At US$1,999 street price including balanced XLR audio inputs, the Canon XA10 AVCHD camera is quite interesting from several perspectives, and that’s probably why so many of my consulting clients who favor 25p or 29.97p and need balanced audio have chosen it. The XA10 reminds me of a shrunken, sexier-looking Panasonic AG-HMC40. The XA10’s CMOS sensor is larger than that of the AG-HMC40, and rather than oversampling with higher than 1080p resolution, Canon decided to make it native 1920x1080 and skip the 720p modes altogether, so there is no scaling and better sensitivity than the HMC40. But this article is not a review about the XA10s specs and feature set, but how it stands in terms of PsF status, and how that unfortunately complicates -or jeopardizes- its ideal post workflow for those producing 25p or 29.97p.
The terms Benign PsF and Malignant PsF
The terms benign PsF and malignant PsF were introduced in Part 1 of this series called PsF’s missing workflow.
Canon XA10’s malignant PsF
I recently discovered that Canon’s professional XA10 AVCHD camera (USA segregated version) unfortunately records malignant PsF in its so-called PF30 mode, which is actually 29.97p recorded over 59.94i. It has been clearly stated by Canon that it is PsF, but I had hoped that it would be benign PsF, as has been my experience from AVCHD PsF from Panasonic (AG-HMC40 and AF100) and some other cameras that I’ll be covering in upcoming articles in this series. Neither Adobe Premiere CS5.5 nor Apple Final Cut Pro X has any idea that the malignant PsF is really progressive footage disguised as interlaced footage. If imported into a progressive timeline and not compensated manually by the operator, it will be subject to several negative side effects as covered in Part 1 of this series.
VideoSpec reports that the 29.97PsF footage from the Canon XA10 is Malignant PsF and I have confirmed that it misinforms the editing software that the footage is interlaced, which it is not.
Thanks to Jorge Koechlin and Rafael Alarcón for this footage. Beware XA10 29.97p users: You must inform the editing software manually that your 29.97PsF footage from the PF30 mode is really progressive!
What about the 50Hz version XA10?
Canon’s specs also indicate that the PF25 mode of the 50Hz version also records PsF (although of course, they don’t indicate benign or malignant PsF). I haven’t yet had a chance to receive raw footage from the XA10 50Hz version. However, reader Jorge Mez©i from Buenos Aires, Argentina recently sent me PF25 raw footage recorded with the Canon HF M32E, which is a lower-priced Canon model than the XA10 with a smaller sensor and without balanced XLR inputs. Although not the exact same model, both are Canon AVCHD; Canon specs indicate that it is PsF; and the behavior with Premiere Pro CS5.5, Final Cut Pro X, and VIdeoSpec is unfortunately the same:
Can Canon’s Malignant PsF be fixed via a firmware update?
I don’t know whether Canon’s Malignant PsF can be fixed via a firmware update. Back in March 2011 (before NAB), a public relations representative from Canon contacted ProVideo Coalition’s (then) owner to ask if any of our writers would like to review a particular professional Canon camera (not the XA10, which is at the bottom of Canon’s professional line). At that point, I wrote to that contact and have repeated the message several times, but have never received any response to date, which is quite different from the case with other manufacturers I frequently contact for reviews or interviews. I certainly hope that Canon will someday be able to rectify their Malignant PsF via a firmware update. In the meantime, stay tuned to future articles in this series for reports on other cameras, recorders, and software workarounds.
PsF status of other cameras and recorders/software workarounds
Upcoming articles in this PsF’s missing workflow series will reveal the PsF status of several devices, including Sony cameras (including the NXCAM series), and standalone recorders. I’ll also cover the necessary workarounds with several software programs. I’ll also give you my conclusions about this situation. To be sure you don’t miss any articles, sign up for my mailing list here.
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