Chapter OneExploring The Canon VIXIA HD Camcorders
In This Chapter
Recording quality and times
About the technology
VIXIA AVCHD camcorders
VIXIA HV20 and HV30 HDV camcorders
At this point, you have probably recorded video and taken some still images with your Canon VIXIA camcorder right out of the box, and have had a chance to see firsthand the high-quality images that it can produce. The Quick Tour section in this book helps you get started using your camcorder right away by introducing some of the basic functionality of the camera. This chapter provides a more in-depth look at what your camcorder has to offer.
Before I dive into menu systems and configuring your camcorder for your personal needs, I give you an extensive tour of the technology behind your camcorder, and the many features at your disposal that enable you to produce beautiful video and still imagery. In this chapter, I also give you the walking tour of your camcorder's layout so that you can become more familiar with where buttons and functions are located.
Cross-Reference Navigating the menu systems is discussed in detail in Chapter 2.
The Canon VIXIA HD camcorder series offers an array of format options, including SD (Standard Definition), HDV (High Definition Video), and the new AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) format, as well as various acquisition methods such as flash memory, hard disk drive, HDV tape, and DVD. First, I discuss the common technology behind the Canon VIXIA camcorder line, then, I get into individual models and their unique features. Knowing the technology and having the ability to effectively navigate your camcorder ensures you are operating your camera as efficiently as possible and getting the best shot possible.
Recording Quality and Times
Given that some of the camcorders in the VIXIA lineup acquire images to flash memory and the internal hard disk drive, it is important to know how storage capacity translates into the recording time available. Each camcorder in the VIXIA lineup possesses the ability to record video at various qualities. The quality you choose affects the amount of video you can place on a memory card, hard disk drive, DVD, or tape.
Caution Make sure that you initialize each memory card before using it with your camcorder. Refer to your camcorder's instruction manual to see how to initialize your memory card.
Table 1.1 provides a complete list of recording times for the camcorders in the VIXIA lineup that acquire video by means of flash memory and internal hard disk drive. The approximate recording time for each camcorder has also been adjusted for recording quality. Maximum recording times for the DVD-based VIXIA HR10 model is located in the VIXIA HR10 section of this chapter. While the VIXIA HV20 and HV30 have the ability to record in either HD or DV quality, they are not capable of adjusting HD quality like the other camcorders. If you want information on the differences in recording time between HD and DV quality for these two camcorders, please refer to your instruction manual.
Cross-Reference To see how to access the recording qualities of each camcorder, check out Chapter 3.
Caution When shopping for more memory cards, keep in mind that in order to record in MXP or FXP mode, your memory card has to be rated Speed Class 4 or higher. The SD Speed Class indicates the minimum data transfer rate of SD and SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) memory cards. Make sure that you look for the Speed Class logo on the back of the package.
About the Technology
No matter which VIXIA camcorder you have, you are capable of capturing vivid, attention-grabbing images. The features I discuss in this section are nearly consistent throughout the VIXIA series, and any discrepancies between models are duly noted. Consider this an introduction to the many features you will use throughout this book, as you learn to adapt to various shooting conditions. The features include:
* Canon HD video lens. The lenses vary from 10X to 12X optical zoom in the VIXIA series. This means that you can zoom in and out on a subject with the actual optical glass magnifying the image 10 or 12 times before it reaches the image sensor. The lenses come with three to four pre-set zoom speeds along with variable zoom speed capability, so that you can zoom into longs shots of the soccer field or recitals smoothly. Spectra coating technology limits the possibility of lens flares and ghosting. * Full HD CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) image sensor. This technology has been adapted from the Canon dSLR (digital single lens reflex) family. Each VIXIA camcorder comes with a full HD image sensor, ranging from 2.96 to 3.3 megapixels, capable of capturing images at 1920 x 1080 pixels for true high-definition footage. This sensor also includes noise-reduction technology for shooting in low-light situations; this helps produce a crisper image even when there is insufficient light. * DIGIC DV II image processor. Canon refers to their image processors as DIGIC (Digital Imaging Core). This processor has the capacity to process video images containing large amounts of information, such as high-definition video. It is responsible for accurate color reproduction in both the video and still images, and also comes equipped with its own noise-reduction capabilities. * Instant Auto Focus (AF). Because the HD image is crystal-clear, a viewer will quickly notice a subject that is even slightly out of focus. Instant AF uses an external AF sensor to determine the distance between the camcorder and the subject, and quickly adjusts the lens so that the image is in sharp detail. This is a great feature for shooting fast-moving objects. The automatic focus can quickly shift to a new subject without your intervention, letting you focus strictly on the composition of the shot. Although very convenient, this technology can sometimes be fooled when you compose shots with a predominant object in the near foreground and your subject is in the distance. For example, if you are shooting your subject through tall brush or tree limbs, the automatic focus can have difficulty determining what is supposed to be in focus.
Caution The optional wide-angle and telephoto lens converters can sometimes obstruct the Instant AF filter, in which case you will have to set the AF mode to Normal AF in the camcorder menu system.
Cross-Reference For more on your camcorder's automatic focus-assist options, see Chapter 3.
* 9-point AiAF. Your VIXIA camcorder has the ability to take still photos with resolutions up to 3.1 megapixels. To ensure that your subject is always in focus, no matter where they are in the frame, Canon uses 9-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus) to decipher which objects to lock on in the frame. This feature evaluates objects in your scene by position and movement to ensure that off-center objects are in sharp focus. This is the default setting under Focus Priority, which appears as Focus Pri in the camera menu system. * SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization. As the zoom magnification increases when you zoom in on a distant subject, camera shake also becomes magnified. SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization technology detects movement and shifts the lens accordingly to stabilize the shot. This is helpful for hand-held shots where there is the inevitable shake or sway. It is also good for taking blur-free still photos. * Program AE (Automatic Exposure) mode. In this mode, your camcorder automatically optimizes exposure for a wide variety of shooting conditions. Your options include:
Program. By default, your camcorder is set to this mode where the camcorder optimizes the aperture and shutter settings for the best exposure for the subject you are shooting. This is a great hands-free option and yields fantastic results.
Portrait. This mode uses a wide aperture, letting in more light and blurring the background so that the focus is sharp on the subject. The blurring of the background intensifies the more you zoom in on the subject.
Sports. This mode is great for recording tennis, softball, golf, and so on. However, upon playback, the picture may not appear entirely smooth due to the high shutter speed.
Night. Your recordings in low-lit places can benefit greatly from this mode. If the lighting is too low, the picture can appear grainy. Motion blurring can also be a factor with fast-moving objects given the lower shutter speed used with this mode.
Snow. This is a great mode for brightly lit scenes such as at ski resorts, where the sun reflects off the white snow. This is a good option for keeping your subjects from being underexposed against the snow banks. Beach. Use this mode on sunny days at the beach to keep your subjects from being underexposed. Given this mode uses a very high shutter speed, the image may not play back as smoothly as in other modes.
Sunset. This mode enables you to capture a wide, dynamic range of vibrant colors that are associated with a sunset.
Spotlight. This is a good mode for performances that use a spotlight, such plays and dance recitals.
Fireworks. Record fireworks using this mode. You may want to consider using a tripod for both video and still-image acquisition to avoid shake in this particular mode, which uses a slow shutter speed.
* Cinema mode. By using the special scene recording programs, you can give your video a cinematic look, which adjusts color and tonal characteristics so they're similar to film. You can also use this feature in conjunction with the 24 frames per second (or 24p) progressive frame rate, providing film-like motion characteristics to further enhance the cinematic look of your video. This is a great feature if you're an independent filmmaker who wants to capture the aesthetic of film for your work.
Cross-Reference Cinema mode settings are discussed in further detail in Chapter 2, and the Program AE mode is covered further in Chapter 6.
* 30p progressive frame rate recording. In addition to recording in 24p and 60 interlaced frames (60i), the VIXIA HV30, HF10, HF11, HF100, HG20, and HG21 camcorders can also use 30p progressive frame rate recording for Web video. You will want to use this setting if you are compressing your video for the Web at 15 frames per second (fps). Because the video you are shooting is already at 30 fps, pulling out only every other frame gives you better-looking Web video.
* Quick Start. This function is either the physical button located on the VIXIA HR10 and HG10 camcorders or what you can activate by the opening and closing of the LCD panel on the VIXIA HF10, HF11, and HF100 models. The VIXIA HV20 and HV30 do not have a Quick Start function. When you press the Quick Start button, or close the LCD panel, the camcorder goes into standby mode, which conserves your battery power by reducing power consumption. When you press the Quick Start button again, or flip open the LCD, the camcorder immediately goes back into recording mode. This is a great way to always be prepared for a quick shot, without having to wait for the camcorder to power back up.
* Built-in video light/LCD video light. Some VIXIA camcorders come equipped with their own built-in video light on the front of the camcorder that can aid you when you shoot in low-light conditions. This light is effective up to about 5 feet. Some models use the new LCD video light function that is built right into the camcorder's LCD panel; simply activate the video light function and flip the screen toward your subject.
Cross-Reference For more on the function and use of the built-in video light, see Chapter 2.
* Simultaneous still shooting. This feature lets you take a still shot, while you are recording video.
* Photo grab. This feature is great for times when you recorded video footage, but also need a still photo of a specific frame of video. When you are playing back the video, you can take a still photo of the frame you want at a 2.0 megapixel resolution. I take a closer look at this feature and how to implement it in Chapter 3.
* Histogram display. When viewing the still photos you have taken, you can choose to display the histogram to see the brightness information of the photo. This can help you make adjustments to exposure for later shots.
* Direct printing with PictBridge. The Direct Print functionality of your Canon camcorder makes printing your captured images very simple with a PictBridge-compatible printer. PictBridge is a standardized technology that allows you to print images directly from your camcorder's memory card with the press of the Print/ Share button.
* Mini High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) terminal. High-definition connections made with the HDMI terminal on your camcorder give you the highest quality playback, transporting both high-definition video and the audio signal with a single cable. You can only make this type of connection with an HD TV. An HDMI cable is not shipped with your Canon VIXIA camcorder. If you want to make a high-definition connection to your high-definition TV, you can purchase an HDMI cable at any computer or electronics store.
* Canon DW-100 DVD burner-compatible. The optional DW-100 DVD burner gives owners of the AVCHD hard disk drive and flash memory-based camcorders the ability to create HD DVD discs. This burner also allows you to play back your AVCHD DVDs on your television through your camera without the need for an AVCHD-compatible player. This is another good option for storing your video and photos, because you can burn photo DVDs as well as video DVDs. The DW-100 can record in both the AVCHD and DVD-video formats.
Cross-Reference For camcorders that use AVCHD flash memory and hard disk drives, Chapter 8 covers burning a DVD using the DW-100 DVD burner. You will also learn how to preview AVCHD DVDs on a TV using the DVD burner.
Each camcorder in the Canon VIXIA lineup accesses the various operating modes differently. Some VIXIA models have a single dial you can move to the various modes; others have a Camera or Mode option on the Power switch where you can access camera and play modes, and by flipping a second switch, choose to record or play back movies or still mages. Throughout this book, I will be referring to Camera mode as Movie mode for all camcorders. The following is a list of the VIXIA operating modes:
* Movie mode. This mode is for recording movies.