For Robert Margouleff, the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder is opening new vistas of creative expression in an already long and accomplished career. A former filmmaker and highly successful Grammy-winning record producer, Margouleff is today the CEO of Mi Casa Multimedia, a Los Angeles audio post facility specializing in creating 5.1 surround sound remixes for DVD releases. Noting that DVDs often include bonus documentaries, Margouleff began researching video cameras with an eye toward producing that content as well. “I realized that a camera would be a good investment,” he recalled. “I wanted to get back into doing cinematography and to start moving our company into where we can own content.”
Margouleff‘s research led him to Hollywood camera rental and equipment vendor Birns and Sawyer, which introduced him to the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder. Impressed with the XL H1 HD camcorder‘s superb image quality, advanced features, and affordable price, his next step was to see if the camera could handle the rigors of rough-and-tumble documentary production. For that he took it to the beach.
An Unparalleled View
“We produced a two-and-a-half-minute short subject titled Beach Run, which documents a motorcycle ride down the King Dune Road in Malibu CA,” Margouleff explained. “Beach Run was done as a demo to prove the concept of using XL H1 HD camcorder cameras in adverse real-time, rugged conditions, and make sure the cameras could perform. Over the years, I‘ve remained successful because I thoroughly test everything I use. And if I can‘t do it myself, I find an expert, such as our director of photography Scott Billups. Beach Run is dedicated to him; his inspiration and hard work really helped us tremendously.
“We shot Beach Run with two Canon XL H1 HD camcorders, and edited it with the Cineform Codec in the Wafian HR-1 HD Video Recorder, which takes the 24 Frame output of the XL H1 HD camcorder‘s and turns it into very beautiful, very filmic 24p output,” Margouleff continued. “We then edited the piece together totally with Adobe Premiere 2.0 software in my office. So it was all very portable.
“The XL H1 HD camcorder gave me an unparalleled view, I couldn‘t wish for better-looking images. I ran it through some very extensive tests with Billups, including a film-out at iO Film, a digital intermediate facility in Burbank CA, where we actually shot direct to the Wafian box with the Cineform Codec in it. The results were quite astounding. The XL H1 HD camcorder outperformed far more expensive HD cameras. When you consider the price differential, it‘s a pretty amazing thing. But then again, the Canon XL H1 HD Camcorder is brand-new technology. We‘re extremely pleased.”
New, Creative Areas
Encouraged by his results with the XL H1 HD camcorder on the beach, Margouleff turned his attention toward the Pacific Ocean itself and those who sail its waters. “My plan is to produce a series on tall ships and the people who sail them,” he explained. “I recently went out on the Lynx, a replica of an 1812 American privateer. The ship takes students out and its crew wears period costumes. We had a beautiful voyage and we shot with the Canon XL H1 HD camcorder all over the ship, including up to the top of the mast.
“We used every button on the camera,” Margouleff emphasized. “We‘re not against putting everything through its paces to the point of failure to see how much it can take. The XL H1 HD camcorder is an easy-to-use camera and very adaptive, especially working in the automatic mode. I was astounded at its ability to remain stable under very difficult handheld conditions. Its color rendition and detail are beautiful. It‘s also very good in low light. We were able to get a wide variety of shots, and I‘m looking forward to getting the wide-angle lens for the XL H1 HD camcorder.
“My plan is to do a documentary on 12 tall ships for a major cable network,” Margouleff elaborated. “Many of the people who sail on them today are college kids who take a year or two off after graduation. They learn how to face the elements together as a team and embrace what you‘d call Yankee ingenuity. When you‘re 90 feet off the deck on a yard arm, you get a very different point of view of the world. When a young person returns from such a voyage they‘re far more confident and mature.
“I think this would make for a very exciting television series. I‘m inspired by the historic 16mm footage shot in 1928 by Capt. Irving Johnson, who sailed the Peking, one of the last big clipper ships, around Cape Horn. The ship is today a floating museum at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City. Many of the shots that I got on the Lynx emulate the shots that I saw in Johnson‘s films.
“We‘re preparing our pilot now with the XL H1 HD camcorder,” Margouleff revealed. “It‘s our plan to use all Canon equipment with the Wafian HR-1 HD Video Recorder and CineForm editing software to produce these shows entirely on board the ship. The director and the crew will live together and by the time we return to port the film we will be virtually finished, with the exception of a little bit of post. I hope to get a major film composer to score it in the style of Richard Rogers‘ classic Victory at Sea series. And since I‘m in the audio business, we‘ll include a full 5.1 audio soundtrack. Our company is moving into new, creative areas and the XL H1 HD camcorder is giving us the capabilities to get there.”