New Instructional DVD on the Canon XH A1 Camcorder Covers New Ground In-Depth

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At 101 minutes, "Learn The XH A1" is the most detailed video instruction to date on Canon's very popular (under $10,000) professional HD camcorder.

"Learn The XHA1" is a new 1 hour and 41 minute instructional DVD for users of the Canon XH A1 camcorder. According to producer and narrator Dave Curran (author of the best-selling Amazon short "How to Make a Low-Budget Digital Movie") the video was the result of his own efforts to master this highly complex digital camcorder/camera. "The videos out there answered some of my questions," says Curran, "but far from all. And it was in the most complex areas that the details were lacking."

So Curran spent four months working on this instructional video. "The mundane stuff is in there," says Curran, "it has to be. How to turn the camera on. etc." But according to Curran, even that led to innovations: Previous videos showed people talking. Often not even in sync. One video showed an incorrect way to use a recessed RESET button, that could possibly damage the button. "I did contact Canon Tech Support if I was unsure about something. It was easy and they were very helpful. But obviously not everyone who made a video did that. The recessed RESET is intended to be pressed lightly with the battery out of the camera. It was not meant to be pressed on for long periods of time. Yet, that is exactly what one older video says."

Curran's major innovation was not to appear in the video at all. Because he did not have 'talking heads' taking up time, he was able to focus on examples, and even add graphics that helped give punch to the tutorial. "I think video is capable of being a wonderful instructional tool," says Curran who earned a masters in interpersonal communication, and another in creative writing at the University of Montana. "But for a video to be a really effective tool it needs to be pregnant with detail, and be authored from the point of view that the viewer knows nothing and needs everything explained--with as many examples as possible."

In fact, according to Curran, it is good for the author not to know much about the subject at all at the beginning. That way all the questions you had, all the things you did not understand, and how you discovered the answers are fresh in your mind." Learn the XHA1 covers areas uncovered in previous videos. Simple ones, such as battery use and charging are included. As is a detailed example of how to get a tape ready for the camcorder. "I found it amazing that no one else had covered tape preparation," says Curran. "What I try to do with a video like this is teach myself as thoroughly as possible, and not leave anything important out."

That seems to have worked well for the viewers of his previous instructional DVD, "Learn Handgun & Rifle Reloading in Under 41 Minutes," which has been the bestselling DVD on reloading on Amazon for some time now.

"Making the video was a process of discovery," says Curran, who purchased his XHA1 with the idea of shooting high quality DV at 24 frames per second so it could be transferred eventually to film. "Until I began working on the still camera features of the XHA1, I did not know what a versatile camera this was. The quality of the photos it can take, and range of light metering and other enhancements just blew me away. Plus, now, with 2 gig SD cards relatively inexpensive you can take 1475 super-high-quality 1920 x 1080) photos without stopping. And if you needed it you could buy a 8 gig card and have 4 times that many photos."

Since he wasn't talking into the camera, Curran had a lot more video time for examples, from showing how to use the aperture to blur the background, to the effects of digital and physical wind socks. But the real challenges in the video were concrete examples of the hard stuff. "The skin detail feature was a challenge," says Curran, "because no matter what ,it will take time for most people to master. So my approach was to show step-by-step how viewers could teach themselves this feature."

Other features where just fun. For the color correction section Curran shows step-by-step how to create a black & white world where ducks have pink bills.

"I loved doing this video," says Curran. "I learned so much in making the video that I know I can make better use of the camcorder now. Just the fact that I've mastered taking still photos while I'm shooting HDV in 24f will save time and effort with promotional photos during a shoot."

Curran is even thinking of posting some challenge test questions on his LearnTheXHA1 website, such as: "You are going to tape a wedding, ceremony only, with three camcorders, two of which are XH A1's. How are you going to set your cameras up?" The fact that the DVD will have given his viewers everything they need to know to answer those questions, Curran says, makes him feel pretty good about the video.

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