David and Christopher Thaler have been in the television production business for more than 20 years. Working for a wide array of broadcast, cable and corporate clients, the brothers have captured motion images on everything from 35mm film to DV tape. In recent years their Emmy Award-winning New York-based company, Thaler Films, has provided production services for many top-rated cable series, including John Edward Cross Country, on WE tv, featuring the world-famous psychic medium, author and lecturer. When the show‘s producer asked if they could capture high-def close-ups of John Edward interacting with audience members, but do it inconspicuously with a telephoto lens from the back of a 5,000-seat studio, David Thaler sought an alternative to the cameras they had been using to shoot this live-to-tape series.
“They said, ‘We want you to DP the studio version of the show; it‘s an eight-camera shoot, and we‘re going to need long lenses‘, ” David Thaler recalled. “Close-ups of John Edward are essential; it‘s important we get the right eye-line. The audience is also a big part of the show and the cameras can‘t be visible. We had to shoot from way in the back, behind the audience, but still capture nice, tight shots of John Edward that show the emotion and the reaction in his face. We also had to shoot in high-def.
“I started researching the best available cameras, and discovered that the XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders from Canon U.S.A., Inc. gave us everything we needed,” Thaler affirmed. “The XL H1 gave us the great option of interchangeable lenses, although it turned out that the 20x HD zoom lens provided with the camera gave us all the framing we wanted.
“The biggest selling points for both the Canon XL H1 and the Canon XH G1, however, were their industry-standard connections (HD-SDI output, time code in/out, and genlock input), which enables us to slave all these cameras together. Once we started doing our homework on these cameras we discovered all the hidden treasures that they have.”
Time Code Advantage
“We shoot in-the-round and need multiple cameras to capture video of both the audience and John Edward as he‘s reading,” Thaler continued. “There are eight Canon cameras in the studio. Three are the XL H1‘s locked-down in the back of the studio. Three are XH G1‘s toward the front of the studio on big professional pedestals. We mounted a teleprompter on one of the XH G1‘s, have another on a jib, and another hand-held on a monopod. It‘s a serious, mainstream kind of production. It was great to be able to integrate these cameras into that world, and to have the studio camera operators and engineers react in such a positive way.”
The professional standards built into the Canon‘s XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders further confirmed their acceptance into this high-end broadcast environment, Thaler related.
“Last year, when we used a different brand of camera, we needed to mount concert slates all over the room so that all the eight cameras could grab time code, which we needed for editing,” Thaler said. “We needed to match them all up for post, and it presented challenges and put more responsibility on the camera operators to have to remember to grab time code again every time we switched tape. Now, however, having time code in and out on the Canon XH G1 and XL H1 camcorders is just wonderful.”
Thaler added that the HD-SDI outputs on the XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders also provide the option of connecting to a digital video control room and switching the show live. The added benefit of an HDV tape rolling in each camera in “iso” means that every moment of the production is saved, should a shot be missed or an insert-edit desired later on by the director or editor.
A Consistent Look
The portability of the Canon XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders, along with their image-enhancement features and selectable frame rates, provides added production advantages, Thaler noted, both inside and outside the studio.
“We can quickly break-off the cameras from their tripods in the back of the room and run outside to get reaction shots from the audience as they‘re coming in or out of the studio,” he explained. “That saves money because we don‘t need a separate ENG crew to do that. We use the same cameras and everything about the look of the video is consistent. My brother Christopher used the customization capabilities of the XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders to paint a nice, warm film look and then matched them all up using their SD memory cards. Everything is consistent. The client has us shoot 60i in the studio to keep everything looking as clean as possible. Field work, however, is done in 24F.”
The field work Thaler refers to are location shoots of follow-up visits Edward makes to select audience members in their homes.
“We shoot the sit-downs in people‘s homes in 24F with a different look from the studio portions of the show,” Thaler said. “The video looks amazing. The clients are extremely impressed and definitely see the difference between the Canons and the camera brand we had been using. The set-ups, the way the XH G1‘s and XL H1‘s are all painted and matched looked really good, and the lighting was beautiful.”
Changing the Industry
According to Thaler, the compact size of the Canon XH G1 HD camcorder is changing perceptions throughout the industry about what a “professional” video camera should look like.
“A bigger camera is no longer a thing of pride with us,” he stated. “A lot of the DPs and shooters coming out of film school were trained on DV cameras - as opposed to ‘traditional‘ full-size ENG models - and they know how to use them. Size is not as important as being creative in the production process, and putting the emphasis on the final product. If the finished product looks as good or better, and the workflow is improved so it‘s easier and more cost-efficient to get the product out to your client; what else matters?
“Another big factor in favor of Canon camcorders are the optics on them. There‘s typically a fixed lenses on HDV cameras. If you‘re going to have to live with a lens, you should go with a company - Canon - that has a great history in optics.”
Thaler Films currently has a total of eight Canon HD camcorders. “We‘re using them all the time,” David Thaler explained. “We are integrating Canon XH G1 HD camcorders into our client base and our workflow both for live HD production - using a truck sometimes - and also for Internet streaming. We do a lot of reality TV and the
XH G1 lets us archive in high def and post in standard def, or any other workflow we choose. Plus, the cameras are smaller. If you‘re doing a fashion- or home-makeover show and you‘re in someone‘s house, these smaller cameras enable you to use more of them, which can really increase production quality and keep costs way down.
“We had been using full-size cameras to do Internet television for corporate clients, but XH G1 not only gives you affordable HD, it also has the embedded audio and time code in its HD-SDI output. This lets us go to any compression format we want to - and there‘s a lot of new ones coming out - which is an amazing feature on these cameras. There are no limitations now.
“The picture quality is also amazing,” Thaler concluded. “It‘s more bang for the buck. The industry is definitely being shaped and changed, especially by this camera. It‘s really bridging the gap between industrial and broadcast, where the limitations aren‘t as clear anymore. We‘re very happy with our XH G1 and XL H1 HD camcorders from Canon U.S.A.”
About Canon U.S.A., Inc.
Canon U.S.A., Inc. delivers consumer, business-to-business, and industrial imaging solutions. Its parent company, Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ), a top patent holder of technology, ranking third overall in the U.S. in 2007’, with global revenues of $34.9 billion, is listed as one of Fortune‘s Most Admired Companies in America and is on the 2007 BusinessWeek list of “Top 100 Brands.” To keep apprised of the latest news from Canon U.S.A., sign up for the Company's RSS news feed by visiting www.usa.canon.com/pressroom.
’ IFI Patent Intelligence Press Release, January 2008