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“Trendy” Part III: Then came the HDSLR

Part III is about the change to HDSLR's for video.

I had just bought the JVC HM100 tapeless video camera to replace my Sony V1, but my clients wanted the HDSLR look.  With the Redrock the image was soft and hard to get because of all the adjustments.  It was a beast and it did not like being handheld.  Then came the HDSLR.  The Canon 5D markII came out which shot 1080p video and some my associates were buying Canon.  I realized that I was behind and that I needed to catch up.

I was interested in the Panasonic DMC-GH1.  I saw the GH1 at the Panasonic booth at CES in 2010.  The GH1 was small and It had an electronic viewfinder.  There were some nice lenses but only the Lumix G 7-14mm F4 would I consider exceptional.  The Panasonic G Vario 14-140mm F4-5.8 has been optimized for video.  It is an amazing lens for the price and being a 10X zoom.  But the aperture is dark compared to prime lenses.  I was impressed that the camera has a stereo microphonene.  I did not like it having only 24p.  That you had to remove the 2:3 pull down did not appeal to me.  The 24p was written to the SD card in 1080i format and had to be converted to be progressive.  The recording format was AVCHD.  I could not play the files in Quicktime or the Mac finder.  VLC Player will view the .mts files on a Mac.  You have to use software to convert the files to Quicktime.  Not a lot does this.  I would use Final Cut 7 in Log And Transfer.

After seeing what Canon HDSLR's could do, I sold my Olympus E-System and bought the Canon 7D.  The 7D is a mixed blessing.  A 35mm motion picture sized sensor instead of 35mm still sized sensor on the 5D.  The Canon shot h264 video in Quicktime and could be viewed easily in the finder.  There is 1080p at 24 and 30 fps. 720p at 60 fps.  All modes are not interlaced and at broadcast friendly frame rates.  They are progressive.  Great looking video in a small package but only in certain circumstances.

There is moiré and ailising because Canon line skips the CMOS chip because it has much resolution that HD video.  There is Rolling Shutter which makes the video look like jello.  So I also bought the better “L-Glass” for my Canon because I could afford it now because it was for my video camera.  In fact I bought the Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS instead of the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS because the 17-55 was too short for interviews.  I bought Image Stabilized lenses because it minimizes the rolling shutter.  The camera overheated on shoots and we had to shut down.

Monitoring was interesting in that because the camera had an optical viewfinder, video could only be seen with the LCD on the back.  So external monitors helped but then you lost the LCD on the camera for using as a monitor as well.  This had never happen on any video camera I had had.  Also the output to an external monitor would not be clean, displays on the screen.  Not true with any video camera I had ever used.

Then there is audio.  There is no headphone jack.  The 7D had a pumping auto gain on the audio that could not be overdid, which is not good.  The internal mic was mono.  Most people used double system audio with a separate audio recorder.  This does not fit into my book of simple and small.  I found the JuicedLink DT454 preamp with an auto gain disabler that took one of the two audio channels and it had headphone monitoring.  I always play back audio to make sure it recorded.  It worked like a charm and I have never had my clients complain about the quality of the audio.

The 7D was the best at the time for me but then the Canon 60D came out.  Gone was the audio auto gain problem because it had manual control.  I could also now use both channels.  It still a mono internal mic.  It has a high resolution swivel LCD.  This makes low angle, high angle and any shooting easier.  I created the L-Finder.  I also found my HoodLoupe would mount on the LCD and make it like a video camera's viewfinder.  No need for camera rigs because I could hold the camera steady with image stabilized lenses.  In the 60D, Canon also added a histogram to the video mode.  I was happy.

JuicedLink’s Robert on Audio Part #1 from Oliviatech

This is part #1 from Olivia of Olivatech.com chats with audio engineer Robert from JuicedLink to talk a little bit about audio for video. This is very informative. In the second part of this series, Robert will talk about HDSLR audio pre-amp noise, external audio recorders, and options to get best audio without Syncing (you don't need to do that) in post. Since HDSLRs have notoriously poor audio quality if used the wrong way, Juicedlink has a number of popular products for HDSLRs and SLEs like the DT454 and DS214 which can be seen on the JuicedLink website (click here). I have the DT454 and swear by it, not at it. All the audio that I have done with Canon HDSLRs have done with it. I have never used double system for my audio. NO Syncing.

Just bought a second 60D


Canon 60D no lens

I like the camera so much I bought another one. As some of you know, I shoot most of my video with a Canon 60D. I have been wanting a second camera for a while now. Back in the film “daze” I always had at least two cameras (2 different types of film), sometimes the same bodies. Well now I have it again. Having the same body makes it easy to switch cameras. I thought about the Canon Rebel T3i but don't like the sone it makes when shooting stills and the viewfinder is too small. (Note the video side should be fine) The cost difference is not bad and I can use the same battery. I also considered a non Canon camera, the Panasonic GH2 which some say is better for video. That camera was hard to find. Not many of the dealers have it. I have yet to my hands on one. At NAB it was not shown because it is sold through the consumer division and I did not see one at the show. Most of their Image Stabilized lenses are too slow in the aperture department and I love IS lenses.

For me the Canon 60D has been the best camera for what I do. Video and stills. It is the best camera for video Canon makes in my opinion because of the size of the sensor, the manual controls including audio and the swivel LCD. Most of the newer cameras have not improved the video enough for me to buy them. It is also a pretty good still camera as well. It is a nice compromise of both. I have already done a shoot with both where one was a wide shot and the other was more tighter on a person doing a intro to the program I am currently working on.

Does Image Stabilization work when shooting movies?

FF Intvu

Does Image Stabilization work when shooting movies? This question was asked on DV.net.

Yes, I wish more lenses had it. All this excitement over primes and none except the EF 100 Macro has it. Canon needs to turn the EF 24-70 f2.8 into an IS lens. I have the EF 24-105 f4 IS for that reason alone.

IS is one of the best inventions for video shooting. My use of it goes back to Sony's TR-101 Hi8 camera. I got shots with that camera I could not get with my Betacam.

Now with HDSLR's it is essential to have IS lenses because of the CMOS rolling shutter. I have had to edit a few videos where rolling shutter ruined shots I needed because the camera was handheld. This would not have been a problem with IS. I turn the IS on and it goes away.

I usually use my Canon 60D with out a rig for hand held. All of my reports from NAB for this site were done with the 24-105 with IS turned on. I also handhold my EF 70-200 f4 IS as well.

Also when using the 640×480 crop mode in the 60D IS is a great help because the image is so magnified. This was shot on a heavy DV6 Satchler tripod.

Here I am with my handheld rig. The camera is mounted on a CamCaddie which I brace against my body. I also have a Hoodman Loupe on my flipout LCD on my 60D.

@ Hoodman Booth 3

My 60D has new Firmware

I just got an email from Canon:

Canon has released a firmware update for the EOS 60D Digital SLR camera.

Affected Product
EOS 60D Digital SLR

Firmware Version 1.1.0 incorporates the following fixes and improvements.
1. Fixes a phenomenon where the wireless built-in flash settings are reset to defaults when the battery is removed from the camera.
2. Fixes an intermittent phenomenon where image-rotation information is not recognized correctly when shooting with the camera in the vertical position depending on the timing of the shutter release.

Firmware Version 1.1.0 is for cameras with firmware up to Version 1.0.9. If the camera's firmware is already Version 1.1.0, it is not necessary to update the firmware.
The new firmware (Version 1.1.0) can be downloaded by clicking here.

This information is for residents of the United States and Puerto Rico only. If you do not reside in the USA or Puerto Rico, please contact the Canon Customer Support Center in your region.

Thank you,
Customer Support Operations
Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Contact Information for Inquiries:
Canon Customer Support Center
Phone: 1-800-OK-CANON (toll free)
TTD: 1-866-251-3752 (toll free)
E-mail: carecenter@cits.canon.com
For additional support options: http://www.usa.canon.com/support

Final Cut Pro X Works!

With all the hoopla about Final Cut Pro X, I thought it would be a good idea to try out it with an actual project. FCPX may be missing features from the last version but you still can cut a professional video. I have been doing these real estate videos for some time. All before using Final Cut Pro 7. This is the first video that I did only with Final Cut Pro X. It was shot, edited and uploaded in one day, last Saturday. The editing went fairly quickly. Most things were faster. There are some good new tools in FCPX.

The video was shot with a Canon 60D and Sennheiser G2 wireless recorded in camera for on camera the talent. I then imported the raw video from the SD card into a folder where I keep all the other raw video from doing these real estate videos. I opened FCPX and imported the Canon's native h264 QuickTime’s footage into a new event. I did no conversion on .m4a voice over audio as well. In FCP7 I would render both the video and the audio to ProRes LT and .aiff. I brought in .png, .jpeg and Photoshop .psd's for graphics into the Event Library. Some have complained that .psd’s don’t come in as layers in a sequence. I have never liked that. I would always convert .psd’s as .png’s so they would be one layer. If you wanted to turn off a layer it could be done in Photoshop. I do like having multi-layer .psd’s in Motion.

After creating a new project, I laid in the first shot and added a fade in by doing a dissolve from black on the video. I like to emphasize the audio so I added Voice Enhance in the Inspector panel and turn off one of the audio channels of the two that the camera shoots.

Also I went to the Open in a Timeline command and added AU Peak Limiter from the Effects panel for the voice. A lot of the same keyboard short cuts still work like Command + to zoom the Project Timeline. (S now turns on and off the Skimming)

The next thing I did was that I went to Crop button in the Viewer and added the Ken Burns Effect to do a slow zoom on the shot.

Next I laid in the next shot and added a bunch of stills to the timeline. I put a transparent graphic over the stills and stretched it to fit. The “magic timeline” where it adjusts worked very well. I add more stills and video. When I put in the music for the video, I liked that I could add a fade in or fade out by pulling a little diamond near the edge if the clip. When I was editing in the “magic timeline” the music stayed in place as long as I was not at the beginning of it. Nice Touch.

The rest of the narration was added next. I voice enhanced the audio. Then I had to adjust the stills to fit the narration. There are rubber bands for the audio in the Timeline view. I had to learn how to use the new Titler. It behaves quite a bit differently that FCP7. There are many more options for titles.

Once I added the video tag on the end I was ready for making a movie. I selected Export Movie under the Share menu. The video rendered to ProRes in 18 seconds. That was very impressive because any rendering is done as I edit. I then converted the video to h264 for YouTube in QuickTime Player like I do on a regular basis. That was at it's usual pokey self. Then to YouTube.

The Death of the HDSLR has been Exaggerated

Recent articles on the Death of the HDSLR seem to missing the point. By the way, the HDSLR revolution started 3 years ago with the Nikon D90 and Canon 5D Mark II.

Michael Murie wrote The death of DSLRs over at his Notes On Video blog. He writes about 3 video groups. “The DSLR community seems to be splintering intro three groups: those who are moving on, those who see it as continuing to be a viable – though limited – tool, and those that are mounting the ramparts in its defense.”

The first group did not want HDSLRS to begin with. They have the resources to afford what ever they want. They wanted large sensor video cameras.

The second group is always looking for a way of doing things better but not necessarily with cost in mind. This was the group that put up with expensive lens adapters on small sensor video cameras.

The assumption is that now that we have video cameras (the Sony PMW-F3, the Sony NEX-FS100, and the Panasonic AG-AF100) that shoot large sensor video, why use HDSLRs. Also, new external recorders record in higher bitrate formats than H264. Yes, these new cameras shoot great large sensor video with the convenience of a video camera, but HDSLR cameras have their advantages as well. (Some of us never did like the design and ergonomics of the video camera, especially inexpensive ones.) So I guess this article is in the third group, the defenders. Well, we are FrugalFilmmakers.

Some of the main reasons why we like HDSLRS is: small size, Price, great lenses that don't cost am arm and a leg, beautiful video, adaptability, image stabilization and of course they are a great still camera as well. They are also the cause of the greatest democratization of filmmaking ever created. Anybody with a good story can now tell that story without a lot of money. All of the video cameras are over 6000 dollars buy the time you buy what's needed to shoot with just the camera.

You don't need to buy into the argument that HDSLRs need all this extra gear to make them good filmmaking cameras. They do have their limitations, but then most cameras do. Either you live with them or buy something else. Not all cameras are for all shooters. I remember years ago looking through the viewfinder of my Nikon F3 film still camera, thinking it would be great to have the image in motion recorded with the camera. Well, now I have it. Will I still use video cameras, sure. My JVC HM-100 sits on the shelf most of the time now because it like the image I get off of my Canon 60D and my clients want the better image.

It comes down to what is best for you and what your clients are willing to pay for. Also it is learning how to use you gear to it's best advantage. Do I wish they would improve the HDSLR, Yes. Come on manufactures bring it on.

Another article Is The DSLR Dead? by Scott Macaulay from the Filmmaker Magazine writes “I ordered the much sought-after Panasonic GH2 camera in February, and I just got it last week. And now, only a few days later, the DSLR is declared dead!” He concludes, “…then go make a movie… on whatever camera you have.”

I want to mention one other reason: HDSLRS ARE FUN.

Talking to a friend of mine. He did a shoot and had audio problems. Another lost footage because of a bad SD card. Well, you have to treat HDSLRs with more effort than video cameras. They many look easier, but they are not. HDSLRs are not for the light hearted. They Do Not Behave Like A Regular Video Camera. Don't treat them as such. You must know your camera well and the other components well before going on a paid shoot. They do create wonderful images for a lot less, but Know Their Limitations. If you have not used one for audio, use double system until you are confident in recording with in camera audio. Check your media before going on a shoot. We have seen wonderful videos shot with HDSLRs by experienced shooters. The best thing you can do is Practice With Your Gear and then more practice. Become experienced.

Camera Lens Cap Holder

If you own a SLR or DSLR camera this is something you have wanted. How may lens caps have you lost? The patent pending lens cap holder allows you to securely attach a camera's lens cap to your neck strap or camera bag.

The holder is a simple part that has a circular recess which allows a lens cap to be attached with a friction fit, in the same fashion as attaching the cap to the lens. Just press the release mechanism already in your lens cap and engage or disengage with the lens cap holder. The holder includes a buckle for attachment to the camera's neck strap. The design does not require any modification to the camera or lens cap.

I just donated to this project. You should too. It is a cleaver idea. Please go to their website.
Camera Lens Cap Holder

LinkyFocus – a complete USB Follow focus (non NAB)

LinkyFocus is a new USB follow focus under development. I did not see this at NAB. I did see a lot of motorized follow focuses. I always thought, why not use the focus motor in the lens? Looks promising.

From their site:
“The LinkyFocus uses the autofocus motor in Canon lenses to control focus, even while recording video. LinkyFocus is different: driven by an electronic position encoder, it allows to make fine adjustments of focus while rotating slowly the knob, or rotating faster automatically switch on the fly to the other two available speeds. This compact system works in any LiveView modes, which can be useful for film making. On the unit are available up to 10 push buttons to start/stop the recording and for other features. Can be used as remote control for a camera mounted on a crane or jib, can work with normal USB extension cables up to 25 meters in length.”