Cannon XL1 Filming Options : LUSENET : Shooting DV Films : One Thread

Hi all,

I'm in the process of doing some shooting on an XL1, with the future intent of blowing up the final master to film. Any opinion on whether or not I should be shooting in FRAME MODE or not? Frame mode allows for 30 full-frame images (instead of 60 half-frame images). The effect is higher resolution and image quality, but I want to make sure that this won't cause headaches later on during the transfer to film. Any insight?

- John P.S. I'd love to hear from anyone else in the DC area interested in DV film. Right now my partner and I are shooting with an XL1 and VX1000, and doing our nonlinear editing on a Digisuite LE system with SpeedRazor.

-- John Windmueller (, November 14, 1998


Hi John,

It's good you asked this question before getting too deep into your project. The answer really depends on who you are planning to use for your video to film transfer. The reason being that different companies have different processes to compensate for the 6 frame/12 field frame rate difference between video (30) and film (24).

Some companies simply throw out every fifth field, which can cause problems in scenes with a lot of motion AND even worse when using the frame movie mode on the XL1.

Other companies use an interpolation process that averages the fields to reduce them down to 24 frames.

I'm doing some video to film test right now that I will be commenting on in the newsletter in the near future. I recommend you shot some for your project as well. Most companies will do 2 to 5 min video to 16mm or 35mm test for a couple of hundred dollars.

Good luck!

-Maxie Collier

-- Maxie D. Collier (, November 14, 1998.

John, I'm in the process of shooting a documentary on DVCAM with a Sony DSR-200A & PD-100. I am very curious ot hear of the results of any tests that you do. By the way, is there a significant cost difference between 16mm transfer and 35mm? Would it pay to transfer from DVCAM to BETA SP before the tape to film transfer?

Thanks, Chris

-- Chris Ward (, January 27, 1999.

Checkout the web sight. Very informative. Consise answers to 16:9, frame mode, shutter speeds,ect along the dv to film transfer methods.


-- Frank Grygier (, March 28, 1999.

The 30 frames per second are vastly superior in that there is one full image to burn onto the film, not two. In scenes with movement there is a difference in the placement of objects from odd and even fields. This looks like crap. But with the progressive scan, available on the Optura and Elura models, you have more control. By the way, it makes frame rendering much simpler. Has anyone thought of using PAL for video to film conversions? Its results are better due to its framerate. Brian Meade

-- Brian Meade (, June 02, 1999.

I thought I'd add this to Brian Meade's thoughts since he obviously doesn't know what the ---- he's talking about:

I recently attended an IFP West seminar where they projected the VX1000, the XL1, High 8, and HDTV transferred to 35mm. The results were fairly stunning to say the least. The VX1000 had the most noticicable artifacting, however, I don't believe it was shot with the idea of transfer in mind. The XL1 looked awesome. However, it is very un-wise to shoot in frame mode. The people at the seminar explained that getting a film-look on video versus transferring video to film are two very different things. If you want to transfer from the XL1 to film, the most important thing to do is get the cleanest, most optically (not electronically!) sharp images you can, and do absolutely NO film looking to what you will transfer to film. They have processes they do there. Also, it is extraordinally that you not overexpose any part of the video. The HDTV stuff that was transferred to film was played back to back with the same scene shot on 35 mm and it was INDISTINGUISHABLE--audible gasps could be heard from the audience. Hope this helps. Biagio Messina

-- Biagio Messina (, December 13, 1998.

-- Johnny Rhinobaucherocerous (, June 02, 1999.

Rhinobaucherocerous, I do know what the --ck I'm talking about. I say Use the Progressive Scan mode. My close and personal friends at say the same thing and they're the ones transferring, not you Johnny!

TECH|Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I make DV look more like film?

If your camera can do 16:9 aspect ratio format, use it. Theatres usually project 35mm at 1.85:1 and that means that with the 4:3 TV aspect ratio, only 345 out of 480 horizontal lines are on the screen. With 16:9 format, we can squeeze them all in. If you can afford to buy a 16:9 anamorphic lens (see the Optex website, that is preferrable to the 16:9 mode on a 4:3 camera.

If your camera can do progressive scan or "frame movie" mode at 30 frames/sec use that instead of interlaced scan. If it has a setting for shutter speed, set it to 1/50th of a second, or the nearest value (e.g. 1/60th).

If you're shooting color, try for a 3:1 lighting ratio. With this ratio, the CCD's response curve is very similar to film. We usually raise the contrast during the transfer process, but it's important not to exceed the range of brightness the CCD can handle. If you want low-key lighting, or harsh lighting, you might consider B&W and then pretty much anything goes.

Avoid hand-held shots or shaking the camera unless it's crucial to the story, or unless your camera has a setting for shutter speed. Without control over shutter speed, a video camera will not blur motion as much as film and this shows up when something is moving quickly.

If possible assume manual control of focus, and absolutely, positively do not use aperature-priority automatic exposure (which will give you very short shutter speeds in bright lighting). Use manual exposure control or shutter-priority auto.

A few words about focus: accurate focusing is crucial for movie-style close-ups. The viewfinders of most DV cameras are inadequate for focusing by eye, especially on close-ups at wide aperatures. The autofocusing cannot be depended on, either, to focus on the actor's eyes. So we sugggest using a large, studio-quality monitor on the set or location, if you are going to be shooting indoor, extreme close-ups at f/4 or wider.

If you do all these things and get a FilmTeam transfer your DV can look pretty close to film. By the way, the Hi8 frame on our demo page violates almost every rule!

1a. Why is 16:9 mode better? Isn't that just letterboxed 4:3?

No, 16:9 is an anamorphic format, like Cinemascope. The image is squeezed horizontally by 25%. This means that in the compression, recording, editing, and film transfer stages, ALL of the information in the frame will be used, and none of it will be thrown away when projected in a theatre, unlike a letterboxed widescreen. It is true, that on most cameras the image sensor does the squeeze electronically, and thus a smaller portion of the sensor is used in 16:9 mode. However, it is better to throw that information away BEFORE the image is compressed, rather than later in the transfer process. Another way to look at it: the top and bottom of the frame are going to be thrown away in the movie theatre, no matter what you do. So it is better to throw it away before the image compression takes place, so a slighter degree of compression is required. With a 16:9 anamorphic lens, 16:9 is absolutely the best.

1b. But 16:9 mode looks blurry on my viewfinder.

You need to view it on a 16:9 monitor side-by-side with a letterboxed 4:3 monitor to make a fair comparison. The 16:9 image is superior after decompression.

1c. Why is progressive scan, or movie-frame mode better than interlaced mode?

The DV compression does not have to work as hard in the non-interlaced modes, so you get beter resolution. If you have a lot of camera movement in your film, interlaced scan might be better. There are fewer motion artifacts in an NTSC to 24 fps conversion, in interlaced mode. However for most NTSC-shot independent films we feel resolution is more important than perfect motion smoothness. For PAL projects, there is no frame-rate conversion problem, so the non-interlaced modes are better in all respects.

2. What about "film look" plug-ins that add grain or diffusion to the picture?

We don't like these because they subtract from the clarity of the image. Your film print will have a natural amount of graininess and diffusion so there is no need to add any electronically. If you really like the "film look" on videotape, then make a separate version with no added effects for film transfer purposes.

3. What about Digital Betacam or HDTV to film?

Yes, we can transfer from DigiBeta or W-VHS tape for an added surcharge of 10%, for feature-length projects only.

Another option is to provide us with high-res computer image files on DAT 24GB backup tape. We can accept any image file size, in .bmp, .sgi, or or .jpg format.

4. What exactly do I have to provide to you for the transfer?

Your film on DV, Hi-8, or Betacam SP tape, edited into 10 minute segments, or "reels", as follows:

Each reel must be preceded by a head leader:

30 seconds of black a .05 sec, 1KHz head beep, accompanied by two video frames of the number 2 in sync with the beep 58 video frames of black

Following the reel, which must be no longer than 10 minutes 0 seconds in duration, (not counting the leaders) there must be an audio "pull-up":

36 video frames of black with a copy of the audio from the first 36 frames of the next reel Followed by a tail leader: 24 video frames of black a .05 sec, 1KHz tail beep, accompanied by two video frames of the word "FINISH" 10 seconds of black

The reels with their leaders can be recorded onto a single tape, or several tapes if necessary.

Please use this format, which keeps our cost to you the lowest.

We can re-edit your film to put it in this format if necessary, but we charge $200/hr for editing time.

5. Why do I have to split my film up into 10-minute reels?

Our film imaging system can only be loaded with 1000 feet of 35mm film, or 400 ft of 16mm, at a time.

6. Why do I have to make that 36-frame pull-up?

35mm optical sound precedes the picture by 26 film frames, because of the design of film projectors. So when the 10 minute reels are spliced together for projection, the splice will cut off the first 1.2 seconds of audio for the new reel, unless you provide the pull-up.

Many film editors plan the 10-minute reel changes carefully so the reel transistion does not occur in the middle of music or dialog.

7. Can I come visit your facility in Austin?

Yes, clients are welcome to visit. Our facilities are presently split over three sites, but it will all be under one roof by early 1999.

8. If I have an all-CGI film, can I provide you with frames in image file format?

Yes, you can give us .bmp, .sgi or .jpg files recorded on a CD-ROM or Jaz drive, or DAT backup tape. Please use frames of the following dimensions:

For 16mm: 640H x 480V, square pixels

For 35mm, 1.85 Academy: 1280H x 692V, square pixels

For 35mm, Scope: 1178H x 1024V, 2:1 horizontal squeeze

We also require a DV or Beta SP tape of the video with the audio in sync, edited into 10-minute reels as described above. This is to prepare the film's audio track.

10. Are any of your DV to film transfers showing in movie theaters?

Yes, we had a DV to 35mm trailer for the movie REDBOY 13 showing at the Dobie theatre in Austin. The movie itself, which is a mix of DV to 35 and regular 35mm, played there for three weeks. This same film also played at the 1997 SXSW Film Festival and at the Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York. The film received many excellent reviews, and the "look" of the film was often cited as exceptional (see REDBOY 13 reviews and articles). We also transferred the feature film THE PERFECT SPECIMEN and the short films ROADHEAD and MUDDY FORK, all of which have played in important film festivals, like Slamdance, LAIFF, and SXSW.

11. Why don't you use higher resolution, like 4K x 3K like they use for high-end CGI transfers?

We usually run the film recorder at 1280 x 1024. At this res it's impossible to see any lines unless you put the negative under a microscope. There are many reasons why a film projector cannot resolve any better: the lens, the registration, the contact printing method, etc. So to use a higher resolution, with low-resolution source material, doesn't gain you very much.

For 35mm source material scanned at 4K x 3K it would make sense to record at the same resolution. Though most of the resolution will be lost when it is projected.

We use 1280 x 692 for CGI films because theaters cut off the top and bottom of a 35mm frame at 1:1.85 aspect ratio. So if you're doing CGI work there's no point in rendering what is going to be off screen anyway.

If you need higher resolution we recommend going to a CG imaging company. They typically charge from $1 to $4 a frame, so the cost is about three to ten times higher.

12. I want to buy/rent a video camera. Which has the best quality for video-to-film transfers?

Whether the camera is digital or analog, the most important specs are "lines of resolution" and the features we talked about in 1. above. Analog video captured with a broadcast-quality capture card can be just as good as DV, all other things being equal.

Three-chip cameras are generally better than single-chip cameras.

Here are some websites for various manufacturers:

Great info about the XL1 from the Canon MiniDV site - Canon

See specs of the latest Sony MiniDV including the VX-1000 - Sony

Also try this Austin retailer, CC Digital

13. We've been shooting with the Canon XL-1. It can do a 30fps "frame-movie" mode, but it has a strobing effect. What does this look like on film?

The reason for the strobing effect is that the camera is sampling the image at half of the normal rate, which tends to break up motion on screen into larger steps. So you have to use a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, so the camera will blur approximately the same amount as with a movie camera.

This works very well, but we usually advise DV filmmmakers to avoid hand-held shots, fast pans, zooms, tilts or shooting rapidly moving objects if they want to make it look like film. If your camera has a setting for shutter speed, like the XL-1, use 1/60th of a second.

14. Can I just test out a couple frames?

Sure, send us some frames on PC-formatted floppy disk, in the .jpg (JPEG) file format. We will transfer them to 35mm slides so you can project them. The charge is $10/frame, $40 minimum. Mail the floppy disk and payment to our PO box on the main page.

15. Can I get a silent test of a few minutes of my footage?

Yes. If you would like to transfer some silent footage to 35mm or 16mm, to see what your camera's 30fps or 60fps mode looks like on film, or with different shutter speeds, we can do that for $250/minute for 35mm or $150/minute for 16mm, with a 2 minute minimum. We would suggest sending a miniDV tape with 15 seconds of each setting. Please edit the 15-second segments together with about 1 second of black before, after, and between each one.

We recommend 35mm over 16mm to get your best projection quality, and we prefer you shoot it in the 16:9 mode if you want 35mm.

Please mail the tape with payment to the PO Box on the main page. Check our test prices for details.

17. What does the 24 fps conversion do to motion blurring? Wouldn't it be better to shoot 60 fps interlaced scan instead of 30 fps so the conversion to 24 fps is smoother?

No, use 30 fps if your camera can do it, at a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second. Unless your film has a lot of hand-held shots or rapid motion, in which case interlaced mode might be better (even at the loss of some resolution).

Why use 30 fps? Most DV cameras give sharper images at 30 fps, because the sensor is being scanned slower. If you use 1/60th shutter speed the blending effect in the 24/30 fps conversion is not noticable.

18. What if I shot my film at 24 fps, in other words, in 16mm? Can you drop out the "interlaced" frames that were added by the film-to-video transfer machine?

Yes, for projects that were shot on film, we have software which looks for the interlaced frames (frames where the film scanner combined two fields from two different film frames to convert from 24 fps to 30fps). If it can find them, which means the camera was moving or something in frame was moving quickly, it will prefer to delete the "interlaced" frames. If it cannot find them, then it just blends frames as if it were shot at 30fps. This is only an issue for programs that originated on 24 fps film, and were transferred to 30 fps video for editing. If you haven't transferred your film to video yet for editing, we suggest you transfer film-to-tape at 30 fps, edit at 24 fps (if your editing software will allow that) and provide us with a master tape recorded at 30 fps. Since the soundtrack will be speeded up, you can supply a normal-rate soundtrack on timecode DAT, DA-88, or AIFF files on DAT backup tape.

19. Some of these issues are way too complicated. Can you help us out?

Yes, we can provide detailed technical consultation. Contact Drew to open an account.

Have an important question that is not on this FAQ? Email

-- Brian Meade (, June 02, 1999.

You go Brian. I was at that IFP West seminar and about half of what Johnny said was close to being right. SHOOT IN FRAME MOVIE MODE if you don't have a lot of action. Late

-- J.D. (, July 19, 1999.

I was also at saw that seminar, but at NAB. The High Def stuff was NOT indistinguishable from Film. The film had way more contrast than the HD stuff. For the HD stuff, the white clipped way before the 35mm and the blacks also fell off. But if you did not see the HD and the 35mm back to back you wouldn't know the difference.

-- Thomas Koch (, August 03, 1999.

Actually... a lot of what Johnny said was right -- at that particular seminar, talking to those particular people.

Tape to film transfer is an evolving process, and labs have their own specific things that they prefer. Sony prefers that you shoot at 60 fields, because they have a patented process that uses all fields to help them smooth the motion. They hate present progressive scan on consumer/pro-sumer cameras. They also prefer that you don't use 16:9 at this time, although, as the chips change, they will change. Their results are really remarkable. This in no way denigrates what filmteam in Austin is doing. They have their own system and preferences. My point: talk to your lab and test before shooting.

-- JP

-- Jim Parriott (, August 06, 1999.

Actually what Jonny said is almost excatly the same thing written in what brian posted use the 60 mode if there is too much on shot action otherwise then 30. So brian read a bit more closely the next time

-- abhimanyu singh mahaley (, November 17, 2000.

Check the XL1 WhatchDog site for good XL1 stuff:

and check this out:

It is an article from an DV to Film company on how to set up and use your XL1 if you want film transfer.

-- Igor Trajkovski (, December 26, 2000.

Hi, After greetings,,, If you dont mind , I want to know my sittings in following software to convert my PAL film to 35 or 16 film: 1- Adobe primiere 6.5 2- Pinnacle pro one RTDV 3- dv cam canon xm 4- price 5- resoulotion

I looking forword to hearing from you.

-- ADEL JUMMA (ARTS_WAYS@YAHOO.COM), August 17, 2003.

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