Removing Overlay Text from Canon XL2 MiniDV
March 6, 2009 7:56 PM   Subscribe

A friend recorded six hours of footage on MiniDV using a Canon XL 2, but the cameraman accidentally left a setting turned on that recorded the timecode, battery life, and other display information directly on top of the video footage. Is there any way to remove this? (posting for a friend)

First and foremost: This is NOT just a playback setting that's putting the information on the tape: the timecode etc shows up when the video is played on an external MiniDV player, and when we press Pause the millisecond counter gets blurry, like when you pause fast-motion video. The text is clearly part of the recorded video.

Is it totally hopeless? My small glimmer of optimism is that maybe this text information is recorded on a separate and removable "track."
posted by Fuzzy Skinner to Technology (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh wow. I didn't know that was possible.

Do you have the urge to make your project "letterboxed?" Or more letterboxed, if it's already 16:9? Because I think you're only hope is to crop off the bottom (or top, wherever the code is)
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:59 PM on March 6, 2009

Do you have a user manual? I did a google search for that model and found a lot of information. I did not look for that specific problem as the list of hits was to big.
posted by JayRwv at 8:20 PM on March 6, 2009

If you have confirmed that the graphic info shows on other players, then I'm pretty sure you're out of luck. Especially if the appearance of this information is exactly the same on any player, then yeah, it's part of the video.

drjimmy11's sugggestion is pretty decent for making the best of a bad situation. Another, along the same line, would be to overly a watermark type logo over the timecode, etc. Of course this depends on where the timecode is, and if a constant logo or graphic would be appropriate to your project.
posted by werkzeuger at 9:13 PM on March 6, 2009

That's shocking. I'd definitely be contacting Canon on this one. Really, on a professional camcorder, what is the point of having the battery life burned into the final product? There is, however, a need to be able to watch the battery life while you are filming.

... just doesn't make sense to me.
posted by whatisish at 9:13 PM on March 6, 2009

Can't say I know for sure, but I think part of the idea with the timecode is to mate it irrevocably with the footage, for investigative type work where it's important. Probably tough to remove. If you're patient, you could frame-by-frame it and clone out the text in each frame with Photoshop or similar.
posted by scose at 9:13 PM on March 6, 2009

Response by poster: (Thanks for the answers so far. I'll post any follow-ups and responses on behalf of my friend as he provides them.)
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:27 PM on March 6, 2009

just guessing - I'll bet the display information is on another "track" and the external MiniDV player sees that track but isn't able to turn off that display... like it's not backwards compatible - so it merges them into a single output - which explains why it appears burned in.

Threads like this appear to support that notion.
posted by whatisish at 9:30 PM on March 6, 2009

Also useful for multi-camera footage, or external sound. There is definitely another track and the question is how to separate the two when exporting.
posted by barnone at 10:24 PM on March 6, 2009

My cheap Canon MiniDV camera has this "feature" available. The worse part is that there isn't any indication you've got it turned on until you play back the tape. You can select no display, display only time stamp or display everything. It isn't on a separate track as in whatisish's link. The graphics and text are all exactly as in camera rather than a weirdness with subtitling.

whatisish writes "Really, on a professional camcorder, what is the point of having the battery life burned into the final product?"

1) Old VHS camcorders had it so the new hotness must too.
2) allows in camera creation of camcorder looking visuals.
3) feature creep.

Are there really MiniDV cameras that double the size of the file by recording two video tracks? I've seen multiple audio tracks but never multiple video tracks and I've got an application that could actually benefit from this ability (IE: record two different, full resolution, video sources at the same time).
posted by Mitheral at 12:34 AM on March 7, 2009

I only have bad news. There's no second video track, it's burned into the video, and you're SOL.

Betacam (and digibeta, and other larger formats) store the timecode/control track on a separate track (like audio.)
In DV the audio and video can be interleaved (locked) or separate (unlocked), but there's no extra area for separate information. The data (timecode, date/time) is part of the DV stream.

You can blow up the footage. and yes, it'll look a bit soft.

It makes as much sense on the camera as Auto white balance, auto focus, etc. It's on the camera because you want to design hardware (and software) for novice users; and as you acquire experience, learn how to turn those things off.
posted by filmgeek at 3:29 AM on March 7, 2009

From your description its impossible to remove the offending pixels and leave the video underneath.

The best you can hope for is to apply a smear effect to the video in post-processing so you take the colour from the surrounding pixels and smear it over where the timecode etc is. Not particularly pretty, but better than a counter on your video.

Either that or crop it out.
posted by Ten98 at 4:43 AM on March 7, 2009

Yah, if not cropping the video to a smaller format, then it's like Ten98 mentioned. Take a look at the guide here:

Hope this helps.
posted by alchemist at 5:23 AM on March 7, 2009

[absolutely beside the point] If your friend hasn't already, make sure he or she kindly explains to the cameraman what he did so that he never does it again to anyone. (I have to assume this was a freebie and not a paid gig; if the guy was representing himself as a professional camera operator and took money, you can remove the 'kindly' from the previous sentence.)
posted by rough at 6:51 AM on March 7, 2009

I'm shocked that its even possible for this to occur (and slightly paranoid about it now as I go shopping for a camcorder). I swear if I see a date appear on playback at any point while trying it out at the store, I'm putting it down and moving to the next one. Consumer electronics companies are incredibly, incredibly, incredibly retarded sometimes. Often, actually.
posted by jak68 at 8:09 AM on March 7, 2009

That's shocking. I'd definitely be contacting Canon on this one. Really, on a professional camcorder, what is the point of having the battery life burned into the final product?
Consumer electronics companies are incredibly, incredibly, incredibly retarded sometimes.

The XL2 is not professional so much as "pro-sumer" and as such it straddles the line where features such as burning in date/time, battery level etc. might make sense.

It's on the camera because you want to design hardware (and software) for novice users; and as you acquire experience, learn how to turn those things off.

This. Learning to turn off the auto and convenience "features" is often the sign of a professional.

More relevant to the OP's question: it occured to me that those "craziest home video" shows get a lot of tapes with flashing clocks and other crap burned into them. Maybe they have a secret weapon? Might be something to investigate - look for industry publication articles dealing with the cleaning-up of those submitted tapes?
posted by werkzeuger at 8:32 AM on March 7, 2009

Page 106 of the Canon XL 2 user manual shows the "Screen Displays During Playback" without a mention of how to turn them off. Kind of implies that data is retained as part of the recording.

Also, page 93 says "The camcorder maintains a data code containing recording date and time and other camera data such as shutter speed, gain and exposure (f-stop). When you play back a tape, you can display the data code and select the data code combination you wish to display." then shows some diagrams of how to choose what you want to display during playback. Don't know if this applies your your specific situation or not. However, it does reinforce the idea that (at least some of) the display information is not burned into the video (i.e. that you can toggle it on and off during playback).
posted by whatisish at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2009

Response by poster: My friend says thank you very much for your help, even though it appears to be a hopeless case. Live and learn I guess.

I agree that it's kind of surprising; I always thought time codes lived in separate track as well. (I am far from a pro, however.)

Once again: thanks tons!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:15 AM on March 7, 2009

I'm surprised any camera manufacturer would include a feature like this. The pages of the manual whatish cited don't at all suggest that the camera will irrevocably burn the information into the image while recording. (I haven't scoured the rest of the manual, so maybe it's just mentioned somewhere else).

Is there any chance the camera person duplicated the tape and gave your friend the copy? You'd end up with precisely the result you describe if the camera were set to display that information during playback and if you were making a dupe using analog cables.
posted by nobody at 12:46 PM on March 7, 2009

If it's in the bottom right corner of the screen, you can always just crop it out (make it letterbox). You'll lose about 1/5th of what you shot, but probably nothing of importance. Worth a shot!
posted by fantasticninety at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2009

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