Friday, February 17, 2006

Canon XL H1 Filmout Results - Awesome!

(Posted by David Taylor in the absence of David Newman)

In the blog dated Tuesday, January 17, I offered details for the 35mm filmout test we initiated with the Canon XL H1 shot in its 24F mode. During the shooting portion of the test, the XL H1 was simultaneously recorded to HDV tape and also to the Wafian HR-1 direct-to-disk recorder. In this post I’ll offer some subjective commentary on the results of the filmout.

After our first day of shooting (described below) we did a second day of shooting. In addition to the XL H1, the second day of shooting also included a Sony F900 that was recorded to HDCam tape in 24p mode. Unfortunately we did not have an HD-SDI module for the F900, and we acknowledge that recording to tape reduces its visual fidelity somewhat. When recording HDCam to tape the spatial resolution is 1440 x 1080 (same as HDV) with 3:1:1 chroma (versus 4:2:0) and 8 bits of precision (same). The filmout included the F900 material after it was ingested from HDCam tape. Comparatively, the CineForm Intermediate files are always 1920 x 1080 with 4:2:2 chroma and 10 bits of precision.

Of course viewing 35mm material on-screen is mainly a visual experience, and is inherently subjective. Perhaps the most consistent comment by all 20-ish of us who had the privilege of viewing the material was “Awesome!”. It can be stated emphatically that the XL H1 when printed to 35 mm film really looks excellent – colors, shadows, highlights, range, low noise, etc. It held up very well to the F900. I’m not sure why, and it was a surprise to us, but the F900 had a noisier appearance than the XL H1.

I’ve included a few image grabs from the test sequences used in the filmout that compare the XL H1 in its HDV mode and its D2D mode using the Wafian HR-1. The images were created by grabbing corresponding frames out of the video sequences and exporting them as bitmaps. Note that the source images were 10-bit CineForm Intermediate files, and the bitmaps are 8-bit files. As is evident in the images there is more resolution and more preservation of detail in the XL H1 D2D captures than the HDV captures. Unfortunately I do not have any F900 images to compare to. The F900 sequences were ingested at I/O Film during the recording session and were not grabbed separately on the editing workstation.

As a final comment, we’ve had the privilege of being invited to two additional camera test shoots also intended for 35mm filmout. Both shoots were performed earlier this week: One included the HVX200 and XL H1. The other included the Grass Valley Viper, shot in its HDStream mode, and the XL H1. We’ll offer more details on these shoots in the coming weeks after the filmout process.

Many thanks are in order for this filmout project, including to Robert Margouleff at Mi Casa Multimedia who initiated the project, Scott Billups for managing and performing the tests, Chris Angel at Mirage Productions for doing the post work, IO Film for doing the filmout, Birns and Sawyer for offering their facility for the first camera shoot, HDVision for use of their facility for the second shoot, and FotoKem for offering their viewing facilities.