KRGV TV-5, in Weslaco, Texas recently relied on ultra compact XA10 professional HD camcorders from Canon U.S.A. to produce a special report on the plight of undocumented immigrants called “The Battle in Brooks County,” which won a 2011 Lone Star Emmy Award.
Equipped with infrared features for shooting in total darkness, the station’s hand-held Canon XA10 HD camcorders were instrumental in producing the special. Reporter Jordan Williams and photographer Mike Ortiz accompanied sheriff’s deputies on night patrols of vast ranchlands and used the XA10 HD camcorders to document the perils of immigrants abandoned by human traffickers in the deserts of southern Texas.
“During the past decade, our area has seen hundreds of illegal immigrants cross the border, get lost in the brush and die,” Williams explained. “We were out on patrol one day and found two men who were dehydrated and in very bad health. Mike had his shoulder-mounted ENG camera and I had the Canon XA10, and we did an instant two-camera shoot right there on the side of the road. The men told us their story and were suffering so badly they had to be taken to the hospital. It’s a sequence that will always stick in my mind.”
“We captured memorable footage at night as well, including interviews with volunteers who patrol the ranchlands in the dark looking for lost illegal immigrants,” Ortiz added. “The XA10 is small, versatile, non-intimidating, and it gives us great video. That’s what I need in my line of work.”
Capable of shooting in conditions with little to no ambient light, the XA10 features infrared video capture and an infrared emitter with a diffuser, as well as a green or white color option to shoot HD infrared imagery even in complete darkness.
Weighing just 1.7 lbs., the Canon XA10 professional HD camcorder captures 1080P HD video using an AVCHD codec recording to a 64 GB internal flash drive or two SDXC-compatible card slots. Equipped with a built-in Genuine Canon 10x HD zoom lens (with a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 30.4mm – 304mm), Canon 1/3-inch native 1920 x 1080 CMOS image sensor, and Canon DIGIC DV III image processor, the XA10 provides users with complete manual control. Those controls include variable frame rates (60I, PF30, PF24 and native 24P), shutter speed, aperture control, gain control, white balance (adjustable from 2,000K to 15,000K in 100K increments), and zoom speed.
“As the station’s former chief photographer, I know cameras,” said KRGV operations manager Israel Alfaro. “I do the budget for the news department, and look for equipment that can help the news team. The Canon XA10 caught my attention because of its infrared features. We do a lot of undercover news here in South Texas, where nights are dark out in the brush of ranch country. The XA10 also caught my attention for its HD image quality, professional features, mobility, and file-based workflow convenience. It’s just like connecting an external hard drive to your computer editor. I showed it to our news director and she wanted one immediately. The XA10 is small, but it packs a big punch in quality and looks nice and sharp on the air in HD. It’s also very cost-effective. We just purchased a second one.”
Additional features of the Canon XA10 HD camcorder include a 3.5-inch high-resolution (922,000-dot) touch-panel fold-out LCD screen that can be flipped for solo shooting with the LCD facing the subject. The XA10 also includes a 0.24-inch, 260,000-dot color EVF for use in bright daylight or other conditions that could prevent use of the LCD. For checking critical focus, a Touch and Track feature provides instant focus and exposure correction on any point of interest touched on the LCD.
The camcorder features a built-in stereo microphone and a detachable handle for low-angle shooting. The handle includes dual XLR inputs, audio switches, audio level dials, and a removable microphone holder. The XA10 supports Dolby Digital 2ch (AC-3 2-channel) with automatic and manual audio-level adjustments.
“Some of the best sounds bites in ‘The Battle in Brooks County’ were the interviews we did with the camera mic right there in the middle of darkness,” Williams said. “It worked just fine.”
“I have taken the XA10 to various locations and use it both on regular day-of stories and special projects, and it has been a real asset,” said Ortiz. “I still love my shoulder-mount camera, but the compact design of the XA10 enables me to get more angles, which is really important for a photographer. I think that hand-held and shoulder-mounted cameras can work very well together, and if you’ve got them both then you’re going to bring back some really great footage. I am able to utilize both during multi-camera shoots. I can aim the XA10 at my talent or my subject and can match the audio up, and it works wonderfully. I had the XA10 up in a helicopter and gave it to the reporter to get shots of the pilot while I shot aerial footage with my shoulder-mount. The XA10 works great in various scenarios and it’s small, versatile, and gives you great B-roll, great video and great colors.”
“The XA10 gives us the capability not just to have great night shots but also more shots during the day from different angles that you wouldn’t normally get,” Williams said. “We keep both of our XA10 HD camcorders charged and we grab them whenever we are shooting a story that might lend itself to multiple angles. From a reporter’s perspective, that raises the bar of any story.”