didn't have the extra money! Anyway I have left college and am trying to set myself up as a freelance camera operator in London and I want to start making my own independent films.

I didn't want to go with Sony because I trusted Canon more.

After looking at lots of reviews I brought the XL2 for the manual control but now I'm wondering, why on earth is all this needed with the editing software around which can surely do the same in post?

Not only that but I completely overlooked the Panasonic camera and now I'm seeing all these raving reviews claiming it better than the XL2 by far. I have seen screen grabs comparing all three and the XL2 seems inferior to both Sony and Panasonic's options at lower cost.

Now in even in this new dawn of HDV as-well can my XL2 stand up?

I WANT TO PUT 100% FAITH AND CONFIDENCE IN MY XL2 AND FEEL I HAVE A GOOD CAMERA! I REALLY DO! I have invested so much into this camera! Theirs nothing I can do about it now anyway.

Have I made the right or wrong decision as a starting up film maker?

I would really love to know the verdicts of other XL2 camera operators. Are my concerns justified or can my faith in canon stand firm against sony and panasonic?

Thanks!

James

Edited by James Briggs, 04 October 2006 - 10:40 AM.

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#2 Jay Gladwell

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 10:47 AM

To be painfully honestly, it sounds like the lack of confidence or uncertainty lies in the owner/operator, not the camera.

The XL2 is a fine camera. It's not for everyone. No one camera is. The XL2 is not a beginner's camera. However, the good thing about it is you can grow into it.

Did you make the right decision? Only you can answer that. Stop worrying and go out and shoot video. Play with it. Experiment with the settings, find out just what it is and is not capable of doing.

And remember, it's a poor artists that blames his tools!
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#3 Jack Barker

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 11:51 AM

Jay - I'm not sure that James was blaming anything.

James - Post-purchase depression and doubt. Been through it many times myself after major purchases. Just second-guessing myself. The XL2 is a great camera - not good, great. I still would not swap it for any of the prosumer HD rigs out there. I don't have the kind of money it takes to be out there on the bleeding edge of technology. The XL2 makes beautiful images and the stock lens is one of the best. Whether you decide to manipulate those images in-camera (didn't someone figure that there were a Billion settings combinations?), or in post is a personal decision. Some of us older types like to have the settings available to us immediately, while others feel more comfortable doing it in the NLE. Editing is not my particular strong suit, but younger guys seem to be more at home there.

I totally agree with Jay - just start shooting. Try everything, 'cause while talk is cheap, tape is cheaper.

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#4 Josh Bass

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 01:04 PM

It's a nice cam, dude. You get real widescreen (i.e. utilizes the whole chip instead of cropping), 24p, and plenty of image controls.

As far as doing stuff in post vs in camera, depends what you're talking about. I like to add a little color gain and usually shoot with the blacks pressed. Could you do it in post? Sure. But why? More work for you! Save post for the crazy stuff you CAN'T do in camera (your matrix/man on fire/domino type looks).

Here're some examples of what I consider rather nice footage from the camera, uncorrected. Most in available light.

http://www.joshbass.com/showuswhy.wmv

http://www.joshbass.com/xl2_test.wmv

http://www.robertson...male_Teaser.wmv

http://www.robertson...com/Santino.wmv
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#5 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 02:29 PM

The real question is, does it work for your purposes? If so, you've made a good choice. As someone stated, go out and shoot something and decide for yourself.
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#6 James Briggs

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 03:29 PM

Thanks for the replies! I understand where you're all coming from and yes I am just setting up so I do need to experiment and practice a lot more. I think I was probably going about asking the wrong things though to what I wanted to know.

I am not disputing the XL2 gives great pictures, is an overall great camera (in well lit or daylight situations), but...

I have done a few projects and this is where my concerns have raised from. I have been working on documentaries so haven't had time to focus on getting the film like images I myself am really concerned about. I am still adjusting myself with the camera but my initial impressions are worrying me about some issues. Maybe it would have been a better idea to name them:

1. In low light and especially the dark and black areas look very very grainy. The blackness and image in general just doesn't have the richness and pureness I would like. I have adjusted the manual setting to increase the blackness but the graininess remains. Looking over this forum I have seen the mention of adjusting the gain, maybe this will fix the grain? My camera is being borrowed at the moment by a freind so I don't have it and I'm wondering about comitting to a projec.... a horror film which will require low light shooting. My impression is that the camera doesn't seem to produce the very rich pictures I have seen from other camera's when shooting in low light. Such as the FX1. Which has wonderfully rich blacks without any dullness of grainy effect.

2. The vertical lines problem. I realise looking through the viewfinder lines seem worse than when they are played back properly. But their does seem every now and then some really bad line issues. I have seen the vertical line feature in manual set up but I haven't been able to tell whether this actually works yet just by looking through the viewfinder.

3. The second to major issue after the XL2's ability to create nice strong images in low light I have, is I thought with all the manual features I would be able to create really nice "DV" looking cinematic images. However compared to the picture the FX1 gives the XL2 looks like it's mainly for events and fly on the wall looking filming. I can see the Cine mode certainly is a + but so far compared to the feel and look of the image compared to others is it enough? Maybe this is because I haven't had the chance to play with and just actually test this out properly yet.

This quote I feel sums up my fears....

"For reality shows or high-def interlaced productions, the FX1 would be the choice. For events/sports/concerts, I'd probably choose the XL2. For weddings it?d be a tossup between the film like ability of the DVX vs. the bigger/more impressive camera size of the XL2. For the indie filmmaker or TV commercial producer, the DVX is still king."

http://www.dvxuser.c...rticles/shoot3/

I'm really asking other XL2 users from experience is the camera good enough to create low budget films? Or is it best cut out for events. Is it just a matter of figuring out the right settings to produce these results from practice and experience. Cause the screen shots from the FX1 on that website compared to the XL2's show a quality of picture compared to a lower priced one that is really worrying.
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#7 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 04:16 PM

This quote I feel sums up my fears....

"For reality shows or high-def interlaced productions, the FX1 would be the choice. For events/sports/concerts, I'd probably choose the XL2. For weddings it?d be a tossup between the film like ability of the DVX vs. the bigger/more impressive camera size of the XL2. For the indie filmmaker or TV commercial producer, the DVX is still king."

http://www.dvxuser.c...rticles/shoot3/


James, before you get all worried about your XL2 being inferior to the DVX, why dont you take a look at the name of the web site you quoted from. I dont think any professional would agree that they were being completely unbiased with that shootout. He makes widescreen seem like it isnt even important. And he also generalizes that the interchangable lens system means nothing because most people only use the stock lens which is rubbish.
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#8 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 04:23 PM

If you purchased it with the servo lens then, if you are able to return the camera, I'd return it. Buy it again but just buy the body with no lens and then pick up the 16x manual lens. The lens that comes with the XL2 is worthless for doing any kind of cinematic work. There is zero control over it. Personally, I prefer the DVX. At least you can upgrade that to HD with an Andromeda plug-in if you want to shoot HD at some point. The XL2 is 16:9 but it's SD only.
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#9 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 04:26 PM

As a long time XL2 user and also a user of many other cameras such as the Sony Z1, the DVX100a, hdx200, the sony HDW730,dsr 500, XLH1, Panasonic SDX900 etc,etc, etc. All your worrying strikes me as much ado about nothing. It does not sound like you have enough experience to understand the vairables at play in the issues your are describing. Go out and shoot my man, before you give yourself an ulcer.

Low light shooting is difficult on any prosumer camera but the XL2 is better than most in low light.

your vertial lines issue is probably user error.

As for you last question "is it good for low budget films?" I'm so tempted to write that you need a film camera to shoot a film. But you are really asking can you do dramatic work on the XL2, the answer is of course you can. The XL2 has been used for just about anything you can think of from student projects to docs, to music videos, to sports shooting, to reality TV, to Dramatic TV, to indi features to weddings. Get the picture.
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#10 Rachel Oliver

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 04:59 PM

Hi;

Something else to remember is that the cameras image controls happen before tape compression where as in post it's all, well post compression. I also agree with others here that the XL2 will not be the catalyst of a "bad" film.... It's far more likely to be the humans opperating it.

Olly
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#11 Jack Barker

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 05:10 PM

At least you can upgrade that to HD with an Andromeda plug-in if you want to shoot HD at some point.

I feel like Rip VanWinkle. You stay off the boards for a couple of months, and you miss a lifetime. What plugin is this? You can upgrade your footage to HD in post? How is that possible?

More info please - and a link, if you have one.

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#12 Chris Durham

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 05:51 PM

I'm about to purchase an XL2 myself, all the research I've done points to the XL2 being a fine choice, if not superior. The DVX is reputedly great, owing to its many professional features; but the features didn't make it stand out so much to me against the Canon. Detachable lenses = professional; particularly if you are interested in cinematography. Canon's implementation of 16:9 is impressive as well. As far as dramatic stuff being shot on it - "28 Days Later" used the XL1S if that means anything, and that was well done.
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#13 Morgan Peline

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 06:45 PM

Hi,

Am I being a bit slow? If you are shooting a horror feature why would you shoot in low light without lighting your scene? I know that dv cameras are good in low light but you don't HAVE to shoot in low light especially if you're making a horror film. Unless it was for an aesthetic reason I would never dream of shooting a 'feature' film without lights - that's what makes things look amateurish. Everyone thinks you can shoot with no light these days without realising that you can make things look much nicer if you have decent lighting.

Personally I prefer the DVX100 because it has a more saturated cine 25 look -but you can play with the gammas. As for HDV - not that I know these cameras that well... - but I think the Sony camera just looks like a sharper video image - not necessariy as nice though obviously sharper...still a crap 'look' but sharper...

I don't think you made a bad choice - now the new Panasonic HVX200 or whatever it's called - that might have been better apart from the expensive P2 cards...

A competent cameraman can make Hi8 look fantastic if he knows what he is doing - you'll just have to learn how to get the best out of your camera.
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#14 Matthew Parnell

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 07:13 PM

I would have got the XL2 over the DVX to be honest with you. 99% of the work that i do is in widescreen, so the XL2 was the best answer there, plus you can put a ENG style lens on it.

To me, HDV is a really average and limiting format, the audio quality is really quite average, the compression has issues. I personally dislike the limitations of the DV25 codec, but HDV has those same limitations(same colour space, etc) and even more. I have to admit that ive never like the Sony Pro Handheld camera like the PD150 and PDX10, the Sony HDV cameras continue that trend, and to be frank, compared to the XLh1 and the JVC HD100, they dont stand up at all.

In post you get the best results out of native HDV, if your system can handle it. But native HDV because of the codec, doesnt hold up once you start putting multiple layers on it(titles, effects, colour correction) this is a generational effect of the codec, so therefore you have to transcode into a intermediate format, that chews through hours and hours in the editing suite before you can start cutting.

If you decide for a top end post solution transfering the HDCAM, the cost of the transfers alone will chew through much of the advantages of shooting HDV.

Anyway,
Thats just my two cents.
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#15 Jeff Clegg

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 07:29 PM

James,

I own an XL-2, but have used the DVX on narrative and some documentary work. I think they are both excellent cameras. I actually wouldn't go as far as saying one camera is all around better than the other, rather I would say a lot of it is personal preference on many features (camera size, handling, settings, etc.). Personal preference is something that is often hard to determine from camera "shoot-outs" unless you are the one testing all the cameras, so I wouldn't worry all too much about that.

As far as getting a lot of the looks in post, unless you are editing/color correcting this you may have little/no control over the image at the point, or, and I am assuming that if you are starting out you are on the micro-budget end of things, post production may be done with less than optimal equipment or there may not be enough time/money to tweak the image in post as much as one would like. Not that it can't be done, just that getting as close to the final image as possible in camera can be a huge advantage and possible time saver later on. Spend some time and play around with the settings. I believe there is a program that lets you save your settings via firewire onto a computer and load them back onto the XL-2, so you can test several different combinations and keep them when you want that particular look (I just can't remember the name of the program).

Anyway, just my opinions based on my own experiences working freelance camera.


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#16 James Briggs

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 10:12 AM

Thank you for you're views. You have all pointed out a lot of things I was probably too foolish to consider. I do have a great camera, and I just have to use it right.

I've been doing a lot of jobs in London and people put a lot of doubts into my mind. I realise though they had all invested into HDV, so of course they would look at my XL2 as inferior. Particular problems came apparent though when it became difficult and expensive to transfer their HDV material. I personally have not been yet swept away by the HDV era and I shouldn't be worried about making that choice I did. I should remember all the reasons I brought the XL2 over other camera's and be confident in it and myself.

I would much rather focus on getting good pictures on a budget without the extra hassle with very little realistic benefit at this time of HDV. I brought my XL2 for the 16:9 benefit and I can always get new lens's as I go along. I should keep that advantage in mind.

If 28 days later used the XL1's and the great David Lynch has seen fit to use DV quality for his next film, their is no reason I should feel my decision was a bad one. I just have to make things work with what I have, and what I have is a great camera. It's up to me to be a great cameraman now.
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#17 Timothy Brown

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 10:38 AM

If 28 days later used the XL1's and the great David Lynch has seen fit to use DV quality for his next film, their is no reason I should feel my decision was a bad one. I just have to make things work with what I have, and what I have is a great camera. It's up to me to be a great cameraman now.


I always love when this statement pops up.

James you made a great decision in purchasing an XL2. If it does what you need it to do and you're comfortable using it, then by all means it was a good buying decision.

I'm of the opinion that for most narrative filmmakers, the most important tool to have is a firm understanding of lighting and controlling it and this is achieved easiest by becoming familiar with an entry level lighting kit. If you can keep the windows from blowing out, have a perfectly placed eye glint and just a touch of rim on someone that's lit to perfection, it won't matter what you shoot them with, it should look good. But by no means is that box or bag of Lowell Totas on the floor as sexy as an XL2 or an HDX. Interesting though, that without the Totas or any other lighting instruments, footage from either would look about the same, and not all that great.

Just my 1 penny.
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#18 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 06:19 AM

I feel like Rip VanWinkle. You stay off the boards for a couple of months, and you miss a lifetime. What plugin is this? You can upgrade your footage to HD in post? How is that possible?

More info please - and a link, if you have one.


Andromeda
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#19 Kevin Johnson

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 02:15 AM

Thank you for you're views. You have all pointed out a lot of things I was probably too foolish to consider. I do have a great camera, and I just have to use it right.

I've been doing a lot of jobs in London and people put a lot of doubts into my mind. I realise though they had all invested into HDV, so of course they would look at my XL2 as inferior. Particular problems came apparent though when it became difficult and expensive to transfer their HDV material. I personally have not been yet swept away by the HDV era and I shouldn't be worried about making that choice I did. I should remember all the reasons I brought the XL2 over other camera's and be confident in it and myself.

I would much rather focus on getting good pictures on a budget without the extra hassle with very little realistic benefit at this time of HDV. I brought my XL2 for the 16:9 benefit and I can always get new lens's as I go along. I should keep that advantage in mind.

If 28 days later used the XL1's and the great David Lynch has seen fit to use DV quality for his next film, their is no reason I should feel my decision was a bad one. I just have to make things work with what I have, and what I have is a great camera. It's up to me to be a great cameraman now.


Here's a link to a student film made with the xl2. They were able to produce some beautiful images.
http://redrockmicro....opic.php?t=2419

Edited by Kevin Johnson, 12 November 2006 - 02:16 AM.

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#20 Tom Weilguny

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 06:32 AM

The lens that comes with the XL2 is worthless for doing any kind of cinematic work. There is zero control over it.


Given some time and practise one can do some nice things with it - it does take a while getting acquainted with the mechanics, but so far we´ve managed to get some nice looking shots out of it that one would normally consider impossible with a servo controlled lens. And there´s always the option of storing your zoom/focus preset, if you require spot-on focus.
All depends on how high your standards are of course. If you´re into cinematic work, I´d also get the manual lens, if you´re more into filming events and whatnot, keep the stock lens, it´s really quite powerful if used right.
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