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Using the Canon XHA11 Camcorder

Instructions are simplified for the purpose of quickly getting up and running, they do not include more advanced techniques. Canon XHA1 miniDV videocameras are available at Media Services, require reservations.

A. Pre-Production

  1. Familiarize yourself with the camera and tripod the day before use.
    1. Buy a tape from Media Services. Record and play back a little bit of video.
    2. Fully charge the battery (this can take a few hours).
  2. Have a complete checklist of needed items for the day of the shoot, it’s easy to forget things.
  3. Scout out the shoot locations for suitability.
    1. Avoid noisy environment and rooms with HVAC systems. If you can't avoid the HVAC, don't set up mic under one.
    2. Check availability at times needed.
    3. Avoid extreme differences in light and shade. Outdoor locations are best shot in the shade, or on a cloudy day, if possible. Direct sunlight is very harsh. Indoors, watch out for bright windows. They will close the camera iris, and everything else will be dark.
    4. Don't forget the importance of props, scenery, ambiance.
  4. Take good care of the camera
    1. Do not expose to extreme sunlight, heat or cold.
    2. Internal parts are delicate, keep dust out, do not force anything.
    3. Do not locate camera where it can easily be dropped, where tripod can be kicked over, where camera can be easily stolen.
    4. Return equipment in a timely manner, someone else may be waiting to use it.

B. Major camera features

a. Open case and review important items

  1. Camera
  2. Microphone, XLR cable, Mic handle
  3. Batteries
  4. Battery Chargers, battery eliminator
  5. Accessories: Sunshade, shoulder mount, instruction manual.

b. Open tripod, take out camera, mount on tripod, take off lens cap.

c. Install battery

d. Turn on the camera, using the large dial on the left side, and set to green rectangle, this puts the camera into Auto mode. Do not force dial, press the small gray unlock button before turning. If you want to use manual focus, set the camera dial to "A". This puts the camera in Auto mode (including focus), but it can be overridden with the manual focus ring.

e. Open the LCD monitor on top: unlock the switch and slide LCD FIRST out and THEN up.

f. Check camera settings

  1. Set the audio level switch in lower left to A (Auto).
  2. Flip the lever behind the side handle to "Standby". Inside this is the record button.
  3. MAKE SURE the camera is in DV, 16:9, 60i mode. This should display in the viewfinder as DV16:9, and the blue DV light will be on in the large dial.
  4. If it is not in the above mode, you need to enable it. Push the Menu button. You will see the menu in the viewfinder. Items are selected and enabled with the small thumbwheel in the lower left of the camera back. Select SIGNAL SETUP. Select Signal STD, push wheel, select SD16:9. Select FRAME RATE, set it to 60i. The DV16:9 and 60i are two separate and independent settings, they both have to be enabled.
  5. Push Menu button to exit the menu system.
  6. If you want to produce a Black and White movie, the easiest way is to set the LCD viewfinder to B&W, shoot in color, and then convert color to B&W in iMovie. To set the LCD viewfinder to B&W, press the Menu button, go to DISPLAY SETUP, select CVF+LCD BW, and set it to ON. Press Menu again to close the menu. Before turning in the camera, please set this to OFF, the usual mode.
  7. Use either the viewfinder or the LCD screen to frame your shots. The LCD screen uses more battery power, if your battery is getting low, use the viewfinder. The LCD screen is washed out in bright sunlight.

g. Test recording.

  1. Put a tape in the camera: Slide forward the open/eject lever, ensure tape is correctly aligned, push only on yellow area, allow the transport to lower by itself, close door.
  2. Information shown in LCD screen: DV format, aspect ratio and frame rate, red light when recording, timecode recorded, image stabilizer (small hand), tape remaining, battery level, audio level.
  3. When using the viewfinder, adjust the diopter, a small lever above the viewfinder, for your vision.
  4. If the camera is not used for 5 minutes, it will go into standby. To "wake" it, flip the Standby/Lock switch back and forth.
  5. ND-This is the Neutral Density filter. Use in bright sunlight. Viewfinder will prompt you to turn it on or off.
  6. Record by pushing the record button on the right, or on top.
  7. Zoom in and out using the control on the right side or at the top. The side one has variable zoom speed, the harder you push the faster you zoom.
  8. For manual focus, turn the large dial on the left to the "A" Square, and flip the AF/M (autofocus/manual) switch to M.
  9. To play back a recorded tape, turn the large dial to VCR/Play.
  10. Flip back the cover on top of the handle, the small controls for the VCR are exposed.

H. Audio Production

  1. Use a set of headphones to monitor audio, flip open the back flap to access the headphone jack.
  2. Use the shotgun mic if the audio source is too far.
  3. Connect mic using XLR cable to CH1, Set switches to: XLR MIC ATT off, Line/Mic to Mic, Ch1/Ch1-Ch2 to Ch1-Ch2.
  4. If the mic needs power, either ensure the battery is good, or turn on phantom power (+48V switch camera front)
  5. Go into menu: Audio Setup:XLR INPUT to ON-XLR
  6. To return to the onboard mic, go into menu: Audio Setup: XLR Input: OFF
  7. Occasionally you will have to manually adjust audio recording volumes. Set Audio Level swith to M (manual) and the large dial to "A". Use the two audio level knobs to control the audio, by monitoring the VU meters in the LCD display and verifying with the headphones.
  8. Use the small menu wheel to adjust headphone level.

C. Production and Videography techniques

  1. Set up early for the shoot. Record and play back a little video.
  2. Watch out for camera shake. Use a tripod if you are zooming in at more than 50% for more than a few seconds or if you have longer scenes. Make sure your tripod is level. If you are not using a tripod, keep the camera as steady as possible, and avoid extreme zooms.
  3. If you are more than 8-10 feet away from the action, the built-in microphone will start to sound poor. Good audio is harder to capture than good video.
  4. Control the lighting: try for even illumination, nothing extremely bright, or the camera iris will close. Try to keep the subject brighter than the background.
  5. Compose the shot esthetically before you record it. Make your pans and zooms slowly and carefully. Watch some of your favorite shows or movies for ideas on composition.
  6. Head locations are especially important. Always take into account visual “headroom” and “talkspace”. If you are ambitious, you can sketch out rough storyboards of the action.
  7. Be aware of tape recording lag. Let the camera record 5 seconds before and after a scene.
  8. When you are done, rewind a short section of the tape, and play it back, to ensure you have recorded.

D. Editing and Post-production

  1. A member of the Instructional Technology Team can offer editing workshops using iMovie in the Advanced Technolgy Lab, in Shain Library.
  2. Sign up for the computers in the ATL for edit time. There are 4 Macs with miniDV decks that can be used. The fifth Mac has editing software, and can be connected to a camcorder for capture.
  3. Editing support can be provided by Jeff Gada and Dave Baratko in Media Services, and Frank Fulchiero
  4. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you shot in 16:9 Widescreen, please check with us before you capture in iMovie, for best settings.