Canon HD Lenses, Camcorders Earn High Marks at Middle Tennessee State University

With more than 25,000 students, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is the state’s largest undergrad school. At its Department of Electronic Media Communications (within the College of Mass Communications), however, student training is strictly one-on-one when it comes to learning how to use the latest television production equipment to create real-world broadcast-quality programming. Included among the department’s impressive complement of leading-edge imaging technologies are advanced HD portable ENG and EFP lenses and professional file-based HD camcorders from Canon U.S.A.

MTSU recently took delivery of a new 40 ft. $1.7 million mobile HD production vehicle, which is used by the student-run EMC Productions to cover football, basketball, music performances, awards shows, news events, theatrical performances, and parades for local broadcast and cable stations and a national cable network. Separately, “class” shoots of collegiate baseball, softball, and volleyball provide hands-on student training for actual academic credit. Central to all of this production work is the university’s choice of HD portable lenses for the truck’s complement of ENG and EFP cameras, as well as its selection of small high-performance integrated file-based HD camcorders. A longtime Canon user, MTSU chose a family of 2/3-inch portable lenses that include two Canon HJ18ex28B portable HD super-telephoto EFP lenses (with 2x extenders), five Canon KJ17ex7.7B portable HD ENG lenses, one Canon KJ10ex4.5B portable HD wide-angle ENG lens, and two Canon XF305 professional file-based HD camcorders to deliver the imaging quality required by the university and the distribution channels it feeds.

“We previously had an SD truck that was built in 1991, and it used Canon lenses exclusively,” said Marc Parrish, MTSU director of technical systems. “We love our Canon lenses for sports. We use the HJ18ex28B portable HD super-telephoto EFP lenses during football games in the end zones. They’re compact, yet fast enough to get enough light in them for our ‘hero shots’ of players and coaches.”

Canon’s HJ18ex28B portable HD super-telephoto lens is designed for challenging location productions where superb video capture is needed over a long range of focal lengths using portable HD EFP cameras with 2/3-inch imagers. Representing the very best in contemporary optical and mechanical design, the HJ18ex28B delivers a focal-length range of 28 to 500mm (up to 1000mm with its built-in 2X extender), and has an impressive optical speed of f/2.8 up to a focal length of 286mm. The HJ18ex28B offers the longest focal length of any lens in its class, and yet weighs less than 6 lbs. and requires no mechanical support system to mount to an HD camera.

“We also have the Canon enhanced digital servo zoom controllers on our two HJ18ex28B lenses, and we love the focus on them,” Parrish added. “We run these lenses in basketball games under low lighting. Our basketball arena is not set up for TV, but these lenses can zoom in and really capture pristine imagery in there – even on a tight shot with low light – and enable our HD ENG and EFP cameras to produce really great colors.”

MTSU’s five compact, cost-effective Canon KJ17ex7.7B portable HD ENG lenses have also proven to be extremely flexible performers, helping the university to produce broadcast-ready HD video in a number of different applications. “Those are used for our main game cams, where you don’t have to get the shot real tight and it can stay a little bit wider,” Parrish explains. “We also use the lenses for hand-held HD cameras on the field in football. In basketball, we use them for both hand-helds and for the game cam.”

A “second-generation” Canon HDgc category 2/3-inch portable HD lens, the KJ17ex7.7B portable HD lens features new optical coatings that reduce flare and enhance contrast. The lens also minimizes ghosting artifacts that can be stimulated by strong light sources, including nighttime or arena shooting, which are common to sports production.

MTSU’s Canon KJ10ex4.5B portable wide-angle HD EFP lens, which provides a generous range of focal lengths and an exceptionally wide field of view, has proven ideal for the students’ numerous live-entertainment assignments.

“We do music videos and concerts, and the Canon KJ10ex4.5B is essential for that,” noted Parrish. “We often shoot at smaller music performance venues, and the wide-angle performance of the KJ10ex4.5B is perfect for getting everything into the picture even when the room isn’t very large. This lens also works extremely well on small jib arms.”

All of MTSU’s Canon HD portable ENG/EFP lenses also feature advanced Canon Digital Drive units built into their handgrips. Canon Digital Drive technology provides microprocessor-driven servo control of iris, zoom and focus, along with position memory and user-defined functionality. Users can – if they wish – pre-program iris settings, repeatable “padded” zoom start/stop positions, steady and slow zoom creeps, and focus settings with no mechanical play or gear backlash.

Versatile HD Camcorders
Further broadening MTSU’s production flexibility are its two Canon XF305 professional HD camcorders. Affordable, rugged, compact, and weighing just 6 lbs., the XF305 is equipped with a Genuine Canon 18x HD L-series zoom lens with Instant AF and a Full Manual Focus mode with mechanical “hard” end stops, clearly engraved distance markers, and a 35mm equivalent zoom range of from 29.3mm to 527.4mm. The XF305 records full HD video directly to Compact Flash cards and employs Canon’s advanced MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps XF codec for exceptional image quality and robust workflow compatibility with leading editing systems. This camcorder’s many features also include a four-inch, 1.23-megapixel LCD monitor (with built-in waveform and vector scope display) that can be positioned at either the right or left side of the camera body, and (on its rear panel) industry-standard HD-SDI output, a genlock input, and SMPTE time code terminals for multi-camera productions.

“The genlock input is a primary reason we chose the Canon XF305 HD camcorders,” Parrish remarked. “We can genlock them to our truck and not have to run the video from the XF305 through a frame sync. The XF305’s are our handheld cameras for shooting scoreboards and announcers in the talent booth. The HD video they produce looks exceptional. We run the XF305’s in the booth because we can feed the signal from them back via HD SDI, and genlock it to our system.”

MTSU’s Canon XF305 professional HD camcorders are also used ENG-style by students to shoot “packages,” location video interviews for player profiles that are played back during the games. The affordability and ruggedness of the XF305 HD camcorders enables students to learn (and occasionally make mistakes) without risking a more expensive ENG camera. Integrating the HD video from the XF305 camcorders with MTSU’s larger ENG cameras “looks really good,” according to Parrish.

“We’re very pleased with Canon,” Parrish concluded. “The university had very high expectations for these Canon HD portable ENG and EFP lenses and file-based professional HD camcorders. Our Canon sales rep explained all the ins and outs and what we could expect from this equipment. We got what we expected and are proud of the results.”

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